Data sharing policy

As a data exchange hub we are committed to share the information we receive with those generous enough to participate in our data collection activities.

Feedback is achieved not only through the Drugs Meter and Drinks Meter applications but also though our annual reports that come out via our global media partners, our academic publications and drug information videos hosted at our YouTube channel (Global Drug Survey). Global Drug Survey is a self-funded organisation. We don’t get grants from universes or governments.

In order to run the surveys, prepare the reports and develop our free drugs meter and drinks meter apps we do have to try and bring some money in. We generate income by charging our media partners a small fee and we also provide trend and data reports to local health authorities, government policy departments, NGOs and public health providers.

On one occasion we have provided a report to a pharmaceutical company on the use and use of prescription medications. We do not and will never take money from the alcohol or tobacco industries. All of our data is anonymised. We never share the raw data with any government or corporate organisation.

Academic stuff

Mostly what we do with the data is try and share it with people in different ways. Quite a lot of our team have academic backgrounds and are involved in research, medicine, toxicology and epidemiology, so we write papers. Part of the reason we do this to validate our methods so our findings are shown to be credible.

Like all research, our approach has its limitations, but accepting these, our approach is rather unique and our findings are considered robust and important.

This view is supported by the publication of our work in high impact journals such as the Lancet, the British Medical Journal, Addiction and Drug and Alcohol Dependence and contribution to expert advisory groups such the ACMD in the UK and the EMCDDA in Lisbon.

Global Drug Survey has a large, bright and diverse groups of academic partners who give their time for free to to produce these publications.

Recent peer reviewed papers derived from Global Drug Survey data

Lawn W, Borschmann R, Williams M, Winstock AR The NBOMe hallucinogenic drug series: patte4rsn of use, characteristics of users and self reported effects from large international sample J Psychopharmacolgy in press

Winstock AR, Borschmann R, Bell, J. The non-medical use of tramadol in the UK: findings from a large community sample International Journal of Clinical Practice In press

Winstock AR, Kaar S, Borschmann R Dimethyltrtamine (DMT): prevalence, user characteristics and abuse liability. J Psychopharmacolgy 2014 , vol 28 (1) 49-54

Barratt MJ, Ferris JA, Winstock AR The use of the Silk road, the on lien drug market place, in the UK, Australia and the USA. Addiction, In press 2014

Winstock AR, Bell, J, Borschmann, R. (2013). Friends, doctors and tramadol: we might have a problem (letter). BMJ, 347:f5599 doi: 10.1136/bmj.f5599.

Winstock AR, Barratt M Synthetic cannabis comparison of patterns of use an effect profiles with natural cannabis Drug and Alcohol Dependence 2013 vol 131 (1-2) pp 106-11

Winstock AR, Barratt M The 12 month prevalence and nature of adverse experiences resulting in emergency medical presentations associated with the use fo synthetic cannabis products . Human Psychopharmacol 2013 vol 28 94) pp 390-3

Winstock AR, Mitcheson L New psychoactive drugs and the approach to their management in primary fare. BMJ February 2012

Hughes B, Winstock AR Controlling new drugs under market regulations Addiction 2012 vol. 107(11) pp1894-9

Winstock AR, Mitcheson L, Gillatt DA, Cottrell AM Hughes The prevalence and natural history of urinary symptoms among recreational ketamine users BJU Int. 2012 Mar 14

Winstock AR, Mitcheson L, Ramsey J, Marsden J Mephedrone – subjects effects, health and abuse liability Addiction Vol 106 (11) pp 1991-6

Winstock AR, Mitcheson L, De Luca P, Davey Z, Schiffano F ‘mephedrone – new kid on the block’ Addiction 2011 Jan vol 105 (10) pp 1685-7

Winstock AR, Marsden J, Mitcheson L What should be done about mephedrone BMJ 2010;340:c1605

Winstock AR , Ramsey JD. Legal highs and the challenges for policy makers. Addiction. 2010 Oct vol.105(10)pp 1685-7

Winstock AR, Mitcheson L Marsden J The Lancet, Volume 376, Issue 9752, Page 1537, 6 November 2010

Winstock A & Marsden J (2010) ‘Mephedrone: assessment of health risks and harms’, Appendix 1 to the: Risk assessment report of a new psychoactive substance: 4-methylmethcathinone (mephedrone), EMCDDA contract: CT.10.EPI.034

