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Belgium country overview — a summary of the national drug situation



Belgium country overview
A summary of the national drug situation

Map of Belgium

Our partner in Belgium

The Belgian focal point is located within the Epidemiology Unit of the Scientific Institute of Public Health (IPH). The IPH is a state (federal) scientific organisation under the responsibility of the Federal Public Service of Public Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment. The main tasks of the drugs programme of the IPH include the monitoring, collection, analysis and dissemination of drug-related information. It also maintains an early warning system on synthetic drugs. Read more »

Our partner in Belgium

Institut scientifique de santé publique/Wetenschappelijk Instituut Volkgezondheid (Scientific Institute of Public Health)

Rue Juliette Wytsman 14
B-1050 Bruxelles/Brussels
Tel. +32 26425034
Fax +32 26425001

Head of focal point: Ms Lies Gremeaux

The Belgian focal point is located within the Epidemiology Unit of the Scientific Institute of Public Health (IPH). The IPH is a state (federal) scientific organisation under the responsibility of the Federal Public Service of Public Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment. The main tasks of the drugs programme of the IPH include the monitoring, collection, analysis and dissemination of drug-related information. It also maintains an early warning system on synthetic drugs.

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Drug use among the general population and young people

In 2008 the fourth National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) was carried out among the general population, with a sample size of 6 792 people aged 15–64. It included questions on cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines, ecstasy and opiate use. Lifetime prevalence of cannabis use was reported by 14.3 % of respondents aged 15–64, compared with 13.0 % in 2004 and 10.6 % in 2001. Last year prevalence of cannabis use was reported by 5.1 % of all respondents, by 11.2 % of those aged 15–34 and by 11.9 % of those aged 15–24. In 2008 last year prevalence of cocaine use was 0.9 %, while among younger respondents the last year prevalence of cocaine use was higher at 2 % of those aged 15–34 and 1.8 % of those aged 15–24. The most recent NHIS was carried out in 2013, but data have not yet been reported to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study was carried out in the Flemish and French communities in 2009–10 among a representative sample of students aged 12–18. In both communities cannabis was the drug most frequently reported by students aged 15–16, with 21 % in the Flemish community and 20 % in the French community reporting that they had used cannabis at least once in their lives. In both communities an increase in the lifetime prevalence of cannabis was noted by age: among respondents aged 18 some 39 % of the Flemish community and 44 % of the French community had used cannabis at least once. There were signs of a reduction in lifetime prevalence of cannabis use among students in both communities compared to 2006 data.

In 2011 the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) was repeated among students aged 15–16 in the Flemish community. Lifetime prevalence of cannabis use was 24 %, and was higher among males (28 %) than females (21 %). Regarding other drugs, lifetime prevalence was 7 % for inhalants, 5 % for amphetamines and 4 % for ecstasy and for cocaine. Last year prevalence of cannabis use was 20 % and last month prevalence was 11 %.

The most recent data on illicit substance use among school students aged 12–18 are available from the 2011–12 VAD (Association for alcohol and other drug problems) school survey study. The study confirms the prevailing use of cannabis among the population of school students and corroborates cannabis trends reported in earlier studies.

Regular studies on psychoactive substance use in recreational and nightlife settings have been conducted in the Flemish and the French communities. Although both communities utilised different sampling methods, which makes the results neither comparable nor generalisable, the findings of the 2012 study indicated that cannabis is by far the most popular illicit substance in nightlife settings in these communities. There were indications of a reduction in last year prevalence and frequency of cannabis use among visitors to the nightlife settings in the Flemish community in comparison with the study in 2003, while prevalence and frequency of use of other illicit psychoactive substances such as ecstasy and ketamine show large variations from study to study. In the French community the proportion of respondents that had used any illicit substance at least once in the last month had declined substantially since 2001, while last month use of some stimulants, tranquilisers and sedatives has remained relatively stable since 2007. In 2013, the study was only carried out in the French community, indicating that about a third of party-goers use cannabis during the event, while use of other illicit substances remains less popular in these scenes.

