Sweden

Subsections:

Page last updated Oct. 20, 2020 by Doug McVay, Editor/Senior Policy Analyst.

1. Prevalence of drug use in Sweden

"In the adult population (ages 16–84), about 12% state that they have used cannabis on some occasion, and 1% report having used it during the past 30 days (Tables 44 and 46). Personal experience of illicit drugs is more common among adult men than among adult women. These disparities emerge in late adolescence and can be seen even more clearly if one takes into account regularity and frequency of use. Illicit drug use is most common in urban areas, and least common in small towns and in rural settings. The same is true for sporadic use. Young men in urban areas are the segment of the population in which cannabis use is most widespread (CAN 2014, Englund red. 2016)."

Drug Trends in Sweden 2017. The Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and Other Drugs (CAN), Report 163. Stockholm, Sweden. 2017.
https://www.can.se/publikation...
https://www.can.se/app/uploads...

2. Prevalence of Drug Use Among Young People in Sweden

"In the 2016 survey, 4% of 16-year-olds and 13% of 18-year-olds responded that they had used drugs in the past 12 months (Tables 39–40). In a broader group of young adults (16–29 years), about 8% said they had used cannabis in the past year (Table 45). Viewed in a 45-year perspective, it is mainly the 1980s that stand out, with a lower percentage reporting personal experience of illicit drug use.

"Although the percentage of young people who use illicit drugs has remained relatively stable during the 2000s, there are signs of a slight increase in the frequency with which they use drugs (see Tables 41–42). Thus, even if the user group has not grown, consumption within the group appears to have increased.

"Among 18-year-old students who have used illicit drugs, almost two-thirds have used cannabis only; slightly under one-third have also used other drugs, and 5% have exclusively used other drugs. In recent years, synthetic cannabis smoking mixtures such as “spice” have risen to second place after traditional cannabis (cannabis resin and marijuana). Other illicit drugs, mentioned less frequently, include ecstasy, cocaine, amphetamines, and pharmaceutical drugs as tranquillisers and pain-killers, which are classified as narcotic drugs when used without prescription."

Drug Trends in Sweden 2017. The Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and Other Drugs (CAN), Report 163. Stockholm, Sweden. 2017.
https://www.can.se/publikation...
https://www.can.se/app/uploads...

3. Lifetime Prevalence of Drug Use Among Youth in Sweden

"The Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and Other Drugs (CAN) conducts annual national studies of the alcohol and drug use of school-age children. Since 1971, they have conducted school-based teacher-monitored surveys among a nationally representative sample of 9th grade elementary school students 15-16 years old. Since 2004, studies have also been carried out in the second year of upper-secondary school (11th grade) among students aged 17-18. In these annual surveys of adolescents, questions are asked about their use of a wide range of different substances and illicit drugs.
"In the latest published measurement from the surveys conducted in 2013, the lifetime prevalence of use of any type of illicit drug among 15- and 16-year-old boys and girls was 7.3% and 5.7% respectively (Centralförbundet för alkohol och narkotikaupplysning, 2014c). Cannabis was by far the most common drug, and the change over time in the proportion of boys and girls reporting use of drugs is presented in Figure 2.7. The prevalence reached a low level in the mid- to late 1980s and early 1990ts, and have had a somewhat higher and varying level during the past 20 years.
"In the older age group i.e. 17- and 18-year-old students, the lifetime prevalence of ever having used an illicit drug was 19.4% for boys and 13.8% for girls (Centralförbundet för alkohol och narkotikaupplysning, 2014c) . Among those who had used an illicit drug, the most common drug was cannabis, although some level of use of benzodiazepines, cocaine and amphetamines was also reported. Very few students reported use of drugs before the age of 14, 2% of the boys and 1% of the girls, and these results have remained the same over the past 20 years."

Swedish National Institute of Public Health. "2014 National Report (2013 data) to the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point: Sweden: New Development and Trends." Östersund: Swedish National Institute of Public Health, 2014, pp. 33-34.
http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/pu...
http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/at...