Current research, and reports and publications in preparation

1. Prescription medication use and misuse

The prescribing of opioids for non-cancer pain has increased in the across the globe in recent years and with it the possibility of increased medication related harm. As a Consultant Addiction Psychiatrist working in the community and within correctional facilities I am aware of the growing use and misuse of medications such as tramadol, zopiclone and pregabalin. Some countries have robust monitoring systems for the use and misuse of opiate medications like the USA, others have access to less sophisticated data sources. Many countries are seeing evidence of an increase in people seeking treatment for prescription medication misuse and in some countries an increase in prescription medication deaths. Unfortunately beyond mortality data and limited statistics concerning the small numbers of individuals seeking treatment for the management of prescription opioid misuse often there are few other places to obtain a current snapshot of the use and possible misuse of these medications in countries. Where data exists it tends to be at least 2-3 years out of date and often fails to capture use in wider non-treatment community.

Over the last 3 years GDS has been exploring the use and abuse of prescription medications in the UK. We now have data from over 100,000 people on their use of prescription medications. Although we utilise purposive sampling and access a non-random sample of non-treatment seeking poly-drug users, we are finding high rates of use in many countries. We have published a small fraction of work as it relates to tramadol abuse in the academic literature (Winstock et al 2013, Winstock et al in press) but we have a wealth of other work that is yet to be analysed as it relates to benzodiazepines, zopiclone like drugs, gabapentin and pregabalin, oxycontin, hydrocodone, prescription codeine products and fentanyl.

We have built our questions year on year and have information that addresses core demographics, drug and alcohol use history, well-being measures and the following specific information areas as they relate to the named prescription medications above.

  • lifetime — last year and last use prevalence of use
  • source — GP, other doctor, friend, dealer, internet
  • function — legitimate use, ‘non-medical use (to get high, to self-medicate sleep, to self-medicate mood, to relive boredom, to socialise, to work and study)
  • problematic use — assessed by endorsement of a range of aberrant behaviours including sharing medication, using more than was prescribed, seeking additional medication, mixing with drugs or alcohol to enhance the effects, and overdose. In our recent work we have also explored route of use and ease of access to a prescription information provided by the doctor on the risks of addiction to patients.

2. Novel Psychoactive Substances

Global Drug Survey through its annual survey and drugs meter and drinks meter apps is now the biggest database of non-treatment seeking current drug use patterns in the world. As a data exchange hub we are committed to share the information we receive with those generous enough to participate in our data collection activities. Feedback is achieved not only through the drugs meter and Drinks Meters applications but also though our annual reports that come out via our global media partners.

We also publish approximately 5 academic papers / year on key topics of public health significance. In recent years these have includes the largest studies on mephedrone use, ketamine bladder, the Silk Road, NBOMe drugs and tramadol misuse in the UK. We are able to provide drug specific profiling reports and conduct rapid risk assessments as we have done for the EMCDDA. Examples of our recent peer reviewed work have been our papers on DMT, ketamine bladder, mephedrone, NBOMe and the Silk Road (see above).

We are always keen to expand our ability to share information and ensure that our real time data on drug use and related harms and behaviours can be made available to national and regional media organizations to inform the public and health policy. Apart from providing data on the prevalence and typical patterns of drug use of non-treatment seeking drug users we can provide time trend analysis, especially in relation to the appearance of NPSs. These include:

  1. Sex, sexuality and drugs, including sexual assault, unprotected sex, STI and HIV rates, conception under the influence and the sexual function of drugs, following up from work we undertook in10 years ago.
  2. The largest data base on NPS use in the world with the capacity to prepare rapid effect and risk profiling reports on new drugs of abuse as we have done with mephedrone (Winstock et al 2011), DMT (Winstock et al 2014) and NBOMe (Lawn et al in press). We currently able to obtain similar profiling data on 27 NPS.
  3. Drugs, alcohol and violence (Miller at al in preparation)
  4. Gambling — including the prevalence of use of non-monetary social media gambling, fixed odds betting machine and clubs.
  5. Rates of attending accident and emergency departments following the use of drugs building on earlier work done by this team (Archer et al 2013)
  6. Drug possession, arrest and its consequences (Stevens et al under review)
  7. Motivation for purchasing drugs on line and using NPS and the Silk Road (Barratt et al 2013)
  8. The acceptability and utility of social normative feedback for those who drink and use drugs (Winstock et al in preparation)
  9. Drugs and driving (Winstock et al 2012)
  10. The impact of changes in drug policy of people drug use
  11. Poly drug use patterns

