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 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:

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