Slight downward trend in the consumption of drugs in England and Wales

The British Home Office has just published a second Edition of this year’s report about the use of illegal drugs by people between the ages of 16 and 59. The data comes from a crime survey of England and Wales (CSEW) in 2015-2016. The most noteworthy results are the following

  • 8.4% of adults between 16 and 59 have consumed an illegal drug over the last year (roughly 2.7 million people). This data amounts to a very slight drop compared with the previous year (8.6%), but over a 10% fall in comparison with 2005-2006 data.
  • 18% of young adults (between 16 and 24) have consumed a drug over the last year. This also means a slight drop compared with the previous year (19.5%), but it is much bigger if we go back to 2005-2006 (25. 2%).
  • 4.3% of adults (between 16 and 59) and 9.1% of young adults (between 16 and 24) have consumed a drug over the last month. The figure is similar to that of the previous year, but higher than in 2005-2006.
  • 53% of adults (between 16 and 59) have taken an illegal drug during the course of their lives, a similar figure to that of 2005-2006, but five points higher than in 1996.

Psychoactive DrugsThe most commonly consumed drug is cannabis; 6.5% of adults interviewed have consumed it over the last year, a similar figure to the previous year (6.7%), but far lower than ten years ago (8.7%) and in 1996 (9.4%). Young adults (between 16 and 24) also mainly consume cannabis (15.8%, a percentage which amounts to almost a million consumers), following the trend set the previous year, but a far cry from 2005-2006 (21.4%) and 1996 (25.8%).

The second most commonly consumed drug by adults is cocaine in powder form (2.2% of adults), but this does not apply to young adults who consume a little more ecstasy (4.5%) than cocaine in powder form (4.4%). In comparison with the previous year, cocaine in powder form is on a downward trend (2.3% and 4.8% the previous year). Since 2008-2009, when consumption of this drug peaked (3% between 16 and 59 and 6.5% between 16 and 24), there has been a slight downward trend. In comparison with 2005-2006, the figures are similar, but are still high if we compare them with those of 1996, which did not reach 1% and was below 2% among young adults.

3.3% of adults (between 16 and 59) were classified as habitual consumers (nearly 1,100,000 people), while figures corresponding to younger adults (between 16 and 24) were higher (4.7%, 292,000 people). Most of these habitual consumers take cannabis (37%). Meanwhile, most consumers of cocaine in powder form (61%) and of ecstasy (69%) only consume it once a year. Frequent consumers of these drugs have gone down from 24.5% in the 2005-2006 survey to 11.1% in 2015-2016.


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