On 17 and 18 June 2014, the EMCDDA brought together forty-five European and international experts for a meeting on the key indicator Prevalence and patterns of drug use among the general population (GPS) (*). Ten EMCDDA staff members also participated in different parts of the meeting. There were presentations from both EU and other countries, projects and institutions (Balkan countries, Israel, the ESPAD project, Eurostat, the SMART and RARHA projects on alcohol).
These regular meetings on the indicator change their focus from year to year. This year particular attention was given to cannabis and alcohol, in addition to new psychoactive substances (NPS) and psychoactive medicines.
Regarding cannabis, a multi-indicator analysis (prevalence, supply, consequences, treatment) was presented, and the monitoring of high risk cannabis use was analysed. Monitoring cannabis use, high risk cannabis use and resulting problems are currently top level policy issues, given the ongoing, rapid changes in cannabis regulation.
The EMCDDA — together with many experts — has developed guidelines to be released shortly which aim to improve the accuracy of estimations of high risk cannabis use using psychometric scales (in particular CAST). Prevention and interventions (when needed) around cannabis were not addressed in this year’s meeting, but they will be addressed in future meetings, as well as issues on cannabis markets and potency.
Attention was also given to instruments to measure alcohol use. EMCDDA is working closely with the RARHA Joint Action (Joint Action on Reducing Alcohol Related Harm) of the Health and Food Safety Directorate General (DG SANTE) of the European Commission to develop common instruments to measure alcohol use and problems. Attention was given to the monitoring of new psychoactive substances and psychoactive medicines. The EMCDDA has developed a module on NPS to be used on population surveys similar to the one used in ESPAD and the Eurobarometer, but some countries are still using different instruments. Measurement of psychoactive medicine use is particularly challenging, both because of their availability in the legal, illegal and grey markets (e.g. on-line pharmacies), and because differentiation between use and abuse could be very subjective in many cases.
Together with the agenda, list of participants and presentations, you will find a number of recently published reports or resources related to population surveys.