Skip navigation.
Home

Netherlands Compared With The United States

Prevalence of substance use in The Netherlands
Usage in The Netherlands by substance and frequency of use

For basic Netherlands drug use data and information on Dutch drug policies, see The Netherlands section of the Drug War Facts International Chapter.
http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/The+Netherlands

  1. (Drug Use and Crime Indicators - Comparison Between The US and The Netherlands)

    Social Indicator Comparison Year USA Netherlands
    Lifetime prevalence of marijuana use 2009 41.5% (ages 12 and up)1 25.7% (ages 15-64)2
    Past year prevalence of marijuana use 2009 11.3% (ages 12 and up)1 7.0% (ages 15-64)2
    Lifetime prevalence of heroin use 2009 1.5% (ages 12 and up)1 0.5% (ages 15-64)2
    Prison Population Rate per 100,000 population Dec. 31 2011 (US) / Sept. 30 2012 (Netherlands) 716 3 82 3
    Per capita spending on criminal justice system (in Euros) 1998 €379 4 €223 4
    Homicide rate per 100,000 population 2012 4.75 0.95
     
    Source: 
    1: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2010). Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Volume II. Technical Appendices and Selected Prevalence Tables (Office of Applied Studies, NSDUH Series H-38B, HHS Publication No. SMA 10-4586Appendices). Rockville, MD, p. 99, Table G.2, and p. 101, Table G.4.
    http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/NSDUH/2k9NSDUH/2k9ResultsApps.pdf
    2:  "The Netherlands Drug Situation 2011: Report to the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point" (Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction and the Ministry of Security and Justice Research and Documentation Centre, 2012), p. 40, Table 2.1.1.
    http://www.trimbos.org/~/media/English%20site/AF1130%20The%20Netherlands...
    3:  Walmsley, Roy, "World Prison Population List (Tenth Edition)" (Kings College, London, England: International Centre for Prison Studies, 2013), Table 2, p. 3, and Table 4, p. 5.
    http://www.prisonstudies.org/sites/prisonstudies.org/files/resources/dow...
    4:  van Dijk, Frans & Jaap de Waard, "Legal infrastructure of the Netherlands in international perspective: Crime control" (Netherlands: Ministry of Justice, June 2000), p. 9, Table S.13.
    5:  UNODC Global Study on Homicide 2013 (United Nations publication, Sales No. 14.IV.1), Table 8.1, p. 126 and p. 132
    http://www.unodc.org/documents/gsh/pdfs/2014_GLOBAL_HOMICIDE_BOOK_web.pd...

  2. Basic Data

    (Alcohol and Cannabis Use by Youth) "Results—Laws regarding alcohol and cannabis were found to be strictest in the United States, somewhat less strict in Canada, and least strict in the Netherlands. On most measures of drinking, rates were lower in the United States than in Canada or the Netherlands. With United States as the referent, relative risks (RR) for monthly drinking were 1.30 (1.11–1.53) for Canadian boys and 1.55 (1.31–1.83) for girls, and 2.0 (1.73–2.31) for Dutch boys and 1.92 (1.62–2.27) for Dutch girls. Drunkenness was also higher among Canadian boys and girls and Dutch boys. However, rates of cannabis use did not differ between the countries, except that Dutch girls were less likely to use cannabis in the past year (RR= .67; 0.46–0.96)."

    Source: 
    Bruce Simons-Morton, EdD, MPH, William Pickett, PhD, Will Boyce, PhD, Tom F.M. ter Bogt, PhD, and Wilma Vollebergh, PhD, "Cross-National Comparison of Adolescent Drinking and Cannabis Use in the United States, Canada, and the Netherlands," International Journal of Drug Policy, Jan. 2010; 21(1):64-69. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2009.02.003, p. 1.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2790541/pdf/nihms97756.pdf

  3. (Alcohol Prevalence and Drunkenness) "The HBSC survey results indicated that drinking prevalence and drunkenness were lower on all measures among both boys and girls in the United States compared with boys and girls in Canada and boys in the Netherlands, but there was no difference in drunkenness or age of first drunkenness between American and Dutch girls. The prevalence reported by youth in the United States, with monthly use of 34.0% for males and 29.3% for females, is consistent with other reports (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2006; Johnston et al., 2007), and significantly lower than the prevalence reported by Canadian youth of about 45% for both boys and girls and Dutch youth of 67.9% for boys and 56.2% of girls. Of course, 10th grade Dutch students are close in age to the legal drinking age of 16 in the Netherlands. Also, despite higher drinking prevalence, Dutch girls were less likely to report having been drunk by age 14 suggesting that adolescent drinking and drunkenness do not correspond in all population groups. Overall, these cross-national differences in drinking prevalence are somewhat consistent with the hypothesis that higher legal age, more difficult access, and greater penalties for use may have discouraged adolescent drinking in the United States."

