Hungary Country Drug Report 2019

Drug use

Prevalence and trends

In Hungary, cannabis is the most commonly used illicit substance among the general population and its use is concentrated among young adults aged 18-34 years. The most recent data suggest that last year cannabis use among young adults fell between the 2007 and 2015 surveys. The use of MDMA/ecstasy, cocaine and amphetamines increased over the same period.

Following the emergence of new psychoactive substances (NPS) in the Hungarian drug market, these substances, which mainly belong to groups of synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cathinones or amphetamine derivatives, have become as popular as established illicit drugs, in particular among young adults.

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Drug use among students is reported in the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD). This study has been conducted regularly among 16-year-old students in Hungary since 1995. The results of the 2015 ESPAD study confirmed that cannabis remains the most commonly used drug among this group, albeit at a lower level than in 2011, and that lifetime use of cannabis among Hungarian students is somewhat lower than the ESPAD average (based on data from 35 countries). The prevalence rates of lifetime use of illicit drugs other than cannabis and NPS are similar to the ESPAD averages. In contrast, more Hungarian students reported use of alcohol in the last 30 days, and the reported frequency of heavy episodic drinking was also higher than the average for all countries.

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High-risk drug use and trends

Studies reporting estimates of high-risk 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 Hungary, high-risk drug use is linked mainly to the injection of stimulants, mostly psychoactive substance (NPS). In 2015, an estimated 6 707 people had injected in the previous year (0.98 per 1 000 population). Studies carried out in recent years indicate that there has been a shift from injecting established drugs (heroin and amphetamines) to injecting NPS (largely synthetic cathinones), which has been confirmed by toxicological analyses of residues from injecting paraphernalia. According to data on clients of needle and syringe programmes, the proportion of drug users injecting heroin who attend these facilities has decreased significantly over the last decade.

Data from specialised treatment centres in Hungary indicate that there has been a continuous increase in the number of clients seeking treatment services for primary use of NPS and a decrease in heroin treatment demand since 2010. Cannabis was the most common primary substance reported by first-time clients entering treatment in 2017, many of whom may entered treatment as an alternative to the criminal justice system. Approximately 1 out of 10 clients entering treatment is female.

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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.