Illegal drug use

Published

Last updated 3 March 2021 - see all updates

1. Main facts and figures

  • in 2014, Black people were nearly 3 and a half times as likely as Asian people to have used illicit drugs in the year before they were surveyed
  • Black women were nearly 25 times as likely as Asian women to have used illicit drugs in the year before they were surveyed

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:

  • Asian
  • Black
  • 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.

Methodology

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:

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

Percentage of adults who used illicit drugs by ethnicity and sex
Ethnicity All Men Women
Asian 3.4 5.9 0.4
Black 11.7 14.3 9.7
Mixed other 7.2 8.5 6.1
White British 8.9 11.8 6.2
White other 9.2 11.7 6.9

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity and sex’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity and sex’ (CSV)

Summary of Illegal drug use By ethnicity and sex Summary

While the chart and table show apparent differences between ethnic groups in terms of illicit drug use, the small number of respondents for some groups means only the following observations are meaningful:

  • Black adults were more likely to have used illicit drugs in the 12 months prior to survey, compared to all other groups except Other White

  • separately, Black women were more likely to have have used illicit drugs, compared to all other groups except Other White and Mixed

  • Asian adults, and Asian women separately, were the least likely to have used illicit drugs in the 12 months prior to survey

  • an estimated 11.7% of Black adults used illicit drugs in the 12 months prior to the survey, compared with 3.4% of Asian adults

  • an estimated 9.7% of Black women used illicit drugs in the 12 months prior to the survey, compared with 0.4% of Asian women

4. Data sources

Source

Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

National Statistics

Publisher

NHS Digital

Publication frequency

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

APMS_illicit_drug_use - Spreadsheet (csv) 26 KB

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.