Is cannabis still the most commonly used drug in Europe?

Liz Filmer
25 Jan 2023

Cannabis is, without doubt, the most widely used drug in Europe, accounting for almost 40% of the entire drug market, according to a new EU drugs report.

Cannabis has an estimated market value of €9.3 billion annually. The much harder Class A drug Heroin comes in second place with an estimated worth of €6.8 billion. Heroin is also responsible for a significant proportion of drug-related deaths and social costs.

Cocaine is next at (€5.7 billion), amphetamine (€1.8 billion) and MDMA/ecstasy (€0.67 billion). New psychoactive substances are also a severe and growing market. Still, due to the vast amount of substances falling under this heading and the speed at which new products are being produced– it isn’t easy to put a market value on their worth.

The figures are all contained in the EU Drug Markets Report 2016, released in early 2022, which delves into the dominant trends in the supply and distribution of illicit drugs across Europe. It is a joint effort by Europol, the European policing agency and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). The report delves into the trends and the impact of the illegal drug trade on social and financial societies.

It states that around 22 million adults across the EU use cannabis regularly, and about 1% use it almost daily. A lot of the product now sold across Europe is grown domestically – but there are still major supply routes for shipments coming out of north Africa.

The report states that aside from being a significant public health issue, the illegal drug market affects the economy in the amount of money it generates. 

However, European governments are increasingly voting to decriminalise the drug. Malta recently became the first EU country to legalise recreational cannabis outright.

Like with any substance, it’s essential to know the laws and regulations before considering consuming it in a different country. Whilst cannabis is tolerated in places like the Netherlands, the rules can vary massively from place to place.

There is a shift in perspective on cannabis use spreading across the continent as more and more governments vote in favour of decriminalisation, and a handful of countries are striving for complete legalisation. Whilst some countries do not currently have easy, legal access to recreational cannabis, some Europe countries are far more lenient.

Liz Filmer