Guardian Australia is partnering with the Global Drug Survey, as part of a global effort to gather information and evidence about drug use, related attitudes and treatment. The partnership seeks to contract thousands of Australians in what is dubbed the most comprehensive study of drug-use habits in the world.
In 2014, more than 4,000 Australians joined hands with more than 100,000 people from different countries to take part in the survey. The survey was founded in 2011, by Adam Winstock – a top consultant addictions psychiatrist.
For the first time ever, the Global Survey is joining hands with Guardian Australia this year. The results of the survey are expected to provide a clear picture of how drugs are being used in Australia and the people that are using them. The results of the survey are also going to be compared with those that are taken in other countries around the world.
Adam, who has previously worked in Australia and the United Kingdom, said the results had given an insight into some of the places where people get their drugs; the drugs that are becoming very popular, the drugs that are commonly linked with emergency medical treatment; and common attitudes towards drug use.
Adam also added that the survey also provided researchers with concrete evidence that could be used against government statements, which could at times skew a drugs-issue scale. He noted that while ice (crystal meth) is still a matter of public health concern and is clogging up emergency resources in Australia, it allows governments to keep on saying, “Here is a huge problem, and we have the ability to make it better.”
Adam said, “In short, the only statements you ever come across in the news is that drugs are causing disasters and chaos, and this has therefore become a way of political parties to ‘act’ tough and grandstanding.”
A national ice taskforce was launched in April by the federal government. And, while the use of methamphetamine has remained unchanged at about 2 percent of the population, the survey indicates users are by far favoring ice (the most potent form). Its potency means that users are more likely to harm themselves as well as other people. However, the research indicates that a far bigger proportion of the population has problems with cannabis, alcohol, and prescription medicines.
There are some people who used drugs but never ended up being addicts and others who wanted more info about the drugs they used. Adam noted that hearing from this group was important in understanding the drug interaction among most Australians.
The survey is independent and not in any way funded by the government. It is totally about offering evidence as well as information meant to be of benefit to the public.
The 2015 survey brought to light the number of people buying drugs online via the “darknet” – an online network that requires special software in order to access.
Over 11,750 respondents claimed to have bought drugs online, and 2,938 of those said they did so in the year 2014. The data showed a year-on-year rise, and consumers reported it is a safer and better way to purchase drugs than on the streets.
The darknet isn’t going away soon, and its appeal to Australians is very huge. In fact, most people started purchasing drugs online than ever before in 2014, despite the closure of Silk Road in 2013.
Silk Road was the first major and most popular online drugs website, but was closed down in October 2013 by the FBI. Following its closure, Ross Ulbricht (its creator), was sentenced to life imprisonment in May 2015 for his role in the website. The FBI claimed that over 100,000 people had used the website to purchase drugs.
The survey also pointed out the harm brought about by “designer drugs” – synthetic products produced as substitutes to drugs like LSD and cannabis and which aim to emulate their effects.
According to the researchers taking part in the survey, the best argument for Australia drug law reforms may be the existence of synthetic drugs. The survey found that synthetic cannabis products are more likely to cause people to seek emergency medical treatment compared to any other drug. Actually, 65% of those who attempted to stop using drugs reported withdrawal symptoms according to the research.