Do you use drugs? How many? How often? These are among the questions posed in the latest European Web Survey on Drugs, launched today by the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA). Targeted at people, aged 18 and over, who have used drugs, the survey aims to improve understanding of patterns of drug use in Europe and help shape future drug policies and interventions (1).
The voluntary, anonymous survey — one of the agency’s targeted ‘leading-edge’ monitoring methods — will run this year in 31 countries and 28 languages (2). As in previous years, it will be promoted nationally by the Reitox focal points and their partners, as well as through targeted social media advertisements.
New to this year’s round is the participation of the agency’s partners from the Western Balkans and the European Neighbourhood Policy area through the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA7) and EU4Monitoring Drugs (EU4MD) projects.
Web-based surveys have the benefit of reaching people who use drugs directly. They are quick and cheap to set up, provide new data rapidly and can help spot emerging trends. If the same questions are used, along with a rigorous translation process, then these surveys can also allow for cross-national comparisons.
The new questionnaire, which will run for six weeks, is structured in modules on: socio-demographics, drug using patterns, access to treatment, access to drugs (amounts usually bought and prices paid) and how COVID-19 has affected patterns of drug use. Its findings will contribute to the emerging knowledge base on drug-using practices in Europe and on the quantities of drugs used. This will help enhance market size estimates at national and European level and contribute to policy development more widely.
While web surveys are not representative of the general population, when carefully conducted and combined with traditional data-collection methods, they can help paint a more detailed, realistic and timely picture of drug use and drug markets in Europe. As such, they are a key ingredient in the EMCDDA’s responsiveness to an ever-shifting drugs problem.