2009/10 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey: Drug Use

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2 Prevalence of Illicit Drug Use in Scotland

2.1 Chapter summary

Self-reported drug use

The SCJS 2009/10 estimated that:

  • One in four (25.2%) adults had taken one or more illicit drug at some point in their lives, even if it was a long time ago;
  • 7.2% of adults had used one or more illicit drug in the last year, i.e. the 12 months prior to interview;
  • 4.2% had used one or more illicit drug in the last month, i.e. the month prior to interview.

Cannabis was by far the drug most commonly reported as used in any time period:

  • 22.9% of adults had taken cannabis at some point in their lives, around one in sixteen (6.1%) adults reported using cannabis in the last year and around one in thirty (3.6%) reported using cannabis in the last month.

The next most common drugs that people reported they had ever taken were amphetamines (7.6%), ecstasy (7.4%), cocaine (6.7%) and poppers (6.6%). Cocaine and ecstasy were the next most commonly reported drugs used after cannabis in the last year (2.1% and 1.9% respectively) and the last month (0.7% each).

Demographic variations

Men reported higher levels of illicit drug use than women including:

  • Around three in ten (31.4%) men reported taking an illicit drug at some point in their lives compared with slightly fewer than two in ten (19.5%) women;
  • The percentage of men (10.1%) who reported having used one or more illicit drug in the last year was more than twice as high as the percentage of women (4.5%) who reported this;
  • 6.0% of men compared with 2.6% of women reported having used one or more illicit drug in the last month.

Similar percentages of 16-24 year olds (38.2%) and 25-44 year olds (41.9%) reported having used illicit drugs at some point in their lives. Reported use of illicit drugs in the last year and in the last month was higher for 16-24 year olds (20.2% and 11.7% respectively) than for 25-44 year olds (11.1% and 7.0% respectively).

Reported drug use was lower for all time periods among 45-59 year olds and decreased further among those aged 60 or over.

Self-reported drug use compared over time and with England and Wales

There was no statistically significant change in the percentage of adults aged 16 or over who reported they had taken an illicit drug at some point in their lives, in the last year and in the last month between the SCJS 2008/09 and the SCJS 2009/10.

This suggests that rates of self-reported drug use among adults aged 16 years or over in Scotland have remained stable between 2008/09 and 2009/10.

A significantly lower percentage of adults reported taking cocaine in the last year in the SCJS 2009/10 (2.1%) compared with in 2008/09 (2.7%).

Comparing the SCJS 2009/10 with the British Crime Survey ( BCS) 2009/10, the percentage of 16-59 year olds reporting they had taken any illicit drug at some point in their lives was lower in Scotland (33.5%) than across England and Wales (36.4%), whereas the percentage taking any illicit drug in Scotland in the last year (9.8%) or last month (5.8%) was higher than across England and Wales (8.6% in the last year and 5.0% in the last month).

Being offered drugs

Around one in eight (12.9%) adults reported that someone had offered to give or sell them at least one type of illicit drug in the last year:

  • Of those offered an illicit drug in the last year, 46.7% had used an illicit drug in the last year and 53.3% had not.

2.2 Introduction

This chapter looks at the prevalence of illicit drug use in Scotland, including the overall extent of drug use, use by composite drug group and legal classification, as well as use of specific drugs. It then moves on to examine demographic, socio-economic and geographical variations in prevalence of drug use. The last section looks at the likelihood of being offered illicit drugs.

Comparisons are made over time using the SCJS 2008/09 and between Scotland and England and Wales (together) using the British Crime Survey ( BCS) 2009/10, where relevant. 13

2.3 Self-reported drug use

The SCJS 2009/10 provides estimates of the percentage of adults aged 16 or over in Scotland who report that they had used illicit drugs based on answers provided to three questions covering three periods of time ( ever, in the last year and in the last month): 14

  • One in four (25.2%) adults reported taking one or more illicit drug at some point in their lives ( ever), even if it was a long time ago;
  • 7.2% of adults reported using one or more illicit drugs in the last year, i.e. the 12 months prior to interview;
  • 4.2% of adults reported using one or more illicit drug in the last month, i.e. the month prior to interview.

