Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

A visual picture of drug use in Europe 2019

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A series of striking infographics show the latest drug trends in Europe and the surprising level of difference between countries.

EMCDDA 2019 Drug Report

Yesterday (6 June 2019), the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) published its annual report on drugs in Europe. Next week, I will look at the the UK specific findings; this post looks at some of the main trends across the continent,featuring a series of data visualisations.


The European drug problem was once defined by injecting heroin use. Today, new heroin treatment demands are low by historical standards, rates of injecting use have fallen, and the number of new cases of HIV attributed to drug injecting each year has decreased by around 40 % over the last decade. 

However, the needs of an ageing and often increasingly vulnerable cohort of long-term opioid users continue to grow. Overdose deaths reflect this, with victims now on average aged 39 years, as does the high prevalence of both physical and psychological health problems among this group. 

Synthetic opioids that are usually used as medicines appear to be playing an increasing role in the drug problem in many parts of Europe — these include drugs used for substitution treatment and pain relief. One in every five of those entering drug treatment for an opioid-related problem now reports a synthetic opioid, rather than  heroin, as their main problem drug.

Current data on cocaine show that both the number of seizures and the volumes seized are at an all-time high. This is beginning to show up in treatment figures with an increase of 35% of primary cocaine users since 2014.


The visualisation below reminds us that although cannabis is by far the most popular club, the numbers using cocaine, MDMA, amphetamines and opioids remain substantial:

Overdose deaths

The graphic below  shows trends in overdose deaths with the 35-39 year age band the most at risk.

Price and Purity

The visualisation below shows that while the price of cocaine has been going down over the last decade. its purity has continued to go up – perhaps partly explaining why it is Europe’s second favourite drug.

Heroin users in treatment

The graphic below shows that there remains an average gap of 11 years before Europeans’ first use of heroin and their entry into treatment. This is the same as last year although the average age of first use has increased by one year.

Drug law offences

As you can see, most prosecutions for drug offences remain focused on individuals and their personal use rather than on those involved in drug dealing.

These charts are just a very small selection of the data available. If you want to investigate further, then this page  will allow you to look at a wide range of issues such as prevalence, overdoses, infectious diseases, drug seizures and prison drug use as well as country-specific charts.

Related posts you might like:

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