How many people use drugs?

Drugs are used by many different people and in many situations.

The latest statistics from the Home Office Crime Survey for England and Wales 2017/18 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 11 (9.0%) adults aged 16 to 59 had taken a drug in the last year. This
    equated to around 3.0 million people, and was similar to the 2016/17 survey (8.5%). The
    trend in last year drug use among 16 to 59 year olds has been relatively flat since the
    2009/10 survey, and the latest estimate was similar to a decade ago (9.4% in 2007/08).
    However, the 2017/18 prevalence estimate was lower than in 1996 (11.1%), when the
    time series began.
  • Around 1 in 5 (19.8%) adults aged 16 to 24 had taken a drug in the last year. This
    proportion was more than double that of the wider age group, and equates to around 1.2
    million people. This was similar to the 2016/17 survey (19.2%), but there was a decrease
    from 1996 (29.7%). There was no significant change compared with a decade ago
    (21.4% in 2007/08).
  • Around 1 in 29 (3.5%) of adults aged 16 to 59 had taken a Class A drug in the last
    year, equivalent to 1.1 million people. This increased compared with the previous year
    and a decade ago (2007/08; both 3.0%).
  • Class A drug use among 16 to 24 year olds has been increasing since 2011/12.
    While not statistically significant from year to year, there is an upward trend apparent in
    the use of Class A drugs, particularly among 16 to 24 year olds.
  • As in previous years, cannabis was the most commonly used drug in the 2017/18
    CSEW, with 7.2 per cent of adults aged 16 to 59 having used it in the last year (around
    2.4 million people).

Latest reports on drug prevalence

For international perspectives see:

The World Drug Report 2019
Globally, some 35 million people are estimated to suffer from drug use disorders and who require treatment services. The Report also estimates the number of opioid users at 53 million, up 56 per cent from previous estimates, and that opioids are responsible for two thirds of the 585,000 people who died as a result of drug use in 2017. Globally, 11 million people injected drugs in 2017, of whom 1.4 million live with HIV and 5.6 million with hepatitis C | UNODC, Switzerland

Global Drug Survey 2019 (PDF)
Key findings from this year’s report into global drug trends | 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

Latest wastewater data reveal drug-taking habits in over 70 European cities and an increase in the detection of stimulants, 2019
The latest findings from the largest European project in the emerging science of wastewater analysis are presented today by the Europe-wide SCORE group, in association with the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA) | EMCDDA, Portugal