EMCDDA Home
  • EN
Search

Opioids and heroin

Opioid is a generic term applied to alkaloids derived from the opium poppy Papaver Somniferum L, which includes semisynthetic opioids such as morphine and diacetylmorphine (diamorphine, heroin) and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and methadone.

Heroin is a semisynthetic product obtained by acetylation of morphine, which occurs as a natural product in opium: the dried latex of certain poppy species.

In the remaining sections of this page there are links to data, scientific publications and resources available from the EMCDDA on the topic of opioids.

 

Highlights

Monitoring the supply of heroin to Europe (Technical data sheet, 2008)

publication thumbnail

In recent years, anxiety in Europe has increased about the impact of record opium harvests in Afghanistan and a decrease in heroin retail prices. This datasheet provides a condensed review of the key issues about how heroin manufactured from Afghan opium reaches European consumers via the Balkan and northern routes. Go to publication »

Heroin drug profile

publication thumbnail

The heroin drug profile provides an objective and scientifically sound description of heroin and is available online in German, English and French. The profile provides an overview of information about heroin including the chemistry, pharmacology, synthesis, physical form, and mode of use, as well as a bibliography and suggestions for further reading. Go to profile »

Annual report on the state of the drugs problem in Europe

publication thumbnail

The report on the state of the drugs problem in Europe presents the EMCDDA's yearly overview of the drug phenomenon. Each year an overview of the situation with respect to opioids is present. Issues specific to opioids including supply and availability, prevalence and patterns of use, and treatment, as well as other topics of interest are covered in Chapter 6 of the latest Annual report. Go to publication »

Buprenorphine - treatment, misuse and prescription practices (Selected Issues, 2005)

publication thumbnail

Since the mid-1990s buprenorphine has become increasingly available in Europe as an alternative to methadone for the treatment of opiate dependence. Go to publication »

Prevalence and patterns of use

Prevalence and patterns of opioid use - the most recent synthesis

The Annual report (see 'Highlights' above) provides a synthesis of most recent available data on the prevalence estimates of problem opioid use. Access prevalence estimates of problem opioid use »

The 'problem drug use' data set in the Statistical bulletin provides tables with the most recent available data of the more problematic patterns of drug use such as heroin use or injecting. Go to problem drug use key indicator »

Health consequences of opioid use

 

Injecting drug users are among those at highest risk of experiencing health problems from their drug use, such as blood-borne infections (e.g. HIV/AIDS, hepatitis) or drug overdoses.

 Drug-related infectious diseases

The Annual report (see 'Highlights' above) provides an overview of the most recent available information on drug-related infectious diseases. Access drug-related infectious diseases »

 Statistics and data

The 'drug-related infectious diseases' data set in the Statistical bulletin provides the most recent available data on the prevalence of drug-related infectious diseases in Europe. Access drug-related infectious diseases data »

 Viral hepatitis

The Viral hepatitis thematic page contains information on the link between viral hepatitis and drug use, including prevalence, transmission and treatment. Access Viral hepatitis thematic page »

 

'Hepatitis C and injecting drug use: impact, costs, and policy options' (Monographs, 2004) presents a conglomeration of research on hepatitis C. Some of the issues explored are quality of life; treatment, surveillance and prevention; and the cost-effectiveness of measures such as needle-exchange programmes and substitution therapy. Access Hepatitis C and injecting drug use: impact, costs, and policy options »

Trends in injecting drug use in Europe

(Selected issue, 2010) A section of this publication explores some of the health consequences of injecting opioids. Access Trends in injecting drug use »

Fatal and non-fatal overdoses

Opioids, mainly heroin or its metabolites, are present in the majority of drug-induced deaths reported in Europe. This fragment of the Annual report (see 'Highlights' above) presents a general overview of drug-related deaths and mortality. A section on fatal and non-fatal deaths related to heroin and other opioids can be consulted here. Access Drug-related deaths and mortality »

Overdoses – a major cause of avoidable death among young people

Drug overdose, mostly involving opiates, is a major cause of deaths among young people in Europe, being one of the leading cause of death among drug injectors. This issue of Drugs in focus explains some of the issues surrounding overdoses. Access Overdoses: a major cause of avoidable death among young people »

Treatment demand for opioid users

Statistics on treatment demand

The 'treatment demand indicator' data set in the Statistical bulletin provides the most recent available data on treatment demand, including treatment demand for opioid use (primary drug). Access Treatment demand data »

Treatment of opioid use: best practice and provision

Best practice

Best practice treating opioid users

The treatment module of the best practice portal examines the current evidence base for the treatment of opioid users. Go to treatment options for opioid users in the Best practice portal »

Provision

Information on treatment of opioid use, including problem opioid use, can be found in the following resources: »

