Illicit drug use
Last updated 23 November 2021 - see all updates
1. Main facts and figures
White British adults and Black adults were more likely to have used illicit drugs in the year before being surveyed than Asian adults
White British men were more likely to have used illicit drugs compared with White British women
Black women, White British women and women from the White Other group were more likely to have have used illicit drugs, compared with Asian women
2. Things you need to know
What the data measures
The data measures the percentage of people aged 16 and older in England who said they had used illegal drugs in the 12 months before being surveyed.
People were asked if they had taken one of 15 types of named drugs, including cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy.
People completing the survey were not asked if they had taken any of the new psychoactive substances (sometimes called ‘legal highs’).
Percentages have been rounded to 1 decimal point.
Not included in the data
The data does not include:
- people who live in institutional settings (such as hospitals or prisons)
- people who live in temporary housing (such as hostels or bed and breakfasts)
- homeless people
The ethnic groups used in the data
Data is shown for the following aggregated ethnic groups:
- Mixed and Other ethnic groups
- White British
- White Other
This is because the number of people surveyed was too small to make any reliable conclusions about most of the 18 ethnic groups used in the 2011 Census.
Read the detailed methodology document for the data on this page.
These statistics have been age-standardised so comparisons can be made between ethnic groups as if they had the same age profile (the number of people of different ages within an ethnic group). They do not show the actual percentage of people in each ethnic group who used illegal drugs.
The figures on this page are based on survey data. Find out more about:
- interpreting survey data, including how reliability is affected by the number of people surveyed
- how weighting is used to make survey data more representative of the whole group being studied
In the data file
See Download the data for:
- the unweighted number of people surveyed
- separate figures for each of the 15 types of drugs listed in the survey
- confidence intervals for each ethnic group – find out more about how confidence intervals are used to determine how reliable estimates are
3. By ethnicity and sex
Download table data for ‘By ethnicity and sex’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity and sex’ (CSV)
Summary of Illicit drug use By ethnicity and sex Summary
The data shows that:
Black adults (11.7%) and White British adults (8.9%) were more likely to have used illicit drugs in the 12 months prior to survey, compared with Asian adults (3.4%)
while the chart and table show apparent differences between other ethnic groups in illicit drug use, the number of respondents was too small to make reliable generalisations
Black women (9.7%), White British women (6.2%) and women from the White Other group (6.9%) were more likely to have used illicit drugs, compared with Asian women (0.4%)
White British men (11.8%) were more likely to have used illicit drugs compared with White British women (6.2%)
Asian men (5.9%) were more likely to have used illicit drugs compared with Asian women (0.4%)
there were no meaningful differences between ethnic groups in the percentage of men using illicit drugs
4. Data sources
Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey: Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, England, 2014
Type of data
Type of statistic
Every 7 years (further publications dependent on further surveys being commissioned)
Purpose of data source
The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey provides data on the prevalence of treated and untreated psychiatric disorders in English adults aged 16 and over.
5. Download the data
The estimated percentage of adults who used illicit drugs in England in the 12 months prior to the APMS survey by ethnicity and sex. The data is further disaggregated by the type of drug used however due to small sample sizes some for some of the categories there is no data available. 95% confidence intervals have been provided for the ‘any drug in the past year’ category.