    Source: 
    Bruce Simons-Morton, EdD, MPH, William Pickett, PhD, Will Boyce, PhD, Tom F.M. ter Bogt, PhD, and Wilma Vollebergh, PhD, "Cross-National Comparison of Adolescent Drinking and Cannabis Use in the United States, Canada, and the Netherlands," International Journal of Drug Policy, Jan. 2010; 21(1):64-69. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2009.02.003, p. 6.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2790541/pdf/nihms97756.pdf

  4. (1997, 2001, 2005, and 2009 - drug usage in The Netherlands) Prevalence of drug use in the Dutch population 15-64 years of age:

    Lifetime Prevalence % Last Year Prevalence %
    1997 2001 2005 2009 1997 2001 2005 2009
    Cannabis 19.1 19.5 22.6 25.7

    5.5 5.5 5.4 7.0
    Cocaine 2.6 2.1 3.4 5.2 0.7 0.7 0.6 1.2
    Ecstasy 2.3 3.2 4.3 6.2 0.8 1.1 1.2 1.4
    Amphetamine 2.2 2.0 2.1 3.1 0.4 0.4 0.3 0.4
    LSD 1.5 1.2 1.4 1.5 - 0.0 0.1 0.1
    Heroin 0.3 0.2 0.6 0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1
    Source: 
    Trimbos Institute, "Drug Situation 2006 The Netherlands by the Reitox National Focal Point: Report to the EMCDDA" (Utrecht, Netherlands: Trimbos-Instuut, 2007), p. 26, Table 2.1.
    http://www.wodc.nl/images/1462b_fulltext_tcm44-75372.pdf
    "The Netherlands Drug Situation 2011: Report to the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point" (Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction and the Ministry of Security and Justice Research and Documentation Centre, 2012), p. 40, Table 2.1.1.
    http://www.trimbos.org/~/media/English%20site/AF1130%20The%20Netherlands...

  5. (Anonymous Drug Purity Testing and Analysis in The Netherlands, 2011) "Twenty years ago the Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sport (VWS) founded the Drugs Information and Monitoring System (DIMS). The DIMS explores the chemical content of drugs, the health risks, and monitors trends. The drugs are collected by means of those users who bring their drugs for control to an organisation affiliated with the DIMS. These organisations have weekly office hours. This method of collecting drugs brings along the possibility to exchange information between the personnel at the testing facilities and the users. The user is informed about the composition of the delivered drugs and is warned about the risks. The data that are collected this way are used for education, prevention, and drug policy. Next to this, the data are used to inform the network of organisations participating in the DIMS.
    "Acute health risks for users can occur, for example in case extra harmful substances are detected in the drugs. In case of such acute health risks, the DIMS will start a national or a regional warning campaign, a Red Alert. In 2011, the DIMS warned two times at a national level. The first national warning targeted the risks of using ecstasy pills contaminated with PMMA [Para-Methoxymethamphetamine], and the second national warning targeted pills with a high dose of MDMA. During the first six months of 2012, about 4,000 people visited the consulting hours of the DIMS-facilities, about 160 people every week. In total 4,421 samples were delivered, about 176 samples weekly (DIMS 2012) (see also § 10.3).
    "At the request of the present Cabinet, the DIMS has increased its tasks with regard to the "Reporting Desk New Drugs" (Meldpunt Nieuwe Drugs, MND). The MND monitors the new psychoactive drugs which appear frequently on the market, like mephedrone, 4-MEC, or MDPV. These new drugs raise questions about who are the users and about the (health) risks. At a special website (www.meldpuntnd.nl/) the users can report new drugs anonymously and eventually can describe their experiences with these drugs."

    Source: 
    Van Laar, M.W., Cruts, A.A.N., Van Ooyen-Houben, M.M.J., Van Gageldonk, A., Croes, E.A., Meijer, R.F., et al. (2013). The Netherlands drug situation 2012: report to the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point. Trimbos-instituut/WODC, Utrecht/Den Haag, p. 54.
    http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/html.cfm/index213775EN.html
    http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/attachements.cfm/att_213776_EN_2012%20Nether...

