GDS: the world’s biggest drug survey

The GDS sample

Don’t look to GDS for national estimates. GDS is designed to answer comparison questions that are not dependent on probability samples. The GDS database is huge, but its non-probability sample means analyses are best suited to highlight differences among user populations. GDS recruits younger, more experienced drug using populations. We spot emerging drugs trends before they enter into the general population.

Open access papers describing our sample and recruitment strategies can be found here and here.

Overall respondent characteristics from GDS

As our survey is online the GDS sample is biased towards those with easy access to the internet and who have higher levels of health literacy than the general population. Although there are some marked variations in the core demographics between participating countries, as a broad overview the following describes the overall makeup of the annual GDS samples:

  • ratio of male to female respondents is 2:1
  • mean age of the sample is around 25 years
  • 85% heterosexual
  • 90% white
  • 60% have a university degree or higher
  • 70% have used an illicit drug in the last year
  • 4% have ever injected any drug
  • >50% report regular involvement in nightlife and clubbing

GDS surveys – annual participation, data collection period, country partners and translated languages

GDS2012 GDS2013 GDS2014 GDS2015 GDS2016
Data collection period Nov–Dec 2011 Nov–Dec 2012 Nov–Dec 2013 Nov–Dec 2014 Nov 2015–Jan 2016*
Participant numbers 15,000 22,000 78,000 100,000+ 100,000+
Languages English English English English English
Danish Danish Danish
Flemish Flemish Flemish
French French French
German German German
Hungarian Greek Greek
Portuguese Hungarian Hungarian
Portuguese (SA) Italian Italian
Spanish Portuguese Portuguese
Spanish (SA) Portuguese (SA) Portuguese (SA)
Slovenian Spanish Spanish
Spanish (SA) Spanish (SA)
Country partners UK Australia Australia Australia Australia
UK Belgium Belgium Belgium
USA Denmark Denmark Colombia
France France Denmark
Germany Germany France
Hungary Greece Germany
Ireland Hungary Greece
Mexico Ireland Hungary
Netherlands Mexico Ireland
New Zealand Netherlands Mexico
Portugal New Zealand New Zealand
Slovenia Poland Netherlands
Spain Portugal Norway
Switzerland Slovenia Poland
Spain Portugal
UK Switzerland Slovenia
USA UK Switzerland

* The unfortunate event of the Paris bombings in 2016 interrupted our media partner involvement for a period of 3 weeks in the middle of GDS’s peak data collection period in November 2015, so we extended the survey for 4 weeks into January 2016

Breakdown by country of total participation across the last 3 surveys, GDS2014, GDS2015 and GDS2016 combined

Country Approximate n (to nearest 1,000)
Germany 85,000
UK 20,000
Switzerland 19,000
USA 17,000
Australia 15,000
New Zealand 15,000
France 14,000
Netherlands 13,000
Hungary 10,000
Brazil 6,000
Belgium 5,000
Spain 5,000
Republic of Ireland 4,000
Austria 4,000
Italy 4,000
Portugal 3,000
Canada 3,000
Columbia 3,000
Denmark 3,000
Norway 2,000
Sweden 2,000
Others across region 15,000

Is there a country you are interested in that isn’t listed above, or you would like your country to join GDS? Email us: info@globaldrugsurvey