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Annual report 2010: the state of the drugs problem in Europe
Amphetamines, ecstasy and hallucinogenic substances

Published: 10 November 2010

Amphetamines and ecstasy in recreational settings: use and interventions

Data on the prevalence of stimulant use from studies conducted in nightlife settings in 2008 were provided by nine countries. Estimates show considerable variation between different countries and settings, ranging from 10 % to 85 % for lifetime use of ecstasy and from 5 % to 69 % for use of amphetamines. Three of the studies also reported lifetime prevalence estimates for hallucinogenic mushrooms, ranging from 34 % to 54 %. Differences in the prevalence and patterns of drug use reported by customers attending clubs playing different genres of electronic dance music have been found in six countries (Germany, France, Hungary, Netherlands, Romania, United Kingdom), with ecstasy use appearing to be consistently more closely associated with some music genres than others. Ecstasy use was also more common than amphetamines use in the settings sampled in three reporting countries (Czech Republic, Netherlands, United Kingdom). For example, 9 % of club-goers in Amsterdam reported that they had taken ecstasy during the evening of the survey and 42 % of club-goers in Manchester reported that they had taken or planned to take ecstasy during the evening of the survey. The corresponding figures for amphetamines were 3.6 % (Amsterdam) and 8 % (Manchester).

Only 13 European countries have recently reported on interventions in recreational nightlife settings. Information provision and harm-reduction materials were the main activities reported, but few informative strategies addressed the normative beliefs underlying the recreational youth culture. Environmental approaches, such as healthy clubbing environments, safe transportation, selling and policing schemes, chill-out zones, alcohol tests and crisis interventions are reported, alone or in combination, by seven countries (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Luxembourg, Netherlands, United Kingdom). Cooperation between players involved in the nightlife field — municipalities, police and restaurant or club owners — is now also reported by Spain and Italy.

The harms associated with alcohol use in nightlife settings are increasingly being recognised in Europe. Environmental strategies on alcohol are reported by Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden and the United Kingdom, as well as by some areas in Spain. Among the various interventions implemented in these countries are: responsible alcohol serving, staff training, higher tax on alcopops, 16-year minimum age for the purchase of alcoholic beverages, and zero tolerance for young drivers.

As the use of alcohol and other drugs are strongly connected in nightlife settings, regulations targeting alcohol use could also reduce stimulant use. A recent British Crime Survey reported that the frequency of nightclub visits was strongly associated with polydrug use (1). Data analysed by the EMCDDA from general population surveys in nine European countries reveals that among frequent or heavy alcohol users, the prevalence of amphetamines or ecstasy use is much higher than average (EMCDDA, 2009). Analysis of ESPAD school survey data for 22 countries shows that 85.5 % of the 15- to 16-year-old students who had used ecstasy during the last month had also drunk five or more alcoholic drinks on one occasion (EMCDDA, 2009). And, as reported by the Netherlands, users may be taking stimulant drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines in order to sober up after excessive drinking.


(1) Defined as having taken two or more illicit drugs within the same time period, e.g. last year.

Bibliographic references

EMCDDA (2009), Polydrug use: patterns and responses, EMCDDA Selected issue, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

About the EMCDDA

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is the reference point on drugs and drug addiction information in Europe. Inaugurated in Lisbon in 1995, it is one of the EU’s decentralised agencies. Read more >>

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Page last updated: Tuesday, 26 October 2010