Croatia Country Drug Report 2019

Drug use

Prevalence and trends

Cannabis remains the most commonly used illicit drug in Croatia. A 2015 survey indicated that approximately one in five adults aged 15-64 years has used cannabis at least once during their lifetime. Cannabis use is concentrated among young adults (aged 15-34 years). Approximately 2 in 10 younger adults aged 15-24 years reported using cannabis at least once during the last year, while approximately 1 in 50 of the same age group had used amphetamines — the most commonly used stimulants — in the last 12 months. Males generally use illicit drugs more frequently than females. Available data indicate that approximately 7 in 100 young adults (aged 15-24 years) in Croatia have tried new psychoactive substances (NPS) during their lifetime.

Zagreb 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. Regarding stimulants, the results indicate a continued increase in cocaine use in Zagreb in 2011-18, with levels being higher at the weekends than on weekdays. The increasing trends in amphetamine and MDMA/ecstasy use observed over the period 2011-15 seem to have stabilised in recent years, although amphetamine use increased in 2018. The levels of methamphetamine metabolites measured in wastewater remained low during the observation period, indicating limited use of methamphetamine in the city.

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Data on drug use among 15- to 16-year-old students were last reported in 2015 in the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD). This study has been conducted in Croatia since 1995. Reported prevalence rates among Croatian students were considerably higher than the ESPAD averages (based on data from 35 countries) for five of the eight key variables, one of which was lifetime use of cannabis. Available data indicate an upward trend in cannabis use among school-age children between 2001 and 2015. Reported lifetime use of NPS among 15- to 16-year-old students was also slightly above the ESPAD average, while lifetime use of illicit drugs other than cannabis was at average level. In 2015, Croatian students reported higher levels of lifetime use of inhalants and of cigarette use in the last 30 days. In addition, alcohol use and heavy episodic drinking in the last 30 days were above the ESPAD averages.

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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 and of trends in high-risk drug use.

In 2015, a mortality multiplier study estimated that the total population of high-risk opioid users was approximately 8 900 (3.09 per 1 000 population). The same study indicated that there were 6 300 people who inject drugs in Croatia (2.21 per 1 000 population).

Data from specialised treatment centres show that the majority of first-time treatment entrants report cannabis as their primary problem drug; they are followed by those seeking treatment as a result of heroin use. In the last decade, the number of first-time treatment entries as a result of heroin use has decreased by almost 90 %, although heroin remains the main problem drug for which people receive treatment in Croatia. Injecting remains common among heroin users, although levels of heroin injecting are lower among first-time treatment clients than among those who have entered treatment repeatedly.

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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.