Australians Got Drunk More Than Anyone Last Year, Says World’s Largest Drug Survey

The Global Drug Survey also had some sobering results regarding booze use in France and Ireland

Friends relax and enjoy outdoor drinks together in Australia. People in Australia reported getting "drunk" more often than other country's respondents in a new survey
The annual Global Drug Survey found heavy drinking last year in Australia.

Australians drank more than people from any other country, according to an annual report by the world’s largest drug survey.

Global Drug Survey (GDS), established in 2012, is an independent research organization based in London that runs the annual survey. The group’s research, which covers both legal and illegal intoxicants, does note that “the rates of drug use in this sample are significantly higher when compared to the general population.” Data from 32,022 people from 22 countries were used in the report, with results taken over a period of a few months near the end of the year (next year’s results will cover responses taken from November 2021 to January 2022, for example).

“We continued our interest in drinking and regret in 2021,” as the GDS2021 notes, before pointing out that Australian respondents said they got drunk at a rate of about twice a month (26.7 times per year), or almost double the average globally (14.6 times per year). People in Australia who identify as trans, non-binary or intersex reported an even higher number of incidents (35.4), but the number of respondents in that demographic were considered low and those elevated numbers were not consistent within other countries (although cis men consistently reported drinking more than cis women).

Globally, the overwhelming reason for feeling post-drunk regret was “drank too much too quickly,” followed distantly by “mixed my drinks” and “was with big drinkers.” And the reasons for drinking were also regrettable.

“It’s unfortunate that for many people intoxication becomes more attractive when they are feeling miserable or distressed,” the report notes. “It’s natural to want a quick way to remove or numb those feelings, and some drugs (usually depressant drugs) are better at doing that than others. But the reality is that most drugs (even depressants like alcohol) will tend to exacerbate the mood you are in (and can often leave you feeling more anxious and stressed the next day). Thus, the phrase ‘drown your sorrows’ is lousy advice.”

Some other interesting finds in the study:

  • Average respondents to GDS2021 reported regretting getting drunk on 21% of occasions, far lower than 2020’s result of 30%.
  • Regret for drinking came from people in countries who reported getting drunk less often. The highest rate of regret was reported in Ireland (28.4%) and the lowest in Denmark and Finland (17%).
  • People drank (not always to get drunk) on average about twice a week. The highest mean number of days of drinking was in France at 132, while the United States had a low of 83.
  • Outside of alcohol, cannabis (THC) and tobacco, the top three drugs of choice were MDMA, cannabis (CBD) and cocaine.


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