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General population surveys (GPS)

An overview of the data

Introduction

The general population surveys tables and graphics in the Statistical bulletin are organised by age group (all adults — 15–64 years, young adults — 15–34 years and youth-15–24 year olds), gender, type of prevalence (lifetime prevalence, last year prevalence and last month prevalence) and in case of graphics, also according to drug of use (cannabis, amphetamines, ecstasy, and cocaine).

Table GPS-121 provides detailed methodological information on the general population surveys, and Table GPS-0 provides the bibliographic references for additional information.

Tables GPS-1 to GPS-9 are organised according to age group and type of prevalence. Tables GPS-1 to GPS-6 are based on latest available data in each country, while GPS-7 to GPS-9 list data from all available surveys. Tables GPS-4 to GPS-6 have data based on the last survey available in each country broken down by gender.

The table below summarizes the data tables: the first table in each cell has only the latest data available, while the second one has all available data.

Age group/type of prevalence Lifetime prevalence Last 12 months prevalence Last 30 days prevalence
15–64 (‘all adults’) Table GPS-1 part (ii) and Table GPS-7 part (ii) Table GPS-2 part (i) and Table GPS-8 part (i) Table GPS-3 part (i) and Table GPS-9 part (i)
15–34 (‘young adults’) Table GPS-1 part (iii) and Table GPS-7 part (iii) Table GPS-2 part (ii) and Table GPS-8 part (ii) Table GPS-3 part (ii) and Table GPS-9 part (ii)
15–24 ('youth') Table GPS-1 part (iv) and Table GPS-7 part (iv) Table GPS-2 part (iii) and Table GPS-8 part (iii) Table GPS-3 part (iii) and Table GPS-9 part (iii)

Table GPS-10 provides data focused on indicators of more intensive cannabis use — last month prevalence of use and prevalence of daily or almost daily use (20 days or more/30) based on the most recent available data (part i), for the participating countries in the 2007 field trial (part (ii)), frequency of use in the past month (part (iii)), where data was available in the 2004 field trial and combined sources (part (iv)).

Figure GPS-17, GPS-18 and GPS-23 show comparative data for several drugs together, while other graphics are organised by drug type.

Cannabis-use prevalence is shown in Figures GPS-1, GPS-2, GPS-3, GPS-4, GPS-7, GPS-10 and GPS-12. Amphetamine use is shown in Figures GPS-5, GPS-6, GPS-8 and GPS-22. Ecstasy use data is displayed in Figures GPS-9, GPS-11 and GPS-21. Cocaine use prevalence can be found in Figures GPS-13, GPS-14, GPS-15, GPS-16 and GPS-20. Information on trends can be found in Figures GPS-4, GPS-8, GPS-10, GPS-14, GPS-21 and GPS-20.

Summary points

Summary points presented are based on the most recent data available from general population surveys in each country and it should be noted that the last data year varies between countries (in most cases the latest surveys were conducted between 2004 and 2009). There remain some differences between countries in methods (e.g. face-to-face interview, mail questionnaires) and small differences in prevalence estimates between countries should be interpreted with caution.

Cannabis

It is conservatively estimated that cannabis has been used at least once (lifetime prevalence) by about 78 million Europeans, that is over one in five of all 15- to 64-year-olds. Considerable differences exist between countries, with national prevalence figures varying from 1.5% to 32.5%. For most of the countries, the prevalence estimates are in the range of 10–30% of all adults. 

An estimated 22.5 million Europeans have used cannabis in the last year, or on average 6.7% of all 15- to 64-year-olds. Estimates of last month prevalence will include those using the drug more regularly, though not necessarily in a daily or intensive way. It is estimated that about 12 million Europeans used the drug in the last month, on average about 3.6% of all 15- to 64-year-olds.

Many countries report that cannabis use is stabilising or even decreasing, while a small number of countries (Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Sweden) may be witnessing an increase.

It is worth noting the particular case of the United Kingdom, where surveys are conducted annually. After a history of the highest levels of cannabis use in Europe at the beginning of the 2000s, in 2010, last year prevalence of cannabis use fell below the EU average for the first time since EU monitoring began.

Data from a sample of 14 European countries accounting for 80% of the adult population of the European Union and Norway, show that one fifth of those who used cannabis in the last month had consumed the drug on 20 days or more during the last 30 days.

Amphetamines and ecstasy

Drug prevalence estimates suggest that about 12.5 million Europeans have tried amphetamines, and about 2 million have used the drug during the last year. Among young adults (15–34 years), lifetime prevalence of amphetamines use varies considerably between countries, from 0.1% to 14.3%, with a weighted European average of 5.0%. Last year use of amphetamines in this age group ranges from 0.1% to 2.5%, with most countries reporting prevalence levels of 0.5–2.0%. It is estimated that about 1.5 million (1.1%) young Europeans have used amphetamines during the last year.

Drug prevalence estimates suggest that about 11 million Europeans have tried ecstasy, and about 2.5 million have used the drug during the last year. Use of the drug in the last year is concentrated among young adults, with males reporting levels of use much higher than females in all countries except Greece, Romania, Sweden and Finland. Lifetime prevalence of ecstasy use among the 15–34 age group ranges from under 0.6% to 12.7% , with most countries reporting estimates in the 2.1–5.8% range ).

Over the period 2003–09, no country reported an increase in ecstasy use, while Estonia, Spain, Germany, Hungary and the United Kingdom reported a decrease of about one percentage point in last year ecstasy use in the 15–34 age group. There is, however, some variation between countries.

Cocaine

Cocaine is, after cannabis, the second most tried drug, though levels of use vary greatly between countries. It is estimated that about 14.5 million Europeans have used cocaine at least once in their life , on average 4.3% of adults aged 15–64 years. National figures vary from 0.1% to 10.2%, with half of the 24 reporting countries , including most central and eastern European countries, reporting low levels of lifetime prevalence (0.5–2.5%).

About 4 million Europeans are estimated to have used the drug in the last year (1.2% on average). Recent national surveys report last year prevalence estimates of between zero and 2.7% . The prevalence estimate for last month cocaine use in Europe represents about 0.5% of the adult population or about 1.5 million individuals.

Levels of cocaine use above the European average are reported by Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Cyprus and the United Kingdom. In all of these countries, last year prevalence data show that cocaine is the most commonly used illicit stimulant drug.

(1) European estimates are computed from national prevalence estimates weighted by the population of the relevant age group in each country. To obtain estimates of the overall number of users in Europe, the EU average is applied for countries lacking prevalence data (representing not more than 3% of target population). Populations used as basis: 15–64, 336 million; 15–34, 132 million. As European estimates are based on surveys conducted between 2001 and 2009/10 (mainly 2004–2008), they do not refer to a single year.

Page last updated: Wednesday, 31 August 2011