The prevalence of use of illicit substances among the adult population in Romania, although it remains low when compared with other European countries, increased steadily over the period 2004-16. Cannabis remains the most commonly used drug, and its use is concentrated among young adults aged 15-34 years. In 2016, the number of 15- to 34-year-olds who indicated that they had used cannabis within the last 12 months was twice that in 2013. In general, males report cannabis use more frequently than females.
Data from the most recent general population study indicate that about 2.5 % of Romanian adults have tried a new psychoactive substance (NPS) at least once in their lives, although regular use remains rare and is concentrated among young people.
Drug use among students is reported by the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD), which was conducted in Romania for the fifth time in 2015. These surveys report that cannabis is the most prevalent illicit substance among students and indicate that there has been an increase in the lifetime prevalence of cannabis use among 15- to 16-year-old students since 1999. Nevertheless, the prevalence of lifetime use of cannabis among Romanian students is only half the ESPAD average (based on data from 35 countries). The lifetime use of illicit substances other than cannabis and the lifetime use of NPS among Romanian students in 2015 were similar to the ESPAD averages. The non-prescribed use of tranquillisers or sedatives and the lifetime use of inhalants were lower than the ESPAD averages.
Studies reporting estimates of high-risk drug 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 Romania, the prevalence of high-risk opioid use was estimated to range from 0.8 to 2.9 per 1 000 of the adult population in 2017. The number of people who inject drugs (PWID) in Bucharest was estimated to be close to 9 000 in 2017.
Data from specialised treatment facilities suggest that heroin is the main primary drug among PWID, as nearly 9 out of 10 PWID entering treatment report it as a primary substance of use. In the last decade, there has been a change in the patterns of drug use, and a group of NPS has emerged in Romania. Around 5 % PWID entering treatment report NPS as the primary substance of use.
The decrease in the number of first-time treatment entrants for heroin as the primary drug stopped in 2017, as a slight increase was reported during this year. The number of first-time treatment clients for primary use of cannabis has grown since 2013. The increase in cannabis treatment demands may be largely attributable to the treatment offered as an alternative to imprisonment for certain categories of offences.
Approximately 1 out of 10 treatment clients in Romania is female; however, the proportion of females in treatment varies by type of substance used and by programme.