Norway Country Drug Report 2018

Drug use

Prevalence and trends

Data from the annual general population surveys carried out since 2012 indicate that cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug among the general population in Norway, and its level of use has been relatively stable in recent years. In 2016, about 1 in 10 of young adults reported having used cannabis in the last 12 months. Use of all other substances is reported to be lower, with cocaine being the most prevalent illicit stimulant drug used. The use of illicit drugs is concentrated mostly among young adults, and males generally report higher prevalence rates than females.

The prevalence of use of new psychoactive substances (NPS) is very low among the adult general population, and studies indicate that experimentation with these substances may be more common among young people in nightlife settings.

The city of Oslo 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 increase in levels of the stimulant MDMA/ecstasy reported in 2016 was followed by a sharp decrease in 2017. Oslo is among the European cities with relatively high methamphetamine levels in wastewater. A decreasing trend was observed between 2014 and 2016, but an increase in the metabolites found was reported in 2017, although at lower levels than in 2011-14.

 

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Drug use among students aged 15-16 years is reported in the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs (ESPAD), which has been conducted in Norway since 1995, and the latest data available are from 2015.

Compared with the ESPAD averages (35 countries), Norway has a low prevalence of substance use. Norwegian students reported lower than average prevalence rates for lifetime use of cannabis, lifetime use of illicit drugs other than cannabis and lifetime use of NPS. The proportions of students reporting alcohol use in the last 30 days, heavy episodic drinking and cigarette use in the last 30 days are each less than half the ESPAD average.

 

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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 Norway is linked mainly to injecting amphetamines and opioids, primarily heroin. The estimated number of people who inject drugs (PWID) has stabilised since 2012, following a decline during 2008-12. It was estimated that the population of PWID was around 8 900 people in 2015 (2.6 per 1 000 inhabitants aged 15-64 years). Injecting is very common among marginalised amphetamine users.

Based on data from the general population surveys, it has been estimated that 0.3 % of 16- to 64-year-olds in Norway use cannabis daily or almost daily, although daily or almost daily cannabis use is far more common among vulnerable groups, such as homeless drug users.

Data from specialised treatment centres in Norway indicate that polydrug users are the main group entering drug treatment; the other main groups are users of cannabis and opioids. The long-term analysis indicates that there has been a decrease in the number of clients seeking treatment as a result of heroin (and opioid) use over recent years. In addition, a substantial proportion of clients entering treatment report more than one problem drug, and opioids are frequently reported in a polydrug context. The proportion of females in treatment varies by primary drug and type of 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.