Comparisons with the SCJS 2008/09 help to set these findings in context. This shows that for all three time periods there was no significant difference in the percentage who reported using any drug between the two survey years (Figure 2.1) suggesting the rates of self-reported drug use among adults aged 16 or over have remained stable.

Figure 2.1: % of adults aged 16 or over reporting use of drugs ever, in the last year and in the last month over time
SCJS 2008/09; SCJS 2009/10.
Base: Adults aged 16 or over (2008/09 10,962; 2009/10 13,409).
Variable name: QEVE; Q12M; Q1M.

Figure 2.1: % of adults aged 16 or over reporting use of drugs ever, in the last year and in the last month over time

Comparisons with the BCS 2009/10, based on 16-59 year olds, provide further context (reported in Hoare et al., 2010).

Estimates measured in 2009/10 were significantly lower in Scotland than across England and Wales for illicit drug use ever among 16-59 year olds (33.5% compared with 36.4% for England and Wales).

Estimates of illicit drug use were significantly higher in Scotland than across England and Wales for reported use in the last year and in the last month. In England and Wales 8.6% of 16-59 year olds reported having taken drugs in the last year and 5.0% said they had in the last month (compared with 9.8% and 5.8% respectively in Scotland).

2.4 Self-reported drug use by composite group and Class of drug15

Looking in more detail at self-reported drug use by composite drug group, i.e. classifying them by shared characteristics, Figure 2.2 shows that:

  • Around one in eight (12.7%) adults reported that they had taken stimulant drugs (cocaine, crack, crystal meth, ecstasy, amphetamines, poppers) at some point in their lives while 3.3% had taken at least one of these drugs in the last year and 1.3% reported use in the last month;
  • Around one in thirteen (7.6%) reported use of psychedelics (including LSD, magic mushrooms or ketamine), at some point in their lives. Less than 1% of adults reported using a drug from this composite drug group either in the last year or the last month (0.7% and 0.2% respectively);
  • One in twenty four (4.1%) adults reported ever using downers or tranquilisers (temazepam or valium), with 1.0% having used either of these in the last year and 0.5% in the last month;
  • Use of opiates (heroin and methadone) was lower. 1.0% of adults reported taking either of these drugs at some point in their lives, and less than 0.5% had taken opiates either in the last year or the last month (0.4% and 0.3% respectively). 16

Figure 2.2: % of adults aged 16 or over reporting use of drugs by composite group ever, in the last year and in the last month
SCJS 2009/10.
Base: Adults aged 16 or over (13,409).
Variable name: QEVE; Q12M; Q1M.

Figure 2.2: % of adults aged 16 or over reporting use of drugs by composite group ever, in the last year and in the last month

In respect of legal classification, Figure 2.3 presents findings from the SCJS 2009/10 showing that:

  • Around one in nine (11.7%) adults reported use of Class A drugs at some point in their lives, with 3.0% having done so in the last year and 1.3% in the last month;
  • Almost a quarter (23.5%) of adults reported use of Class B drugs at some point in their lives. Use of Class B drugs was dominated by cannabis use, the drug most commonly reported as being taken by adults (22.9% reported ever using cannabis). 6.2% of adults had taken Class B drugs in the last year and 3.7% in the last month;
  • Around one in twenty (4.8%) adults reported use of Class C drugs ever, with 1.3% having done so in the last year and 0.6% in the last month.

Figure 2.3: % of adults aged 16 or over reporting use of drugs by Class ever, in the last year and in the last month
SCJS 2009/10.
Base: Adults aged 16 or over (13,409).
Variable name: QEVE; Q12M; Q1M.

Figure 2.3: % of adults aged 16 or over reporting use of drugs by Class ever, in the last year and in the last month

2.5 Self-reported drug use by specific drug

Reported drug use ever, in the last year and last month by adults aged 16 or over followed similar patterns for individual drugs. Patterns of use for all drugs over the three time periods are discussed below. Figure 2.4, Figure 2.5 and Figure 2.6 show findings for all three time periods individually. More detailed discussion of drug use in the last month is also provided in Chapter 3.

