Greece Country Drug Report 2018

Drug use in Greece

Prevalence and trends

Cannabis is the illicit drug most commonly used among the Greek adult population (aged 18-65 years), the available data indicating a slightly increasing trend since 2004. Use of amphetamines, cocaine and MDMA/ecstasy remain at low levels among the general population.

Athens participates 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 in wastewater. The presence of cocaine metabolites and MDMA shows that stimulant use was higher at the weekend than on weekdays in 2017. In general, the levels of amphetamine metabolites and MDMA were low, indicating limited use of these substances in Athens. A decrease in the levels of illicit drugs and their metabolites has been reported over the period 2014-17, indicating a possible decline in the use of those substances, although a small increase was observed in 2017 for cocaine and methamphetamine metabolites.

Information on drug use among 15- to 16-year-old students is available from the 2015 European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD). The survey has been conducted in Greece every four years since 1999. In 2015, for one of the eight key variables, the Greek results were below the ESPAD average (35 countries), namely lifetime use of cannabis. Nevertheless, long-term trends indicate a tendency towards an increase in cannabis use among students since 2007. In the case of lifetime use of illicit drugs other than cannabis, tranquillisers or sedatives without prescription and new psychoactive substances (NPS), the Greek results were similar to the ESPAD averages. Approximately 3 % of Greek school students reported lifetime use of synthetic cannabinoids. Cigarette use in the last 30 days was similar to the ESPAD average. In contrast, lifetime use of inhalants was more common among Greek students. Approximately three quarters of Greek students reported alcohol use had occurred during the last 30 days, which was well above the ESPAD average, and a slightly higher proportion than the ESPAD average reported that heavy episodic drinking had taken place during the same 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.

High-risk drug use in Greece is mostly attributed to the injecting of opioids, mainly heroin. The size of the high-risk drug-using population has been estimated annually since 2002 and the latest data indicate that the estimated number of high-risk heroin users in 2016 was around 17 000 (2.46 per 1 000 adult population), while the estimated number of people who inject drugs was around 4 200. The available data suggest that the estimated number of high-risk heroin users has decreased since 2010, with stabilisation in recent years.

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Heroin use remains the most common reason for seeking specialised treatment in Greece; however, the number of people entering treatment for the first time as a result of primary heroin use has halved in recent years, while the number of cannabis-related treatment demands has increased. In recent years, injecting as a primary mode of primary heroin use has declined from about 40 % in 2006 to less than 30 % in 2016. Approximately 1 out of 10 treatment clients is female; however, the proportion in treatment varies by type of primary drug and 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.