European Web Survey on Drugs 2021: top level findings, 21 EU countries and Switzerland

Introduction

The European Web Survey on Drugs collected data between March and April 2021 from people who use drugs, aged 18 or older, living in 21 EU and 9 non-EU countries. During this period the populations in many European countries were experiencing COVID-19-related lockdown or restrictions. Unless otherwise indicated, the data presented here refer to the 48469 respondents who reported having used at least one illicit drug in the 12 months prior to the survey (last 12 months use) and live in one of 21 EU countries covered by the survey and Switzerland (1).

Click here for more information on the methodology of the European Web Survey on Drugs.

Last update: 15 December 2021

Logo of the web survey on drugs

In summary

  • Most survey respondents (93 %) reported using cannabis during the previous 12 months, 35 % used MDMA/ecstasy, 35 % cocaine and 28 % amphetamine.
  • The most commonly reported motivations for cannabis use were relaxation, getting high and aiding sleep.
  • Home was reported as the most common setting for drug use during the period.
  • The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and national measures was reported to be greatest on the use of cannabis (increased consumption) and ecstasy/MDMA (decreased consumption).

Drug use patterns

Most survey respondents (93 %) reported that they had used cannabis during the previous 12 months, with little variation between countries.

MDMA/ecstasy, cocaine and amphetamine were the next most reported illicit substances, with the order of the three drugs varying by country.  

One fifth (20 %) of the sample reported using LSD in the last year while 16 % reported use of new psychoactive substances (NPS) and 13 % use of ketamine during the period. Heroin use was reported by 3 % of respondents.

Figure 1. Last year prevalence (n = 48469)

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

Motivation for drug use

The motivations to use particular drugs often reflect the effects users expect when they use them. The survey responses suggest herbal cannabis is taken for its calming and euphoric effects, specifically to reduce stress or to relax, to get high or for fun and to improve sleep. For MDMA, euphoric and socialising effects are reported as motivations.

Motivation for use may shed some light on the reported decrease in MDMA use by respondents during this period, characterised by a COVID-19-related lockdown, when many people were confined to their homes and access to venues for socialising was reduced. 

Figure 2a. Motivation for use of herbal cannabis in the last 12 months (n = 33718)

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

Figure 2b. Motivation for use of MDMA/ecstasy in the last 12 months (n = 10675)

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

Settings for drug use

By far the most commonly reported setting for drug use in the last 12 months was the home, mentioned by more than 85 % of the respondents. Home use would be expected to be predominant, though this pattern may have been accentuated by the reduced mobility resulting from COVID-19 lockdowns.

Figure 3. Settings for drug use in the last 12 months (n = 48469)

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

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on drug use

When asked about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their use of illicit drugs, respondents reported mixed experiences. Herbal cannabis is reported to have been used more, while MDMA, cocaine and amphetamines were used less.

Although the sample reporting heroin use was small, a notable proportion of these respondents reported increased use of heroin during the period.

Figure 4. Has the COVID-19 pandemic had any impact on your drug use?

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

Notes

(1) The analysis here covers 21 EU countries: Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden. Switzerland was also included in the analysis.
The web survey was also carried out in Albania, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia as part of the EMCDDA IPA7 project and in Georgia, Ukraine and Lebanon as part of the EMCDDA EU4MD project. Factsheets covering these countries are published separately.
* 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.

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.

Source data

Below you can find the source data tables used for the graphics on this page.

Table 1. Last year prevalence (n = 48469)
  % of respondents
Alcohol 94
Cannabis 93
Tobacco 84
MDMA/ecstasy 35
Cocaine 34
Amphetamine 28
LSD 20
NPS 16
Ketamine 13
Methamphetamine 9
Heroin 3
Table 2a. Motivation for herbal cannabis use in the last 12 months (n = 33718)
  % of respondents
To reduce stress/relax 78
To get high/for fun 70
To improve sleep 51
To treat depression/
anxiety
39
To socialise 35
To reduce pain/
inflammations
24
To enhance performance
(school/work/sport/etc.)
15
Out of curiosity/
to experiment
10
Other 5
Table 2b. Motivation for MDMA/ecstasy use in the last 12 months (n = 10675)
  % of respondents
To get high/for fun 87
To socialise 41
Out of curiosity/to experiment 24
To reduce stress/relax 22
To treat depression/anxiety 14
Other 7
To enhance performance
(school/work/sport/etc.)
3
To improve sleep 1
To reduce pain/inflammations 1
Table 3. Settings for drug use in last 12 months (n = 48469)
Setting % of respondents
Home 89
Public space (street, park, etc.) 54
Music festival or party 43
Club or bar 33
Work 12
School/university/training facility 11
Drug consumption room 2
Other 6
Table 4. Has the COVID-19 pandemic had any impact on your drug use? (% of respondents)
Substance I use less I use the same I use more Don't know/No answer
Ecstasy/MDMA 42 29 11 18
Cocaine powder 33 29 18 20
Amphetamine 29 33 18 20
Cannabis resin 25 38 21 16
Methamphetamine 25 33 17 25
Crack cocaine 23 36 25 16
New psychoactive substances (NPS) 22 35 25 18
Herbal cannabis 20 38 32 10
Heroin 17 40 26 17
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