Look for Prevalence of drug use in the 'Statistical bulletin' for more information  

High-risk drug use

Up to 2012 the EMCDDA defined problem drug use as injecting drug use (IDU) or long duration/regular use of opiates, cocaine and/or amphetamines. However, in 2012 a new definition of ‘high-risk drug use’ was adopted. The new definition includes ‘problem drug use’, but is broader (mainly in its inclusion of high-risk use of more substances). Details are available here.

No population-size estimate of high-risk opioid users is available for Belgium. A national estimate of the number of injecting drug users (ever injected) is derived annually using the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) multiplier method. The 2013 study indicated no significant changes in the size of the ever-injected drug use population over the past 10 years, and estimated that there were between 18 135 and 34 987 people who had ever inject drugs in Belgium, with a prevalence rate of 3.54 per 1 000 residents aged 15–64 (sensitivity interval: 2.5–4.82).

Based on the 2008 general population study, it is estimated that 0.9 % of 15- to 64-year-olds used cannabis daily or almost daily, which characterises a frequent use pattern.

Look for High risk drug-use in the Statistical bulletin for more information.  

Treatment demand

The treatment demand indicator (TDI) registration was officially approved by the Inter-ministerial Conference on Public Health in 2006. In 2008 the first treatment demand data were reported. In 2010 a new TDI registration protocol (based on TDI 2.0) was adopted and has been operational since 2011, while the new TDI 3.0 was adopted in 2013 and has been implemented from 2015 on.

Treatment demand data for Belgium for 2013 was based on data received from around 100 specialised outpatient and inpatient treatment centres and nine low-threshold agencies. General practitioners (GP) and prisons are not part of the registration system, which may imply a lack of those treatment providers (particularly GPs). Nevertheless, there has been a steady increase in the number of reporting facilities in Belgium in the past years, which is also reflected in the number of clients entering treatment. In 2013 a total of 9 192 clients entered treatment, of which 3 220 were new clients entering treatment for the first time.

In 2013 the majority of treatment demands were related to cannabis at 33.5 %, followed by opioids at 30.6 % (one-fifth of which had injected the drug) and cocaine at 15.6 %. Among new treatment clients more than half reported cannabis (54.2 %) as the primary substance of abuse, followed by cocaine at 15.2 %, opioids at 12.9 % and stimulants at 10.3 %. Since 2011 a steep increase in cannabis treatment demands and reduction in opiate treatment demands has been observed. The increase in cannabis treatment demands is partially attributed to the increased number of referrals from the judicial system. In general, one in eight new opioid treatment clients reported injecting drug use.

In 2013 the mean age of all clients entering treatment was 32 years, while new treatment clients were on average 28 years old. Among new treatment clients 37 % were under 25. With regard to gender, 79.8 % of all treatment clients were male. A similar gender distribution was reported for new treatment clients.

Look for Treatment demand indicator in the Statistical bulletin for more information.  

Drug-related infectious diseases

In Belgium, cases of HIV and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) are registered at the Scientific Institute of Public Health in Brussels. In 2013 seventeen people who were diagnosed with HIV reported injecting drug use as the probable mode of transmission, which is about 1.5 % of all newly registered HIV cases.

