Drugs are used by many different people and in many situations.
The latest data from the Office for National Statistics: Drug misuse in England and Wales: year ending June 2022 showed
“Approximately 1 in 11 adults aged 16 to 59 years (9.2%; approximately 3 million adults) and approximately 1 in 5 adults aged 16 to 24 years (18.6%; approximately 1.1 million adults) reported last year drug use in the year ending June 2022; there was no change compared with the year ending March 2020”
“Since estimates began in the year ending December 1995, cannabis has consistently been the most used drug in England and Wales; in the latest year, 7.4% and 16.2% of adults aged 16 to 59 years and 16 to 24 years, respectively, reported having used the drug in the last year; a similar level to the year ending March 2020 and the year ending March 2012; however, levels are much lower compared with the year ending December 1995.”
Other key findings were:
- In the year ending June 2022, 2.7% of adults aged 16 to 59 years and 4.7% of adults aged 16 to 24 years reported last year Class A drug use; a significant decrease from the year ending March 2020 when this was 3.4% and 7.4%, respectively.
- There were no changes in last year drug use for the majority of individual drugs in the year ending June 2022 compared with the year ending March 2020, except for ecstasy and nitrous oxide; prevalence of ecstasy use fell from 1.4% to 0.7% in adults aged 16 to 59 years and from 4.0% to 1.1% in adults aged 16 to 24 years while prevalence of nitrous oxide use fell from 2.4% to 1.3% for adults aged 16 to 59 years and from 8.7% to 3.9% for adults aged 16 to 24 years.
- Decreases in the use of Class A drugs, ecstasy and nitrous oxide may have been a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and government restrictions on social contact.
- In the year ending June 2022, 2.6% of adults aged 16 to 59 years reported being frequent users of drugs (using them more than once a month in the past year); this was similar to the year ending March 2020 (2.1%).
On the prevalence of each drug:
- Cannabis continues to be the most common drug used in the last year by 7.4% and 16.2% of adults aged 16 to 59 years and 16 to 24 years.
- Powder cocaine saw no change in the prevalence compared to the year ending March 2020, powder cocaine use for adults aged 16 to 59 years (2.0%) and 16 to 24 years (4.0%). However, levels were higher than the year ending December 1995 when estimates were first recorded.
- Ecstasy prevalence was at its lowest level since data were first collected. 0.7% of adults aged 16 to 59 years and 1.1% of adults aged 16 to 24 years had reported taking ecstasy in the last year; a 47% decrease for those aged 16 to 59 years and a 72% decrease for those aged 16 to 24 years compared with the year ending March 2020.
- New psychoactive substances (NPS) use showed no change in prevalence compared to the year ending March 2020: The level of NPS use in the last year among adults aged 16 to 59 years was 0.4% and 0.9% for 16 to 24 years.
- Nitrous oxide prevalence fell. In the last year 1.3% of adults aged 16 to 59 years and 3.9% of adults aged 16 to 24 years had used nitrous oxide, this is equivalent to around 444,000 and 230,000 individuals, respectively. This is around half as many as reported use in the year ending March 2020.
The ONS’s previous publication (Office for National Statistics: Drug misuse in England and Wales: year ending March 2020) reported:
- Amphetamine use in the last year in adults aged 16 to 59 years fell by 42% compared with the previous year (to 109,000 people), continuing the long-term decline since the year ending December 1995.
- Anabolic steroid use among 16- to 59-year-olds in the last year also fell compared with the previous year from approximately 62,000 to 31,000 people, following a period over the last decade where reported use was relatively flat.
More reports on drug prevalence:
Drugs in the Time of COVID: Interim Report, (2021)
This interim report presents findings from the first 2,621 responses, received between the survey’s launch on the 9th April 2020 and the 17th September 2020 (inclusive); which captures drug purchases made in anticipation of and during the first national lockdown, as well as purchases made during the easing, and eventual lifting, of that first lockdown | Release, UK
Statistics on Drug Misuse, England, 2019
According to this report, there were 7,376 hospital admissions for drug related mental and behavioural disorders. 9.4% adults (16 to 59) had taken an illicit drug in the last year, whereas 20.3% of young adults (16-24) had taken an illicit drug in the last year. There were 2,917 deaths related to poisoning by drug misuse | NHS Digital, UK
For international perspectives see:
ESPAD Report 2019 (Published Nov 2020)
The report is based on the findings of a 2019 survey of 15- to 16- year-old students in 35 European countries and provides a unique insight into substance use and other forms of risk behaviour. It includes comparable data on illicit drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, e-cigarettes and social media as well as gaming and gambling | ESPAD and EMCDDA, Portugal
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
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
Updated January 2023