A new study launched by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at UNSW Sydney, is calling for participants to confidentially share how they are using drugs during COVID-19.
The Australians’ Drug Use: Adapting to Pandemic Threats (ADAPT) Study is the largest online survey of its kind in Australia and will provide critical, timely information about how people who use drugs can be supported.
“Illicit substance use is relatively common in Australia, with 43 percent of Australians aged 14 and older (8.5 million) reporting lifetime use of illicit substances in 2016, and 16 percent (3.1 million) reporting use in the past year,” Program Lead Dr. Amy Peacock told Star Observer.
“Long-term trends in the use of these substances are relatively well-understood, however, can be significantly impacted by market disruptions. The impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic on people who use drugs remains largely unknown.”
Star Observer spoke to Christian, a 31-year-old gay man living in Sydney, who regularly consumes cocaine and cannabis.
“In the past two months, I have tried GHB and ICE for the first time. I have also used ketamine, but I have used it before,” said Christian.
“The fact that I’ve tried two very heavy drugs for the first time in iso makes me think I only did so out of either boredom or the people I was with offered it and I now wanted to try it.”
When asked about how he has changed the way he consumes illicit drugs Christian said, “weed has definitely been harder to come by during iso.”
“I drink more frequently on an average week, but I think that goes for most people.”
Last week, the federal government announced an additional $6 million in funding for online and phone drug and alcohol services to support people experiencing problems during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Online and telephone counselling have been proven to be effective in reducing reliance on alcohol and other drugs. They are important components of the treatment spectrum, particularly when opportunities for face-to-face counselling and rehabilitation are reduced,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement.
Dr. Peacock said that increased demand for these services could be a result of government restrictions.
“It seems likely that restrictions imposed by governments in an attempt to reduce transmission (e.g., social distancing, ban on mass gatherings, border closures) have had a significant impact on the way people use drugs, the procurement of drugs, and the harms experienced,” said Dr. Peacock.
Discovering more stories like Christian’s is a key objective of the ADAPT Study.
“Much of our understanding of the possible impacts of COVID-19 on people who use drugs is based on anecdotal reports,” said Dr. Peacock.
“There is an urgent need to quantify these impacts to identify the acute needs of this population, and to assess the potential longer-term impacts as the pandemic continues to unfold.”
“We need to ensure drug-related issues during COVID-19 and beyond are better understood, accurately represented, and used to inform drug treatment and harm reduction in Australia.”
All participants in the ADAPT Study will enter a prize draw to win one of 20 x $100 vouchers, and will be able to receive personalised confidential results over time.
To participate, go to www.adaptstudy.org.au
If you are experiencing any problems with drugs or alcohol, please reach out to the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline.