Psychostimulant users seek information, not drugs, online
Australian illicit drug users are turning to the internet for drug education, but not to buy drugs. A national survey of ecstasy and related-drug users found 60 per cent of participants had gone online in the past six months to get information about drugs. In contrast, only nine per cent had gone online to buy drugs.
When they were not seeking knowledge on the web, participants were sharing it: 10 per cent reported posting information about drugs online.
The findings are drawn from the just released 2011 Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS) National Report. The EDRS is an annual survey coordinated by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC).
Among other results was the finding that participants most commonly sought online information on ecstasy (52 per cent), followed by LSD (five per cent) and cannabis (five per cent).
In contrast to regular ecstasy users, injecting drug users had very little access to the internet. The 2011 Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) found that of 788 injecting drug users surveyed, 61 per cent reported they never used the internet.
However when they did get access, 15 per cent of those who commented stopped using a drug due to information found online. Fourteen per cent said they altered their drug dose and eight per cent reported using a new drug combination or route of administration.
Professor Michael Farrell, Director of NDARC, commented: “To date we have no evidence that online sourcing of drugs is a major problem in Australia but we do need to monitor the situation carefully with early warning systems for new drugs and new sources of drugs.”
Dr Fairlie McIlwraith of the University of Queensland devised the internet-related questions included in the EDRS and IDRS for the first time in 2011.
“Substance users do take some heed of the information they find online and our surveys indicate they are using this information to reduce harms associated with illicit drug use,” said Dr McIlwraith.
The EDRS survey revealed ecstasy users most commonly turned to web sites for online drug related activity, followed by search engines, Facebook and online forums.
Across both surveys, illicit drug users who commented nominated (in no particular order) Pill Reports, Wikipedia and Erowid as their favourite drug web sites.
Dr McIlwraith said reasons participants gave for preferring these websites included their ease of use, credibility, comprehensiveness, and up-to-date information.
“Also, on some of the websites, there are people’s personal experiences. Survey participants said they could relate to what people were asking and felt comfortable sharing their knowledge or lack of knowledge. They really appreciated that,” Dr McIlwraith said.
She added the divergence between the online behaviour of EDRS and IDRS participants could be explained by a number of factors, including different drug use patterns between the two groups. Frequency of drug use, drug dependency, and the age of survey participants may all have an impact. The mean age of EDRS participants in 2011 was 24 years, while the mean age of 2011 IDRS participants was 38 years.
(Source: University of NSW)
Article Date: 23/6/2012
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