Bulgaria Country Drug Report 2017

Drug use

Prevalence and trends

The latest general population survey, carried out in 2012, indicates that cannabis remains the most frequently used substance among the adult general population aged 15-64 years in Bulgaria. In general, illicit drug use is concentrated among young people aged 15-34 years. Last-year prevalence of cannabis use among this age group was higher in 2012 than in previous years; in 2012, a total of 8.3 % of this age group reported that they had used cannabis at least once in the previous 12 months, compared with 6.0 % in 2008 and 4.4 % in 2007.

MDMA was the substance that was the second most frequently reported by the general adult population, and the available data indicate that there has been an increase in its use since 2007, in particular among younger adults (aged 15-24 years). The prevalence of amphetamines, cocaine and heroin use has remained low among the general population and the latest survey confirmed that there has been a decline in the reported use of these substances since 2005.


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


NBEstimated last-year prevalence of drug use in 2012.

Substance use among 15- to 16-year-old school students in Bulgaria

NBSource: ESPAD study 2015.

Data on drug use among 15- to 16-year-old students are reported by the 2015 European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD). This study has been conducted in Bulgaria since 1999. Bulgarian students reported higher than average (35 countries) levels of use for six of the eight key variables studied, including lifetime use of cannabis, lifetime use of illicit drugs other than cannabis and lifetime use of NPS. Lifetime cannabis use increased substantially between 1999 and 2003, but has remained relatively stable since then. Bulgarian students reported one of the highest rates of lifetime cannabis use among the ESPAD countries. For results reported for the last 30 days, cigarette use, alcohol use and heavy episodic drinking also exceeded the ESPAD average. However, the results showed that levels of lifetime use of inhalants and non-prescription use of tranquillisers or sedatives were slightly below the ESPAD average

Studies among university students conducted in 2006-14 also indicate relatively stable levels of cannabis consumption among young adults over this period.


High-risk drug use and trends

Studies reporting estimates of high-risk drug use can help to identify the extent of the more entrenched drug use problems, while data on the first-time entrants to specialised drug treatment centres, when considered alongside other indicators, can inform understanding on the nature and trends in high-risk drug use.

Recent data on high-risk drug use in Bulgaria are limited. In general, problem drug use in Bulgaria is linked to the use of opioids (primarily heroin) and injecting drug use; a national estimate of high-risk heroin users is not available.

Data from specialised treatment centres indicate that heroin remains the primary substance used by a large proportion of the first-time treatment clients, although a reduction in the number of first-time entrants seeking treatment for heroin use since 2009 is noted. In general, people who require treatment as a result of heroin use are older than other treatment clients, and many of them have had previous treatment. Injecting remains a common mode of heroin use in Bulgaria, although its use is decreasing. Injecting is more common among those who re-enter treatment than among new treatment clients.

In Bulgaria, it is estimated that approximately 0.2 % of 15- to 64-year-olds have used cannabis daily or almost daily in the last 30 days, based on data from the 2012 general population survey.

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 Bulgaria



NB Year of data 2014. Data is for first-time entrants, except for gender which is for all treatment entrants.

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