Video: US and UK Drug Users Compared

By Will Godfrey 03/15/12

A major international survey of drug users provides fascinating stats about habits on both sides of the pond.

Divided by a common love of drugs?
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The results of the huge Guardian/Mixmag international drug survey—which asked a self-selected sample of 15,500 drug users, mainly from the UK and US, detailed questions about their habits—have just been published. Headline findings include that despite being relatively educated, happy and healthy, large numbers of these "recreational" drug users are prepared to "chance it" by taking drugs without being sure what they are; 19% of respondents under 25 have ingested a mystery substance. Many users of illegal drugs—one third of those in the UK—also take prescription meds to deal with the aftermath of their highs. But the survey paints a picture of a generation of weekend drug users who are mostly satisfied with life and don't feel defined by their habits—although they'd like to cut down on certain substances, with tobacco, alcohol, heroin and crack at the top of the list. Honest, rather than exaggerated, government health warnings could help them to do so.

The survey enables a detailed comparison of US and UK drug users, who share common ground such as high alcohol use (over 95% in both cases) but differ in other ways. For example, UK respondents are twice as likely to have used MDMA in the last year (54%) or cocaine (42%)—compared with 27% and 20% respectively in the US. But US drug users are twice as likely to take heroin (2.5% in the last year) or meth (2.1%), with the UK figures at 1.1% and 0.8%. Contact with cops and doctors also turns out very differently for drug users on either side of the pond. Fortunately amid this barrage of new data, some of the most fascinating findings have been condensed into a short animated video:

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Will Godfrey is the former editor-in-chief of TheFix. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of, and previously co-founded a magazine for prisoners in London. His work has appeared in Salon, Pacific Standard, AlterNet and The Nation among others. He is currently the Executive Director at FILTER. You can find Will on Linkedin and Twitter.