logo of the EU drugs agency

You are viewing archived content

Please note that this page is a static copy of a previously published web page and is no longer actively maintained.
Be aware that the information contained here may be out-of-date.
For the most recent information, we recommend visiting the main website of the EMCDDA.

General population surveys (GPS)

General population surveys (GPS)

General population surveys aim to obtain comparable and reliable information on: the extent and pattern of consumption of different drugs in the general population; the characteristics and behaviours of users; and the attitudes of different population groups towards drug use. The information collected is then used to assess the situation, identify priorities and plan responses.

Overview of data

There remain some differences between countries in methodology (e.g. face-to-face interview, mail questionnaires) and small differences between countries should be interpreted with caution. Results presented in this Annual Report are based in the last year available for each country, but it should be noted that this is not the same year for all countries (in most cases the latest surveys were conducted between 2003 and 2006).

The general population surveys tables and graphics in the statistical bulletin are organised by age group (all adults – 15-64 years, young adults – 15-34 years and 15-24 years), type of prevalence (lifetime prevalence, last year prevalence and last month prevalence) and in case of graphics also according to drug of use (cannabis, amphetamines, ecstasy, and cocaine).

Table GPS-21 provides detailed methodological information on population surveys, from which the data comes and Table GPS-0 provides the bibliographic references for additional information.

Tables GPS-1 to GPS-6 and GPS-8 to GPS-19 are organised according to age group and type of prevalence.

Tables GPS-1 to GPS-6 and GPS-14 to GPS-16 list data from all available surveys, while GPS-8 to GPS-13 and GPS-17 to GPS-19 are based on latest available data in each country.

The table below summarises the data tables: the first table in each cell has all available data, while the second one has only the latest data available.


Age group / type of prevalence Lifetime prevalence Last year prevalence Last month prevalence
15-64 ('all adults') Table GPS-1 and Table GPS-8 Table GPS-3 and Table GPS-10 Table GPS-5 and Table GPS-12
15-34 ('young adults') Table GPS-2 and Table GPS-9 Table GPS-4 and Table GPS-11 Table GPS-6 and Table GPS-13
15-24 Table GPS-14 and Table GPS-17 Table GPS-15 and Table GPS-18 Table GPS-16 and Table GPS-19


Table GPS-7 provides data focused on indicators of more intensive cannabis use – last month prevalence of use (part (i)) and frequency of use in the past month (part (ii)), where data was available.

Figures GPS-17, GPS-18, GPS-19 and GPS-23 show comparative data for several drugs together, while other graphics are organised by drug type.

Cannabis use prevalence is shown in Figures GPS-1, GPS-2, GPS-3, GPS-4, GPS-7, GPS-10 and GPS-12.

Amphetamine use is shown in figures GPS-5, GPS-6, GPS-8 and GPS-22.

Ecstasy use data is displayed in figures GPS-9, GPS-11 and GPS-21.

Cocaine use prevalence can be found in figures GPS-13, GPS-14, GPS-15, GPS-16 and GPS-20.

Summary points


  • Recent surveys indicate that cannabis continues to be the illegal substance most frequently used in Europe. There is concern about intensive forms of use of the substance, especially among young people or adolescents with an EU average of about 22% of 15- to 64-year-olds having used it at least once$fn. National figures range from 2% to 37% (see Table GPS-8).
  • Current use (last 30 days) will include people using cannabis more regularly, although not necessarily in an intensive way. Country figures ranged almost 18-fold, between 0.5% and 8.7% (see Table GPS-12). Despite increasing concerns about regular or intensive forms of cannabis use, there is very limited information at European level.
  • National or local household, conscript, youth and school surveys have shown that cannabis use increased markedly during the 1990s in almost all EU countries, particularly among young people. This increase has continued until recently in many countries, although some cases show signs of stabilisation or a decrease in figures.

Amphetamines and ecstasy

  • Surveys of the general population indicate that the most commonly used synthetic drug, and after cannabis the most commonly used illicit drug, in many European countries is ecstasy (17 countries, last year prevalence). In nine other European countries, amphetamines are the most commonly used synthetic drug.
  • Among young adults (15–34 years) lifetime experience of amphetamines use is generally reported as 0.2–5.9%, with much higher prevalence in the United Kingdom (England and Wales) and Denmark (See Table GPS-19).
  • Among young adults (15–34 years), lifetime prevalence of ecstasy use has the highest figures reported for the Czech Republic (14.6%), the United Kingdom (13.3%) and the Netherlands (7.4%) (See Table GPS-9). On average, over 5% of young Europeans have tried ecstasy.
  • There are indications of stabilisation or even decrease in amphetamine and ecstasy use in some countries. Amphetamine use has declined clearly among young adults in the United Kingdom (England and Wales) since 1996, and to a lesser extent in Denmark and Czech Republic, while in other countries the prevalence levels seem stable or with small increases (See Figure GPS-8).
  • Ecstasy use among young adults (15–34 years) presents a mixed picture (see Figure GPS-21). After general increases in use during the 1990s, in recent years several countries have observed some stabilisation or even moderate decreases.


  • Experience during lifetime is reported by more than 5% of the whole adult population (aged 15-64) of only three countries: Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom (see Table GPS-8). In the last year, at least 4.5 million Europeans (on average nearly1.5%) have used this drug (see Table GPS-10) and in the last month it is estimated that around 2 million Europeans (over 0.5 % as average) have used cocaine (see Table GPS-12), although it is likely that these are underestimates as prevalence can be higher among difficult to reach groups, or people do not want to disclose current use of cocaine.

Page last updated: Monday, 19 March 2012