Data on the infection rates of HIV, hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) among people who inject drugs (PWID) are available in Belgium from various sources. In the Flemish community data are based on biological tests for a selected sample of people who had ever injected drugs who were in contact with a medical doctor, and these are made available through De Sleutel, an institution composed of several ambulatory and residential treatment centres. Another data source is the outpatient clinic Free Clinic, located in Antwerp, whose data are based on voluntary blood screening offered to patients on a regular basis. The testing results yield HIV prevalence rates of 1.9 % among PWID tested in De Sleutel and 5 % among those tested in Free Clinic. HCV and HBV prevalence rates are also obtained from the same data sources, while in 2014 additional data on HCV from medical social care centres in the Flemish-Brabant region became available. HCV prevalence rates among PWID also fluctuate between testing sites, with 7.5 % of PWID testing positive in the Flemish-Brabant region, 22 % in De Sleutel and 73.4 % in the Free Clinic. The HBV infection rate among PWID, measured by positive aHBc, ranged from 6.3 % among De Sleutel clients to 48.1 % among Free Clinic clients. In terms of HIV prevalence rates and trends, there has been a decline in HIV infection rates reported by the French part of the country since 1994, and by the Flemish institution De Sleutel since 1998, while in the last seven years the prevalence rates have fluctuated and no clear trends are visible. In addition, the results of HCV and HBV testing do not reveal significant time trends in the last seven years.

Look for Drug-related infectious diseases in the Statistical bulletin for more information.  

Drug-induced deaths and mortality among drug users

In Belgium, drug-induced deaths are recorded in the General Mortality Register located at the National Institute of Statistics. Data extraction and reporting are in line with the EMCDDA definitions and recommendations.

Recent national data are missing as a result of delays at the level of the French and the Flemish communities. The latest available data at the national level are for 2010. In 2010 a total of 87 drug-induced death cases were registered, indicating a remarkable decrease compared to 2007–09, when respectively 118, 146 and 132 drug-related deaths were reported annually. The latest figures are similar to the level of deaths reported in 2006. In 2010, of the 87 drug-induced deaths 65 were male and the average age was 41.1 years. All deaths were toxicologically confirmed. Less than half (33 cases) were related to mixed and unspecified substances, and 30 involved opiates.

The drug-induced mortality rate among adults aged 15–64 was 10.5 deaths per million in 2010 (latest data available), which is below the European average of 17.2 deaths per million in 2013.

Look for Drug-related deaths in the Statistical bulletin for more information.  

Treatment responses

The national drug strategy document, the Federal Drug Policy Note of 2001, specifies that the treatment offer should be based on a multidisciplinary approach adapted to the complex bio-psychosocial problem of addiction. This approach was further emphasised in the 2010 Communal Declaration and elaborated in the Joint Statement of the Inter-ministerial Conference on Drugs held in 2010. In Belgium different levels of decision-making provide funding for treatment, including the regional and federal governments. A range of services for drug use treatment and/or healthcare is available in a large part of the country, except in the German community where there are no specialist treatment centres for drug users.

The primary care network encompasses GPs, general welfare centres, domiciliary help services, youth advice centres and public centres for social welfare, which provide outpatient treatment. Specialist outpatient care is provided by nine medical and social care centres and a number of day-care centres. In general, these centres provide low-threshold help, including a wide range of psychosocial, psychological and healthcare services, and opioid substitution treatment. Inpatient treatment consisting of detoxification, stabilisation and motivation, and social reintegration is offered at crisis intervention centres, which provide the care based on case-management principles, at specialist hospital units or in long-term residential treatment services. There are also specialist outpatient units at some mental health centres. Most aftercare and re-integration programmes are delivered in outpatient and inpatient structures. For example, there are halfway houses in therapeutic communities, day treatment in drug centres and employment rehabilitation programmes. Action has recently been taken to improve treatment for clients with a dual diagnosis or polydrug use and for children and young people, especially for cannabis use, while a pilot project exploring a community reinforcement approach combined with a voucher treatment method has shown promising results for the treatment of cocaine users. A new treatment programme for young cannabis users has also been piloted.

