Take the global drug survey to rank Australian use

This article initially appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

Words: Amy Coderoy

Drug and alcohol treatments are on the rise in Australia, new research shows, but little real-time information is available about how, why and what drugs mainstream Australia is using.

Fairfax Media is partnering with the Global Drugs Survey, created by Adam Winstock, a Consultant Addiction Psychiatrist and researcher based in London, to help create the largest and most up-to-date snapshot of drug and alcohol use in Australia, and how we compare with the rest of the world. 

Take part in the survey here

Dr Winstock said last year's survey, which 15,000 people filled out globally, including 500 from Australia, showed that, for many, drug use was characterised by confusion and dishonesty.

“People are appalling at knowing how their drug use compares to other people,” he said. “My favourite statistic from last year was 20 per cent of people who were alcohol dependent using the World Health Organisation screening tool thought their drinking was average or less than average.”

Nearly 40 per cent of people who had been asked about their drug use by their GP either lied and said they never used drugs, or downplayed their use. About 22 per cent of alcohol drinkers did the same.

The survey is being launched in Australia today, but will also be run in the US, in partnership with NBC, and in the UK, with The Guardian, Mixmag and the Gay Times.

Dr Winstock said he created the project to capture a broader snapshot of drug use than is usually available.

“Most governments are interested in drug use patterns among the sickest and most disadvantaged,” he said. “But that represents a fraction of the people who use drugs”.

Results of the survey have been published in the British Medical Journal, the Lancet and Addiction, and have helped produce a project called the drugs meter, where people can find out how their drug use compares to others.

Research released today shows drug and alcohol treatments have increased in Australia over the past year, with alcohol the drug most likely to get people into trouble. Almost half the drug treatment episodes in 2010 to 2011 were for alcohol problems, according to data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

There were about 150,500 treatment sessions in that time, up from about 145,600 the year before.

You can take part of the global drugs survey over the next month on this website.

The Australian results will be published exclusively by Fairfax early in 2013. The survey will ask a range of questions about your use of specific drugs, what happens if you are caught with them, new drug trends and the consequences of your drug use.

It will also ask about the short- and long-term benefits and harms of different drugs. For example, last year, participants said cannabis had the most short-term psychological benefits, while alcohol had the most short-term social benefits. Alcohol was voted most harmful when it came to short-term physical, psychological and social effects.

Drugs covered by the survey include cocaine, ecstasy, cannabis, ketamine, mephedrone, alcohol, tobacco, "legal highs" and prescription medicines such as temazepam and opioid painkillers. The survey is anonymous and secure, and takes about 20 to 25 minutes to complete.

(Header image via Shutterstock)

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