Cannabis is the illicit drug most commonly used by the adult general population aged 15-64 years in Latvia. Drug use is mainly concentrated among young adults aged 15-34 years, and males generally report illicit drug use, particularly cannabis use, more often than females. The lifetime prevalence of cannabis use has remained relatively stable among young adults in Latvia. The use of other illicit drugs is less common among the general population. Experimentation with new psychoactive substances (NPS) emerged as a trend in 2011; however, regular use of these substances remains uncommon.
Drug use among 15- to 16-year-old students is reported in the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD). This study has been conducted in Latvia since 1999 and the most recent survey was carried out in 2015. The 2015 ESPAD suffered from some methodological issues in Latvia; therefore, the comparability of the Latvian data should be considered limited. The lifetime prevalence of NPS use reported by Latvian students was higher than the ESPAD average (based on data from 35 countries), whereas the lifetime use of cannabis and of illicit drugs other than cannabis was more or less in line with the ESPAD average. Of the other key substances, the lifetime use of inhalants by Latvian students was clearly higher than the ESPAD average, while the results for cigarette use and heavy episodic drinking in the past 30 days were slightly above average. The long-term trend indicates a continuous increase in lifetime prevalence rates of cannabis use among Latvian adolescents from 2003 to 2011.
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.
High-risk drug use in Latvia is mainly linked to the use of opioids and amphetamines. The estimated number of high-risk opioid users in 2017 was 7 100 (around 5.6 per 1 000 adult population). The same study estimated that there were 2 234 high-risk amphetamine users (1.8 per 1 000 adult population) in the country. Available data from other sources indicate that opioid use (including the use of a home-made opioid called hanka) may have decreased, with some opioid users switching to amphetamines in the past decade. The prevalence of injecting drug use was estimated at 6 per 1 000 adult population in 2016.
Data from specialised treatment centres indicate that the number of first-time clients entering heroin treatment has remained relatively stable since 2010, while an increase has been reported in first-time amphetamine treatment demands. Almost all first-time treatment clients who report primary heroin use inject it, and injecting is also the preferred mode of more than half of first-time primary amphetamine clients.
Since 2013, cannabis has been the most frequently reported primary illicit substance among those entering treatment for the first time. In general, cannabis users entering treatment for the first time are younger than clients seeking treatment for other illicit drug use.