Consensus guidelines for opioids substitution treatment (OST) have existed in Belgium since 1994. Nevertheless, treatment with substitution substances (such as methadone and buprenorphine) was still a crime until 2002. In 2002 the law on the legal recognition of opioid substitution treatment was adopted, and in 2004 a Royal Decree on OST that mentions methadone and buprenorphine as substitution substances was adopted. In the Flemish region, most OST programmes (for which both methadone and buprenorphine are used) are provided by low-threshold, ambulatory and outpatient drug services. However, in smaller towns and rural areas methadone or buprenorphine may also be prescribed by GPs under the supervision of drug services. In the French community a broad range of agencies such as low-threshold facilities, GPs, outpatient specialised units and mental health facilities, and pharmacies offer access to both methadone and buprenorphine, though GPs still play the most important role in prescribing the treatment. According to the latest available estimates (2013) a total of 17 482 clients were on OST in Belgium, 15 112 of which were on methadone and 2 370 on buprenorphine. Between 2011–13 an open-label randomised controlled trial was carried out comparing heroin-assisted treatment and methadone maintenance treatment. The study concluded that the use of heroin-assisted treatment should remain a second-line treatment in patients who have resistance to methadone and recommendations were provided for setting up a heroin-assisted treatment programme.

See the Treatment profile for Belgium for additional information.  

Harm reduction responses

Needle and syringe programmes (NSP) have existed in the French community since 1994. In 1998 a law was adopted allowing needle exchange in pharmacies. In 2000 the Flemish community made the necessary legislative adaptations, and from 2001 such programmes have also officially been implemented there. These programmes (stationary, mobile or in pharmacies) are now available across the country, except in the German community. In general, harm reduction projects are set up by non-governmental organisations, and some are managed by city authorities. In the French speaking community these projects are funded by the Federal Public Service Home Affairs. In the Flemish community the projects are funded by the community itself. The harm reduction programmes offer sterile injecting material (syringes, filters, ascorbic acid, spoons, alcohol swabs, injectable sterile water), foil, bicarbonate and containers, and also collect used syringes and needles. In addition, these programmes facilitate the referral of PWID to other prevention and treatment services.

In 2013 a total of 64 specialised agencies and 18 sites serviced by outreach workers offered harm reduction services to PWID, including the provision of approximately 908 000 syringes; however, this number may be underestimated as some NSP do not report on distributed sterile injecting equipment. In addition to syringe provision by specialised agencies, pharmacies in the French and Flemish communities distribute a substantial number of syringes. In the French community syringes are distributed mainly as part of the subsidised ‘Sterifix’ kit (29 810 syringes in 2013). Annual evaluations of the needle and syringe programmes in the Flemish region indicate that pharmacies can play an important role in the provision of injecting material, as almost two-thirds of NSP clients report purchasing injecting material from pharmacies. It is important to note that not every province has a good geographical spread of NSP. Moreover, in Belgium there are no programmes providing sterile injecting equipment to prisoners. In the prevention and control of infectious diseases among PWID, special emphasis has been given to HCV counselling and testing in the recent years.

See the Harm reduction overview for Belgium for additional information.  

Drug markets and drug-law offences

Data from the federal police indicate 42 935 drug-law offences in Belgium in 2013. Two-thirds of all drug-law offences were use-related, and cannabis remains the drug most commonly involved, at 30 311 of all drug-law offences.

A steady increase in the number of cannabis plants seized annually in Belgium has been registered since 2006, and in 2013 the record number of 396 758 cannabis plants was seized from 1 212 plantations. Herbal cannabis, produced domestically and sent from the Netherlands, still dominates the national drug scene, with a record amount of 14 882.32 kg of the substance obtained in 23 900 seizures. It is notable that some of the cannabis products cultivated in Belgium are intended for export to the Netherlands. Although cannabis resin of Moroccan origin dominated in the past, in 2013 there was an exceptionally large seizure of cannabis resin, which originated from Pakistan, and this led to an increase in the reported amounts of cannabis resin seized to 4 274.64 kg in 2013 following a decrease in 2012. Cocaine is the second most frequently seized primary substance. It is smuggled into Belgium predominantly via air or sea from South America (mainly Colombia, although importing cocaine from Brazil is a new trend in the market). Following 2012, when a record amount of cocaine (19 177.99 kg) was seized due to one very large seizure, in 2013 a total of 6 486.23 kg was seized, which is at the same level as those reported in 2010–11. Heroin seized in Belgium often comes from Turkey, but African countries and Pakistan are also mentioned, and it is mostly destined for other European countries. In 2013 the trend in the number of heroin seizures continued to reduce compared to previous years, while the quantity seized increased by tenfold to 1 182.37 kg due to one very large seizure from Mozambique. Following a reduction in the quantities of ecstasy and amphetamines seized in 2012, in 2013 the amounts seized increased, indicating a recovery in the ecstasy market. In 2013 almost 38 kg of methamphetamine was seized.

The port of Antwerp is one of the largest container ports in the world, and is pivotal in international drug trafficking, as is Brussels airport. Synthetic drugs are illegally produced in Belgium, with intended export to other European countries. A peculiarity of the Belgian synthetic drug market is a strong link with the Dutch synthetic drug production market, and often the same people are involved in the synthetic drug market in both countries. In 2013 sixteen illicit synthetic facilities were dismantled in Belgium. Belgium is also a transit zone for new psychoactive substances, which frequently originate in China and are destined for Germany, France, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Look for Drug law offences in the Statistical bulletin for additional data.  

National drug laws

The use of controlled substances is not mentioned as an offence; however, a user may be punished on the basis of prior possession. In 2003 personal possession of cannabis was differentiated from the possession of other controlled substances. The concepts of problem drug use and public nuisance were also introduced. The new status of cannabis allowed the public prosecutor not to prosecute possession if there was no evidence of problematic drug use or of public nuisance. After the Constitutional Court found that these concepts were insufficiently defined, a new directive issued in February 2005 called for full prosecution for possession in cases where the ‘user amount’ (3 grams or one plant) is exceeded, public order is disturbed or aggravating circumstances are identified. This includes possession of cannabis in or near places where schoolchildren might gather and also ‘blatant’ possession in a public place or building. Such cases are punishable by three months to one year in prison and/or a fine of EUR 1 000–100 000. In cases that lack such circumstances, personal possession of cannabis is punishable by a fine, which should be higher for any offence within one year of a previous conviction.

For drugs other than cannabis, Belgian law punishes possession, production, import, export, or sale without aggravating circumstances with between three months and five years of imprisonment and an additional fine of EUR 1 000–100 000. There is no separate offence of ‘trafficking’, but the term of imprisonment may be increased to 15 or even 20 years in the event of various specified aggravating circumstances. In situations like this, the fine is facultative.

In 2014 the law was adapted to allow controlled substances to be listed according to generic group definitions.

Go to the European Legal Database on Drugs (ELDD) for additional information.  

National drug strategy

The federal drug policy of Belgium is expressed in two key policy documents, the Federal Drug Policy Note of 2001 and the Communal Declaration of 2010.

Although it did not have a defined timeframe, the 2001 Federal Drug Policy Note was adopted as a long-term document designed to provide a comprehensive approach through its focus on illicit and licit substances, including alcohol, tobacco and medicines. The Policy Note’s main goal is the prevention and limitation of risks for drug users, their environment and society as a whole. Three pillars are used to articulate the comprehensive approach taken, covering the areas of: (i) prevention of drug consumption; (ii) harm reduction, assistance and re-integration; and (iii) enforcement. In addition, provision was made for the establishment of a system of coordination units at the federal level, integrating representatives of the federal state, the regions and the communities. The five main principles of Belgian drug policy are stated in the Policy Note: (i) a global and integrated approach; (ii) evaluation, epidemiology and scientific research; (iii) prevention for non-users and risk reduction of problematic drug use; (iv) treatment, risk reduction and reintegration for problematic users; and (v) repression for producers and traffickers.

The 2010 Communal Declaration provided a further statement and confirmation of the approach set out in the 2001 Policy Note. As a result, the Communal Declaration can be considered a more up-to-date elaboration of Belgian policy, rather than a replacement of the earlier document. In this sense, the action points stated in the Policy Note were assessed in terms of the extent to which they had been achieved, with additional steps to be taken, in the Communal Declaration. There are three overarching measures in the Communal Declaration: (i) a global and integrated approach; (ii) scientific research; and (iii) international coherence. Three pillars are used to structure action: (i) prevention, early detection and early intervention; (ii) treatment and harm reduction; (iii) repression (as a last resort). Priorities are focused on different groups within the three pillars, with prevention targeting non-(problematic) users; treatment, risk-reduction and reintegration aimed at problematic users; and repressive measures directed at producers and traffickers. Overall, the Declaration interprets the drugs problem as a public health issue.


Coordination mechanism in the field of drugs

The General Drugs Policy Cell is responsible for both policy development and overall coordination in Belgium. As such, it operates at the inter-ministerial level as well as the day-to-day operational level. Following the ratification of a cooperation agreement between the state and the different federal levels in September 2002, the General Drugs Policy Cell has been fully operational since 2009. As well as being responsible for the coordination of a global and integrated drug policy in Belgium, the General Drugs Policy Cell is tasked with supporting and advising the different Belgian governments. It is coordinated by the national drug coordinator and supported by the Federal Public Service of Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment. The General Drugs Policy Cell includes 17 federal government representatives and 18 regional government representatives; it is composed of members from all relevant authorities. Three different cells support the work of the General Drugs Policy Cell: (i) the Drugs Health Policy Cell, established in 2001; (ii) the Research and Scientific Information Cell, operational since 2011; and (iii) the Control Cell, located at the Federal Public Service of Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment.

Functioning as an inter-governmental coordination and decision-making body, the Inter-ministerial Conference on Drugs became operational in 2008 as a result of the 2002 cooperation agreement. The Conference’s members include all relevant ministers. While the General Drugs Policy Cell undertakes policy and coordination work, the Conference executes the proposals that are put forward by the Cell. The main activities of the Conference include:

  1. Acquiring a global insight on all aspects of the drugs problem, taking into account personal, national, cultural and other characteristics.
  2. Drugs prevention and harm reduction.
  3. Improving and diversifying treatment opportunities.
  4. Reducing illegal drug production and trafficking.
  5. Preparation of documents for the coordination of drugs policy.
  6. Preparation of documents for the Belgian representatives in European and international fora.

Public expenditure

The Belgian drug policy note of 2001 had no associated comprehensive budgets (1). Prior to 2012 authorities had funded three successive studies of drug-related public expenditure for 2001, 2004 and 2008. Estimates were based on a well-defined methodology and the last two studies are comparable. In 2012 authorities decided to start estimating drug-related public expenditure on an annual basis. The project has been implemented and updated estimates should be available soon.

The latest study, from 2008, estimated that the total drug-related public expenditure (2) at the national level represented 0.11 % of gross domestic product (GDP). The total expenditure was divided into five areas (Table 1): law enforcement (62.0 %), treatment (34.1 %), prevention (2.9 %), harm reduction (0.6 %) and others (0.4 %) (3). Trend analysis shows that from 2004 to 2008 drug-related public expenditure remained stable at 0.11 % of GDP but increased in nominal terms by 18.5 %. Expenditure increased the most for law enforcement and, at a smaller scale, treatment. Expenditure decreased for prevention.