  6. (1997-1999) "The figures for cannabis use among the general population reveal the same pictures. The Netherlands does not differ greatly from other European countries. In contrast, a comparison with the US shows a striking difference in this area: 32.9% of Americans aged 12 and above have experience with cannabis and 5.1% have used in the past month. These figures are twice as high as those in the Netherlands."

    Source: 
    Netherlands Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, Drug Policy in the Netherlands: Progress Report September 1997-September 1999, (The Hague: Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, November 1999), pp. 7-8.

  7. Law and Policy

    The Netherlands follows a policy of separating the market for illicit drugs. Cannabis is primarily purchased through coffee shops. Coffee shops offer no or few possibilities for purchasing illicit drugs other than cannabis. Thus The Netherlands achieve a separation of the soft drug market from the hard drugs market - and separation of the 'acceptable risk' drug user from the 'unacceptable risk' drug user.

    Source: 
    Abraham, Manja D., University of Amsterdam, Centre for Drug Research, Places of Drug Purchase in The Netherlands (Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam, September 1999), pp. 1-5.
    http://proxy.baremetal.com/csdp.org/research/places.pdf

  8. Sec. 844. Penalties for simple possession [of Controlled Substances in the United States]

    STATUTE
    (a) Unlawful acts; penalties
    It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally to possess a controlled substance unless such substance was obtained directly, or pursuant to a valid prescription or order, from a practitioner, while cting in the course of his professional practice, or except as otherwise authorized by this subchapter or subchapter II of this chapter."
    "Any person who violates this subsection may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not more than 1 year ....."
    "if he commits such offense after a prior conviction under this subchapter or subchapter II of this chapter, or a prior conviction for any drug, narcotic, or chemical offense chargeable under the law of any State, has become final, he shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment for not less than 15 days but not more than 2 years, and shall be fined a minimum of $2,500 ...."
    "if he commits such offense after two or more prior convictions under this subchapter or subchapter II of this chapter, or two or more prior convictions for any drug, narcotic, or chemical offense chargeable under the law of any State, or a combination of two or more such offenses have become final, he shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment for not less than 90 days but not more than 3 years, and shall be fined a minimum of $5,000."

    Source: 
    U.S. Code. Title 21, Chapter 13 -- Drug Abuse Prevention and Control -- Section 844, Penalties for Simple Possession, pp. 416-417.
    http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/usc.cgi?ACTION=RETRIEVE&FILE=$$xa$$busc21.wais&start=2939781&SIZE=9863&TYPE=PDF
    http://mapinc.org/url/0npxgLDk

  9. (Discouraging Drug Tourism and Nuisance in The Netherlands) "In the city of Venlo (province of Limburg), on the Dutch-German border, the Hektor Project to combat drug-related crime and nuisance at the local level, started in 2001 and was extended several times, first by a combined contribution of the central and municipal government, but since 2010 Hektor is only financed by the local government. Its purpose was to diminish public nuisance mostly caused by German drug tourists. The project operated on three levels. One level aimed at diminishing public nuisance by tracking down and closing non-tolerated points of sale (administrative enforcement) and step up action against drug-related crime. The second level had to do with the redevelopment of parts of the city centre to make it more attractive to new investment. The third level of the project concentrated on redefining the local coffee shop policy. In 2007 three illegal drug trade venues were closed. The experienced drug related nuisance diminished significantly in the centre of the town since two coffee shops were relocated in 2005. Because the illegal drug trade shifted to other parts of the town, it was decided in 2007 to extend the Hektor-approach to all parts of the town of Venlo. The municipal authorities, the police, the Public Prosecution Service and the Tax and Customs are cooperating to tackle illegal drug trade and public nuisance caused by drug tourists. According to the third evaluation of the Hektor project, which was carried out before the introduction of new Dutch coffee shop policy, it is possible to diminish illegal street trade and drug related public nuisance in a Dutch border town by the approach chosen in Hektor (Snippe 2012).
    "Another project to combat drug related nuisance, which started as a pilot project but was continued since 2003, is the Courage Project of the municipalities of Roosendaal and Bergen op Zoom near the border with Belgium in the province of North Brabant. One of the results of this project was that the mayors of both municipalities decided in September 2009 to close down the four tolerated coffee shops. However, the Courage Project was continued among others with a monitor called the Drugsscan, in order to follow the developments. Since the closure of the coffee shops 95 per cent of the drug tourists disappeared from the street scene. The Courage Team shifted the emphasis from drug related public nuisance to investigating drug related criminality. In 2011 narcotics for the amount of 7 million euro were confiscated and dispossessions for the amount of 600,000 euro were collected (Courage 2012; www.courage.nu)."

