Drug harms in Belgium 2017

Belgium Country Drug Report 2017

Drug harms

Drug-related infectious diseases

In Belgium, cases of HIV infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) are registered at the Scientific Institute of Public Health. Data on the prevalence of HIV and other drug-related infections are also available from studies involving different drug user groups (‘ever injectors’ seeking medical help or clients of outpatient services) at regional levels. The data indicate that the rates of HIV/ AIDS, hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections among drug users in Belgium have remained stable in recent years.

HCV and HBV prevalence rates among PWID varied between testing sites; however, many estimates are based on relatively small samples. The results do not reveal significant time trends in the last 10 years.

The proportion of the new HIV cases linked to injecting drug use has dropped since the mid-eighties and remains stable at a low level. In terms of HIV trends among PWID, there has been a decline in HIV prevalence rates reported by the French Community since 1994 and by the Flemish community since 1998, although, in the last 10 years, the prevalence rates have fluctuated and no clear trends are visible. In 2014, HIV prevalence was reported at 5.7 % among 370 PWID attending Free Clinics (Flemish community), while almost half were HCV positive.

In 2014, HIV prevalence was reported at 5.7 % among 370 PWID attending Free Clinics (Flemish community), while almost half were HCV positive


Newly diagnosed HIV cases attributed to injecting drug use

NBYear of data 2015, or latest available year.
Source: ECDC.

Drug-related emergencies

Currently, information on drug-related emergencies for Belgium is available only from crisis intervention centres (CICs) and the Belgian Early Warning on Drugs system. The information from eight CICs suggests that there has been a decline in non-fatal intoxications since 2011. In 2015, almost 900 people were admitted to CICs as a result of non-fatal intoxications related to illicit drug use. The drugs most commonly linked to admissions were opioids, followed by cocaine, other stimulants and cannabis. In general, the number of opioid-using clients in CICs has decreased over the years, while number of those seeking help because of cocaine and other stimulant use has increased.

UREG (Enregistrement des urgences), which has been operational since 2016, is the real-time registration system for data from emergency cases in Belgium and is mandatory for all Belgian hospitals with a specialised emergency room service or a first ‘reception of emergency cases’. The first data from this system are expected in 2017.


Characteristics of and trends in drug-induced deaths in Belgium

NBYear of data 2013.

Drug-induced deaths and mortality

Drug-induced deaths are deaths that can be attributed directly to the use of illicit drugs (i.e. poisonings and overdoses).

In Belgium, drug-induced deaths are recorded in the General Mortality Register located at the National Institute of Statistics and the latest available data at the national level are for 2013. Overall, the number of drug-induced deaths has been declining, with a stabilisation in numbers in 2012-13. Opioids (mainly heroin, but also fentanyl) were involved in 59 % of all toxicologically confirmed drug-induced deaths that were reported in 2013. The majority of the victims were male.

The drug-induced mortality rate among adults aged 15-64 years was 9.2 per million in 2013 (latest data available), which is below the most recent European average of 20.3 per million.

Drug-induced mortality rates among adults (15-64 years)

NBYear of data 2015, or latest available year.

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