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Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2014/15: Drug Use Statistics

Published: 28 Jun 2016 09:30
Part of:

A National Statistics Publication for Scotland

The latest figures from the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (2014/15) show that 6.0% of adults reported having used one or more illicit drugs in the last year. This had decreased from 7.6% of adults in 2008/09.

Scotland's Chief Statistician today published Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) 2014-15: Drug Use. The publication presents statistics on adult's drug use in three time periods; at some point in their lives, in the last year and in the last month, derived from the respondent self-report section of the SCJS.

The Prevalence of Illicit Drug Use in Scotland

The survey reveals that self-reported illicit drug use has fallen between the SCJS 2008/09 and 2014/15 across all three reporting time periods (in the last month, in the last year, and ever). The percentage of adults reporting taking one or more illicit drugs in the last year decreased from 7.6% to 6.0% between 2008/09 and 2014/15. There has also been a decline in Class A, B and C drugs in this period (2008/09 and 2014/15).

Drug use has fallen for both females and males between 2008/09 and 2014/15, with a decrease in reported illicit drug use in the last year from 11.1% in comparison to 8.9% amongst men, and a decrease from 4.3% to 3.4% amongst women.

As in the SCJS 2012/13, cannabis is the most commonly used drug with 5.0% of adults reporting use in the last year, however this has fallen from 6.2% in the 2008/09 survey.

Self-reported illicit drug use varies significantly by age, gender, socioeconomic classification, area deprivation and victim status; higher levels of drug use are found in younger age group, men, those working routine/manual professions, those living in deprived areas and those who are victims of crime.

Being offered drugs

There has been a statistically significant decrease between 2008/09 (13.7%) and 2014/15 (8.9%) in those reporting that someone has offered to give or sell them at least one type of illicit drug in the last year. The fall in young people, aged 16-24, reporting being offered at least one illicit drug in the last year is greatest, from 41.4% in 2008/09 to 27.5% in 2014/15.

Use of New Psychoactive Substances

For the first time, the SCJS 2014/15 asked respondents whether they had ever taken 'New Psychoactive Substances' (NPS), also known as 'legal highs', as a generic category. An estimated 1.6% of adults reported that they had taken any powders, pills, herbal mixtures or crystals that are sold as 'legal highs', even if it was a long time ago. Use of NPS was higher amongst younger age groups, with 4.1% of 16-24 year-olds reporting having ever used 'legal highs', compared with 2.7% of 25-44 year-olds and 0.5% of 45-60 year-olds.

The Experiences of Adults Reporting Drug Use in Scotland

Amongst those who reported drug use in the last year, eight in ten (80.7%) said that they had used cannabis; 29.3% said they had used cocaine and 21.7% said they had used ecstasy. The survey also asked about polydrug use (the use of more than one drug at the same time) and mixing drugs with alcohol. Half (50.6%) of all adults over 16 taking more than one drug in the last year had taken different drugs together at the same time and nearly two thirds (64.8%) had consumed alcohol at the same time as taking drugs.

The majority of adults (77.8%) who have ever taken drugs reported that their first drug used was cannabis, and over half (55%) of those who had reported ever taking drugs first tried them during their late teens (16-19).

The survey also asked about drug use in the last month, which gives the most up to date information on usage and findings on drug dependency. Those reporting that they used their most frequently used drug in the last month 'every day or almost every day' has fallen from 30.2% in 2012/13 to 18.8% in 2014/15. Of those who reported using drugs in the last month, less than a fifth (16.6%) said that they had felt dependent upon the drug they used most often in the last month. 31.3% of adults living in the 15% most deprived areas in Scotland said that they had felt dependent on the drug taken most often in the last month, compared to 11.9% of those living in the rest of Scotland.

For those respondents who had in the last month tried to cut down on the drug used most often in the last month, the majority (87.4%) said that they did not use any support services while trying to cut down. The majority of those who had used drugs in the last month said that it was very easy (40.5%) or fairly easy (43.4%) to get hold of the drug used most often in the last month.

Notes to editors

The full statistical publication is available at

The report presents statistics derived from the SCJS on whether adults aged 16 or over reported illicit drug use over three different time periods: at some point in their lives (ever), in the last year and in the last month before the survey interview. The report also presents statistics on adult's experiences of any drug use over these three time periods.

The main SCJS survey is based on around 11,472 face-to-face interviews which are conducted in private households. Respondents are also asked to answer a separate self-completion module on more confidential and sensitive issues, including drug taking, partner abuse, sexual victimisation and stalking. The self-completion section of the SCJS 2014/15 questionnaire was completed by 9,986 respondents, which represents 87 per cent of all respondents.

This report presents the results of interviews conducted between April 2014 to May 2015.

The SCJS is one of the Scottish Government's flagship national surveys delivering robust evidence for the "Safer and Stronger" Strategic Objective. The survey allows the people of Scotland to independently report their experiences and perceptions of crime, and thus influence the continued development and improvement of the Scottish Justice system. Further information on Crime and Justice statistics (including the SCJS) within Scotland can be accessed at:

The figures released today were produced by independent statistical staff free from any political interference, in accordance with professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. More information can be found at: