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Lines of cocaine on a table next to a rolled-up fifty-euro bill
Cocaine use has risen in recent years in Germany, particularly among young adultsImage: Christoph Hard/Geisler-Fotopress/picture alliance

Germany sees rise in cannabis and cocaine use

Rebecca Staudenmaier
October 7, 2021

While cannabis use has continued its upward trend among young people, cocaine use and related crime have risen "significantly," according to Germany's latest drugs report.


More people in Germany are using cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy, the government's latest drug report revealed on Thursday.

Germany's drugs commissioner appealed for further support for addiction aid programs, saying initiatives were put through "an extreme stress test" during the coronavirus pandemic.

What were the main findings?

The annual report reveals the latest data on legal and illegal drugs, as well as developments in the trafficking of illegal substances.

  • Cannabis dominates the illegal drug market in Germany — comprising nearly 59% of all drug trade crimes in 2020
  • Crimes involving heroin and ecstasy dropped during the pandemic, a development likely tied to the closure of bars and clubs, the report said
  • In 2020, drug trafficking of cocaine "increased significantly" — rising by 9.6% compared to the previous year

Trafficking cocaine

The latest complete data on drug consumption in this year's report are from 2018 and 2019, compiled from a representative survey on substance abuse in Germany known as the ESA.

While the survey underway this year will paint a clearer picture of the impact of the pandemic on drug use, the current data already indicates several significant trends. 

The following figures are compared to data from the last survey that was carried out in 2015:

  • Tobacco and alcohol consumption is trending downward
  • The number of adults who said they smoke dropped by 5 percentage points from 28.7% to 23.4%
  • "Hazardous" alcohol consumption among adults was down by more than 2 percentage points, falling from 15.4% to 13%
  • Cannabis use among young adults (aged 18 to 25) rose by almost 9 percentage points, up from 15.3% to 24.1%
  • Cocaine usage has also become more popular, rising among young adults from 1.2% to 2.9%

What impact has the COVID pandemic had?

The coronavirus pandemic greatly affected both the illegal drugs trade in Germany and efforts to help people battling addiction.

"The pandemic was an extreme stress test for the addiction care system," the German government's drugs commissioner, Daniela Ludwig, said in a statement.

"Personal contact with therapists and counseling centers broke down almost entirely. We acted quickly and efficiently to prevent a collapse," she added.

Authorities also logged a major shift in the illegal drugs trade — with many transactions moving from the street to online.

"We must prevent Germany from becoming a hub for international drug trafficking," Ludwig said — urging for federal, state and local governments to pool resources to combat the growing problem.

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