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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Taiwan Researchers Find Distinct Psychosocial Characteristics for Club Drug Versus Hard Drug Use

According to a newest national survey in Taiwan, the lifetime prevalence of illicit drug use was approximately 1.29 percent, with the estimates of club drugs (mainly ketamine, marijuana, and ecstasy) being slightly higher than hard drugs (mainly methamphetamine and heroin). Club drug users were demographically different from hard drug users, and were likely to have risky sexual partnerships and report more depressive symptoms than hard drug users. This study was published online on August 15 in International Journal of Drug Policy.

The 2014 National Survey of Substance Use in Taiwan was led by Dr. Wei J. Chen of National Taiwan University (NTU), with many collaborators from other universities (National Yang-Ming University, Chung Shan Medical University, National Cheng Kung University, Kaohsiung Medical University, Tzu Chi University, and Emory University) and the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration. A nationally representative sample of 17,837 participants, aged 12 to 64, completed a computer-assisted self-interview on tablet computers.

“The 2014 National Survey of Substance Use was the third national survey involving illicit drug use, but the first one fully dedicated to illicit drug use, among people aged 12 to 64 in Taiwan,” said Dr. Chen, first author of the article. In addition to illicit drug or inhalants, It also covered a detailed list of non-medical use of sedatives/hypnotics and prescription analgesics.

Of all individual illicit drugs, methamphetamine was the most frequently used, followed by ketamine, marijuana, heroin, and ecstasy, whereas for aggregate groups the use prevalence of club drugs (mainly ketamine, marijuana, and ecstasy) was slightly higher than that of hard drugs (mainly methamphetamine and heroin). Compared with hard drug users, club drug users had different demographic correlates (greater proportion of females, younger age, higher level of educational attainment, and more likely to be divorced or widowed) as well as a greater likelihood of having alcohol use disorders and having risky sexual partnership. Although illicit drug users reported more depressive symptoms and physical harms, they seldom sought professional help.

These findings shed light on the current status of the extent of illicit drug use in Taiwan and have implications for future intervention and prevention programs. For example, the strong association of alcohol with club drugs use is alarming, given the context that the use prevalence of alcohol consumption continued to rise over the previous two waves of surveys. “Under this context, the government may need to propose a similar alcohol hazards prevention act to authorize a corresponding organization to formulate and implement the policies and regulations of alcohol consumption,” the authors suggest in the article.