Web-based surveys are a useful tool for collecting information on patterns of drug use across Europe. They are quick and cheap to set up and can reach large numbers of people who use drugs directly. This means that they can paint a detailed, realistic and timely picture of drug use and drug markets in Europe and are a useful complement to traditional data-collection methods.
The EU drugs agency (EMCDDA) published today results of the European Web Survey on Drugs. The survey ran between March and April 2021 in 30 countries (21 EU and 9 non-EU) when many populations were under COVID-19-related lockdowns. Targeted at people aged 18 and over who have used drugs, the survey aims to improve understanding of patterns of drug use in Europe and help shape future drug policies and interventions.
Close to 50 000 adults (48.469) responded to the survey from 21 EU Member States and Switzerland. Cannabis was the drug used most, with 93% of survey respondents reporting to have used it in the previous 12 months and with little variation between countries. MDMA/ecstasy (35%), cocaine (35%) and amphetamine (28%) were the next most reported illicit substances, with the order of the three drugs varying by country. Around a third of respondents (32%) reported using more (herbal) cannabis and 42% using less MDMA/ecstasy.
The survey revealed that one fifth (20%) of the sample reported using LSD in the last year, 16% using new psychoactive substances (NPS) and 13% using ketamine. Heroin use was reported by 3% of respondents. Although the sample reporting heroin use was small, over a quarter of these respondents (26%) reported using this drug more during the period studied.
New to the 2021 round was the participation of the agency’s partners from the Western Balkans, through an EMCDDA technical assistance project (IPA7).
Over 2 000 adults (2 174) from Albania, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia responded to the survey. Most respondents (91%) reported using cannabis in the previous 12 months, followed by cocaine (38%), MDMA/ecstasy (22%) and amphetamine (20%). Again, around a third of respondents (32%) reported using more (herbal) cannabis and 34% using less MDMA/ecstasy.
Almost one in six (17%) respondents reported using NPS in the last year, while 9% reported use of LSD. Use of both heroin and methamphetamine was reported by 8% of respondents.
Home was reported as the most common setting for drug use during the period (85% of respondents in the EU-Switzerland survey and 72% in the Western Balkans), a pattern accentuated by COVID-19 lockdowns and closure of nightlife venues. Motivation for the use of different substances sheds some light on these results. The most commonly reported motivations for cannabis use were relaxation, getting high and aiding sleep, while for MDMA/ecstasy, they were its euphoric and socialising effects.
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