By Haddon Libby

The Global Drug Survey was founded eight years ago as an effort to highlight drug use trends as they occur so that medical and health professionals can better prepare treatments.  Their latest survey is currently underway with its publication expected later this year.

Looking at their 2016 survey, the most used drug cited by respondents was alcohol with 93% stating that they had used it in the last year.  Second was cannabis at 63% followed by tobacco (60%), caffeinated energy drinks (55%), pills like Ecstasy (30%), cocaine (21%), amphetamines (14%), LSD (13%), mushrooms (12%), opioids (10%), nitrous oxide (9%), ketamine (7%) and poppers (6%).

Users were asked which drug was perceived as representing the best value for one’s money.  Pills like Ecstasy ranked first followed by cannabis, alcohol and cocaine.

With an estimated 40 million addicts in the United States alone, tobacco still ranks as the deadliest of drugs killing nearly 500,000 domestically and 7 million globally every year.  According to the New England Journal of Medicine, smokers live approximately ten fewer years than non-smokers.

Of 18 million addicts in the United States, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse reports that 88,000 die each year from alcohol-related causes.  An additional 10,000 people die in driving fatalities related to alcohol consumption.  While Americans are some of the heavier drinkers in the world, the people needing an intervention the most live in the jolly ‘ol United Kingdom where the average drinker gets drunk once a week with one in 25 needing emergency medical treatment due to overindulgence.

Drinkers were asked which alcohol results in the worst hangover.  Nearly half of all respondents cited hard liquor with one-quarter choosing wine, 15% stating (with false bravado) that nothing gave them a hangover while 10% named beer.  Spirits were thought to make one feel ‘energized, confident and sexy’ while beer and wine make one ‘relaxed or sleepy.”  2% talked about hard cider which made no sense.

A U.S. government study found that about 1.5 million Americans use cocaine each month with most users between the ages of 18 and 25 years of age with two-thirds considered addicted.  Annual deaths from a cocaine overdose approximate 5,000 annually.  Looked at globally, cocaine use was heaviest in Denmark at 13.4 lines per use followed by Norway at 13 and Spain at 12.75 lines.  Here stateside, Americans cocaine users consumed on average 11 lines or one-half of one gram at an average cost of $50 per occasion.  

The Drug Enforcement Agency reports more than 23,000 deaths from pills like Ecstasy each year.  This economical drug costs $10-20 per occasion.  It also has the highest emergency room visits rates amongst widely used drugs.  For comparison, marijuana has some of the lowest visitation rates so long as synthetic marijuana is excluded.

Synthetic marijuana (which is not really cannabis) is sold at many gas stations and convenience stores as an incense or potpourri.  When smoked, these cheap drugs can be deadly.

Excluding nasty knock-offs, the Washington Post reports that more than 55 million Americans use marijuana in a given year.  Due to legalization efforts, cannabis use now exceeds tobacco use in a given month.  Unlike many drugs, there have been no deaths attributable to an overdose of marijuana (although emergency room visits have increased).  Nearly half of all users are Millennials.  When asked why one uses the THC and CBD rich plant, 37% use it to relax as a drinker might have a cocktail.  Nineteen percent use cannabis for pain relief, 16% to have fun, 10% to be more social, 6% to be more creative, 3% as part of a romantic encounter and 3% to aid in sleeping.

If trends are any indication, this year’s report should confirm a shift away from old line drugs like tobacco, alcohol and opiates toward cannabis, ecstasy and psychedelics like LSD and mushrooms.

Haddon Libby is the Founder and Managing Partner of Winslow Drake Investment Management, a Fiduciary-Only Advisory Practice.  For more information, please visit or email