Social characteristics

Clients entering treatment tend to be men in their 20s or 30s. The mean age is 29.8 years overall, and 26.9 years among first-time clients. Germany, Ireland and Finland have the youngest treated population, while the oldest clients seeking treatment are to be found in Spain, Italy and the Netherlands (Table 2 OL). The age distribution of clients seeking treatment seems to be correlated with the type of substance consumed – in general, cannabis consumers are younger, whereas heroin and cocaine users are older. The highest proportion of cannabis users is in Germany, while the greatest proportions of cocaine and heroin users are found in Spain and Italy respectively. The high proportion of young drug users in Finland might be partly explained by the relatively late development of drug culture in that country. The gender distribution varies from a male–female ratio of 2:1 to 6:1 (13). The higher proportion of men may reflect generally higher levels of drug use among males or may be influenced by differential access to services (EMCDDA, 2002a). Gender distribution patterns tend to be similar among southern countries or northern countries (e.g. the proportions of male users are higher in southern countries). This is attributable to a difference in the pattern of substances use between northern and southern countries (the southern countries have a higher proportion of heroin users, who are mainly men) and to cultural and social differences.

In general, the social conditions of clients demanding treatment, for example education, living and labour status, are deteriorating compared with the general population (14).

(13) See Statistical Table 8: Characteristics of women treated for drug problems in the EU; and Statistical Table 9: Characteristics of men treated for drug problems in the EU.

(14) See ‘Social exclusion and reintegration’.