Estonia Country Drug Report 2019

Drug use

Prevalence and trends

The last general population study on drug use in Estonia dates back to 2008; however, recent studies on risk behaviours among the general population (in 2014, 2015 and 2016) have also explored illicit substance use. The available data indicate that cannabis remains the most commonly used illicit drug among those aged 15-64 years in Estonia, and its use is concentrated among young people, with males generally reporting cannabis use more frequently than females. Amphetamines were the most commonly used stimulants among adults in 2008 and 2015.

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Drug use among 15- to 16-year-old students is reported by the 2015 European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD). This survey has been conducted in Estonia since 1995. The lifetime use of cannabis and lifetime use of new psychoactive substances (NPS) among Estonian students were higher than the ESPAD averages (based on data from 35 countries), while lifetime use of illicit drugs other than cannabis was in line with the ESPAD average. Estonian students were below the ESPAD average for use of any alcohol during the last 30 days, while heavy episodic drinking during the last 30 days was in line with the average. The long-term trend indicates an increase in prevalence rates for cannabis use among 15- to 16-year-olds between 1995 and 2007, with signs of stabilisation in the 2011 and 2015 studies.

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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.

Available data indicate that the majority of people who inject drugs (PWID) in Estonia primarily use opioids, mainly fentanyl. In 2015, there were an estimated 8 600 PWID aged 15-44 years in the country. Studies among PWID report that amphetamine use also remains common in the eastern parts of the country.

Data from specialised treatment centres in Estonia also indicate that opioids (mainly illicit fentanyl or 3-methylfentanyl) were the most commonly reported primary substances for first-time clients entering treatment in 2016. Nearly 70 % of all treatment clients whose primary substance of use was an opioid reported injecting as their main route of administration. Overall, females account for approximately one out of five treatment clients, but the proportion of females among treatment clients varies by the type of programme and type of illicit drug used.

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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.