European Web Survey on Drugs: patterns of use
Web-based surveys are a useful tool for collecting information on patterns of drug use across Europe. They are quick and cheap to set up and can reach large numbers of people who use drugs directly. This means that they can paint a detailed, realistic and timely picture of drug use and drug markets in Europe and are a useful complement to traditional data-collection methods.
Survey links for 2021 round
A new round of the European Web Survey on Drugs was launched on 18 March 2021. Each country provides the survey in multiple languages.The survey runs in the following countries:
- EU: Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden
- EU4MD: Georgia, Lebanon, Ukraine
- IPA7: Albania, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia
- Other: Switzerland
IPA7 – The IPA7 project is supporting the implementation of the European Web Survey on Drugs in the Western Balkan region. For the six candidate and potential candidates to the EU that will launch the survey for the first time in 2021, this represents a unique opportunity to obtain a detailed information about patterns of drug use and to introduce the web survey method in the new context.
EU4MD – For the first time, three countries of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) area: Georgia, Lebanon and Ukraine, will implement the European Web Survey on Drugs. The surveys in these three countries are supported by the EU4MD project.
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.
In a first phase, the survey was conducted in six European countries: Croatia, Czechia, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The surveys ran at different times in 2016.
For the second round, in 2017 and 2018, the following 10 countries participated: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Poland.
Emerging findings of the first two rounds:
Very promising approach: quick, cheap and large user samples
Good collaborative working
Acceptable to users: positive comments and agreement to follow-up
Value of European branding and central web page
Data cleaning is time-consuming – more attention to routing and range controls needed
Not a panacea: not generalisable to the whole population – complements but does not replace GPS
Current recruitment strategies have mainly reached recreational users
Special European Web Survey on Drugs to assess impact of COVID-19 pandemic
A special round of the European Web Survey on Drugs was launched in April 2020 in order to collect crucial information on the impact of COVID-19 on people who use drugs, and on the services that support them.
The survey, available in 20 languages, gathered information on how patterns of drug use, access to health services and the drug market had changed in Europe during the first months of the pandemic. This, in turn, fed into an EMCDDA trendspotter report.
The survey findings contributed to the emerging knowledge base on COVID-19 and Europe’s response to it, potentially helping to protect the health of people who use drugs, improve drug services and raise awareness of market changes.
For the 2021 survey round, a promotional video to encourage the answering of the survey is available in 29 languages. It will be used primarily by participating countries to recruit respondents via social media platforms.
An additional 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.
*Kosovo: this designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.