Studies of the problematic drug use population

Overview of the data  |  Tables  |  Graphics  |  Supplementary downloadable tables  |  Methods and definitions

Overview of the data

The index below lists the tables in the bulletin, the supplementary downloadable tables and the associated graphics in the section dealing with problem drug use, along with a brief summary overview. See also the main overall index for all sections in the statistical bulletin.

Tables and graphics present summary information on the estimated numbers of problem drug users and injecting drug users, along with the corresponding prevalence rates in the adult population (aged 15 to 64). Estimates are made by a variety of methods in each country, and data are presented for the most recent years available. Estimates at the national level are likely to show lower variability than sub-national estimates.

Time trend analysis is restricted by the fact that few countries are able to provide regular estimates of PDU prevalence and even fewer can provide regular estimates of IDU prevalence. This suggests the need for strengthening surveillance capacity is this area. The full information on which the summaries are based can be found in the supplementary downloadable tables.

Summary points

  • For estimates of PDU, the midpoints of the prevalence ranges all lie between 1 and 10 cases per 1000 of the adult population (aged 15 to 64) (2000 to 2004).

  • Prevalence appears to differ strongly between countries. In cases where different estimation methods have been used for the same country the results are largely consistent.

  • The estimates from new Member States that are available do not suggest higher prevalence rates than in the old Member States (Figure PDU-1 part (i)).

  • Few countries are able to provide national estimates for injecting drug use. Where available they are likely to relate mostly to recent injecting.

  • All latest estimates of IDU (2000 to 2004) are between 1 and 6 cases per 1000 of the population aged 15 to 64, with the exception of Estonia, where the estimate reaches 15 cases per 1000 inhabitants aged 15 to 64.

  • Data available suggest important differences between countries in prevalence of IDU (Figure PDU-2 part (i)).

  • The proportion of current injectors among heroin users entering drug treatment shows wide variation in levels and trends.

  • In some countries strong decreases have occurred during the 1990s and current levels are low, but this is not a general picture. Several other countries show very high proportions injecting that are steadily maintained or somewhat decreasing in recent years.

  • Trends in the proportion of treated heroin users who are injectors must in most countries be seen in the context of declining numbers of heroin users entering treatment for the fist time (Figure PDU-3 part (i)).

  • Trends in injecting drug use estimates show a more stable picture, with some increases and some declines, although data availability is overall low (Figure PDU-5).

  • Trends in problem drug use estimates suggest a general increase since the mid 1990s.

  • However in recent years trends seem to be stabilising, with some countries showing clear signs of a decline, whilst elsewhere estimates are rising or a more stable picture is reported (Figure PDU-4 part (i)).

  • Recently other indicators suggested a development towards higher diversification of problem drug use with the increase of poly-drug use, decrease in heroin use and increase in stimulants use (e.g. cocaine) in several countries. The EMCDDA has therefore started to distinguish opioid and stimulant estimates within problem drug use, however estimates for problem stimulant use are still scarce (Figure PDU-4 part (ii), Figure PDU-1 part (iii)).

  • Sub-national estimates suggest that prevalence of PDU can vary strongly between cities and regions. The reported pattern of estimates within a country can depend heavily on the availability of estimates and choice of geographic areas studied (Figure PDU-6 part (i), Figure PDU-7).