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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 noticed that it is not the same year for all countries (in most cases the latest surveys were conducted between 2004 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 year olds), 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-121 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 summarizes 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 and prevalence of daily or almost daily use (20 days or more/30) based on the available data for the participating countries in the 2007 field trial (part i) and frequency of use in the past month (part ii), where data was available in the 2004 field trial.

Figures GPS-17, GPS-18 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. Information on trends can be found in figures GPS-4, GPS-8, GPS-10, GPS-14, GPS-21 and GPS-20.


Summary points


It is estimated that more than 70 million European adults have used cannabis at least once (lifetime prevalence), that is over one in five (about 22 %) (1) of all 15- to 64-year olds. National figures vary widely from 1.7 % to 36.5 %, but with half of the countries in the range 10 % to 25 % (see Table GPS-8).

Estimates suggest that around 23 million European adults have used cannabis in the last year, producing an average figure of about 7 % of all 15- to 64-year olds (see Table GPS-10) while among young adults the European average is calculated at 13 % (range 2–20 %, see Table GPS-11).

Moving to more regular cannabis use, although in most cases it will not be intensive or problematic use, It is estimated that about 12.5 million European adults used the drug in the previous month, on average about 4 % of all 15- to 64-year olds with national figures ranging from 0.5 % to 8.7 % (see Table GPS-12).

Estimating intensive and long term patterns of use is an important public health issue. Daily or almost daily use (20 days or more in the last 30 days) could be a useful indicator of intensive use. Based on data for 13 countries that participated a second field trial on the frequency of cannabis use, it is roughly estimated that over 1 % (2) of European adults (15–64 years) are using cannabis daily or almost daily (about 4 million). Most of them (about 3 million) are aged between 15 and 34 years, meaning roughly 2 to 2.5 % of all young adults (see Table GPS-7).

Information from the most recent national surveys shows a stabilisation of cannabis use in many countries. An assessment, using last year prevalence figures among young adults, from 2001 and 2006 (3) was possible in 16 countries. If an upward or downward change of 20 % or more from the baseline figure is considered as a significant difference, there was an increase in cannabis use in five countries; a decrease in two countries and a stable situation in nine countries (see Figure GPS-4).

Amphetamines and ecstasy

Recent population surveys indicate that lifetime prevalence of the use of amphetamines in Europe varies between countries from 0.1 % to 11.9% of all adults (15–64 years). On average, 3.3 % of all European adults have used amphetamines at least once. Use of the drug in the last year is much lower, with a European average of 0.7 % (range 0–1.3 %). These European averages suggest that roughly 11 million people have tried amphetamines, and about 2 million used the drug in the last year. Among young adults (15–35 years), lifetime prevalence of amphetamine use varies between countries, from 0.2 % to 16.5 %, with a European average of about 5 %. For last year use, the majority of countries report prevalence rates between 0.7 % and 1.9 %.

In terms of ecstasy use, lifetime prevalence estimates lie between 0.3 and 7.2 % of all European adults (15–64 years, see Table GPS-8). Use of the drug in the last year varied across Europe from 0.2 to 3.5 %. It is estimated that about 9.5 million adults have tried ecstasy (3 % on average) and that about 3 million (0.8 %) have used it in the last year (see Table GPS-10).

Among young adults (15–34 years), lifetime prevalence of ecstasy use ranges at national level from 0.5 % to 14.6 % (see Table GPS-9), while between 0.4 % and 7.7 % of this age group reported using the drug in the last year (see Table GPS-11). On average, it is estimated that 7.5 million young Europeans (5.6 %) have tried ecstasy, with around 2.5 million (1.8 %) having used the drug in the last year.

After general increases in the 1990s, reports of stabilising or even decreasing trends in amphetamine and ecstasy consumption in Europe are supported by the most recent data. Data from some countries suggest that cocaine could be replacing amphetamines and ecstasy among some sectors of the drug-using population (see Figure GPS-23). This may be the case in the United Kingdom and Denmark, and to some extent in Spain.



It is estimated that around 12 million EU citizens have used it at least once in their lifetime; on average, 3.6 % of European adults aged 15–64 years. Cocaine remains as the second the most used substance after cannabis, although its use is not uniform across Europe (national figures range from 0.4 % to 7.7 %). For young adults, among those cocaine use is concentrated, it is estimated that 7.5 million have used it at least once (range 0.7 % to 12.7 %).

Moving to a more recent use, it is estimated that 4 million have used it in the past year (1.2 % on average). Variation between countries is again considerable, with results from recent national surveys reporting last year prevalence rates between 0.1 % and 3 %; though only four countries report rates above 1 %. Among young adults prevalence estimates range from 0.2 % to 5.4 % (with an average of 2.3 % that corresponds to 3.5 million users).

For last month use, figures for all adults range from 0 % to 1.6 % with 2 million estimated users (from those 1.5 million are young adults, see Tables GPS-12 and GPS-13).

Overall, cocaine use appears to be concentrated in a few countries, notably in Spain and the United Kingdom and to a lesser extent in Italy, Denmark and Ireland, while use of the drug is relatively low in most other European countries (see Figures GPS-13 and GPS-18 in the 2008 Statistical bulletin. See also Tables GPS-1, GPS-3, GPS-5 for all years and GPS-8, GPS-10 and GPS-12 for latest data).



(1) The European averages proportions were computed as average of national prevalence in most recent national surveys weighted according to country population in the concerned age ranges (adding five years age populations taken from Eurostat: http://epp.eurostat.cec.eu.int/portal/page?_pageid=0,1136184,0_45572595&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL). Total numbers were computed by multiplying prevalence in percentages for the concerned population in each country, and in countries without information, imputing the average prevalence. Figures here are probably a minimum, as there could be some underreporting.

(2) The European averages presented are a rough estimation based on a weighted average (for the population) for countries with information. The average result is imputed for countries without information. The figures obtained are 1.2% for all adults (15–64 years) and 2.3% for young adults (15–34 years).

(3) When information on the exact years was not available, it was taken information from the previous or following year. If there was not information on the reference years, or with one year of difference, the analysis was not conducted.