The SCJS 2009/10 clearly shows that cannabis was the drug most commonly used in any time period.

  • 22.9% of adults had taken cannabisat some point in their lives, more than three times as many as the next most commonly reported drugs (amphetamines, ecstasy, cocaine and poppers - all around 7%);
    • Around one in sixteen (6.1%) adults reported using cannabis in the last year, which represents 84.4% of adults using any illegal drug in the last year;
    • Around one in thirty (3.6%) adults reported using cannabis in the last month;
  • The next most common drugs that people reported they had ever taken were amphetamines (7.6%), ecstasy (7.4%), cocaine (6.7%) and poppers (6.6%);
    • In the last year 2.1% of adults reported that they had used cocaine compared with 1.9% having used ecstasy, 0.9% having used amphetamines and 0.9% having used poppers over the same time period;
    • Reported use of cocaine and ecstasy in the last month was 0.7% each compared with 0.3% who reported using amphetamines in that period and 0.2% who reported using poppers;
  • Reported use of the psychedelic drugs, magic mushrooms and LSD, was similar for each time period:
    • Around one in twenty reported having used magic mushrooms (5.3%) and LSD (4.6%) at some point in their lives. Less than 0.5% of adults reported using either of these drugs in the last year or last month;
  • Among downers / tranquilisers, reported illicit use of valium was greater than illicit use of temazepam over all three time periods:
    • 3.4% had used valium at some point in their lives compared with 2.1% for temazepam;
    • 0.9% had used valium in the last year and 0.5% had done so in the last month compared with 0.4% and 0.2% who had used temazepam in the respective periods;
  • Use of glues, solvents, gas or aerosols was reported by 2.0% of adults aged 16 or over at some point in their lives, while use in the last year and last month was 0.1% or lower;
  • Ketamine use ever was reported by 1.3%, reducing to 0.3% in the last year and 0.1% in the last month. Use of anabolic steroids (0.4%) and crystal meth (0.2%) ever was reported by fewer adults; 17
  • Less than 1% reported use of heroin (0.9%), crack (0.7%) or methadone (0.6%) at some point in their lives, with 0.3% or fewer having used these in either the last year or last month.

Results for individual drugs are shown in the three figures that follow. Each time period is shown as a separate figure. The drugs in each figure are ordered consistently, from highest to lowest percentage ever used (i.e. based on Figure 2.4) and the same scale (0% - 30%) has been used for the y axis in each figure to aid comparison.

Firstly, Figure 2.4 shows reported drug use among adults aged 16 or over at some point in their lives:

  • Three times as many adults reported that they had used cannabis at some point in their lives (22.9%) compared with amphetamines (7.6 %) or ecstasy (7.4%) the next most commonly used drugs ever, illustrating the dominance of cannabis highlighted previously.

Figure 2.4: % of adults aged 16 or over reporting use ever by drug used *
SCJS 2009/10.
Base: Adults aged 16 or over (13,409).
Variable name: QEVE.

Drugs used ever - amended

* The % of adults aged 16 or over who reported using any drug ever was revised from 25.6% to 25.2% in February 2011 due to the discovery of an error.

Figure 2.5 shows reported drug use among adults in the last year:

  • Cannabis remained the most commonly used drug (6.1%);
  • The next most commonly used drugs were cocaine (2.1%) and ecstasy (1.9%);
  • Around three times as many adults reported they had used cannabis in the last year than cocaine or ecstasy.

Figure 2.5: % of adults aged 16 or over reporting use in the last year by drug used18
SCJS 2009/10.
Base: Adults aged 16 or over (13,409).
Variable name: Q12M.

Figure 2.5: % of adults aged 16 or over reporting use in the last year by drug used

Finally, Figure 2.6 presents drug use reported by adults in the last month:

  • Cannabis was the most commonly used drug in the last month (3.6% of adults reported cannabis use in the month prior to interview);
  • Cocaine and ecstasy were the next most commonly used drugs in the last month (0.7% each);
  • Five times as many adults reported taking cannabis in the last month than reported having taken cocaine or ecstasy.

