Europeans using more cannabis since pandemic

People are using more cannabis since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a major survey of almost 50,000 people by EMCDDA.

2 men smoke a jointCannabis and MDMA were the drugs most impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, it found, with use of ‘party drug’ MDMA unsurprisingly falling during the same period.

The European Web Survey on Drugs ran during March and April 2021 when many countries were under lockdown restrictions, with responses from across 21 EU member states and Switzerland. The survey targeted adults who had used drugs, with the aim of understanding patterns of use – more than 90 per cent of respondents reported using cannabis during the previous 12 months, with 32 per cent saying they were now using more (herbal) cannabis. More than 40 per cent, however, said that they were using less MDMA/ecstasy.

Last summer harm reduction organisation The Loop warned clubbers and festival-goers to ‘pace themselves’ as venues started to re-open after lockdown restrictions, particularly as their tolerance may have reduced after a period of abstinence. There have also been reports of an MDMA ‘drought’ in the UK since lockdowns ended, with production falling due to lower demand and suppliers focusing on trafficking more lucrative drugs for which the criminal penalties are the same. This has led to warnings about the availability of heavily adulterated drugs, or other substances being sold as MDMA.

While the European Web Survey data refer to a ‘self-selected sample who have used at least one illicit drug in the 12 months prior to the survey’ and are not representative of the general population, when ‘carefully conducted and combined with traditional data-collection methods, they can help paint a more detailed, realistic and timely picture of drug use and drug markets’, says EMCDDA. The most commonly used drugs after cannabis were MDMA and cocaine (35 per cent of respondents in each case), followed by amphetamines (28 per cent), LSD (20 per cent), NPS (16 per cent) and ketamine (13 per cent).

EMCDDA director Alexis Goosdeel
EMCDDA director Alexis Goosdeel

‘Web surveys are a key ingredient in our monitoring of Europe’s shifting drugs problem,’ said EMCDDA director Alexis Goosdeel. ‘They help us reach an important target population through innovative online methods. Today’s results reveal the wide variety of drugs available across Europe and provide valuable information on emerging trends and changing patterns of use during the COVID-19 pandemic. An impressive 100 organisations joined us this time in building, translating and disseminating the survey, ensuring that this is now an invaluable tool to help tailor our responses and shape future drug policies’.

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