    Source: 
    Van Laar, M.W., Cruts, A.A.N., Van Ooyen-Houben, M.M.J., Van Gageldonk, A., Croes, E.A., Meijer, R.F., et al. (2013). The Netherlands drug situation 2012: report to the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point. Trimbos-instituut/WODC, Utrecht/Den Haag, p. 24.
    http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/html.cfm/index213775EN.html
    http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/attachements.cfm/att_213776_EN_2012%20Nether...

  10. (The Netherlands and Depenalization of Cannabis Use) "There is no evidence that the depenalization component of the 1976 policy, per se, increased levels of cannabis use. On the other hand, the later growth in commercial access to cannabis, after de facto legalization, was accompanied by steep increases in use, even among youth. In interpreting that association, three points deserve emphasis. First, the association may not be causal; we have already seen that recent increases occurred in the United States and Oslo despite very different policies. Second, throughout most of the first two decades of the 1976 policy, Dutch use levels have remained at or below those in the United States. And third, it remains to be seen whether prevalence levels will drop again in response to the reduction to a 5-g limit, and to recent government efforts to close down coffee shops and more aggressively enforce the regulations."

    Source: 
    MacCoun, Robert and Reuter, Peter, "Interpreting Dutch Cannabis Policy: Reasoning by Analogy in the Legalization Debate," Science (New York, NY: American Association for the Advancement of Science, October 3, 1997), pp. 50-51.
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/44564392/Interpreting-Dutch-Cannabis-Policy-Re...

  11. (US Assessment of Dutch Drug Policy) "The Netherlands is a significant transit country for narcotics. A sizeable percentage of cocaine consumed in Europe enters via the Netherlands. It remains an important producer of synthetic drugs, such as MDMA (ecstasy), although a sizeable amount of production appears to have shifted to other countries. The Netherlands has a large legal chemical sector, making it an opportune location to illicitly obtain or produce pre-precursor chemicals. Cultivation of cannabis is extensive with a high percentage believed to be for export. The government views domestic drug use primarily as a public health issue, but places a high priority on combating the illegal drug trade and has had considerable success. The Dutch Opium Act prohibits the possession, commercial distribution, production, import and export of all illicit drugs. The act distinguishes between 'hard' drugs that have 'unacceptable' risks (e.g., heroin, cocaine, ecstasy), and 'soft' drugs (cannabis products). Sales of small amounts of cannabis products (under five grams) are 'tolerated' (i.e., illegal but not prosecuted) in establishments called 'coffee shops' which operate under regulated conditions. Cultivation and distribution remain illegal and are prosecuted.
    "Bilateral cooperation with the United States is excellent. Law enforcement agencies maintain excellent operational cooperation, with principal attention given to South American cocaine trafficking organizations and drug-related money laundering activities."

    Source: 
    "International Narcotics Control Strategy Report: Volume I Drug and Chemical Control," Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (Washington, DC: United States Department of State, March 2014), p. 244.
    http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/222881.pdf

  12. (1999 - drug use in The Netherlands) Below are results from a survey of drug use in The Netherlands published in 1999. Note the difference in drug use prevalence compared to the United States. For more information check out The Netherlands section of Drug War Facts.

    Substance Ever-Used Used-in-Past-Year Used-in-Past-Month Number-of-Frequent-Users
    Alcohol 90.2% 82.5% 73.3% 24.3% of past month users
    Cigarettes 67.9% 38.1% 34.3% * not tracked by survey
    Marijuana 15.6% 4.5% 2.5% 25.6% of past month users
    Cocaine* 2.1% 0.6% 0.2% 1.8% of past month users
    Heroin 0.3% 0.1% *too low to track * too low to track
     

    *Crack cocaine is not tracked separately.

    Source: 
    University of Amsterdam, Centre for Drug Research, "Licit and Illicit Drug Use in the Netherlands," 1997 (Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam, September 1999), pp. 45, 46, 47, 55.
    http://proxy.baremetal.com/csdp.org/research/npo97.pdf