Figure 2.6: % of adults aged 16 or over reporting use in the last month by drug used19
SCJS 2009/10.
Base: Adults aged 16 or over (13,409).
Variable name: Q1M.

Figure 2.6: % of adults aged 16 or over reporting use in the last month by drug used

The ranking of Figure 2.5 and Figure 2.6 in order of highest to lowest percentage used ever highlights the relatively higher prevalence of taking cocaine and valium in more recent time periods, compared with amphetamines, poppers, magic mushrooms and LSD which were relatively more likely to have been taken at some point in a person's life.

Figure 2.7 shows the percentage of adults who reported use of the most prevalent drugs over time in 2009/10 and 2008/09:

  • 6.1% of adults reported taking cannabis in the last year in the SCJS 2009/10 compared with 6.2% of adults in the SCJS 2008/09. This decrease is not statistically significant, suggesting that use has remained stable;
  • A significantly lower percentage of adults reported taking cocaine in the last year in the SCJS 2009/10 (2.1%) compared with in 2008/09 (2.7%). This pattern was repeated for cocaine use in the last month (0.7% 2009/10; 1.2% 2008/09). This suggests that self-reported use of cocaine amongst adults in the last year and in the last month has decreased between 2008/09 and 2009/10;
  • For the other drugs reported in Figure 2.7, any changes observed in the percentages of use in the last year between 2008/09 and 2009/10 were not statistically significant, indicating that the rates of use for these drugs have remained stable between the years.

Figure 2.7: % of adults aged 16 or over reporting use of the most prevalent drugs in the last year over time20
SCJS 2008/09; SCJS 2009/10.
Base: Adults aged 16 or over (2008/09 10,962; 2009/10 13,409).
Variable name: Q12M.

Figure 2.7: % of adults aged 16 or over reporting use of the most prevalent drugs in the last year over time

Findings from the SCJS 2009/10 can also be compared with results from the BCS 2009/10 for individual drug use. Reflecting the higher reported illicit drug use overall among 16-59 year olds in Scotland in the last year compared with reported use across England and Wales in that period (section 2.3), use of a number of individual drugs was also significantly higher. This included cannabis (8.3% of adults aged 16-59 in Scotland compared with 6.6% across England and Wales); cocaine (2.9% Scotland; 2.4% England and Wales) and ecstasy (2.6% in Scotland; 1.6% in England and Wales).

2.6 Variations in self-reported drug use

This section looks at estimates of illicit drug use by gender, age, and a series of other factors.

2.6.1 Variation by gender

Men reported higher levels of illicit drug use than women (Figure 2.8):

  • Around three in ten (31.4%) men reported taking an illicit drug at some point in their lives compared with slightly less than two in ten (19.5%) women;
  • Over the last year, more than twice the percentage of men (10.1%) than women (4.5%) reported taking an illicit drug, a pattern that was repeated for self-reported drug use in the last month (6.0% and 2.6% respectively).

Figure 2.8: Variation in self-reported drug use ever, in the last year and last month among adults aged 16 or over by gender
SCJS 2009/10.
Base: Adults aged 16 or over (adults 13,409; men 5,908; women 7,501).
Variable name: QEVE; Q12M; Q1M.

Figure 2.8: Variation in self-reported drug use ever, in the last year and last month among adults aged 16 or over by gender

This gender difference also extended to composite drug groups, Class and individual drugs (see Tables A1.8 - A1.13 in Annex 1).

2.6.2 Variation by age

In terms of age, the youngest age groups reported the highest levels of drug use in the last year and in the last month compared with other age groups and prevalence decreased steadily with age:

  • 16-24 year olds reported the highest levels of use in the last year (20.2%), decreasing to 11.1% of those aged 25-44, 2.2% of 45-59 year olds and 0.2% of those aged 60 or older;
  • In the last month, 11.7% of 16-24 year olds reported using illicit drugs decreasing to 7.0% of 25-44 year olds, 1.0% of 45-59 year olds and 0.1% of those aged 60 or over.

