Monitoring drug use in recreational settings across Europe — new report out today

How to build a better picture of substance use in recreational settings is explored today in a new EMCDDA report: Monitoring drug use in recreational settings across Europe: conceptual challenges and methodological innovations.

The report examines how drug-use data are currently collected in recreational settings, and identifies the benefits and challenges of monitoring in these milieux.

Highlighted in the report is the need for standardised data-collection tools to improve comparability in Europe. The report describes how self-report targeted population surveys (TPSs) in situ are becoming an increasingly important part of monitoring activities across countries. Online self-report targeted surveys of ‘recreational drug users’ are also flagged as exciting opportunities to improve monitoring. The need to include questions in general population surveys (GPS) that might capture drug use in recreational settings is similarly raised.

The report shows how specific drugs, drug-using populations and recreational settings dominate investigations, while others tend to be ignored. Research largely focuses on night-time-economy (NTE) locations, such as clubs and bars, leaving a significant knowledge gap around drug use in other recreational settings (e.g. private parties, illegal raves).

The point is made that drug use takes place in both private and public recreational settings and that targeted surveys need to focus on more diverse (and previously hidden) populations to include under-researched relevant spaces, places and times across Europe. It is argued that those using drugs in recreational settings are not a homogeneous group and that statistical data collected in this milieu can capture this diversity, allowing for better designed and targeted interventions.

According to the report: ‘Improved monitoring of substance use in recreational settings can help build a better evidence base for more balanced, proportionate drug policies aimed at prevention and harm reduction’.

It adds: ‘Looking to the future, there are positive signs that the complexity of studying drug use in recreational settings across Europe is being recognised… The European drugs research community is becoming attuned to the nuances of substance use in a range of recreational settings where many of Europe’s citizens want to spend their leisure time safely’.

Finally, the report describes how biomedical data, drug-checking and wastewater analyses have emerged as novel data sources for capturing aspects of drug use in specific locales (although these should be treated with caution and supplemented with survey research when possible).

Today EMCDDA Director Alexis Goosdeel is speaking at the opening plenary session of NIGHTS2018, the 4th international conference on night-time economy, culture, urban development and health issues (15–17 November, Brussels). The event — co-organised by Modus Vivendi, VAD, Transit and the Nightlife Empowerment and Well-being Network — also marks the 25th anniversary of ‘Modus Vivendi’.

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