Monitoring local drug trends – looking back at 17 years of 'Monitoring system drug trends' in Frankfurt, Germany
Since 2002, the Centre for Drug Research at Frankfurt University monitors drug trends in the city, using a longitudinal research approach that pursues a continuous monitoring of the phenomenon of legal and illicit drug use. It is locally focused on the city of Frankfurt and covers the whole spectrum of legal and illicit drug use , with a focus on young people, nightlife settings and the problematic social setting of the ‘open drug scene’. The individual research modules cover all areas of life-worlds where drugs are consumed as well as professional sectors, which are directly confronted with the drug using phenomena. This presentation focuses on the question how the methods used in this project fulfil the goal of timely detection of drug trends – thus, there is a strong focus on the methods.
According to the aim of providing detailed information on emerging drug trends, MoSyD is based on four research modules, two quantitative and two qualitative ones:
a) Expert panel: The expert panel consists of 11 representatives who are professionally associated with drug use (drug services, youth services, education, police and prosecution). Twice a year, they are interviewed in a focus group discussion on current drug-related issues in the relevant local area.
b) School survey: The school survey is the quantitative epidemiological pillar of MoSyD. Each year, a representative part of late adolescents is interviewed anonymously with standardised tablet-based questionnaires (sample size: 1,500, around 1,000 belong to the target group of 15- to 18-year-olds).
c) Trend scout panel: This qualitative element features a sample of 20 informants who are interviewed every year using a semi-structured questionnaire. They cover a relevant spectrum of nightlife, lifestyle and youth culture scenes in which drug use plays a significant role, with a focus on dance party scenes.
d) Open drug scene survey: every two years, 150 members of the local marginalised drug users’ setting are interviewed face-to-face about their patterns of drug use, health problems, legal issues, use of drug services etc. with a quantitative tablet-based interview.
In the 17 years of inquiry, many results of different kinds, drugs, and user groups came up. To mention a few, we saw the rise of hookah smoking since 2006 and the rise of vaping products in recent years among adolescents, we could document the high yet variable level of crack cocaine use in the open drug scene, and we saw frequent changes in patterns of party drug use with a ‘renaissance’ in MDMA use some years ago.
The combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, as well as perspectives of users and professionals, turned out to be a good measure to give a comprehensive picture of changes in local trends in drug use. However, the project saw many adjustments in its history, since some methods or respondents turned out to be not very fruitful. In our presentation, we will discuss these limitations in detail.