Office of National Drug Control Policy


European Partners

Europe and the European Union (EU) are important allies in combating the threat of global illicit drug production and trafficking. The United States works closely with the European Union and its organizations to share drug policy information and counter drug trafficking. The United States also cooperates bilaterally with EU countries such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Germany, and Sweden on a number of international drug priorities from heroin trafficking in Afghanistan to cocaine trafficking through West Africa to Europe.

An important mechanism that facilitates the partnerships between the U.S. and Europe is the twice-yearly U.S./E.U. bilateral drug exchange. During these meetings, the United States provides an update on implementation of our National Drug Control Strategy, learns about the drug-related priorities of the European Union, and discusses how to improve coordination on key international issues, such as drug trafficking in the Caribbean and West Africa. In the coming years, this forum will be employed to improve the coordination of international aid and development assistance, law enforcement training, and demand reduction programs jointly provided by the United State and the EU to developing nations that are grappling with drug-related challenges

One area where the United States and Europe have been expanding cooperation is drugged driving. Since the publication of the Administration’s initial National Drug Control Strategy in May 2010, ONDCP has sought to increase the focus on the serious consequences for health and safety caused by drugged driving, both at home and around the world. As part of this international effort, the United States and the EU worked together to organize a panel discussion on drugged driving at the 2010 United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime Commission on Narcotics Drugs Meeting. At the 2011 Commission on Narcotics Drugs, the United States and EU successfully collaborated on a resolution calling for additional global research on drugged driving.

The EU is a world leader on drugged driving research as a result of its long-term Integrated Project DRUID (Driving under the Influence of Drugs Alcohol and Medicines). More information about their important work is available online. With both the United States and EU continuing to focus on this subject, we expect to continue to exchange research and best practices to address drugged driving.

Drug Use in Europe

It is conservatively estimated that marijuana has been used at least once (lifetime prevalence) by about 78 million Europeans; that is, over one in five of all 15- to 64-year-olds (EMCDDA Statistical Bulletin, 2011). According to the Eurobarometer survey in 2006, 68% of European citizens questioned did not agree that personal consumption of marijuana should be legalized throughout Europe.

Cocaine is the next most prevalent drug, with over 4.5 million users in Europe. After a large increase in cocaine use in the early 2000s, the prevalence rate has been largely stable over the past five years. Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Belgium continue to serve as the main entry points for cocaine, both directly from South America and also via West Africa.

Heroin seizures occur mainly in Southeast Europe, and accounted for almost 40% of the worldwide total in 2009. In the past five years, these seizures have doubled, mainly due to the strong efforts of Turkey.

Between 1995 and 2008, there were between approximately 6,300 to 8,200 overdose deaths reported each year in Europe. In addition to overdoses, the estimated number of HIV/AIDS deaths attributed to injecting drug use was around 2,100 in adults (15–64 years) in Europe in 2008, with around 90 % of these deaths occurring in Spain, France, Italy, and Portugal (EMCDDA Statistical Bulletin 2011).

Around 460,000 Europeans entered drug treatment centers in 2008. Most clients enter treatment on their own initiative or under the pressure of family and friends (44 %); 28 % go to drug treatment through health or social services, including other drug treatment centers; around 20% are referred to treatment by the criminal justice system, and the remaining through other referral sources. The most frequent reason for entering treatment in 2009 was the use of opioids (51% of all drug users - around 216,000 people), followed by marijuana (23 % - around 98,000 people) and cocaine use, (17% - around 72,000 people), use of stimulants other than cocaine (5% - around 21,000 people) and other drugs use (EMCDDA Statistical Bulletin 2011).

Related Resources

  • International Narcotics Control Strategy Report:  U.S. State Department, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, March 2011.
  • European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA):  EMCDDA was set up in response to the escalating drug problem in Europe and to demands for an accurate picture of the phenomenon throughout the European Union. EMCDDA releases an annual report each year reporting on data received from member states.
  • Europol:  Europol is the European Law Enforcement Organization which aims at improving the effectiveness and co-operation of the competent authorities in member states in preventing and combating terrorism, illicit drug trafficking and other serious forms of international organized crime.
  • Eurobarometer:  Since 1973, the European Commission has been monitoring the evolution of public opinion in the Member States, thus helping the preparation of texts, decision-making and the evaluation of its work. Surveys and studies address major topics concerning European citizenship: enlargement, social situation, health, culture, information technology, environment, the Euro, defense, etc.