European Drug Report 2021 – Trends and Developments

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“To ensure we are well-prepared to meet the future consequences of this hyper-availability, we need urgently to recognise that not only is a wider variety of people now personally experiencing drug problems, but drug problems are impacting on our communities in a wider variety of ways. This is why I believe it is crucial, across the areas of social, health and security policy, to develop the evidence-based and integrated responses envisioned by the new EU drugs strategy.”

Alexis Goosdeel, EMCDDA Director

Drug use prevalence and trends Drug use in Europe encompasses a wide range of substances. Among people who use drugs, polydrug consumption is common but challenging to measure, and individual patterns of use range from experimental to habitual and dependent consumption. Cannabis is the most commonly used drug — the prevalence of use is about five times that of other substances. While the use of heroin and other opioids remains relatively rare, these continue to be the drugs most commonly associated with the more harmful forms of use, including injecting. The extent of stimulant use and the types that are most common vary across countries, and evidence is growing of a potential increase in stimulant injecting. Use of all drugs is generally higher among males, and this difference is often accentuated for more intensive or regular patterns of use.

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  • Around 83 million or 28.9 % of adults (aged 15- 64) in the European Union are estimated to have used illicit drugs at least once in their lifetime. This should be regarded as a minimum estimate due to reporting biases.
  • Experience of drug use is more frequently reported by males (50.6 million) than females (32.8 million).
  • The most commonly tried drug is cannabis (47.6 million males and 30.9 million females).
  • Much lower estimates are reported for the lifetime use of cocaine (9.6 million males and 4.3 million females), MDMA (6.8 million males and 3.5 million females) and amphetamines (5.9 million males and 2.7 million females).
  • Levels of lifetime use of cannabis differ considerably between countries, ranging from around 4 % of adults in Malta to 45 % in France.
  • Last year drug use provides a measure of recent drug use and is largely concentrated among young adults. An estimated 17.4 million young adults (aged 15-34) used drugs in the last year (16.9 %), with about twice as many males (21.6 %) as females (12.1 %) reporting doing so.
  • The prevalence of high-risk opioid use among adults (15-64) is estimated at 0.35 % of the EU population, equivalent to 1 million high-risk opioid users in 2019.
  • There were 510 000 clients in opioid substitution treatment in 2019 in the European Union. Opioid users accounted for 26 % of drug treatment requests.
  • Opioids were involved in 76 % of the fatal overdoses reported in the European Union for 2019

For complete report go to European Drug Report 2021 | International Society of Substance Use Professionals (