Greece Country Drug Report 2018

Drug harms in Greece

Drug-related infectious diseases

In Greece, drug treatment centres, low-threshold services and public health laboratories/reference centres report annually to the Greek national focal point individual or aggregated data on the results of testing drug users entering treatment for hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Surveillance data on the prevalence and incidence of HIV/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) among people who inject drugs (PWID) are derived from the Hellenic Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention (HCDCP-KEELPNO) of the Ministry of Health.

Prevalence of HIV and HCV antibodies among people who inject drugs in Greece (%)
region HCV HIV
Year of data: 2016
National 63.5 5.1
Sub-national 60.4 - 67.5 1.1 - 9.2

Until 2010, the proportion of new HIV cases linked to injecting drug use had remained low, at 2-3 %, and the number of newly reported cases of HIV infection ranged from 9 to 25 per year. However, in 2011, the number of reported cases increased more than ten-fold, reaching 315 by the end of the year, indicating that there was an HIV outbreak among PWID. These cases represented 33 % of all newly reported cases of HIV infection (with a known transmission route) in 2011. In 2012, approximately half of all newly reported HIV cases were linked to injecting drug use, while in the following years the number and proportion fell and, in 2015 and 2016, approximately one in five new HIV infections were associated with injecting drug use, indicating a stabilisation in the HIV transmission rate among PWID. HIV prevalence among PWID also increased among those tested, from 0.7-0.8 % of those registered before 2011 to 6.0-10.7 % in 2013. In 2016, the estimated national HIV prevalence rate among PWID was 5.1 % and was higher in females than in males. In general, the highest HIV prevalence rates are observed among PWID in the Attica region, which includes the capital city, Athens.


In 2016, between 18.6 % and 29.4 % of PWID tested positive for HBV (based on anti-HBc — a marker of previous or current hepatitis B infection). The infection rates were higher among older drug injectors and those who had been in prison in the past.

The data indicate that two thirds of treatment clients were HCV positive, while HCV infection was more common among PWID in Athens and, in particular, among those receiving opioid substitution treatment. HCV prevalence rates were significantly higher among PWID with an injecting history of more than two years than in recent initiates, among those older than 34 years, females, and those who had been in prison in past. It is estimated that up to 40 % of those with a chronic HCV infection have a history of drug injection.


Drug-related emergencies

There is no systematic data collection for drug-related emergencies in Greece, but some data are available from various sources, such as the Poison Information Centre and drug treatment services.

In 2016, the Poison Information Centre reported 159 drug-related emergency cases, one third of which involved the use of heroin/other opioids or the use of heroin in combination with benzodiazepine. The medical services for the drug treatment agencies Organisation Against Drugs (OKANA) and the Icarus Prevention Unit (KETHEA), operating in Athens and Thessaloniki, reported 66 drug-related emergency cases, most of which involved the use of heroin/other opioids.

Drug-induced deaths and mortality

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

Following a period of decline in drug-induced deaths that started in 2005, in 2015, the Hellenic Police reported an increase and preliminary data indicate that the number remained stable in 2016. The majority of the confirmed deaths were of males who were older than 30 years and most involved opiates.

In 2016, the mortality rate for all ages was 6.8 deaths per million, below the European average of 15.4 deaths per million.


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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.