Posted: 06 November 2017

How we do things at GDS

Dr Adam R Winstock

Founder and Managing Director Global Drug Survey

Consultant Psychiatrist and Addiction Medicine Specialist


As so many of you, all over the world, complete our drug survey each year and help us achieve our goal of making drug use safer, we thought we’d share a bit about where we’ve come from, what we do and why we’re here.

Who we are
Global Drug Survey (GDS) was set up in 2011 by Adam Winstock who gave up his job as an addiction psychiatrist to realise his vision of building a truly independent drug research group.

Today we consist of a team of international experts who are passionate about making drug use safer, regardless of the legal status of the drug. Collectively, our expertise spans drugs, health, epidemiology and public policy and together we research substance use behaviours on an international scale.

What we do
GDS is supported by a global network of harm reduction organisations and individuals who, each year, help shape our research by informing us of the current issues surrounding drug use in their country. This helps us ensure we’re asking the questions that really matter. This year, the survey is being translated into 20 languages, allowing us to glean data from more than 35 countries.

No names, no faces
Over the last five years, more than 450,000 people have given us their views on drugs and information on the way they use them. Taking part in our research doesn’t require any information that would reveal identities and we go to great lengths to protect the anonymity of those taking part.

What sets us apart?
We think it’s important that we remain independent and impartial so that we can focus on the issues that are often overlooked by traditional research organisations and government funded centres such as non-dependent drug use and exploring the positive impact of drug use on people’s lives.

We meticulously analyse vast amounts of data to determine new drug trends, similarities among populations and the relationships between patterns of use and the rates in which drugs are seen on the street. We also explore the reasons behind these trends, looking at advancements in drug checking methodology and the darknet, for example, and how these are changing the way drugs are used.

How are our findings used?
All our research is approved by university ethics committees and has led to 50 peer reviewed publications in the last six years.

Each year, our research is used by media, public health and corporate organisations to inform various drug and alcohol intervention services and anonymous, confidential self-assessment tools on alcohol and drugs including cannabis and we produce a range of drug education materials for leading health bodies and professionals .

We do things differently
To ensure that we can remain completely independent, we charge for some of our services. This allows us to be bold when asking the tough questions. We don’t shy away from discussions about topics such as drug law reform and harm reduction because we don’t have to comply with the views of funders or, more importantly, government bodies.

Where we’re going
GDS is still a young organisation but we’re proud of what we’ve achieved in a short amount of time. And we have ambitious plans ahead. We’ll continue to ask the big questions, listen, learn and share what we find. We hope you’ll join us on the journey.

Global Drug Survey 2018.
#GDS2018 KnowYourDrugs
Experience counts. Please share yours!