Trends in drug use among the general population

Figure 3a

Evolution of recent (last 12 months) cannabis use among young adults (15–34 years) in some EU countries

Figure 3a

NB:

E&W, England and Wales.

Data are from the most recent national survey available in each country. The figures and methodology for each survey can be obtained from Statistical Table 2.

The standard EMCDDA definition of young adults is age 15–34 years. In Denmark and the United Kingdom young adults are aged 16–34 years and in Germany and Ireland 18–34 years. In France the age range is 25–34 (1992), 18–39 (1995) but 15–34 for the other years.

Sample sizes (respondents) for each survey can be obtained in Statistical Table 2.

In Denmark, the figure for 1994 is for use of ‘hard drugs’.

Sources: Reitox national reports 2002, taken from surveys, reports or scientific articles. See individual sources in Statistical Table 2.

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It is difficult to define clear-cut trends that apply to the EU as a whole. A consistent series of surveys has been carried out in only a very few countries and, even then, generally for only a few years. In addition, social/cultural context varies widely among EU countries. Lifetime experience is of limited value in analysing trends as it is a cumulative measure that may increase as a result of a generational effect even if current drug use is stable or falling. On the other hand, in the case of very young people (aged 13–15 years), lifetime experience will tend to reflect recent use.

Different types of surveys (national or local or surveys of military conscripts or schoolchildren) show that cannabis use, particularly among young people, increased markedly during the 1990s in almost all the EU countries. At the same time, cannabis use in different countries tended to converge, with a significant number of countries reporting rates of around 20–25 % lifetime experience and 5–10 % recent use.

Although many countries report a continued increasing trend in cannabis use, it is worth noting that a number of countries (Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and Norway) report that use may be levelling off based on studies among school students, military conscripts and teenagers.

Figure 3b

Evolution of recent (last 12 months) cocaine use among young adults (15–34 years) in some EU countries

Figure 3b

NB:

E&W, England and Wales.

Data are from the most recent national survey available in each country. The figures and methodology for each survey can be obtained from Statistical Table 2.

The standard EMCDDA definition of young adults is age 15–34 years. In Denmark and the United Kingdom young adults are aged 16–34 years and in Germany and Ireland 18–34 years. In France the age range is 25–34 (1992), 18–39 (1995) but 15–34 for the other years.

Sample sizes (respondents) for each survey can be obtained in Statistical Table 2.

In Denmark, the figure for 1994 is for use of ‘hard drugs’.

Sources: Reitox national reports 2002, taken from surveys reports or scientific articles. See individual sources in Statistical Table 2.

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European trends in the use of other substances (e.g. cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamines) are more difficult to track, partly because in many cases survey samples are small and partly because of the much lower prevalence of use of these drugs overall. In addition, new trends tend to concentrate in selected groups, and a focused analysis (e.g. of drug use by young men in urban areas) would be necessary to determine such trends and assess their true extent. Ideally, surveys should be complemented by targeted anthropological studies.

Ecstasy use clearly increased during the 1990s (and seems to be still diffusing) among certain youth groups, but only four countries (Spain, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom) report a rate of recent use (last 12 months) among young adults of more than 3 %.

Worryingly, indicators of drug use (treatment demand, seizures, post-mortem toxicological findings) suggest that the use of cocaine is increasing in some countries. Although cocaine use among the population as a whole remains low, increases in recent cocaine use (last 12 months) among young people seems to be a consistent finding (1994–2000) in the United Kingdom (7) and possibly, to a lesser extent, in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands. Other countries have reported (2001 or 2002 Reitox national reports) increases based on local or qualitative information (Greece, Ireland, Italy and Austria). This phenomenon should be closely monitored, in particular among young people in urban areas (Figure 3).


(7) Although, according to the Home Office, it seems to be levelling off (see Figure 3). Studies among people in England and Wales age 16–29 years found significant changes (at the 5 % level) between 1996 and 1998 and between 1998 and 2000. However, differences between 2000 and 2001/2 were not significant.