However, as Figure 2.9 shows, a similar percentage of 16-24 year olds (38.2%) reported having used illicit drugs at some point in their lives as did 25-44 year olds (41.9%), reflecting drug use in the past among these older adults. Reported use of illicit drugs in the last year and in the last month was higher for 16-24 year olds (20.2% and 11.7% respectively) than for 25-44 year olds (11.1% and 7.0% respectively).

Figure 2.9: Variation in drug use ever, in the last year and last month among adults aged 16 or over by age
SCJS 2009/10.
Base: Adults aged 16 or over (adults 13,409; 16-24 1,156; 25-44 4,111; 45-59 3,547; 60+ 4,591).
Variable name: QEVE; Q12M; Q1M.

Figure 2.9: Variation in drug use ever, in the last year and last month among adults aged 16 or over by age

Those aged 25-44 were most likely to have ever used opiates, psychedelics, Class A or Class B drugs, though in the last year the younger age group (16-24 year olds) were more likely to report using all of these, with the exception of opiates (see Tables A1.5 and A1.6 in Annex 1).

2.6.3 Variation by gender and age

Examining drug use in the last year by gender within age shows a consistent pattern, with men in all age cohorts more likely to report using drugs, and a clear association between age and likelihood of use (Figure 2.10).

Figure 2.10: Variation in drug use in the last year among adults aged 16 or over of different age groups by gender
SCJS 2009/10.
Base: Adults aged 16 or over in each age range / by gender within each age range (ranging from adults aged 25-44 4,111, to males aged 16-24 518). 21
Variable name: Q12M.

Figure 2.10: Variation in drug use in the last year among adults aged 16 or over of different age groups by gender

2.6.4 Variation in drug use by other factors

Variation in drug use in the last year among adults aged 16 or over was also investigated by other socio-economic, experiential and area factors. The fact that an association is identified between these factors and drug taking does not imply that one causes the other. Associations were investigated as simple one-to-one relationships rather than more complex statistical ones that take into account links between factors that might be identified through statistical modelling. 22

Factors where differences in drug use between sub-groups were identified included self-reported experience of being a victim of crime as measured by the SCJS 2009/10; socio-economic classification, as measured by Office for National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification ( NS- SEC); 23 tenure; area deprivation 24 and urban rural classification. 25

Associations identified that were statistically significant included:

  • Victims of crime as measured by the SCJS 2009/10 were significantly more likely than average to report using illicit drugs in the last year (13.8% compared with 5.6% among non-victims);
  • Those working in routine and manual occupations (9.8%) were significantly more likely to have taken illicit drugs in the last year than those who were not working or long-term unemployed (5.0%) 26 and those in managerial and professional occupations (5.5%). 7.8% of those in intermediate occupations had used any drug in the last year;
  • Those living in private rented accommodation (16.6%) were more likely to report having used any drug in the last year compared with those living in social rented housing (10.4%). Both of these groups were significantly more likely to report having used any drug in the last year than were owner-occupiers (3.8%);
  • Those living in the 15% most deprived areas of Scotland were more likely to report having used drugs in the last year than adults living elsewhere in Scotland (10.8% compared with 6.6% respectively);
  • Those living in urban areas (8.0%) were significantly more likely to report having used any drug in the last year than adults living in rural areas (3.5%).

2.7 Being offered drugs in the last year

The SCJS 2009/10 estimated that around one in eight (12.9%) adults reported that someone had offered to give or sell them at least one type of illicit drug in the last year. The particular drugs offered showed similar patterns to levels of usage of different drugs.

Figure 2.11 shows the percentage of adults aged 16 or over who reported being offered at least one drug within composite drug groups and Class in the last year. It also shows the top three individual drugs adults reported as being offered: 27

  • The drug most likely to have been offered to adults aged 16 or over was cannabis, offered to one in ten adults (10.3%), followed by cocaine (6.3%) and ecstasy (5.4%) respectively;
  • Around one in twelve (8.8%) adults had been offered stimulants and far fewer had been offered any of the other drug groupings: downers or tranquilisers (2.6%); psychedelics (2.4%); and opiates (1.6%);
  • Around one in twelve (8.5%) mentioned being offered at least one Class A drug in the last year, 10.7% Class B (reflecting Cannabis - 10.3% - being the most likely drug offered) and 3.2% Class C.

