Cyprus Country Drug Report 2018

Drug use

Prevalence and trends

Cannabis remains the most commonly used illicit drug among the general population in Cyprus, with approximately 1 in 10 adults aged 15-64 years reporting cannabis use at least once during their lifetime.

Cannabis use remains concentrated among young adults aged 15-34 years. The long-term analysis indicates some decrease in last year prevalence of cannabis use among this group since 2009, with possible stabilisation in the most recent years. Use of other illicit substances is less common.

A strong link between gender and illicit drug use is reported, with males having higher prevalence rates for all drugs.

The mean age at cannabis experimentation is 18-20 years, which coincides with an obligatory enrolment to and release from the National Guard service for males. Use of new psychoactive substances is also concentrated among 15- to 34-year-olds, with synthetic cannabinoids being the most popular substances reported.

Nicosia and Limassol participate 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 municipal level, based on the levels of illicit drugs and their metabolites found wastewater. An increasing trend was observed for the period 2013-17 for levels of amphetamine, methamphetamine and MDMA/ecstasy. Cypriot cities are among the European cities with the highest levels of methamphetamine detected in wastewater, while the levels for amphetamine and MDMA remain below those reported by most other cities participating in the study. In Limassol, higher levels of drug residues for all stimulants were detected during the weekend than on weekdays, but this pattern could not be observed in Nicosia.

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Drug use among students is reported in the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) study, which has been conducted regularly in Cyprus since 1995 among 15- to 16-year-olds (in the government-controlled areas).

In the 2015 ESPAD study, Cypriot students reported substance use prevalence rates of approximately the same magnitude as the ESPAD average (35 countries) for five of the eight key variables studied. Lifetime cannabis use in Cyprus was below the average and has remained at the level of 2011.

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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 services, when considered alongside other indicators, can inform an understanding of the nature of and trends in high-risk drug use.

In 2016, it was estimated that there were 838 high-risk opioid users in Cyprus, reflecting a decline in the estimated size of this population in recent years. The number of high-risk methamphetamine users was estimated at 105 in the same year.

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Data from specialised treatment centres indicate an overall decline since 2007 in primary heroin-using clients entering treatment for the first time. In recent years, an increasing number of clients have sought treatment for use of opioids other than heroin (in particular oxycodone). First-time clients using heroin tend to be older than those seeking care because of primary use of other illicit substances. Although injecting remains common among opioid users entering treatment, a downward trend in this practice has been observed in recent years. It is estimated that less than one in six high-risk opioid users living in Cyprus inject the substance. Moreover, available data suggest an increase in treatment demand for primary use of methamphetamine in recent years (see the section ‘Treatment’), with smoking being the most common route of administration. Data on the proportion of cannabis users entering treatment for the first time indicate an upward trend since 2008, with some stabilisation in recent years. There are also signs of increases in both the proportion and the number of clients entering treatment with cocaine as their primary drug. This is mainly attributed to the implementation of the Protocol of Cooperation for the Referral of Young Offenders to Treatment Centres. In 2016, most treatment clients were male; however, the proportion of females in treatment varied considerably by primary type of drug used and by treatment programme.

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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.