RESEARCH – January 2021

Drug use among youth and adults in Estonia: preliminary results of the Drugs and Developing Brains survey

Authors: Liina Haring, Anni Leedo, Helena Kisand, Liina Voormansik, Annika Viimsalu, Karina Karis, Raul Kangro, Eero Vasar

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Background and aim. Alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use is a growing public problem. The aim of the present paper was to proovide preliminary findings of the project Drugs and Developing Brains survey, particularly focusing on the prevalence of drug use among young people and adults in Estonia.

Methods. The study sample consisted of 4922 individuals. Their mean age was 21.4 ± 6.8 years (range 16–45 y). We assessed the participants’ lifetime and drug use in the past 3-months using the Alcohol, Smoking and Substance use Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST). Data were collected via the web-based survey platform REDCap.

Results. The psychotropic drugs that are most commonly used by the sample subjects of the survey was alcohol (86.1%) and tobacco (60.5%). However, cannabis was the most frequently used illicit drug, with 43.0% of the study group having used the drug at some point during their lifetime. In comparison, 15.2% of the participants had used amphetamine-type stimulants, 12.5% had used hallucinogens, 8.1% had used inhalants, 7.7% had used cocaine, and 3.7% had used opioids at least once in their life. The proportion of past 3-month alcohol use was 77.6%, followed by tobacco (43.0%) and cannabis (24.5%). The overall lifetime drug use prevalence estimates according to the first-level administrative subdivisions of Estonia are also provided.

Discussion. We should keep in mind that the use of licit or illicit drugs is more common than we might think, especially among young people. This study confirms the high rates of drug use among young people. We therefore recommend strengthening prevention and intervention activities through targeting alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use, in particular among youth and young adults, in Estonia.