Table 1: Total drug-related public expenditure, 2008
Drug policy area Expenditure (thousand EUR) % of total (a)
(a) EMCDDA calculations.
Source: Vander Laenen et al. (2011).
Law enforcement 243 001 62.0
Treatment 133 558 34.1
Prevention 11 412 2.9
Harm reduction 2 330 0.6
Others 1 891 0.4
Total drug-related public expenditure
392 192 100
% of GDP
0.11 % (a  
  • (1) Some of the regions have budgets accompanying their policy notes.
  • (2) Some of the funds allocated by governments for expenditure on tasks related to drugs are identified as such in the budget (‘labelled’). Often, however, the bulk of drug-related expenditure is not identified (‘unlabelled’) and must be estimated by modelling approaches. The total budget is the sum of labelled and unlabelled drug-related expenditures.
  • (3) In order to make comparisons possible between 2004 and 2008, the figures represented in the text were calculated based upon the methodology developed in the study of 2004 (De Ruyver et al., 2007). Besides this methodology, a new and refined methodology was developed in 2008. This means that in the study by Vander Laenen et al. (2011) two methodologies were used to calculate drug-related public expenditures in Belgium. Using the new methodology, the figures show the following picture: the total drug-related public expenditure at national level represented 0.09 % of GDP. Of the total, treatment represented 49.1 %, law enforcement 45.1 %, prevention 3.9 %, harm reduction 0.8 % and others 1.1 %.

Drug-related research

The federal drug strategy provides a budget for scientific research in the drugs field, which is managed by the Federal Science Policy Office through a research programme to support federal policy. Most studies funded through this programme are executed by networks of researchers, and the emphasis is mainly placed on drug treatment and on drug-related crime and nuisance. The national focal point collects information on ongoing and completed studies through its network of partners, and disseminates information on drug-related research findings to audiences through a variety of channels. Recent studies mentioned in the 2014 Belgian National report mainly focused on aspects related to (responses to) the drug situation, prevalence, incidence, and patterns and consequences of drug use. Studies covering methodology, mechanisms of drug use and effects and determinants of drug use were also reported.

See Drug-related research for more detailed information. 

Key national figures and statistics

b Break in time series.

e Estimated.

p Eurostat provisional value.


1 Gross domestic product (GDP) is a measure of economic activity. It is defined as the value of all goods and services produced less the value of any goods or services used in their creation. The volume index of GDP per capita in Purchasing Power Standards (PPS) is expressed in relation to the European Union (EU-27) average set to equal 100. If the index of a country is higher than 100, this country's level of GDP per head is higher than the EU average and vice versa.

2  Expenditure on social protection contains: benefits, which consist of transfers, in cash or in kind to households and individuals to relieve them of the burden of a defined set of risks or needs.

3 Unemployment rates represent unemployed persons as a percentage of the labour force. Unemployed persons comprise persons aged 15 to 74 who were: (a) without work during the reference week; (b) currently available for work; (c) actively seeking work.

4 Situation of penal institutions on 1 September, 2012.

5 Share of persons aged 0+ with an equivalent disposable income below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold, which is set at 60 % of the national median equivalised disposable income (after social transfers).

Key figures
  Year Belgium EU (28 countries) Source
Population 2014 11 203 992 506 824 509 ep
Population by age classes 15–24 2014 11.9 % 11.3 % bep
25–49 33.6 % 34.7 % bep
50–64 19.7 % 19.9 % bep
GDP per capita in PPS (Purchasing Power Standards) 1 2013 119 100 Eurostat
Total expenditure on social protection (% of GDP) 2 2012 30.8 % 29.5 % p Eurostat
Unemployment rate 3 2014 8.5 % 10.2 % Eurostat
Unemployment rate of population aged under 25 years 2014

12.6 %

22.2 % Eurostat
Prison population rate (per 100 000 of national population) 4 2013 113.8  : Council of Europe, SPACE I-2013
At risk of poverty rate 5 2013 15.1 % 16.6 % SILC

