Italy Country Drug Report 2018

Drug harms

Drug-related infectious diseases

In Italy, data on prevalence of drug-related infections are available from samples of treatment clients undergoing voluntary testing at public drug treatment services or in general hospitals. Data on acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) cases among people who inject drugs (PWID) are notified through the AIDS Operational Centre (COA), and the Integrated Epidemiological System of Acute Viral Hepatitis (SEIEVA) collects data on acute viral hepatitis among drug users.

In 2016, 96 new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections among PWID were reported. The number of new HIV diagnoses among PWID decreased between 2010 and 2016; however, in recent years a trend of increasingly late HIV diagnosis has been reported.

Prevalence of HIV and HCV antibodies among people who inject drugs in Italy (%)
  region HCV HIV
Year of data: 2016
Percentages are referred to the number of tested injecting drug clients
  National 56.6 28.7
  Sub-national : :

The prevalence rate of HIV infection among PWID is considered average in the European context. Almost a third of the new treatment clients in 2016 were HIV positive, but the number of clients tested was small.

In general, there are more cases of hepatitis C virus (HCV) than hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections among drug users. The number of HBV infections has decreased considerably since 1985; this is linked to the universal HBV vaccination strategy that was introduced in Italy in 1991. The available data from voluntary testing of new treatment clients indicate that HCV infection is the most prevalent drug-related infection among PWID, while around 1 in 10 drug treatment clients were positive for HBV. Similarly to HIV testing, the number of treatment clients tested is small.



Drug-related emergencies

Drug-related emergencies in Italy are monitored and reported in the context of the national early warning system on new psychoactive substances (NPS). In 2015, a total of 1 075 people required emergency treatment because of non-fatal intoxication that was possibly a result of the use of NPS. Toxicological analysis was performed in about 15 % of these cases, and the results indicated the presence of NPS in about two thirds of them, while an established illicit drug was detected in the remaining cases.

Drug-induced deaths and mortality

In 2016, the special register (Police Forces and Prefectures) reported a further decrease in the number of drug-induced deaths in Italy. Opioids (mainly heroin), alone or in combination with other psychoactive substances, were detected in the majority of victims in whom toxicological results were available. In recent years, the proportion of deaths attributed to cocaine use has increased; this correlates with a similar trend in persons admitted for treatment because of cocaine use. However, the principal drug was not specified in almost half of the deaths reported in 2016. In Italy, the large majority of drug-induced death victims are male. On average, male victims are slightly older than female victims (41 years and 36 years respectively).

The drug-induced mortality rate among adults (aged 15-64 years) is 6.7 deaths per million, which is lower than the most recent European average of 21.8 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.