Global Drug Survey: Indians lead world in seeking help to reduce drugs intake

It reflects awareness of abuse, says global survey

May 15, 2019 10:27 pm | Updated 10:27 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Photo: Twitter/@GlobalDrugSurvy

Photo: Twitter/@GlobalDrugSurvy

A global survey of recreational drug-use, which for the first time polled respondents from India, has found that Indians — more than from other nationalities — are seeking help to reduce their alcohol intake.

Alcohol, tobacco and cannabis were the most common stimulants used by Indians. Of the nearly 1,00,000 respondents from 30 countries, Indians reported ‘being drunk’ on an average of 41 times in the last 12 months — behind the U.K., the U.S., Canada, Australia and Denmark in that order but well above the global average of 33 times.

The Global Drug Survey (GDS) is an anonymised, online survey that uses a detailed questionnaire to assess trends in drug use and self-reported harms among regular drug users and early adopters of new trends. Though the survey is not designed to determine the prevalence of drug behaviour in a population, it throws light on “stigmatised behaviours and health outcomes of a hidden population that is otherwise difficult to reach…and can be used to inform targeted interventions,” according to a description by the organisation in 2018 editorial in the medical journal Lancet.

Indian respondents to the survey, conducted online October-December 2018, appeared more than other nationalities eager for help with reducing their alcohol intake. According to the 2019 GDS, 51% of the respondents wanted to ‘drink less’ in the following year and 41% ‘wanted help to do so’ — again the highest percentage among other countries.

“It might genuinely reflect high levels of concern among drinkers of being aware of consuming at levels known to be harmful,” said Adam Winstock, among the key authors of the survey, in an email. Mr. Winstock is a London-based psychiatrist and founder and director of the GDS.

About 6% of the female Indians surveyed reported seeking ‘emergency medical treatment’ in the last 12 months. The global female average was about 13%.

None of the males in India reported seeking medical treatment, compared to the global average of 12%.

71% enjoy being drunk

Indians said they ‘enjoyed being drunk’ on 71% of the occasions — close to the global average of 74% and 15 spots below world leader Portugal, whose respondents enjoyed 82% of the occasions.

Adam Winstock, one of the key authors of the survey, emphasised that there were only about 850 respondents from India and they didn’t represent the larger population.

The Indians surveyed were mostly male and 25-34 years of age. A third of those surveyed “had gone clubbing” at least 4 times in the last year.

While 43% of about 250 Indians surveyed reported using cannabis and 44% of them said they sourced it from ‘known dealers’, 21% said they got their fix ‘from friends.’

Less cannabis

Only 2% sought emergency medical treatment after using cannabis but, similar to alcohol use, 51% said they wanted to use ‘less cannabis’ in the following year; more than any other nationality and well above the global average of 31%.

Alcohol and tobacco apart, the most used drugs globally were cannabis, MDMA (or Ecstacy), cocaine, amphetamines, LSD (or ‘acid’), magic mushrooms, benzodiazepines, prescription opioids, ketamine, nitrous oxide.

The survey also found that globally approximately 14% (11,000) reported being taken advantage of sexually while intoxicated in their lifetime and 4% in the last 12 months. There were no figures from India available.

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