Statistics on health and social responses

The Statistical bulletin is published yearly by the EMCDDA and provides access to the most recent statistical data relating to the drugs situation in Europe. Statistics of methadone maintenance treatment, needle and syringe programmes and opioid substitution treatment in prison can be found in the following data set:

Exchange on Drug Demand Reduction Action (EDDRA)

The Exchange on Drug Demand Reduction Action (EDDRA) provides details on a wide range of treatment and prevention interventions across Europe (as well as harm reduction and interventions in the criminal justice system), including some which specifically target opioids. Access EDDRA »

Upcoming publication: EMCDDA 'Insight' on heroin-assisted treatment

Heroin-assisted treatment is currently provided to about 1 500 chronic problem opioid users in five EU Member States. In 2011, with the support of a team of international researchers and clinicians, the EMCDDA will publish a study on this type of treatment, reviewing the scientific evidence accumulated in recent years.

Meeting: Practices and current issues in opioid substitution treatment in general practitioners' settings in Europe

The EMCDDA, in partnership with the French and the German Monitoring Centres for Drugs and Drug Addiction organised a meeting in September 2010 on practices and current issues in opioid substitution treatment in general practitioners' settings in Europe.

General practitioners are becoming an increasingly important provider of drug treatment services in Europe and are helping to reduce inequalities in the accessibility and availability of opioid substitution treatment (OST). More information, including presentations »

Harm reduction for opioid users

Best practice for harm reduction

The Harm reduction module of the Best practice portal examines the current evidence on the effectiveness of available harm reduction options for opioid injectors. Go to the Harm reduction module of the Best practice portal »

Harm reduction in 'Harm reduction: evidence, impacts and challenges'

The chapters below from 'Harm reduction: evidence, impacts and challenges' (Monographs, 2010) focus on harm reduction among injecting drug users (pdf format):

Drug consumption rooms

Drug consumption rooms (DCRs) are professionally supervised healthcare facilities where drug users can use drugs in safer and more hygienic conditions.

This chapter from the EMCDDA's harm reduction monograph summarises available evidence on the processes, outcomes and risks of DCRs, and aims to identify key challenges for their development as mechanisms of harm reduction. Access Drug consumption facilities in Europe and beyond (pdf format) »

The European Report on drug consumption rooms (Thematic papers, 2004) describes what consumption rooms are and why and how they came about; whom they target, which specific objectives they have and how they function. Access Report on drug consumption rooms »

Supply, availability and markets

Monitoring the supply of heroin to Europe

(Technical datasheet, 2008) This datasheet provides a condensed review of the key issues about how heroin manufactured from Afghan opium reaches European consumers via the Balkan and northern routes. Access Monitoring the supply of heroin to Europe »

Statistics on price, purity/potency and seizures

The Statistical bulletin is published yearly by the EMCDDA and provides access to the most recent statistical data relating to the drugs situation in Europe. Information on price, purity/potency and seizures data for opioids  can be found in the following data sets:

Legal and policy aspects concerning opioid use

Legal status of opioid substitution treatment

The topic overview on the legal status of opioid substitution treatment aims to identify what aspects of substitution treatment are regulated by which types of national law, if at all. What drugs are permitted for substitution treatment in the countries? Who can prescribe them? How are the drugs and the patients monitored?

Supplying illicit drugs for medical purposes

To date, all member states have legal provisions and/or guidelines for administering methadone or other opiate agonists to drug addicts. However, the organisation of substitution-treatment programmes, the availability of places on such programmes, resources and funding, as well as the substances prescribed are still strongly associated with public opinion and political views.

Criminal justice approaches to harm reduction in Europe

The following chapter of the EMCDDA's Harm reduction monograph examines services such as needle and syringe exchange, opiate substitution and distribution of condoms and disinfectants in prisons. It concludes that the tensions between harm reduction and criminal justice aims can be overcome in providing effective services to reduce drug-related harms.

Statistics on drug law offences

The Statistical bulletin is published yearly by the EMCDDA and provides access to the most recent statistical data relating to the drugs situation in Europe. Statistics on heroin-related offences can be found in the following data sets:

Country data

Statistical bulletin

The Statistical bulletin provides detailed country-specific prevalence and patterns of use data. However the links below provide quick access to data and information at a country level (including cannabis prevalence data). Access the Statistical bulletin »

Country overviews

Country overviews provide a structured synopsis of the trends and characteristics of national drug problems. They consist of a summary of the national drug situation, key statistics at a glance and a barometer showing the drug use prevalence position of each country. They are updated annually. Access Country overviews »

National reports

Commissioned each year by the EMCCDA and produced by the national focal points of the Reitox network, the National reports draw an overall picture of the drug phenomenon at national level in each EU Member state. These data are key information to the EMCCDA and are an important resource, among others for the compilation of its 'Annual report'. See all National reports »

 

 
 

Page last updated: Friday, 29 July 2011