European Web Survey on Drugs 2021: methodology


The European Web Survey on Drugs collected data between March and April 2021 from people who use drugs, aged 18 or older, living in EU and non-EU countries. Respondents were self-selected and country recruitment strategies consisted of a mixture of social media campaigns, press releases and contacts with drug-related networks. On the basis of their drug use, respondents were presented with modules on one or more of the following main substances: cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy/MDMA, amphetamine, methamphetamine, heroin and new psychoactive substances. Other drug modules, relevant to specific contexts, were added by individual countries. Questionnaires were presented in the languages of the countries. In EU countries the survey was a collaboration between the EMCDDA, Reitox national focal points and individual NGOs, and in non-EU countries between the EMCCDA, national contact points and NGOs. Over 100 organisations participated.

Last update: 15 December 2021


In the 2021 edition of the European Web Survey on Drugs (EWSD), the EMCDDA collaborated with partners in 30 countries, running the survey simultaneously in 27 languages (1).

New to this year's round was the participation of the agency's partners from the Western Balkans and the European Neighbourhood Policy area through the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA7) and EU4Monitoring Drugs (EU4MD) project.

Altogether more than 360 000 people visited the survey start page of which about 84 000 agreed to participate in the survey, resulting in over 50 000 valid responses.

Figure 1. Participants by country

The source data for this graphic is available in Table 1 on this page.

Use of social media to recruit respondents

The survey was advertised in a number of different ways, which varied by country. Around 80 % of the respondents said that they found out about the survey through shared posts or paid advertising on social media.

Figure 2. How do you know about this survey? (n= 51 304)

The source data for this graphic is available in Table 2 on this page.

The success of the recruitment strategies using social media is illustrated by an analysis of the number of respondents attracted to the survey via different social media platforms and the proportion agreeing to participate. Ads or shared posts on Facebook reached the largest number of potential participants, of which about a third agreed to participate in the survey and completed it partially or fully. In descending order, visitors to Reddit, Twitter and Instagram were more likely to participate than Facebook visitors though these platforms reached a smaller number of potential participants. Relatively few potential participants were recruited through Google and YouTube.

Figure 3. Number of participants by social media platform

The source data for this graphic is available in Table 3 on this page.


Visitors to the website who chose not to participate in the survey were asked for their reason.

Of those who answered, concerns about privacy were reported, along with a lack of understanding of the purpose of the survey and feeling uncomfortable answering the questions, suggesting that reporting on an illicit activity remains a sensitive issue even within web surveys.

Visitors were informed that the approximate time to complete the survey was 15 minutes, and some 15 % found this to be too much effort or too much time.

Approximately 40 % of those who responded were recruited but had no interest in the topic or had not used drugs.

Figure 4. Reasons for non-participation (n = 1 245)

The source data for this graphic is available in Table 4 on this page.

Demographic characteristics of respondents

Among the survey respondents, 70 % were males and 30 % were females. A majority of respondents were under 35 years of age.

Figure 5. Demographic characteristics of respondents (n = 50 852)

The source data for this graphic is available in Table 5 on this page.


Participating countries

The data presented in this factsheet refer to all the participant countries in the European Web Survey on Drugs (EWSD).

European Union: Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden

EU4MD: Georgia, Lebanon, Ukraine

IPA7: Albania, Kosovo (2), Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia

Other countries: Switzerland

Using web surveys

While web surveys are not representative of the general population, when carefully conducted and combined with traditional data-collection methods, they can help paint a more detailed, realistic and timely picture of drug use and drug markets in Europe. As such, they are a key ingredient in the EMCDDA’s responsiveness to an ever-shifting drugs problem.

For more detailed information on the project, please see our dedicated page on the European Web Survey on Drugs.

(1) Languages in 2021: Albanian, Arabic, Bulgarian, Czech, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, Georgian, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish and Ukrainian.

(2) Kosovo: This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

Source data


Table 1. Participants by country
Country Number of participants
Albania 736
Austria 2848
Bulgaria 997
Cyprus 1291
Czechia 2544
Estonia 2163
Finland 5843
Georgia 661
Germany 1676
Greece 438
Hungary 12590
Ireland 8104
Italy 2844
Kosovo 2612
Latvia 2753
Lebanon 573
Lithuania 1928
Luxembourg 1423
Montenegro 602
North Macedonia 674
Poland 2980
Portugal 6888
Romania 913
Serbia 792
Slovakia 3805
Slovenia 2738
Spain 2083
Sweden 8223
Switzerland 1344
Ukraine 1248
Table 2. How do you know about this survey? (n= 51304)
  % of respondents
Social media shared post 56
Paid advertising on social media 23
Friends 7
Drug info websites,
or websites of drug services
Printed media 1
Advertising at drug services venues 1
Other 9
Table 3. Number of participants by social media platform
Platform % of users who agreed to participate Total number of participants
Facebook 34 38711
Google 6 403
Instagram 38 6117
Youtube 2 251
Twitter 51 1520
Reddit 67 452
Other/unknown 17 36860
Table 4. Reasons for non-participation in the survey (n = 1245)
  % of respondents
I don't use drugs 29
I worry about privacy 21
I am not interested 10
It is too much effort 8
I don't have time 8
I don't understand the purpose 7
I don't feel comfortable answering the questions 6
Other 5
Table 5. Demographic characteristics of respondents (n = 50852) (Number of respondents)
  Male Female
18 to 24 14489 7684
25 to 34 13376 5491
35 to 44 5643 1546
45 and older 2057 566