The concept of ‘natural history’ is adapted from the life sciences where it refers to the study of organisms in their natural environment. Thus, the natural history of drug use takes into account not only the characteristics of drugs (including alcohol and tobacco) and the people who use them, but the social and environmental dynamics of drug use.

The idea of natural history has also been applied in studies of disease where it describes the progress of a disease (or behaviour) where there is no deliberate intervention or treatment. In the context of drug research and theory, natural history has a developmental focus, examining the trajectory of drug use over the life-course.

In this study, we want to observe patterns of alcohol and other drug use within the general population when ‘left to its own devices’.

Patterns of drug use are thought to be influenced by individual and environmental factors, such as social dynamics (education, employment etc) and family history. These factors can play a part in shaping the life-course of an individual, affecting his or her long-term health and social outcomes.

Determining the main contributing factors that lead to various patterns of alcohol and other drug use is essential for policy development and creating appropriate prevention campaigns.