Lithuania Country Drug Report 2019

Drug use

Prevalence and trends

Data from the most recent general population survey indicate that slightly more than 1 in 10 Lithuanian adults have used an illicit substance in their lifetime, with cannabis being the most commonly used drug. Drug use is concentrated among young adults aged 15-34 years. Long-term analysis indicates that last year and last month cannabis use among this age group declined between 2008 and 2012 but rose slightly again in 2016. The increase in last year and last month cannabis use was also noted in other age groups. In 2016, MDMA/ecstasy was the most common illicit stimulant used by young adults.

The prevalence of psychoactive substance use tends to be higher in some settings or among certain subgroups of young people in Lithuania. A new study carried out in 2017-18 in nightclub settings found that almost two thirds of clubbers had used an illicit substance in their lifetime, double the number found in an earlier study (2012), with cannabis being the most popular drug, followed by MDMA, cocaine and amphetamines.

Vilnius has since 2017 participated in the Europe-wide annual wastewater campaigns undertaken by the Sewage Analysis Core Group Europe (SCORE). In 2018, data were also available for Kaunas and Klaipeda. This study provides data on drug use at a municipal level, based on the levels of illicit drugs and their metabolites found in wastewater. In 2018, all four illicit stimulants monitored in the study were detected in wastewater in the three cities covered, albeit at relatively low levels in the case of MDMA, cocaine and amphetamine. Methamphetamine levels in wastewater were relatively high.

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Drug use among 15- to 16-year-old students is reported in the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD), which has been conducted in Lithuania since 1995, and the latest data are from 2015. Lifetime use of cannabis and other illicit substances in Lithuania was relatively close to the ESPAD average (based on data from 35 countries) in 2015. Long-term analysis indicates that cannabis use among 15- to 16-year-old students in Lithuania has remained stable during the last decade, based on the prevalence of lifetime, last year and last month drug use. Data on the use of new psychoactive substances are also available from the 2015 ESPAD study and indicate that 5 % of students aged 15-16 years have tried these substances at least once. Among other key variables, the proportion of students in Lithuania reporting alcohol use in the last 30 days was considerably lower than the European average, whereas cigarette use in the last 30 days and lifetime use of tranquillisers or sedatives without prescription were slightly more common.

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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.

In 2016, it was estimated that there were around 7 500 high-risk opioid users, that is 3.92 per 1 000 of the population aged 15-64 years. The estimated number of people who inject drugs (opioids and stimulants) was around 8 900 (4.63 per 1 000 aged 15-64 years).

Data from specialised treatment centres indicate that opioids, mainly heroin, were the most commonly reported primary substance for all and first-time clients entering treatment in 2017. Between 2015 and 2017, a decrease was observed among the number of first-time treatment clients reporting primary use of opioids or of amphetamine/methamphetamine; the increase in the number of cannabis users seeking treatment for the first time reported up until 2016 did not continue in 2017. Injection remains the main route of drug administration among heroin and amphetamines users entering treatment. Approximately one fifth of clients entering treatment are female; however, the proportion varies by primary 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.