4. Age of First Drug Use in Sweden

"According to CAN’s 2012 school population survey (Centralförbundet för alkohol- och narkotikaupplysning, 2013), very few students used drugs before the age of 14; 2% of the boys and 1% of the girls. The percentage of students who reported drug use before the age of 14 has been stable over the last 20 years.
"The percentage of students (15-16 years of age) who had had an opportunity to try drugs (for the first time) increased at the end of the 1990s and the increase continued until 2000 when 27% reported in the survey that they had had the opportunity to try drugs. From then on, the percentage decreased again and in 2012 it was 18%. The percentage of older students (17-18 years of age) who had had an opportunity to try drugs is somewhat larger, approximately 32 % (Centralförbundet för alkohol- och narkotikaupplysning, 2013."

Swedish National Institute of Public Health. "2013 National Report (2012 data) to the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point: Sweden: New Developments, Trends and in-depth information on selected issues." Östersund: Swedish National Institute of Public Health, 2013, p. 34.
http://folkhalsomyndigheten.se...

5. Correlations Between Alcohol Use, Tobacco Use, and Other Drug Use Among Swedish Youth

"Among students aged 15-16, approximately 40% of those who had used drugs also reported a large consumption of alcohol and this was a much higher proportion than among students with no reported drug use (8%). Further, among students aged 17-18, there was a large difference between students with and without experience of drug use with regard to extensive alcohol consumption, although the difference was not as large as for students aged 15-16 (Centralförbundet för alkohol och narkotikaupplysning, 2014c). There was also an association between reported drug use and binge drinking. Among students who reported drug use, almost 57% of 15- and 16-year-olds and 74% of 17- and 18-year-olds reported monthly binge drinking. This is a considerably higher percentage than could be found among students with no drug experience. Use of tobacco was also more common among students with experience of drug use, compared with students with no drug experience (Centralförbundet för alkohol och narkotikaupplysning, 2014c)."

Swedish National Institute of Public Health. "2014 National Report (2013 data) to the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point: Sweden: New Development and Trends." Östersund: Swedish National Institute of Public Health, 2014, p. 34.
http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/pu...
http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/at...

6. "Problematic" Drug Use in Sweden

"Available indicators are in overall agreement with the results of earlier investigations and estimates, showing an increase in illicit heavy drug use in the 1990s. Subsequently, the estimations made show slower rates of increase whereas the indicators suggest quicker rates (CAN 2014). Judging from the drug use indicators, the situation has deteriorated over the last 10 years, with increases in drug seizures and drug-related hospitalisations and mortality. As shown in Figure 8 the proportion of young people (under 30) who have been registered for drug-related crime, or have suffered from drug related mortality or morbidity has increased somewhat. The number of first time hospital admissions for treatment of drug-related diagnoses, regardless of age, has increased over the past 10 years (Table 60). However, at the same time, the situation appears to have improved in terms of intravenously transmitted HIV and hepatitis C infections (Tables 63–64).

"Thus, available indicators suggest that problematic illicit drug use may have increased over the past 10 years, and that a recruitment of users hence has taken place. However, intravenous drug use appears not to have increased, suggesting that the increases reflect oral drug use, not least of pharmaceutical drugs in the opioid and benzodiazepine groups, which are classified as narcotics when being used without a prescription."

Drug Trends in Sweden 2017. The Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and Other Drugs (CAN), Report 163. Stockholm, Sweden. 2017.
https://www.can.se/publikation...
https://www.can.se/app/uploads...

7. Estimated Prevalence of Past-Year Illicit Substance Use in Sweden, 2013

"In 2013, an additional cross-sectional study of drug use was conducted in a nationally representative sample of the population in Sweden (Ramstedt, 2014). A total of 15,576 individuals (59.3% of the total sample) participated in the study and 10.5% reported that they had used an illicit drug or used some prescription medication in a non-prescribed way during the past 12 months. In this study, cocaine and amphetamines were the most common illicit substance reported after cannabis. Among men and women aged 17-64, 3.3% reported having used cocaine and 3.0% reported having used amphetamine at some time in their lives, followed by ecstasy (2.4%), opioids (2.2%), and hallucinogens (2.1%). Use of prescription medication was much more common and 6.5% reported having used painkillers in a non-prescribed way and 2.8% reported having used sedatives/tranquilizers in a non-prescribed way during the past 12 months."

Swedish National Institute of Public Health. "2014 National Report (2013 data) to the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point: Sweden: New Development and Trends." Östersund: Swedish National Institute of Public Health, 2014, p. 33.
http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/pu...
http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/at...

