“The drug habits of highly effective people”

Source: BrisbaneTimes
Source: BrisbaneTimes

Amy Corderoy writes for Brisbane Times about a “revealing survey” that concludes that many drug users are “educated and well off”.

That’s not surprising as this would be the demographic that could most afford such indulgences.  The Global Drug Survey was taken in Australia.  And it, “Proves that Australians are drinking like fish, with alcohol taking the top spot as the most commonly used drug,” according to Corderoy.

She begins with the story of Simon:

Every day Simon gets up at 5.30am to do yoga. Afterwards he heads to his full-time job at a university. Sometimes, he throws in some volunteer work as well.

“I’d say I’m a pretty busy person,” Simon, not his real name, says.

The reason he doesn’t want his name used is because there’s one other part of his lifestyle Simon is explaining.

“I would use drugs a couple of times a month,” he says. “Hallucinogens, mainly, and MDMA”.

He also uses cannabis and alcohol, although he tends to only drink one or two nights a week.

“I’m reasonably healthy, I look after myself a lot of the time, I’m probably not what a lot of people who are anti-drug have as their stereotype of a drug user,” he says.

But Simon is a pretty good example of the type of drug user identified by the Global Drug Survey, conducted this year in Australia in partnership with Fairfax Media.

At 32, he is a little younger than many people who shared their experiences, about 30 per cent of whom were aged between 40 and 60.

Overall, the 6600 respondents were an educated, healthy, heterosexual, Anglo-Saxon and well-off bunch – about a quarter earned over $100,000 each year.

Corderoy quotes the Global Drug Study founder and “London-based addiction psychiatrist” Adam Winstock:

“I spend my life working with one group of drug users, and they seem to be the only group that governments are interested in,” he says. “That’s the group whose lives are ruined by drugs, but that is a tiny minority.”

Two years ago, he had an epiphany: someone needs to talk to these users, find out what they are doing and give them a forum to find out more.

Along with the survey he started a website called drugsmeter, which allows users to get feedback.

“You need to start thinking about basing your policy and your services around the 80 to 90 per cent of people who use drugs,” Winstock says.

And all over the world, he says, those people are similar: next door neighbours, mothers and fathers, university students.

This is probably the reason why mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients in America hasn’t proven effective, poor people cannot afford to buy these drugs.  But, of the 6,600 respondents to the drug study, only 5% of users reported suffering from “negative effects of law enforcement”, according to the report.

Corderoy continues:

Only 5 per cent of people said they had been stopped and searched by police in the past year although the younger the people, the more likely searches were. Nearly one in five of the 16- and 17-year-olds who answered the survey had been searched. This slumped to only 3 per cent for over 30s.

Younger people were also more likely to have taken risks. About a quarter of people aged between 16 and 30 had snorted a white powder without knowing what it was.

Mystery white powders and nasty tablets conjure some worrying images, but the clearest problem drug to emerge from the survey was alcohol.

Emergency medical treatment was far more common for drinkers, along with people who used synthetic cannabis. And the most common number of standard drinks consumed by people who ended up in a hospital emergency department was 12.

The survey also asked people about the good and bad feelings linked to drugs: things like whether they helped you relax or socialise, made you feel sick or act in ways you regretted. When the good and bad were added up, alcohol and tobacco came out as the least pleasurable drugs. The most pleasurable? MDMA (ecstasy) and LSD.

Tried and tested drugs such as LSD, ecstasy, cannabis and cocaine are those that people are most interested in trying, despite the explosion in new drugs being invented, often sold as ”legal highs”.

The author also quotes Professor Alison Ritter, who serves as deputy director of the National Drug Alcohol Research Center.

Ritter, who runs the centre’s drug policy modelling program, is frustrated by the focus on crime and drugs. “It seems crazy to me,” she says. “We know that providing treatment that’s accessible and appropriate to someone’s needs works, yet we invest substantially less in treatment services than we do in policing”.

Read the full report, click here.

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