No more crack, teenagers turned to cannabis... How the French take drugs today

Wondering how we use drugs in France these days? The latest studies on the subject report figures that are sometimes surprising or particularly instructive.

No more crack, teenagers turned to cannabis... How the French take drugs today

Wondering how we use drugs in France these days? The latest studies on the subject report figures that are sometimes surprising or particularly instructive.

Where is the consumption of MDMA, cocaine and cannabis, which are among the main drugs circulating in France? Whether it is data from the OFDT (French observatory on drugs and addictive tendencies), the ESPAD survey (European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs), or the European Observatory on Drugs and drug addiction (EMCDDA), the latest studies on drug use among the French bring out some edifying figures on its evolution, particularly concerning young people.

Among 15-64 year olds, the number of users of crack/cocaine base (drug in the form of crystals/pebbles and not powder, see image opposite) increased from 12,800 to 42,800 between 2010 and 2019. It has therefore more than tripled (Source: Uses of illicit substances, OFDT, 2021). In the latest OFDT report, we also learn that 2.8% of 17-year-olds experimented with cocaine in 2017 (Drugs at 17: analysis of the ESCAPAD 2017 survey.) According to Public Health France, the cocaine is the second most consumed narcotic product on our territory, with nearly 600,000 people having taken it in the year.

In the latest detailed data on the subject, which dates back to 2017, we find that cocaine experimentation, i.e. at least one lifetime use, "appears to stabilize around 5.6 %" among 18-64 year olds. This experimentation is on the rise since, in 1992, only 1.2% of people in this same age group had already experienced this substance. Over the same period (1995-2017) "use during the year continues to increase, from 0.2% in 1995 to 1.6%".

The OFDT explains that the phenomenon of increased experimentation and use of cocaine "is explained by the dynamics of supply: as global production increases, which has again reached a record level in 2021, cocaine has become, in twenty years, more available, more accessible and purer".

In its 2022 report on the fight against drugs, the Anti-Narcotics Office (Ofast) highlights an increase in the content of narcotics on almost all drugs, except for ecstasy and MDMA whose "average content of active ingredient has been declining for eight years". For other drugs, the OFDT data show a sometimes spectacular increase: the average active ingredient content of cocaine thus rose from 45.8% to 63.5%; from 9.8% to 20.3% for heroin. As for the average concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active substance responsible for the effects of cannabis, for example, it more than doubled in the resin of this drug, between 2011 and 2020... from 12.3% to 26 .7%.

On the price side, there are also increases, although measured: the gram of cannabis resin increases on average from 5 to 8 euros between 2011 and 2020, that of herbal cannabis increasing from 7.50 euros to 10 euros in mean. At the same time, the price of a gram of cocaine is up by 6 euros, from 60 to 66 euros. The price of heroin is down slightly: the gram goes from 35 to 33 euros.

According to the EnCLASS 3e survey on the evolution of cannabis consumption levels among 3rd graders, relayed by the OFDT, the rate of middle school students of this age who have already experienced cannabis use has increased from 23.9 % in 2010 to 9.1% in 2021. Recent cannabis use in 9th grade is also down sharply: it concerned 11.1% of 9th graders in 2010 and more than 3.9% in 2021.

However, cannabis remains, by far, the illicit substance most consumed by the French: 46% of 18-64 year olds have tried it, and 11% are users during the year (data Barometer Health 2020, Public Health France). A proportion of users in the year which has increased since the period 1990-2000, when these users in the year were between 4 and 7% (Public Health Barometer France). Overall, the OFDT estimates the number of daily cannabis users at around 850,000 and the number of regular smokers at 1.3 million, i.e. people who have "consumed cannabis at least 10 times in course of the month".

According to the ESPAD (European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs) 2019 survey, which scrutinized the use of cannabis during the month among 16-year-olds, French teenagers of this age are in second place in the cannabis use in Europe among this age group. According to the OECD / EMCDDA (European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction) in 2019, French 15-75 year olds also rank 2nd in Europe for cannabis consumers in terms of use of this substance in the month.

MDMA is a designer drug derived from methamphetamine. Users of this drug seek an energizing effect as well as a greater ease of interaction with others. In France, 1 in 20 adults under the age of 65 (5% of 18-64 year olds) have taken MDMA / ecstasy at least once in their life, according to data from the 2017 Health Barometer of Public Health France. Of these experimenters, 7.3% are male and 2.7% female. 3.4% of young French people aged 17 also experimented with MDMA / ecstasy in 2017, according to the analysis of the ESCAPAD 2017 survey by the OFDT.

Experimentation with this drug among 18-64 year olds increased slightly between 2014 and 2017, from 4.3% to 5%. The number of people who have consumed it at least once in the year is also on the rise: in 2000, this concerned only 0.2% of 18-64 year olds; this percentage rose to 1% in 2017. This 1% is equivalent to approximately 400,000 people according to the OFDT.