8. Estimated Number of Current Drug Users in Sweden, 2010

"Two per cent of the men and 0.9 per cent of the women reported some type of illicit drug use in the past 30 days, corresponding to approximately 53,000 men and 24,000 women or a total of 77,000 people. Adding to this the 50,000 people who in the past 30 days had used prescription medicine without a doctor’s prescription, the total figure increases to 127,000 people. The population study indicates that the highest proportion of regular drug use is found among young men between the ages of 15 to 24, while the highest proportion among women is observed in the ages of 25 to 34. Regular drug use then decreases with increasing age for both genders. The results from the student survey do not indicate that students use illicit drugs more than others of the same age in the population. For prescription medicines, patterns opposite to illicit drugs are seen in terms of age and gender. Approximately twice as many women as men have used narcotics-classed or addictive medicines without or in excess of a doctor’s prescription."

"Narkotikabruket i Sverige (The use of narcotic drugs in Sweden)" (Ostersund, Sweden: Statens Folkhälsoinstitut, 2010), p. 16.
http://www.fhi.se/PageFiles/10...

9. Lifetime, last year and last month prevalence (per cent) of cannabis use in different age groups for men and women in Sweden, 2004-2012

Click here for complete datatable of Lifetime, last year and last month prevalence (per cent) of cannabis use in Sweden by Age and Gender, 2004-2012

Swedish National Institute of Public Health. "2013 National Report (2012 data) to the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point: Sweden: New Developments, Trends and in-depth information on selected issues." Östersund: Swedish National Institute of Public Health, 2013, pp. 30-31.
http://folkhalsomyndigheten.se...

10. Number of Drug Offenses and Convictions in Sweden, 2013

"According to Sweden’s official criminal statistics for 2013, about 96,200 offences against the Act on Penal Law on Narcotics were reported in 2013, an increase of almost 2% compared to 2012. The number of convictions with drug violations as the main crime decreased by 8% (about 1,910 convictions) compared to 2012. Of the 20,800 convictions in 2013 with a drug offence as the main crime, 13% involved women and 28% adolescents between the ages of 15 and 20. The offences were considered minor in 87% of cases (18,103), not minor in 12% (2,456) and serious in 1% (206), as reported in the 2013 Swedish Official Crime Statistics from the NCCP."

Swedish National Institute of Public Health. "2014 National Report (2013 data) to the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point: Sweden: New Development and Trends." Östersund: Swedish National Institute of Public Health, 2014, p. 34.
http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/pu...
http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/at...

11. Criminal Sanctions for Drug Offenses in Sweden, 2012

"The most common sanction issued to those convicted of drug offences is a fine, in the form of either a summary fine issued by the prosecutor or a court sentence. Those issued fines accounted for 58% of all those convicted of drug offences in 2012. In 2012, 29% of those convicted of drug offences took the form of waivers of prosecution, whereas 5% involved prison sentences.
"The increase in the total number of persons being convicted of drug offences is also mirrored as an increase in virtually all of the different sanctions. The number of fines has more than doubled over the period examined, from 4,580 persons in 2002 to more than 13,100 in 2012. The number of persons sentenced to a prison term has on the other hand decreased from 1,580 in 2002 to 1,140 in 2012. The average length of the prison term issued in 2012 was 13 months."

Swedish National Institute of Public Health. "2013 National Report (2012 data) to the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point: Sweden: New Developments, Trends and in-depth information on selected issues." Östersund: Swedish National Institute of Public Health, 2013, p. 84.
http://folkhalsomyndigheten.se...

12. Drug-Using Offenders in Prison in Sweden

"The average number of drug addicts in prison has been fairly stable over an extended period of time. On 1 October 2012, 56% of the women and 62% of the men in prison were drug dependent, alcohol included."

Swedish National Institute of Public Health. "2013 National Report (2012 data) to the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point: Sweden: New Developments, Trends and in-depth information on selected issues." Östersund: Swedish National Institute of Public Health, 2013, p. 88.
http://folkhalsomyndigheten.se...

