Drugs are used by many different people and in many situations.
The latest statistics from the Home Office Crime Survey for England and Wales 2015/16 suggest that among people aged 16-59, use of most drugs has been decreasing for several years, and is around the lowest since measurements began in 1996.
The key findings were:
- Around 1 in 12 (8.4%) of adults aged 16 to 59 had taken a drug in the last year. This is around 2.7 million people. This level of drug use is similar to the 2014/15 survey (8.6%), but significantly lower than a decade ago (10.5% in the 2005/06 survey).
- Over one-third (35.0%) of adults aged 16 to 59 had taken drugs at some point during their lifetime.
- As in previous years, cannabis was the most commonly used drug, with 6.5% of adults aged 16 to 59 having used it in the last year (around 2.1 million people)
- Among younger adults aged 16 to 24, cannabis was also the most commonly used drug, with 15.8% having used it in the last year (around 975,000 young adults).
- As in recent years, the next most commonly used drug after cannabis among adults aged 16 to 59 was powder cocaine (2.2% in the 2015/16 survey, equating to around 725,000 people). By contrast, powder cocaine is the third most commonly used drug among young adults aged 16 to 24 (4.4% or 274,000 young adults) after cannabis and ecstasy. There have been decreases in the frequent use of powder cocaine and ecstasy.
- The level of last year ecstasy use by adults aged 16 to 59 in the 2015/16 survey (1.5%, or 492,000 people) was similar to the previous year (1.7%), and to that seen a decade ago.
- LSD use fell, driven largely by a fall among young adults aged 16 to 24.
- Mephedrone use fell, driven largely by a fall among young adults aged 16 to 24.
- Ketamine use fell among 16 to 59 year olds, from 0.5 to 0.3 per cent. The 2015/16 Home Office showed that around 94,000 adults had used ketamine in the last year.
- Steroid use fell from 0.5% to 0.1% of 16 to 24 year olds (equating to around 4,000 young adults who had used anabolic steroids in the last year).
- The 2015/16 survey estimated that in the last year 7.5% of adults aged 16 to 59 had taken a prescription-only painkiller not prescribed to them: 7.4% (around 2.4 million adults) said that they had taken the painkillers purely for medical reasons, while a small proportion (0.2%, or 33,000 adults) said it was just for the feeling or experience it gave them.
- 3.3% of all adults aged 16 to 59 were classed as frequent drug users. This equated to around 1.1 million people
Latest reports on drug prevalence
For international perspectives see:
The Global Drug Survey results 2016 (PDF) The world’s largest survey into drug and alcohol use | GDS, UK
European Drug Report 2018
Revealing the latest drug market trends and the factors driving them. Also looks at the most recent developments in drug prevention, treatment and policy. | EMCDDA, Portugal
For England and Wales see:
Drug Misuse: Findings from the 2015/16 Crime Survey for England and Wales (PDF)
Examines the extent and trends in illicit drug use among a sample of 16 to 59 year old residents in households in England and Wales | Home Office, UK
Statistics on Drugs Misuse: England, 2016
This annual statistical report presents information on drug misuse among both adults and children. The topics covered include: Prevalence of drug misuse, including the types of drugs used; Trends in drug misuse over recent years; Patterns of drug misuse among different groups of the population; Health outcomes related to drug misuse including hospital admissions, drug treatment and number of deaths | HSCIC, UK
Updated January 2017