Common trends across European countries are reported for treatment demand for heroin and cannabis use; heroin use appears to be stable or decreasing in all countries, whereas cannabis use is increasing almost everywhere, especially among new clients (Figure 8).

Figure 8

New clients admitted to treatment for (A) heroin/opiates use or (B) cannabis use

item Denmark | item Germany (1) | item Greece | item Spain | item France | item Ireland | item Netherlands | item Portugal (1) | item Finland | item Sweden (1) | 


Data were not available for Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Austria and the United Kingdom. See Statistical Table 7 for the number of cases.

(1) Heroin includes all opiates.

Sources: Reitox national reports (2002). See also Statistical Table 7: Characteristics of persons treated for drug problems in the EU for the first time.


Possible reasons for the apparent decrease in the numbers of heroin users could include the end of the heroin epidemic that occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s and the consequent decrease in requests for treatment; saturation of treatment services for heroin users; and increased differentiation of treatment programmes, with more facilities now available for users of other drugs (including cannabis).

The trend towards an increase in demand for treatment for cannabis use (Figure 9) could have several reasons: increasing prevalence of regular cannabis use, an increase in the number of cases reported by the criminal justice system, market factors (such as greater availability or lower prices) and an increase in the number of adolescents with social or psychological problems unable to find other suitable services. The increase in the number of new clients demanding treatment for cannabis appears to be particularly marked in some countries where prevalence data, seizures of cannabis, cannabis offences and demands for treatment for cannabis use are following parallel trajectories (National reports, 2002). Ongoing research in Germany is focusing on those groups referred to the treatment services by the justice system and/or social services for cannabis use; first results seem to indicate that some young cannabis users meet the criteria for dependence according to ICD-10 codes (R. Simon, personal communication, 2002).

Trends in the use of cocaine (Figure 8 OL) and other substances are less homogeneous among countries: in Spain and the Netherlands, the sharp increase seen in previous years seems to have slowed down, with demand for treatment now stable or increasing only slightly, mainly among first-time clients.