GDS: the world’s biggest drug survey

Survey composition

In addition to rich demographic data that includes age, gender, sexuality, occupation, geographical location (by major city), highest educational attainment, well-being, past history of a mental health diagnosis, and whether or not they are in receipt of medication for a psychiatric condition, we hold data on the following areas:

Drug use patterns within segmented populations

We ask about drug use in lifetime, last year and last month, age of first use among particular demographics e.g. clubbers, students, sexual orientation groups for over 140 different drugs, including over 50 novel psychoactive substances and over 20 prescription medications

Alcohol consumption and risky drinking patterns, experiences and perceived harms combined

We ask about alcohol and the typical amounts consumed in order to feel the effects, frequency of drinking at each level, social normative misperception, motivations for drinking less, experience of harms due to others drinking, responsible sale of alcohol – understanding and experience and of how different types of alcohol impact on people differently. We also ask about those who have had to seek emergency medical treatment due to drinking alcohol, and define the proportion of drinkers in our sample with an interest in drinking less and seeking help to do so

Patterns of use and harms of commonly used drugs

We can answer the following questions on the following drugs: cannabis* (n > 100,000), synthetic cannabinoids* (n > 5,000), MDMA (n > 65,000), cocaine (n>45,000), ketamine (n>15,000), GHB/GBL** (n>3,000), amphetamine/methamphetamine (n>20,000):

  • Distribution of consumption patterns including frequency of use, typical daily amount consumed and maximum amount consumed in a day
  • Patterns of use, purchase and price paid
  • Routes of use and preparations used
  • Frequency of poly poly-use patterns
  • Prevalence of seeking emergency medical treatment in the previous 12 months, including consumption prior to the event, symptom profile, recovery time and impact on future use
  • Intention to use less, want help and seek help to use less in the next 12 months
  • Drug specific issues including withdrawal*, overdose**

Prescription medication use and non-medical use for prescription opioids

  • codeine
  • oxycontin
  • morphine
  • buprenorphine;
  • benzodiazepines, Z drugs,
  • methylphenidate,
  • newer analgesics e.g. pregabalin and tramadol, dexamphetamine and sexual enhancers.

We ask about patterns of use and duration of prescription, source (doctor, dealer, internet, friend), function of use including non-medical uses, ease of access and whether advice has been provided on the risks of use and dependence. We Aassessment of problem behaviours, includes including drug seeking, overdose, sharing etc. We also ask participants about their desire to use less and seek help to do so in the following 12 months

Buying drugs online and use of dark net markers

We hold the biggest dataset on the user experiences of the dark net in the world. We ask our participants about buying drugs on the internet, when they first purchased online, the types of drugs they purchased (illegal v legal v NPS), if they purchase for themselves or others and what their motivations and experiences have been. We also ask about future intent and alternative sources.

Use of the Novel Psychoactive- motivations and experience

Our participants tell us about the types and preparations of NPS they have purchased, as well as their source of purchase and motivations for use. We ask about their risk of harm and if they have sought emergency medical treatment after taking any NPS. We also ask if they have taken NPS with any other drugs or alcohol. In 2010, we were the first organisation to detect and profile the rise of mephedrone use in the UK

Drugs, driving and the perceived risk of being detected as being intoxicated

Do you drive while high? We ask whether or not a person would drive after the use of cannabis, cocaine or MDMA and if they think they would be detected as under the influence if they were pulled over by the police (within two hours)

Health concerns about friends and how they would advise them
We ask about concerns that participants may have about mates, and if so which substances were most commonly implicated and what the cause of concern was, for example, the impact upon their health, relationships, education etc. We ask where they would advise their friend to go for help (doctor, specialist services, online forums or government websites)

E –cigarettes and NRT (nicotine replacement) as harm reduction

We look at prevalence and patterns of e-cig use among current and ex ex-smokers, perceived health risks, the types of device used and the impact upon tobacco consumption. We ask questions about the use of NRT as harm reduction and if e-cigarettes have been used to consume other drugs.

Harm reduction strategies adopted for all drugs

We determined the adoption and perceived importance of the most commonly used harm reduction strategies for 8 different recreational drugs and the impact of each strategy on drug related pleasure. Collated global data on this topic can be found at:

Use of drugs and alcohol in the workplace and school settings

in 2014 we have researched lifetime and current exposure to drug testing by industry and educational establishments, the use of Novel Psychoactive Drugs to specifically avoid drug testing. We also assessed rates of drug and alcohol use prior to attending work, and the prevalence by industry of turning up to work, college or school hungover from alcohol or coming down from drugs