13. Drug Seizures in Sweden, 2012

"Seizures of pharmaceuticals classified as narcotics (mainly benzodiazepines) show an increasing trend. This increase may be due to an increase of medicines sold illegally over the Internet. The large number of seizures is partially due to the fact that these drugs are often used in combination with other drugs.
"The number of cannabis seizures shows an increase, indicating a substantial supply of cannabis on the drug market. Amphetamine seizures on the other hand, show a slight decrease since 2006, whereas methamphetamine has increased over the last 10 years. Yet, methamphetamine seems to have stabilised somewhat since 2008/2009.
"The increased seizures of cocaine indicate an increased availability. Seizures of ecstasy decreased dramatically in the beginning of the 2000s until 2009, however, the last three years the number of seizures has increased dramatically.
"The seizures of heroin show a decrease since the beginning of 2000s."

Swedish National Institute of Public Health. "2013 National Report (2012 data) to the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point: Sweden: New Developments, Trends and in-depth information on selected issues." Östersund: Swedish National Institute of Public Health, 2013, p. 95.
http://folkhalsomyndigheten.se...

14. Estimated Number of Problem Drug Users in Sweden

"Based on register data from the patient register and from the Prison and Probation Services, it was estimated that there were 29,500 problematic drug users. This corresponds to 38 per cent of the 77,000 people who confirm regular use of illicit drugs in the population survey, or 23 per cent of the 127,000 people who regularly use some type of illicit drug or presomption medicine without a doctors prescriptive [sic]. This means that there is a large group of people whose regular drug use does not lead them in to the health or corrections systems."

"Narkotikabruket i Sverige (The use of narcotic drugs in Sweden)" (Ostersund, Sweden: Statens Folkhälsoinstitut, 2010), p. 16.
http://www.fhi.se/PageFiles/10...

15. Estimated Number of Problem Drug Users in Sweden

Problem Drug Use

"In total, the number of problematic drug users in Sweden was estimated at a rounded of figure of 29,500. This number is not directly comparable to the figures previously derived in Sweden due to differences in both the data sources and the methods used. The national estimate relating to population was 3.2 with the 'all ages' denominator and 4.9 with the 15-64 years of age denominator (see Standard table 7 and 8 for details)."

Swedish National Institute of Public Health. "2012 National Report (2011 data) To the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point: Sweden: New Development, Trends and in-depth information on selected issues." Östersund: Swedish National Institute of Public Health, 2012, p. 49.
http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/ht...
http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/at...

16. Previous Estimates of Problem Drug Use in Sweden

"Individuals with drug use that could be categorised as problematic are generally a hard-to-reach population, making it difficult to obtain a picture of population size and development. Sweden also lacks a well-established definition of problematic or harmful drug use. In order to reach a more accurate picture of the Problem Drug Use (PDU) population size, as well as their living conditions, three nationwide studies were conducted in 1979, 1992 and 1998. In these case-finding studies, data was collected from professionals who met drug users in their daily work in e.g. the social services, healthcare, the police, the correctional system, customs and various treatment centres, including NGOs. Within a given period of time, the professionals reported clients or patients that either injected drugs at some point in the past 12 months or used illicit drugs daily or on an almost daily basis in the past four weeks. Those meeting these criteria where classified as problematic drug users. Estimates were obtained through capture-recapture calculations (Olsson et al., 2001).
"The population of problematic drug users in Sweden was estimated at approximately 15,000 in 1979, approximately 19,000 in 1992 and around 26,000 in 1998. This means an increase in nominal figures. However, a per capita figure would be more accurate since the general population increased during the same time period. In 1979, there were 1.8 PDUs per 1,000 inhabitants according to the above estimates. In 1998, this figure increased to 2.9 per 1000. Please note that the above figures refer to all ages."

Swedish National Institute of Public Health. "2012 National Report (2011 data) To the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point: Sweden: New Development, Trends and in-depth information on selected issues." Östersund: Swedish National Institute of Public Health, 2012, p. 46.
http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/ht...
http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/at...

17. Estimated Number of Injection Drug Users in Sweden, 2012

"From an infectious disease perspective, there is a significant difference between a PDU and an IDU with regard to risk-taking and disease outcome. In 2013, the National Board of Health and Welfare used a new method to estimate the number of IDUs in Sweden. The method uses patient registries and applies a condition based
on ICD-10 codes which distinguishes between those who receive a diagnosis of abuse and those who receive any diagnosis related to injecting drug use. The method estimates the number of IDUs at about 8,000 for the whole of Sweden in 2011. 57 per cent of these live in any of the three metropolitan cities: Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmö (National Board of Health and Welfare, 2013 (Unpublished)).
"The above estimate also includes the hidden population, i.e. IDUs who maintain a functioning life style and who does not seek help for drug use or any health consequence directly linked to drug use. The estimate is further believed to contribute to prevention efforts being tailored according to needs. The method is to be seen as an attempt to methodologically approach an alternative way with regards to previous PDU estimates, where information was self-reported by a non-randomised number of key information providers, from a non-randomised selection of Swedish regions."

