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global drugs survey

People in Ireland have the most regret over being drunk globally, new study shows

The Global Drug Survey 2021 shows respondents in Ireland got drunk an average of 14.6 times a year.

PEOPLE IN IRELAND report the highest level of regret over getting drunk globally, a new study shows. 

898 people in Ireland participated in the Global Drug Survey 2021, which collected and compared data on drug use from over 32,000 people in 22 countries between December 2020 and March 2021. 

The survey collected information from respondents on their drug use habits over their lifetime and, more specifically, over the 12 months prior to completing the questionnaire. 

On average, respondents in Ireland said they got drunk 14.6 times a year.

The researchers defined drunk as “having drunk so much that your physical and mental faculties are impaired to the point where your balance/speech was affected, you were unable to focus clearly on things and that your conversation and behaviours were very obviously different to people who know you”. 

On average, respondents from Ireland felt the most regret over getting drunk this year globally, regretting it 28.4% of the time. 

Globally, people regretted getting drunk on 21% of occasions, with Denmark and Finland reporting having the least regret (17% each). 

On average, globally, women tended to regret getting drunk more than men. 

“If you are getting drunk and regretting it, then clearly you are not having a good time. But the good news is that this is all completely avoidable,” according to observations from the authors of the study.

“Drinking too much too quickly, mixing your drinks and drinking with people who drink a lot were the top three reasons people said they regretted getting drunk,” they said. 

Covid-19 specific reasons were also cited as why people had gotten drunk and regretted it, including feeling anxious about not having drunk for some time due to pandemic restrictions. 

“There are simple things everyone can do to minimise the risk of harm and increase the pleasure they get when drinking. These include: drinking more slowly, avoiding people who drink heavily and avoiding mixing drinks (or mixing alcohol with other drugs), as well as not drinking when you’re in a bad mood,” the report said. 

In April this year, the Health Research Board in Ireland published a report which found that while alcohol consumption levels in Ireland have plateaued since 2013, people’s consumption remains significantly higher than the government’s 2020 target of no more than 9.1 litres of pure alcohol per person a year. 

In 2019, on average every person in Ireland aged 15 and older drank 10.8 litres of pure alcohol a year. This is the equivalent of either 113 bottles of wine or 436 pints of beer. 

Drug use

The Global Drug Survey is an independent research organisation based in London, which runs the world’s largest drug survey. The organisation uses an encrypted online platform to collect anonymous drug use data from across the world. As the survey is carried out online, it is self-selecting – as in, respondents to the survey volunteer to take part in it.

To date over 900,000 people have taken part in GDS research globally, with over 65 academic papers published.

Aside from alcohol, the survey examines the use of a range of different drugs globally. 

However, the report notes that the rates of drugs used in the sample are “significantly higher when compared to the general population”. 

“The data can be used to describe use patterns and identify new drug trends. The majority of our participants tend to be young, experienced with the use of illicit drugs, and employed or in education,” the researchers outlined. 

“We have included questions that are relevant to marginalised and vulnerable groups of people who use drugs, yet these groups are largely underrepresented online,” they said. 

30% of respondents to the global survey were aged under 25 years (the sample was older than GDS2020, where 52% were aged 25 years and younger) with 38.5% aged 35 years or older (compared to 22% in GDS2020).

86% of the global sample identified as white. 47% had at least an undergraduate degree as their highest level of educational attainment.

Compared to last year’s Global Drug Survey, there were falls in the rates of almost all drug classes. 

The researchers said “this might reflect the older age of [this year's] sample or reflect the trend we have seen in most drugs (most notably stimulants) being used less frequently during the Covid-19 pandemic”. 

The data has also shown that there’s a widespread use of CBD products globally, with CBD being used by more people (28.9%) in the last 12 months than any other drug except alcohol (92.8%), tobacco (51%) and THC containing cannabis (57.4%). 

Globally, 26.3% of participants used MDMA in the 12 months prior to the survey, with 44.9% of people having used it at some point in their lives. 

Cocaine was used by 23.5% of people in the last year and 39.7% during their lifetime. 

Almost half of those who used cannabis and cocaine reported changes in their use and sharing behaviours to reduce to the risk of Covid-19 transmission. 

In relation to cannabis, the data shows that the most common change in behaviour from before to during the pandemic was to share a joint/vape/pipe/bong less often with other people (42%).

Looking at cocaine, the findings suggest that while many people did not adjust their behaviours, where they did it was overwhelmingly in the direction of reducing risk.

The most commonly adopted behaviour changes were the easy and obvious ones: not sharing snorters, using your own cocaine and using cocaine prepared by yourself.

“Whether sharing joints or straws will fade into history or return once Covid-19 becomes less prominent in our lives we just don’t know. But our data suggest many people adapted their drug use practices to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission,” the researchers said. 

  • Read more here on how to support a major Noteworthy project to investigate why people are waiting up to two years for a drug detox bed.

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