Crucial information on the impact of COVID-19 on people who use drugs, and on the services that support them, will be collected via a special round of the European Web Survey on Drugs, launched this week. The survey — the Mini European Web Survey on Drugs: COVID-19 — is coordinated by the EMCDDA in collaboration with its Reitox network of national focal points.
The new survey, already available in 18 languages (1), will gather information on how patterns of drug use, access to health services and the drug market may have changed in Europe during the pandemic. This, in turn, will feed into a monthly EMCDDA trendspotter bulletin and a new repository of resources on COVID-19, launched in March on the agency’s website.
The survey findings will contribute 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.
First piloted as a project in 2016 (2), the European Web Survey on Drugs is one of the EMCDDA’s targeted ‘leading-edge’ monitoring methods, designed to improve understanding of patterns of drug use at European level (see Figure). The aim of the project was to test a web survey tool that could collect information quickly and cheaply on topics currently not covered by routine data collection.
Targeted at people aged over 18 who have used drugs, the new questionnaire is structured in modules on: socio-demographics; COVID-19 status; drug using patterns (last 30 days, last year); access to services and drug market activity (e.g. changes in the way illicit drugs have been obtained during COVID-19).
The voluntary and anonymous survey is currently being promoted at national level by the participating Reitox national focal points, supported by other national partners. A special focus is given to promoting the survey through targeted social media advertisements.
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 comprehensive, 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 drug problem.
The Mini European Web Survey on Drugs: COVID-19 is accessible here: