Bulgaria Country Drug Report 2018

Drug use

Prevalence and trends

The latest general population survey, carried out in 2016, indicates that cannabis remains the most frequently used illicit substance, followed by MDMA/ecstasy, 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. The long-term trend indicates an increase in the last year prevalence of cannabis and MDMA use among young people between 2007 and 2016.

The prevalence of amphetamines, cocaine and heroin use has remained low among the general population.

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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 lifetime use for six of the eight key substances studied, including cannabis, illicit drugs other than cannabis and new psychoactive substances. 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.

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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 first-time entrants to specialised drug treatment centres, when considered alongside other indicators, can inform an understanding of the nature of 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.

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Data from specialised treatment centres indicate that heroin remains the primary substance used by a large proportion of first-time treatment clients, although a reduction in the proportion of first-time entrants seeking help primarily for heroin use has been noted since 2009.

Injecting remains a common mode of heroin use in Bulgaria, although the proportion of heroin users who inject is decreasing.

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.

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Methodological note: Analysis of trends is based only on those countries providing sufficient data to describe changes over the period specified. The reader should also be aware that monitoring patterns and trends in a hidden and stigmatised behaviour like drug use is both practically and methodologically challenging. For this reason, multiple sources of data are used for the purposes of analysis in this report. Caution is therefore required in interpretation, in particular when countries are compared on any single measure. Detailed information on methodology and caveats and comments on the limitations in the information set available can be found in the EMCDDA Statistical Bulletin.