Figure 2.11: % of adults aged 16 or over being offered drugs in the last year within type of drug
SCJS 2009/10.
Base: Adults aged 16 or over (13,409).
Variable name: QOF2.

Figure 2.11: % of adults aged 16 or over being offered drugs in the last year within type of drug

Significantly fewer adults aged 16 or over had been offered stimulants in the last year as measured in 2009/10 (8.8%) compared with in 2008/09 (9.8%). In particular there was a decrease in the percentage of adults reporting that they had been offered ecstasy in 2009/10 compared with 2008/09 (5.4% 2009/10; 6.3% 2008/09). Similarly, significantly fewer had been offered any Class A drug (8.5% 2009/10; 9.4% 2008/09). There were no other significant differences for being offered drugs among composite drug groups or Class of drugs between the two surveys.

There were distinct differences among the main demographic sub-groups in terms of likelihood of being offered drugs in the last year, similar to those seen for use. These are reviewed in turn in the sections that follow.

2.7.1 Variation in being offered drugs by gender

Men were twice as likely as women to have been offered an illicit drug in the last year (17.5% compared with 8.7% women):

  • The difference was most pronounced for stimulants (12.2% men compared with 5.7% women), Class A (11.8% and 5.5% respectively) and Class B drugs (14.8% and 6.9% respectively).

2.7.2 Variation in being offered drugs by age

A relationship with age was also apparent:

  • Younger adults were more likely to have been offered any illicit drug in the last year - 38.6% of 16-24 year olds compared with 17.7% of 25-44 year olds, 5.1% of 45-59 year olds and 1.0% of those aged 60 or over;
  • 16-24 year old men (46.9%) were twice as likely as 25-44 year old men (23.8%) to have been offered an illicit drug;
  • 16-24 year old women (29.9%) were two and a half times more likely than 25-44 year old women (11.8%) to have been offered an illicit drug.

2.7.3 Variation in being offered drugs by other factors

Reporting of being offered any illicit drug in the last year among adults aged 16 or over also varied by other socio-economic, experiential and area factors. As noted in section 2.6.4, associations were investigated as simple one-to-one relationships and association does not imply a causal relationship.

Factors other than age and gender associated with being offered any drug were similar to those associated with drug use (section 2.6.4).

  • Victims of crime as measured by the SCJS 2009/10 were more than twice as likely to have been offered drugs in the last year compared with non-victims (24.2% compared with 10.2% respectively);
  • Those working in routine and manual occupations (17.0%) were significantly more likely to have been offered drugs in the last year than those in any other occupation group. Those in intermediate occupations (14.0%) were significantly more likely to have been offered illicit drugs in the last year than those in managerial and professional occupations (11.2%). Those in managerial and professional occupations were, in turn, significantly more likely to have been offered illicit drugs in the last year than those who were not working or who were long term unemployed (7.1%); 28
  • Those living in private rented accommodation (29.2%) were significantly more likely to report being offered any drug in the last year compared with those living in social rented housing (15.8%). Both of these groups were significantly more likely to report being offered any drug in the last year than were owner-occupiers (7.9%);
  • Those living in the 15% most deprived areas of Scotland were more likely to report being offered drugs in the last year than adults living elsewhere in Scotland (16.7% compared with 12.3% respectively);
  • Those living in urban areas (14.0%) were significantly more likely to report being offered any drug in the last year than adults living in rural areas (8.1%).

2.7.4 Variation in being offered any drugs by drug use in the last year

Around one in eight (12.9%) adults aged 16 or over reported that someone had offered to give or sell them illicit drugs in the last year (section 2.7). Among those reporting they had not used any illicit drugs in the last year, 7.4% said they had been offered them in that period, demonstrating it was not necessarily the case that those reporting being offered illicit drugs would have actually used any illicit drug.

Further analysis showed that less than half (46.7%) of those offered any illicit drug in the last year had used any illicit drug in the last year and over half (53.3%) had not . More than a quarter (27.7%) of those who had been offered drugs in the last year had never taken drugs.