Drug Use in Belgium 2017

Belgium Country Drug Report 2017

Drug use

Prevalence and trends

Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug in Belgium; its use is concentrated among young adults aged 15 to 34 years and is more prevalent among males.

The health behaviour survey in school-aged children confirms that cannabis remains the main illicit substance used by Belgian teenagers; however, the prevalence and trends vary across the regions. The most recent studies among 15- to 16-year-olds in school settings indicate that approximately one in six students in the Flemish community and one in five students in the French community have ever used cannabis. The studies among students in the Flemish community indicate a slightly decreasing trend in cannabis use, while in the French community the trend remains stable.

The findings from studies in nightlife settings in both the Flemish and the French communities found that cannabis is by far the most popular illicit drug, while MDMA has recently gained in popularity. Moreover, nightlife settings were a common venue for the use of NPS.

Two Belgian cities (Brussels and Antwerp) participated in the Europe-wide annual wastewater campaigns undertaken by the Sewage Analysis Core Group Europe (SCORE). This study provides data on drug use at a community level, based on the levels of illicit drugs and their metabolites in sources of wastewater. The 2016 data indicate an increase in the levels of MDMA between 2011 and 2016. Levels of methamphetamine residues were very low. The levels of cocaine were higher in Antwerp than in Brussels, but the concentration of cocaine metabolites increased at the weekends in both cities.

Estimates of last-year cannabis use among young adults (15-34 years) in Belgium

NBEstimated last-year prevalence of drug use in 2013.


Substance use among 15- to 16-year-old school students in Belgium (Flemish community)

NBSource: ESPAD study 2015.

The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) was implemented in 2015 in the Flemish community and the results indicate that levels of substance use among 15- to 16-year-old students are generally close to the ESPAD average. Only alcohol use in the last 30 days stands out as being higher than the overall average. However, the level of heavy episodic drinking during the last 30 days was the same as the ESPAD average. For other variables, the prevalence among the Flemish students was at the same level or below the ESPAD average.

The available data indicate that there have been no significant changes in the proportion of the population who have ever injected drugs over the last 10 years


High-risk drug use and trends

Studies reporting estimates of high-risk drug use and the numbers of people who inject drugs (PWID) can help to identify the extent of the more entrenched drug use problems, while data for first-time entrants to specialised drug treatment centres, when considered alongside other indicators, can inform understanding of the nature and trends in high-risk drug use.

In Belgium, the estimated number of PWID is derived annually using the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) multiplier method. The available data suggest that that there have been no significant changes in the proportion of the population who have ever injected drugs over the last 10 years. Heroin and other opioids are the main substances that are used by injecting.

No population-wide estimate of high-risk opioid users is available for Belgium; nevertheless, the data from specialised treatment centres indicate that heroin and other opioid users constitute approximately one third of clients entering treatment, while the importance of these substances among first-time clients is lower.

Cannabis was the most frequently reported primary substance for which clients entered treatment and was very prevalent among first-time treatment clients. Approximately one fifth of the clients in treatment are female; however the proportion varies by type of substance used.

National estimates of last year prevalence of high-risk opioid use

NBYear of data 2015, or latest available year.


Characteristics and trends of drug users entering specialised drug treatment in Belgium


NBYear of data 2015. Data is for first-time entrants, except for gender which is for all treatment entrants. Trends in first-time entrants should be interpreted with caution due to changes in data collection methodologies.

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