Drug use is typically a taboo subject in the U.S., a nation that has dedicated decades of work and billions of dollars trying unsuccessfully to suppress the human desire to chemically alter one’s consciousness.
But now, for the eighth straight year, the Global Drug Survey is once again providing a platform for Americans and the rest of the world to engage in an honest conversation about the positives and negatives of how we consume legal and illicit substances. Researchers hope to gather tens of thousands of responses from drug users in the U.S., which they’ll use to promote safer habits and inform future debates around drug policy.
The surveys are conducted anonymously. Go here for more information on how respondents’ data is used.
The Global Drug Survey is an independent research company that, since 2012, has partnered with medical experts and media groups to distribute and analyze a yearly questionnaire. Previous editions have compiled more than half a million responses from respondents in dozens of countries.
The resulting data has provided valuable insights into drug use habits. The 2017 survey showed that hallucinogenic mushrooms and LSD were among the safest recreational drugs. In 2018, it revealed that a relatively large percentage of marijuana users around the world report signs of dependence.
This year’s survey touches on a number of topics that are particularly relevant to Americans, said Adam Winstock, the British psychiatrist and addiction researcher who created the Global Drug Survey.
The survey includes questions about legal marijuana markets, with a particular focus on the growing popularity of cannabis edibles, which are more popular in the U.S. than anywhere, said Winstock. It will also look at consumer responses to warning labels on recreational weed products. With 10 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., now having legalized marijuana, it’s important for officials to have solid data to work with when crafting rules and regulations associated with commercial sales, said Winstock.
The 2019 Global Drug Survey also asks a number of questions about sexual assault and drug use. Winstock said it was a natural topic to explore amid the Me Too movement, which has led to numerous claims against men who have allegedly sexually mistreated women. Through the survey, Winstock said he hopes to get a clearer idea of the role drugs and alcohol play in these sorts of incidents, as well as how they affect a victim’s response to them.
“There’s the whole issue of people not reporting because of fears that they were an unreliable witness or that police wouldn’t take them seriously,” said Winstock.
This year’s survey will also delve into the emerging field of psychedelic therapy, in which psychedelic drugs are used to assist with psychotherapy for the treatment of mental illness. Clinical trials are currently underway to probe the use of MDMA (commonly known as Ecstasy), psilocybin (magic mushrooms), and LSD in treating a variety of conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety related to terminal illness, substance addiction and depression.
Although early studies have suggested that these psychedelic drugs could have promising therapeutic applications, Winstock said he wants to know how receptive the general public would be to such an alternative treatment method.
“It’s all well and good running a small clinical trial with a bunch of people who’ve got a defined mental illness, but how the wider population would feel about going into a clinic and snorting ketamine as part of their treatment, or going in and having an intense psychedelic experience to deal with their mental health, I just don’t know,” said Winstock.
The 2019 Global Drug Survey is accepting responses until Dec. 30, and expects to publish full results in the spring.