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CEDRO (2003), Small, but growing minority of Amsterdam population uses illegal drugs. Press release. Amsterdam: CEDRO.
© Copyright 2003 CEDRO Centrum voor Drugsonderzoek

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Small, but growing minority of Amsterdam population uses illegal drugs

Trends in drug use in Amsterdam between 1987 and 2001

Wednesday, 29 October 2003

Successive population surveys in Amsterdam in 1987, 1990, 1994, 1997 en 2001 show that a small but growing group of the Amsterdam population used illegal drugs. This is the main outcome of the latest study of the Centre for Drug Research (CEDRO), Universiteit van Amsterdam.

Since the first Amsterdam survey was conducted in 1987, the proportion of the Amsterdam population ever having used cannabis (the most popular illegal drug), has increased from 23.2% to 38.1% in 2001. Cannabis consumption among youths increased, a trend observed also in other European countries. Comparing last month consumption rates to lifetime consumption rates reveals that the major part of the drug users consume drugs temporarily. The study shows that for most drugs the mean age of first use is higher than usually expected. The mean age of first cannabis use in Amsterdam hardly changed between 1987 and 2001 and remained stable at 20 years.

More than 21,000 randomly selected people answered questions regarding their use of licit and illicit drugs over five population studies. Drugs included in the study were alcohol, tobacco, sedatives, hypnotics, cannabis, cocaine, amphetamine, ecstasy, hallucinogens (including LSD), psychotropic mushrooms, opiates (including heroin), inhalants (such as glue and tri), smart drugs, and performance enhancing substances (such as anabolic steroids).

Cannabis

The percentage of the Amsterdam population of 12 years and over that used cannabis recently (at least one time in the month prior to the interview) increased from 5.6 in 1987 to 7.8 in 2001. This equals an estimated 34,000 last month users in 1987 and 50,000 in 2001. The study reports consumption figures for the population as a whole and per age category. Highest recent cannabis use figures can be found among those aged 20-24; also the strongest increase can be seen in this age category (from 13.5% in 1987 to 21.0% in 2001). Among those aged 16-19, last month cannabis use increased from 11.6 percent in 1987 to 14.3 percent in 2001. Drug use figures are higher in Amsterdam than in the rest of the Netherlands; the most important differences are reported in the study. For example, whereas in 2001 in Amsterdam 38.1 percent of the population of 12 years and older ever tried cannabis, the average figure for the Netherlands as a whole is 17.0 percent, and 11.4 for the lowest address density areas.

In 1987, roughly 24 percent of those, who ever tried cannabis, did so use in the month prior to the interview as well. Over the observed period this so called 'continuation' rate of use decreased from 24 to 21 percent in 2001.

Ecstasy

Ecstasy use figures increased but remained low. The percentage of the Amsterdam population of 12 years and over that recently used ecstasy increased from 0.1 percent to 1.1 percent between 1990 and 2001 (approximately an increase from 700 to 7,100 last month users). Ecstasy was not included in the 1987 survey. Once more the highest use rates can be found among the group aged 20-24; in this group recent ecstasy use increased from 0.7 percent in 1990 to 3.5 percent in 2001. Recent ecstasy use increases in age category 16-19 from 0.4 to 2.1 percent between 1990 and 2001. Last month continuation rates of ecstasy reached its peak in 1994 with 21.6 percent in comparison to 8.9 percent in 1990 and 12.8 percent in 2001. The mean age of first ecstasy use decreased slightly from 27 years in 1990 to 26 years in 2001.

Heroin

Heroin use has a very low prevalence among the general population in Amsterdam (12 years and over); 0,1 percent of the Amsterdam population used heroin in the month prior to the interview, and this percentage remained stable between 1987 and 2001. Recent heroin use can be found mainly in the older age categories, among those aged 16-19 and 20-24, last month use is 0.0 percent. Nation wide average of heroin use prevalence is identical to the one in Amsterdam: 0.1 percent of the Dutch population of 12 years and over used heroin recently. These figures report the use of the registered population of the city. Homeless persons and otherwise non-registered persons are not included in these surveys. The mean age of first heroin use is 23; this figure does not change over the period 1990 to 1997 (in the 2001 survey, not enough observations were made in order to give reliable estimates of the age of first heroin use).

The recent study is a collection of five population surveys that measured the use of licit and illicit drugs among the population of Amsterdam. The results of these surveys were earlier published separately. The surveys were funded by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports, except the 1987 study that was funded by the Amsterdam municipality.

Note for the editor:

For more information please contact Manja Abraham: tel. +31 20 525 7439, e-mail m.d.abraham@uva.nl or Peter Cohen: tel +31 20 525 4278 or +31 6 2278 9441, e-mail pcohen@cedro-uva.org. The report Licit and illicit drug use in Amsterdam, 1987 to 2001 (80p.) can be found on the CEDRO website: http://www.cedro-uva.org/lib/abraham.licit.html. A large number of tables with detailed information on drug use per drug and age group is available in the publication, as well as an extensive introduction and methodological detail.

Appendix

Cannabis and ecstasy use in Amsterdam in 1987, 1990, 1994, 1997 and 2001.
CANNABIS USE Total population Amsterdam (12 yr and over)
1987 1990 1994 1997 2001  
Cannabis lifetime use (%)
23.2
25.2
29.8
36.7
38.1
 
Cannabis last month use (%)
5.6
6.1
7.2
8.1
7.8
 
Cannabis last mont continuation (%*)
24.4
24.3
24.1
22.1
20.6
 
>25 times in lifetime cannabis use (%)**
.
47.0
43.8
43.6
43.6
 
Mean age of first cannabis use
20.2
20.3
20.2
20.3
19.9
 
             
Cannabis lifetime use
1987 1990 1994 1997 2001  
Age category 16-19 (%)
25.5
23.2
31.5
34.0
36.4
 
Age category 20-24 (%)
38.6
36.8
46.3
50.5
58.6
 
              
Cannabis last month use
1987 1990 1994 1997 2001  
Age category 16-19 (%)
11.6
11.1
14.1
15.6
14.3
 
Age category 20-24 (%)
13.5
10.9
15.1
18.4
21.0
 
              
ECSTASY USE Total population Amsterdam (12 yr and over)
1987 1990 1994 1997 2001  
Ecstasy lifetime (%)
.
1.3
3.3
7.0
8.7
 
Ecstasy last month use (%)
.
0.1
0.7
1.1
1.1
 
Ecstasy last month continuation (%*)
.
8.9
21.6
15.8
12.8
 
>25 times in lifetime ecstasy use (%)**
.
7.3
17.1
17.7
24.7
 
Mean age of first ecstasy use
.
27.1
26.1
26.4
25.9
 
             
Ecstasy lifetime use
1987 1990 1994 1997 2001  
Age category 16-19 (%)
.
1.6
5.1
7.7
6.0
 
Age category 20-24 (%)
.
2.9
7.2
13.4
18.4
 
              
Ecstasy last month use
1987 1990 1994 1997 2001  
Age category 16-19 (%)
.
0.4
1.7
1.6
2.1
 
Age category 20-24 (%)
.
0.7
3.1
3.9
3.5
 
              
Total number respondents
4,378
5,207
4,164
3,710
3,934
 

*percentage of those who ever used.
**percentage experienced users of the population of Amsterdam (12 years and over).

Source: Abraham et. al. (2003), Licit and illicit drug use in Amsterdam, 1987 to 2001. Amsterdam: CEDRO/Met&Schilt.
Last update: May 25, 2016