Drug Use Changes at the Individual Level: Results from a Longitudinal, Multisite Survey in Young Europeans Frequenting the Nightlife Scene

Meryem Grabski, Jon Waldron, Tom P. Freeman, Claire Mokrysz, Ruben J. J. Van Beek, Peggy Van Der Pol, Bert Hauspie, Nicky Dirkx, Jochen Schrooten, Tobias H. Elgán, Kristin Feltman, Elisa Benedetti, Gianpaolo Scalia Tomba, Francesco Fabi, Sabrina Molinaro, Johanna Gripenberg, Tina Van Havere, Margriet Van Laar, H. Valerie Curran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (SciVal)


Background: Monitoring emerging trends in the increasingly dynamic European drug market is vital; however, information on change at the individual level is scarce. In the current study, we investigated changes in drug use over 12 months in European nightlife attendees. Method: In this longitudinal online survey, changes in substances used, use frequency in continued users, and relative initiation of use at follow-up were assessed for 20 different substances. To take part, participants had to be aged 18-34 years; be from Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, or the UK; and have attended at least 6 electronic music events in the past 12 months at baseline. Of 8,045 volunteers at baseline, 2,897 completed the survey at both time points (36% follow-up rate), in 2017 and 2018. Results: The number of people using ketamine increased by 21% (p < 0.001), and logarithmized frequency of use in those continuing use increased by 15% (p < 0.001; 95% CI: 0.07-0.23). 4-Fluoroamphetamine use decreased by 27% (p < 0.001), and logarithmized frequency of use in continuing users decreased by 15% (p < 0.001, 95% CI: -0.48 to -0.23). The drugs with the greatest proportion of relative initiation at follow-up were synthetic cannabinoids (73%, N = 30), mephedrone (44%, N = 18), alkyl nitrites (42%, N = 147), synthetic dissociatives (41%, N = 15), and prescription opioids (40%, N = 48). Conclusions: In this European nightlife sample, ketamine was found to have the biggest increase in the past 12 months, which occurred alongside an increase in frequency of use in continuing users. The patterns of uptake and discontinuation of alkyl nitrates, novel psychoactive substances, and prescription opioids provide new information that has not been captured by existing cross-sectional surveys. These findings demonstrate the importance of longitudinal assessments of drug use and highlight the dynamic nature of the European drug landscape.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-160
JournalEuropean Addiction Research
Early online date26 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
ALAMA-nightlife is a collaborative project supported by the European Research Area Network on Illicit Drugs (ERANID). This study is based on independent research commissioned and funded in England by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Policy Research Programme (project ref. PR-ST-0416-10003). The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the national funding agencies or ERANID.


  • Drug use
  • Ketamine
  • Longitudinal online survey
  • Nightlife scene
  • Novel psychoactives
  • Prescription opioids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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