Swedish National Institute of Public Health. "2013 National Report (2012 data) to the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point: Sweden: New Developments, Trends and in-depth information on selected issues." Östersund: Swedish National Institute of Public Health, 2013, p. 53.
http://folkhalsomyndigheten.se...

18. HIV and Injection Drug Use in Sweden

"Sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV, are not reported by full identity to the authorities in Sweden. This limits the possibility of following individuals over time and duplicates of notifications concerning the same individual may occur in the surveillance data.
"Fewer cases of HIV were reported among injecting drug users (IDU) in 2010-2011 compared to 2008-2009, with 22 cases in 2012. By the end of 2012, IDUs accounted for 5% of all people living with a known HIV infection in Sweden, equivalent to about 400 IDUs (or former IDUs). In May 2012, an outbreak of HIV was detected among IDUs in Kalmar comprising 5 cases. The new needle-syringe exchange programme in Kalmar can hopefully prevent new cases.
"Data from non-representative studies based on IDUs tested in remand prisons in Gothenburg and Stockholm in 2009 and 2010 shows an HIV prevalence of 5-9%. The needle-syringe exchange programmes in Skåne appear to have had a positive impact on preventing new HIV cases in the region. No new HIV cases were found among the participants in 2010-2011."

Swedish National Institute of Public Health. "2013 National Report (2012 data) to the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point: Sweden: New Developments, Trends and in-depth information on selected issues." Östersund: Swedish National Institute of Public Health, 2013, p. 60.
http://folkhalsomyndigheten.se...

19. Hepatitis C and Injection Drug Use in Sweden 2012

"In Sweden, the prevalence of hepatitis C among injecting drug users is very high. In various studies conducted during the last 15 years, the prevalence has been reported to be between 60% and 92%.
"Altogether, 1981 cases of hepatitis C were reported in 2012. Intravenous drug use is the dominant transmission route and most cases are domestic. Viewed in a longer perspective, the total number of reported cases is decreasing. However, when viewed by age group, no falling trend can be seen in 15-29 year-olds over the last 10 years. In 2012, 693 cases were reported in this age group and 48 cases were reported among those under the age of 20. This indicates that there is on-going recruitment to injecting drug use among young people and an on-going transmission of the disease among young intravenous drug users in Sweden. Hepatitis C among IDUs remains a challenge and future intervention efforts are prioritized. The trend analysis is aggravated by the fact that it is not possible to differentiate between acute cases and chronic cases of hepatitis C in the surveillance data (Smittskyddsinstitutet, 2013)."

Swedish National Institute of Public Health. "2013 National Report (2012 data) to the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point: Sweden: New Developments, Trends and in-depth information on selected issues." Östersund: Swedish National Institute of Public Health, 2013, p. 61.
http://folkhalsomyndigheten.se...

20. Hepatitis B and Injection Drug Use in Sweden, 2012

"Between 100 and 200 cases of acute hepatitis B are reported in Sweden annually. However, fewer cases of acute hepatitis B (82) were reported in 2012 due to fewer cases being reported among injecting drug users. Of all acute hepatitis B cases, 18 were among IDUs (compared with 51 cases in 2010), 17 of whom were infected in Sweden. The median age of IDUs diagnosed with acute hepatitis B in 2012 was 36 (range 19-52) (Smittskyddsinstitutet, 2013).
"The number of acute hepatitis B cases among IDUs varies depending on local outbreaks and immunity in the group following vaccination or previous infection. Other relevant factors are frequency in testing, injection behaviour and access to sterile equipment."

Swedish National Institute of Public Health. "2013 National Report (2012 data) to the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point: Sweden: New Developments, Trends and in-depth information on selected issues." Östersund: Swedish National Institute of Public Health, 2013, p. 61.
http://folkhalsomyndigheten.se...

Pages