Substance Use By Young People In The European Union

"Considering the ESPAD average, the lifetime prevalence of illicit drug use increased from 1995 to 2011 and has declined since then.

"Cannabis was the most widely used illicit drug in all ESPAD countries. On average, 16 % of students had used cannabis at least once in their lifetime. The countries with the highest prevalence of cannabis use were Czechia (28 %), Italy (27 %) and Latvia (26 %). The lowest levels of cannabis use (2.9-7.3 %) were reported in Kosovo, North Macedonia, Iceland and Serbia. On average, boys reported cannabis use to a larger extent than girls (18 % versus 13 %). This was the case in all countries except Bulgaria, Slovakia, Malta, the Netherlands and Czechia.

"Among all students who had used cannabis in the last 12 months (13 % of the total), the drug was used on average on about 10 occasions (9.9). In France, Italy, Serbia, Austria and Cyprus, cannabis was used once a month on average (12 or more occasions). The lowest average frequency of cannabis use was found in the Faroes (4.4 occasions). Overall, boys reported a higher frequency of cannabis use than girls.

"Overall, 7.1 % of the students had used cannabis in the last 30 days. A high variability was found among ESPAD countries, with the maximum rate observed in Italy (15 %) and the minimum in Kosovo (1.4 %). More boys than girls reported cannabis use in the last 30 days (boys 8.5 % versus girls 5.8 % on average), with statistically significant gender differences found in more than two thirds of ESPAD countries.

"To estimate the risk of cannabis-related problems, a core module, the CAST (Cannabis Abuse Screening Test) scale, was included in the ESPAD questionnaire. The prevalence of high-risk cannabis users (see the methodology section for a definition) ranged from 1.4 % to 7.3 % across countries, with an average of 4.0 %. Overall, the prevalence of high-risk cannabis users was higher among boys than girls (4.7 % versus 3.3 %). At the country level, statistically significant gender differences with higher rates among boys were found in 16 ESPAD countries.

"Trends in cannabis use indicate a general increase in both lifetime and last-30-day use between 1995 and 2019, from 11 % to 16 % and from 4.1 % to 7.4 %, respectively. Both prevalence rates reached their highest levels in 2011, with lifetime use slightly decreasing thereafter and current use levelling off.

"On average, 1-2 % of the ESPAD students had ever used an illicit drug other than cannabis at least once. After cannabis, the most widely used illicit drugs were ecstasy (MDMA), LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) or other hallucinogens, cocaine and amphetamine. Lifetime prevalence rates for methamphetamine, crack, heroin and GHB (gammahydroxybutyrate) were lower than those for the other illicit drugs (about 1.0 % on average). At the country level, higher rates of lifetime use were found in Estonia and Latvia (lifetime use of ecstasy, LSD or other hallucinogens of about 5.0 %)."


ESPAD Group (2020), ESPAD Report 2019: Results from the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs, EMCDDA Joint Publications, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.