The results of the 2016 Global Drug Survey (GDS) – which includes a total of 101,313 respondents from over 50 countries – paint an intriguing picture of the ever-changing landscape of drug use around the world. Among the standout conclusions to be drawn from the data, according to the authors, is that it’s currently the “worst time to be using MDMA in a generation,” with last year having seen a concerning spike in the number of people requiring emergency medical attention after taking the drug.
A recent report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction revealed how MDMA manufacturers have recently begun using a chemical called PMK-glycidate to make the drug, enabling them to obtain higher yields and greater purity. This has led to global markets becoming flooded with MDMA, with many ecstasy tablets now containing dangerously high concentrations of this psychoactive compound.
The consequences of this are clearly reflected in the data contained within this year’s GDS, which indicates that, in the UK – where MDMA users tend to take more of the drug on a night out than in any other country – the number of female clubbers requiring emergency treatment after ingesting the substance has increased fourfold in the past three years.
Yet in spite of this, MDMA remains less harmful than synthetic cannabinoids (SC), which lead to more emergency treatments than any other drug. Indeed, one in eight people who use SCs weekly have reported being admitted to the hospital after experiencing a negative reaction, while on the whole, the risk of requiring medical attention is 30 times higher for those who use SCs than for those who use natural cannabis.
Another major finding of the survey is that more people than ever before are now buying their drugs over the dark net – something that is particularly true of those purchasing so-called legal highs, also known as new psychoactive substances (NPS). NPSs are synthetic drugs that mimic the effects of illicit substances, yet are often not illegal simply because they are too new and have therefore not yet been outlawed. According to the GDS, 58 percent of these are purchased online.
Image in text: More drugs than ever before are now being bought online, using the so-called dark net. Leszek Czerwonka/Shutterstock
Overall, the most widely consumed drug on the planet is alcohol, followed by cannabis, tobacco and caffeine. When it comes to drinking, Scotland is the most problematic country, where 2.4 percent of people reported having ended up in the emergency room for booze-related health issues. Mexico, meanwhile, has the highest number of drinkers who say they would like to cut back on alcohol next year.
Removing all legal substances from the equation, the survey found that cannabis, MDMA and cocaine are the most commonly used narcotics. Interestingly, the data shows that Brazilian cocaine users tend to rack up the most lines, snorting up to 1.16 grams in a session. At the other end of the scale are the Germans, who only stick 0.33 grams of the white stuff up their noses at a time. There are likely to be a multitude of reasons for this, including both the availability and the cost of the drug, which is famously abundant in South America.
The world's most popular drug. Syda Productions/Shutterstock