3. Social normative feedback and behavioral economics

Based on feedback from over 100,000 people we have developed the drinks meter and drugs meter apps. They provide personalized, objective and comparative feedback on people’s use of 9 commonly used drugs including alcohol. Working with research groups in the UK, Australia and Switzerland we are using our data to broaden our understanding of how nudges work and who is most susceptible to them Our first in depth analysis is looking at alcohol, cannabis, cocaine and MDMA. Our new Drinks Meter app is an example of how we adapt our tools based on the analysis we conduct and the feedback we get from users.

In collaboration with researchers at University College London we are exploring the utilization and optimization of social normative feedback in addressing excessive alcohol consumption in the general population. Normative misperceptions about alcohol use (believing your alcohol use is less than the average) are predictors of higher levels of alcohol use. The factors that are associated with these normative misperceptions are not well understood. The aim of current work is to build on the Cunningham, Neighbors, Wild, & Humphreys (2012) study by investigating the extent of normative misperceptions in the general population in four countries and the factors that affect them. Early data suggests that 1 in 5 people scoring 20 or more on the AUDIT (risk level 4) consider their drinking to be average or less than average. Preliminary analysis suggest that the largest normative misperceptions were found in the young, those from the UK, those who were unemployed, men, those who were heavier drinkers and those who had a low level of academic qualification. We will be building on this work with cross cultural comparisons in the coming year.

If you are curious, try Drinks Meter

4. Defining and describing the subjective effective profile of different cannabis preparation.
Papers and research over view in preparation

5. Nitrous Oxide use and abuse
Papers and research over view in preparation

6. Safer drug use– the acceptability and adoption of harm reduction strategies across cultures

Papers and research over view in preparation

Safer drug use initiatives

The Global Drug Survey High Way Code ‘a user’s guide to safer drug use advice voted for by almost 80,000 drug users’

Background: The project goal is to help people reduce the rim of substance related harm. Our unique perspective is that will build our advice and information on the practice and opinion of almost 80,000 drug users from around the world. We will not only consider the impact of each strategy on reducing harm but also the impact it has upon pleasure. GDS is committed to fund and produce the Global Drug Survey’s Highway Code – ‘the drug user’s guide to safer drug use’. The Highway Code is based on the principal that as with driving there are things you need to know and ‘rules’ you should observe in order to get you your destination safely. When you are informed and you heed these ‘rules’ then you are much more likely to get to your planned destination in one piece and much less likely to cause anyone in your vicinity harm.

While there have been endless guides to safer drug use none has ever been based and ranked on the experience of drug users. No government would ever support a guide that explicitly and necessarily speaks about the impact of harm reduction strategies on the pleasure users obtain from drugs. We believe the Highway Code will be translated and adopted widely across our media and harm reduction networks and will act a road map for future videos that we hope to make with the support of the Trust. The expertise within GDS, our expert advisory board and academic network as well as our friends and networks makes our messages credible, practical and meaningful. And unlike the endless the post cards and Z cards that her handed out at clubs and bars and end up on the task we will design their Highway as a responsive designed website (which provide the flexibility to update and change core information as new data becomes available) with a PDF download option.

Our target audience will be those who already use and enjoy recreational drugs such as MDMA, GHB, cannabis, cocaine, and alcohol. Our message will be simple and clear: We want to show users that drug use is a potentially dangerous pastime but with a bit common sense and planning you can massively reduce your risk of running into serious harm and still have very good time.

Governments do their best to get harm reduction messages out to young people but over the last decade their 3 default messages are that users must abstain to avoid harm because all drug use is very dangerous, people who use drugs are stupid, people use legal highs do so because they think they are safe. These messages are neither credible nor effective and explains why year on year Ask Frank has been voted as the last place a friend would send a drug using mate to for information (GDS2011, GDS2012 and GDS2013). In fact trying to find any harm reduction advice on the Ask FRANK (UK) website is almost impossible (e.g. one 3 line paragraph out of 42 paragraphs on the MDMA section of Ask FRANK).