European Web Survey on Drugs: patterns of use

Banner for the European Web Survey on Drugs

Introduction

The European Web Survey on Drugs (EWSD) is a voluntary, anonymous survey run by the Agency and its partners. It is one of the Agency’s targeted ‘leading-edge’ monitoring methods and a key ingredient in the EMCDDA’s responsiveness to the ever-shifting drugs problem. Web-based surveys have the benefit of reaching people who use drugs directly. They are quick and relatively inexpensive, 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.

2024 European Web Survey on Drugs

The fifth round of the survey is taking place between May and June 2024 in 35 countries. This time the questionnaire seeks to explore a number of new topics in addition to a standard set of questions on patterns of drug use and drug acquisition. On the backdrop of a greater diversification of drug markets and changing drug policies in some EU Member States, we seek more in-depth information on people who use of cannabis and cannabinoids, on polysubstance use and on emerging trends and substances.

Links to surveys in participating countries

The survey targets people who use drugs, are 18 years old or older, and are living in one of the participating countries. The country surveys, in national languages and in English, can be accessed clicking on the country name below (not all countries are launching at the same time and links will be updated as they become available). The survey should run for 6 weeks in each country.

Note on anonymity and privacy

Ethical approval has been requested and granted in the participating countries, where needed. Only participants aged 18+ who provide informed consent can participate in the study. Anonymity and confidentiality are ensured for all participants – the survey does not collect any personal information besides basic socio-demographic characteristics, such as age and gender. No IP address is collected and data cannot be tracked back to participants.

The data are collected via EU Survey, the European Commission's official survey management tool.  Launched in 2013, EU Survey’s main purpose is to create official surveys of public opinion and forms for internal communication and staff management, e.g. staff opinion surveys and forms for evaluation or registration. The application, hosted at the European Commission's Department for digital services (DG DIGIT), is available free of charge to all EU citizens. More information about the tool, including how it handles data can be found on the EU Survey website ( https://ec.europa.eu/eusurvey).

More information on the European Web Survey

About the EWSD project

Launched for the first time in 2016, the EWSD’s primary aim has been to collect novel data, both rapidly and at a low cost, from people who use drugs, to assist participating countries to better understand national patterns of drug use, and to support better-informed policy responses at the country level. To date, four rounds of the EWSD have been implemented, with 33 countries and a total of over 150 000 respondents participating in the survey.

The survey is coordinated by the EMCDDA and implemented by national teams, using identical questionnaire translated to national languages and adapted to local contexts. Each national team recruits participants using a combination of promotional activities, including social media and services for people who use drugs. The information on the recruitment strategies is collected from the countries and serves as an important meta-data when interpreting the survey results across countries.

The EMCDDA is currently working on an online data exploration tool that would provide access to data from the survey to researchers and general public, turning the EWSD into a more available resource to support understanding to patterns of drug use and shaping drug policies.

All publications, reports, graphics, news release and other outputs can be found on the European Web Survey on Drugs hub page.

For a more detailed overview of the project, please see: European Web Survey on Drugs: an overview of the project

For more information around web surveys and methodology, please see: Monitoring drug use in the digital age: studies in web surveys

Background

General Population Surveys (GPS) can provide valuable information on drug use prevalence in Europe, but insufficient sample sizes can prevent them from yielding robust information on patterns of use. This is where web-based surveys can help. They are a useful tool for collecting information on patterns of drug use from a larger sample of people who use illicit drugs and can complement, and overcome some of their limitations of, other data sources.

While not being representative of the general population, carefully conducted web surveys may nevertheless provide valuable additional information about variations in use among different groups of people who use drugs. If a common approach is taken to developing the sampling strategies, if the same questions are used and if rigorous translation processes are applied, then these surveys may also provide useful cross-national comparisons. Deciding the recruitment strategy in each country to ensure coverage of important user groups per drug will be important to ensuring the quality of the data obtained.

In 2016, the EMCDDA started a pilot project — the European Web Survey on Drugs — to develop a system, and the capacity within EMCDDA, for collecting such data. This would not only be of value to the EMCDDA, but also to the Reitox focal points and other national partners, allowing them to obtain valuable information for policy development at national level both quickly and at a low cost.

The main added value of the European Web Survey on Drugs was to develop and test a web survey tool to collect information on the amounts of drugs used by different groups of people in several European countries as well as on purchases. The cooperative model adopted for the survey has proved successful, with a central European institution coordinating the study and each participating country being responsible for the translation of the questionnaire and for developing adequate recruitment strategies.

Videos

This two-minute video explains why web surveys are a useful tool to enhance understanding of the drug situation. The video is available with multilingual subtitles.

Video: Why a European Web Survey on Drugs?

still image video Text says Why a European Web Survey on Drugs? In the background an unsmoked joint is visible.

For the 2021 survey round, a promotional video to encourage the answering of the survey was made available in 29 languages. It was used primarily by participating countries to recruit respondents via social media platforms.

For the 2024 survey round, a series of short videos ('reels') were created for the promotion of the survey on social media with the collaboration of Kosmicare

For more information, you can find a YouTube playlist with all promotional videos.

Outputs, reports, publications and more

Publications, reports, graphics, news release and other outputs can be found on the European Web Survey on Drugs hub page.

 

*Kosovo: This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

**Palestine: This designation shall not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual positions of the Member States on this issue.

 

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