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Dillon, Lucy (2016) Global Drugs Survey 2016. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 59, Autumn 2016 , p. 11.

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The findings of the world’s biggest drug survey, the Global Drug Survey (GDS) 2016, were published on 14 June.1 GDS is an ‘independent global drug use data exchange hub that conducts university ethics approved, anonymous online surveys’.1 It is made up of experts from the fields of medicine, toxicology, public health, psychology, chemistry, public policy, criminology, sociology, harm reduction and addiction. They aim to ‘help people and communities reduce the harm associated with the use of drugs regardless of their legal status, by sharing information in a credible and meaningful way’.1


The survey explored patterns of use, harms, health and well-being experienced by a range of users. The survey was translated into 10 languages and had 101,313 respondents from over 50 countries. Seven hundred and seven respondents were from the Republic of Ireland. The authors identified a number of methodological issues that should be taken into consideration when looking at their findings: 

  • The findings were not national estimates of drug use prevalence.
  • GDS used non-random, opportunistic sampling methods to recruit large numbers of people who use drugs.
  • The survey recruited younger, more involved, and often hidden drug-using populations than other surveys.
  • The survey was designed to answer comparison questions that are not dependent on probability samples.
  • As the data was less than six months old, the findings can help identify emerging drug trends before they enter into the general population. 

Key findings

Among the key findings were: 

  • 9.3% of respondents reported ever buying drugs off the ‘dark net’; this represents an increase on previous years. MDMA, cannabis, new or novel substances and LSD were the drugs most commonly bought.
  • Synthetic cannabinoids (SCs) were more likely to lead to emergency medical treatment than any other drug. One in eight of those using weekly or more often reported seeking emergency medical treatment. The overall risk of seeking emergency medical treatment when using SCs was found to be 30 times greater than when using ‘natural cannabis’.
  • In terms of acute harms caused by alcohol, at 2.2% each, Ireland and Norway came in joint second to Scotland, where 2.4% of drinkers reported seeking emergency medical treatment following drinking alcohol.
  • Globally, Ireland had the second highest proportion of people who would like to drink less alcohol (43.4%).
  • While globally the mean price for high potency herbal cannabis was €12.48, in Ireland it was €23.

1 Global Drug Survey (GDS) (2016). For more information, visit

Item Type
Issue Title
October 2016
Page Range
p. 11
Health Research Board
Issue 59, Autumn 2016

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