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Drug addiction statistics in Europe and Russia: Reference materials

According to the annual report of the UN International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the estimated number of drug users worldwide in 2009 was between 172 million and 250 million people

According to the annual report of the UN International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the estimated number of drug users worldwide in 2009 was between 172 million and 250 million people.

Cannabis (Latin for hemp, the plant from which marijuana and hashish are derived) remains the world’s most widely used drug among young people and adults, the report found. Between 3.3% and 4.4% of the world’s population aged 15 to 64 reported using cannabis over the past year.

Amphetamine-type stimulants, including ecstasy, are second in popularity among individuals of the same age group, followed by cocaine and opiates.


Over 32 million people or almost 10% of the adult population in the European Union and Norway used drugs in 2008, according to the annual report of the EuropeanMonitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). Most drug users in Europe (22.5 million) preferred marijuana. Amphetamine and ecstasy were used by 2 million and 2.5 million people respectively. About 4 million people were addicted to cocaine. Between 1.2 million and 1.5 million people used opiates, mainly heroin.

Approximately 74 million Europeans have tried marijuana and hashish at least once in their lives; 12 million have tried amphetamine at least once; 10 million have tried ecstasy, and 13 million have tried cocaine.

The EMCDDA reported that 13 new synthetic drugs appeared on the market in 2008.

Cannabis resin (hashish) remains the best-selling drug in Europe, according the 2009 INCB report; in recent years the use of substances derived from the cannabis leaf has been on the rise. On average, 6.8% of Europeans between the ages of 15 and 64 (over 23 million people) use cannabis each year, as reported by the EMCDDA.

National rates range from 0.8% to 11% with the lowest rate recorded in Malta, followed by Bulgaria, Greece and Sweden. Italy has the highest rate, followed by Spain, the Czech Republic, and France. The lifetime cannabis use rate is 21.8% (over 71 million people between the ages of 15 and 64), with national rates ranging from 1.7% to 36%.

The lowest lifetime cannabis use rate was recorded in Romania, followed by Malta, Bulgaria and Cyprus, while the highest rate was found in Denmark, followed by France, the United Kingdom and Italy.

The cannabis use rate in the UK has shown a clear downward trend in recent years. In England and Wales, for example, the rate among people between the ages of 16 and 59 fell from 10.9% in the 2002/2003 reporting year to 7.9 % in the 2008/2009 reporting year.

In Spain, the cannabis use rate among secondary school students between the ages of 14 and 18 also declined from the peak rate of 25.1% in 2004 to 20.1% in 2008.

Data released by ESPAD (European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Drugs) in March 2009 show that on average 23% of male students aged 15 to 16 and 17% of female students in the same age group have tried illicit drugs at least once in their lives.

The registered illicit drug use rate continues to vary broadly across countries. Almost half of the student population in the Czech Republic (46%) have reported using illicit drugs, while only 8% or less have reported illicit drug use in Cyprus, Norway, Romania, Sweden and Finland.

Nineteen percent of students in Europe have reported using cannabis at least once in their lives.

The highest number was recorded in the Czech Republic, where 45% of schoolchildren aged 15 to 16 have used cannabis, followed by Spain (36%), Slovakia (32%), France (31%), UK (29%), Netherlands (28%), and Estonia (26%), according to the ESPAD report.

Next in the list of the most commonly used drugs are MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine, a.k.a. ecstasy), cocaine and amphetamine (about 3%). The use of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), crack cocaine and heroin is less common. The highest lifetime ecstasy use rate, 6%-7%, was recorded in Bulgaria, Latvia, Slovakia, the United Kingdom (Isle of Man), and Estonia.

Cocaine abuse is most prevalent in several Western European countries, while in most other European countries, the cocaine abuse rate is relatively low. The rate in Spain and the United Kingdom has declined. In Spain, where the cocaine abuse rate has traditionally been high, the annual use rate among secondary school students between the ages of 14 and 18 peaked at 7.2% in 2004, before falling to 3.6% in 2008.

With regard to the United Kingdom, the figures for England and Wales also show a slight decline in the annual cocaine use rate. Declining or stable cocaine use rates were found in Austria, Germany and Switzerland, while in France and Ireland cocaine use is on the rise.

The rate of heroin abuse appears to be relatively stable in most Western European countries. One drug abuse survey, however, shows that the lifetime heroine use rate in France among 17 year olds increased from 0.7% in 2005 to 1.1% in 2008.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that the number of opiate users in Eastern Europe is between 2 million and 2.5 million. Russia is the largest regional drug market, with approximately 1.68 million opiate users, according to the World Drug Report for 2009. Ukraine is the region’s second largest opiate market, with estimates of the number of opiate users ranging from 323,000 to 423,000.

In 2008, various reports found that opiate abuse increased in most Eastern European countries, particularly in Albania, Belarus, Moldova, the Russian Federation, and Croatia, as well as in the countries situated along the so-called Balkan route. Over 40% of opiate addicts in Estonia, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria, Romania, and Slovakia are under the age of 25.

Over the past five years, the number of patients seeking treatment for methamphetamine abuse has increased both in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In the CzechRepublic, 61% of those receiving substance abuse treatment report that their drug of choice is methamphetamine. Methamphetamine users account for about two-thirds of all problematic drug addicts.

In 2008, 26% of all substance abuse patients in Slovakia reported abusing methamphetamine. In the Czech Republic, 82% of the patients undergoing treatment for methamphetamine abuse reported using drugs intravenously; in Slovakia, 41% of addicts reported using drugs intravenously.

Methamphetamine abuse in Eastern Europe continues to be limited in scope, especially compared with the abuse of other stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamine. The highest level of methamphetamine use in Europe was found in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, where it is known as “pervitine.” There is some evidence that methamphetamine use is on the rise in Hungary and Poland, although the overall abuse rate remains relatively low.


There are 2.5 million drug addicts and more than 5.1 million drug users in Russia, according to the report by the International Narcotics Control Board. These figures have nearly doubled since 2002.

Every year 80,000 new drug addicts are registered in Russia, and among the drug dependent population, approximately 2-2.5 million are between the ages of 18 and 39.

Based on statistics, 20% of all drug addicts in Russia are school children, 60% are young people aged 16 to 30, and 20% are older.

Statistically, drug use begins between the ages of 15 and 17 in Russia on average. The percentage of drug users among children between the ages of 9 and 13 has been increasing dramatically. There have been cases of drug use by children aged 6 to 7, who are introduced to drugs by parents who are addicts.

Russia ranks first in the world in the consumption of heroin; 21% of the world's heroin production and 5% of all opium-based drugs are consumed in Russia, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime Prevention report, published in October 2009.

Nearly 90% of all drug addicts in Russia use opiates, and primarily heroin, which is produced entirely in Afghanistan. There are an estimated 1.68 million opiate users in Russia.



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