LGBTI Australians are being encouraged to take part in a global survey that local health organisations hope will shed light on the differences in drug consumption between the gay and straight communities.

Backed by Sydney’s University of NSW (UNSW), the Global Drugs Survey has been translated into eight languages and is aiming for more than 120,000 responses worldwide.

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The survey can trace its history back to 1999 and a questionnaire inserted into UK clubbing magazine Mixmag. Since then, the results have shown the rise in the use of Viagra outside clinical settings, the increase in popularity of hallucinogens such as ketamine and the risks involved with GHB.

“The overall aim is to bring some light around global drug use trends and the practices people use to maximise pleasure and minimise harm,” Dr Toby Lea, Research Associate at UNSW’s Centre for Social Research in Health, told the Star Observer.

Prevalence and trends in drug consumption will be a focus of the anonymous survey as will the use of crystal methamphetamine, drug use in sexual contexts and medication to improve body image such as steroids and tanning agents.

“One of the things we don’t have a lot of information about in Australia is the extent that substance use among LGBTI people differs from people in the wider community,” said Lea, who encouraged both men and women to take part in the online survey including those who have stopped or reduced their drug use.

“The [survey] will be important to help better understand the patterns and context of substance use in our communities and improve responses to substance use problems.”

Respondents will also be able to compare their usage to others locally and overseas with the online Drugs Meter tool.

LGBTI health promotion body ACON is one of the local partners of the survey. Chief executive Nicolas Parkhill said while data already existed that showed drug use within the LGBTI population was higher than among heterosexual people, “there is still a paucity of research examining the related impacts of this higher level of use”.

“[The survey] provides a useful snapshot of what drugs are being used, how they are impacting upon people’s lives, and new and emerging drug types, use and trends,” he said.

Parkhill said the survey will allow ACON to “better advocate for the health needs of our communities and build evidence based drug and alcohol programs”.

The Global Drugs Survey can be completed at http://www.globaldrugsurvey.com/GDS2015/

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