Data sheet — key statistics on the drug situation

        EU range      
  Year   Country data Min. Max. Average Rank Reporting Countries
Problem opioid use (rate/1 000) :   : 0.2 10.7      
All clients entering treatment (%) 2013   30.6% 6% 93%      
New clients entering treatment (%) 2013   12.9% 2% 81%      
Purity — heroin brown (%) 2013 1 19.4% 6% 42%   14 24
Price per gram — heroin brown (EUR) 2013   EUR 25 EUR 25 EUR 158   1 22
Prevalence of drug use — schools (%) 2011 2 4.0% 1% 5%      
Prevalence of drug use — young adults (%) 2008   2.0% 0% 4% 2%    
Prevalence of drug use — all adults (%) 2008   0.9% 0% 2% 1% 19 26
All clients entering treatment (%) 2013   15.6% 0% 39%      
New clients entering treatment (%) 2013   15.2% 0% 40%      
Purity (%) 2013   57.6% 20% 75%   22 27
Price per gram (EUR) 2013   EUR 48.6 - EUR 52.4 EUR 47 EUR 103   5 24
Prevalence of drug use — schools (%) 2011   5.0% 1% 7%      
Prevalence of drug use — young adults (%) :   : 0% 3% 1%    
Prevalence of drug use — all adults (%) :   : 0% 1% 1%    
All clients entering treatment (%) 2013   10.1% 0% 70%      
New clients entering treatment (%) 2013   9.1% 0% 22%      
Purity (%) 2013   16.6% 5% 71%   17 25
Price per gram (EUR) 2013   EUR 8.0 - EUR 9.8 EUR 8 EUR 63   3 21
Prevalence of drug use — schools (%) 2011   4.0% 1% 4%      
Prevalence of drug use — young adults (%) :   : 0% 3% 1%    
Prevalence of drug use — all adults (%) :   : 0% 2% 1%    
All clients entering treatment (%) 2013   0.5% 0% 2%      
New clients entering treatment (%) 2013   0.7% 0% 4%      
Purity (mg of MDMA base per unit) 2013   93 mg 26 mg 144 mg   15 23
Price per tablet (EUR) 2013   EUR 5.0 - EUR 5.2 EUR 3 EUR 24   7 19
Prevalence of drug use — schools (%) 2011   24.0% 5% 42%      
Prevalence of drug use — young adults (%) 2008   11.2% 0% 22% 12%    
Prevalence of drug use — all adults (%) 2008   5.1% 0% 11% 6% 18 27
All clients entering treatment (%) 2013   33.5% 3% 63%      
New clients entering treatment (%) 2013   54.2% 5% 80%      
Potency — herbal (%) 2013   10.4% 2% 13%   17 22
Potency — resin (%) 2013   15.0% 3% 22%   15 20
Price per gram — herbal (EUR) 2013 3 EUR 8.7 - EUR 9.9 EUR 4 EUR 25   11 19
Price per gram — resin (EUR) 2013 3 EUR 8.4 - EUR 9.7 EUR 3 EUR 21   9 21
Prevalence of problem drug use                
Problem drug use (rate/1 000) :   : 2.0 10.0      
Injecting drug use (rate/1 000) 2013 4 3.5 0.2 9.2      
Drug-related infectious diseases/deaths                
HIV infections newly diagnosed (rate/million) 2013   1.5 0.0 54.5      
HIV prevalence (%) :   : 0% 49%      
HCV prevalence (%) :   : 14% 84%      
Drug-related deaths (rate/million) 2010   7.8 1.5 84.1      
Health and social responses                
Syringes distributed 2013   907 504 124 406 9 457 256      
Clients in substitution treatment 2013   17 482 180 172 513      
Treatment demand                
All clients 2013   9 192 289 101 753      
New clients 2013   3 220 19 35 229      
All clients with known primary drug 2013   9 192 287 99 186      
New clients with known primary drug 2013   3 220 19 34 524      
Drug law offences                
Number of reports of offences 2013   42 935 429 426 707      
Offences for use/possession 2013   30 312 58 397 713      


See the explanatory notes for further information on the methods and definitions.

Only the most recent data are available for each key statistic. Data before 2006 were excluded.

1 – Data is for heroin undistinguished and not heroin brown.

2 - Data refer only to Flanders.

3 – Data from the Federal Police and Eurotox (Project "Prix des drogues en rue"), respectively.

4 - Ever IDUs.

Additional sources of national information

In addition to the information provided above, you might find the following resources useful sources of national data.


Page last updated: Tuesday, 07 July 2015