Prevalence of Heroin and Illegal Opioid Use in the EU

"In Europe, the most commonly used illicit opioid is heroin, which may be smoked, snorted or injected. A range of synthetic opioids such as methadone, buprenorphine and fentanyl are also misused.
"The average prevalence of high-risk opioid use among adults (15–64) is estimated at 0.4 %, the equivalent of 1.3 million high-risk opioid users in Europe in 2014. At national level, prevalence estimates of high-risk opioid use range from less than 1 to around 8 cases per 1 000 population aged 15–64 (Figure 2.8). Around 75 % of the estimated high-risk opioid users in the European Union are reported in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany and Spain.
"Of the 11 countries with repeated estimates of high-risk opioid use between 2008 and 2014, Spain and Turkey show a statistically significant decrease, with stable trends in the other countries (Figure 2.8).
"Europe has experienced different waves of heroin addiction, the first affecting many western countries from the mid-1970s and a second wave affecting other countries especially those in central and eastern Europe in the mid to late 1990s. Subsequently there has been diffusion from urban centres to more rural areas and smaller cities in some countries. From 2010/11, indicators in many European countries highlighted a decline in new recruitment into heroin use and the existence of an ageing cohort of high-risk opioid users, many of whom were receiving substitution treatment. The most recent data suggest the downward trend in new treatment entrants may be levelling off."


European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (2016), European Drug Report 2016: Trends and Developments, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, p. 47.