Key findings of the Global Drug Survey (GDS) 2020 have been released today, revealing all kinds of insights into how drug use changed during the strange times of 2020.
More than 110,000 people from more than 25 countries contributed to the survey through an anonymous and scripted online questionnaire between November 7 and December 30, 2019, before COVID-19 became a major outbreak. The GDS also released some extra results gathered from over 55,000 people between May and June 2020 to see how the pandemic affected peoples' relationship with drugs. While the use of some drugs appears to have decreased for many people during this unusual time, other drugs saw a noticeable increase in use.
According to findings from before the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol was the most commonly used drug, followed by cannabis (THC), then tobacco, MDMA, cannabis (non-psychoactive CBD), cocaine, e-cigarettes, amphetamines, LSD, benzodiazepines, magic mushrooms, ketamine, and prescription opioids.
Their findings suggest that people in predominantly English-speaking countries and Scandinavia get drunk more often than anywhere else. People in the UK reported getting drunk 34 times per year, Australia and Denmark reported 32 times, and Finland 28 times, while participants from South American countries reported the lowest number of occasions (Argentina and Colombia fewer than seven times).
The results also found that many people were drinking more during lockdown. Up to 39 percent of respondents said they're drinking more since the COVID-19 lockdown, with 29 percent saying they're drinking less and 24 percent reporting no change. Around 47 percent of people said their frequency of heavy binge drinking stayed the same during lockdown, but 16 percent it increased a little and 7 percent said it increased a lot. Some of the most common reasons for people drinking more was having more time on their hands, boredom, and stress.
Lockdown also saw many people increase their use of cannabis, with 39 percent saying their use of cannabis had increased to some extent and 39 percent saying it had largely stayed the same. Just 21 percent said their use had decreased. On other hand, the use of other drugs slipped dramatically for many people, with around 26 and 27 percent saying their cocaine and MDMA use had decreased a lot during lockdown. Comparatively, just 8 and 4 percent of respondents said their rate of use of cocaine and MDMA had increased a lot.
This is the ninth annual report by the GDS, one of the world’s largest surveys on drug use. The project is led by Professor Adam R Winstock, Consultant Psychiatrist and Addiction Medicine Specialist, and developed with the help of a range of experts in the fields of medicine, public health policy, drug law, drug treatment, chemistry, and toxicology. There are a few limitations to the data, however. Much of this data is self-reported, which is not the most reliable way to gain information on a potentially taboo subject. Equally, most of the respondents actively signed up to the survey, so there could be some self-selection bias. For example, it could be argued that people who want to participate in this survey were more open about drug use and not necessarily representative of the whole population.