Annual reports sent to the EMCDDA (European monitoring center for drugs and drug addiction), giving an overview of the latest developments on the drug problem in France.


National report to the EMCDDA - 2003

2002-2003 political context and latest developments

2002 was marked, in France, by a change of political majority and government. The new political mood, more offensive on the repression front, led to increased activity of the forces of law (creation regional intervention groups (GIR) particularly in charge of the fighting against local traffics) and order and new legislative measures (as example, the creation of a new offence of driving under the influence of substances classified as narcotics).

At the beginning of summer 2003, a process of reform of the law of 1970 was started. This law lays down the main objectives of public action to counter drug problems. The principle of this change had been implied since the beginning of 2003 in the successive declarations of several ministers and was repeated in the report of a Senate commission (Olin and Plasait, 2003). The various reform options were drawn up by the Interministerial Mission for the Fight against Drugs and Drug addiction (MILDT) in concert with all the ministers and have been sent to the Prime Minister. He should announce the chosen option by the end of this year.

Since the end of the prolonged 1999-2002 three-year plan in June 2002, the Government’s line on anti-drug and prevention of dependence strategy has not yet been officially formalised in a plan. Those working in the field are continuing their activities based on the principles of the 1999-2002 three-year plan but in the face of more or less severe budgetary restrictions.

Key Figures

Of those between the ages of 18 and 75, 22.8% have tried cannabis, 2.0% have tried cocaine, 1.4% have tried amphetamines, 0.8% have tried ecstasy and 0.7% have tried heroin.
The estimated number of those undergoing substitution treatment in any one month of 2002 is 90,000.
According to the sources used, 30 to 60% of heroin users and 30 to 55% of cocaine users practise injection.
97 deaths by overdose were recorded in 2002, the lowest level ever recorded.
There were 240 new cases of AIDS and 199 deaths amongst injecting drug users.
There were 96,740 arrests for drug offences of which 84% were for use.
65,907 seizures were carried out in France, the most frequently seized substance being cannabis.
The median price of a gram of white heroin is 80 €, 53 € for brown heroin. An ecstasy tablet costs, on average, 11.3 €. The average price of a gram of cocaine varies between 52 and 91 €, according to the site.


The developments observed amongst the population in general from year to year confirm the place of cannabis as the most frequently consumed illicit drug. Amongst adults, the prevalence of experimentation (having tried at least once) and that of use during the past 12 months are on the increase: 22.8% amongst the 18-75 year-olds in 2002 as against 19.6% in 1999 for experimentation and 7.5% in 2002 as against 6.0% in 1999 for use during the past 12 months (Beck and Legleye, 2003b).

The levels of experimentation with other drugs remain stable (except in the case of cocaine) and marginal. The most recent calculations estimate the number of experimenters with heroin in the French population between 18 and 75 years of age at 300,000, as against 850,000 for cocaine and 350,000 for ecstasy (Beck and Legleye, 2003b).

Amongst 17-year-olds, surveys in schools confirm that the level of experimentation with cannabis doubled between 1993 and 2002 and that its repeated use (consumption at least 10 times during the past year) tripled during the same period (Beck and Legleye, 2003a). The levels of experimentation with other illicit drugs remain below those for alcohol, tobacco and cannabis but rose from 2000 to 2002. This is the case, in particular, for inhalants (4.1% in 2000 to 5.2% in 2002), for magic mushrooms (3.1% in 2000 to 4.2% in 2002), for poppers (2.4% in 2000 to 4.0% in 2002), for ecstasy (2.9% in 2000 to 3.9% in 2002) and for amphetamines (1.0% in 2000 to 2.0% in 2002).

Emerging trends

In continuity with the observations made in 2001 by the TREND system (Recent trends and new drugs), it seems that injection, while remaining the predominant method practised by the users frequenting the “low threshold” facilities, is falling off amongst younger users, while the practice of sniffing is becoming more widespread.

At-risk behaviours amongst these users persist: 26% of those using injection had shared their syringe during the past month (Bello et al. 2003). Amongst sniffers, sharing remains equally widespread: Three quarters of interviewees admitted to having shared substance and almost half (43%) to having shared their straw during the past month (Bello et al. 2003).

Certain misuses of HDB, the main opiate substitute in France, have been identified. These are encouraged by the availability of the product on the urban parallel markets. For this product, the practices of injection and sniffing have become evident amongst the users of “low threshold” facilities, as have non-substitution users (first-time users and first-tine dependence).

Health and social indicators

In line with the trends observed since 1998, an increase in the presence of patients aged 40 and over and of minors was been noted amongst the patients registered for treatment in the Specialised drug addiction treatment centres (CSST).

Amongst the substances leading to the registration of patients in these centres, the proportion of cocaine and crack is rising noticeably, in line with the data for the previous year and the observations of the TREND system. Opiates remain the principal grounds for registrations for treatment in France.

It was also noted that the substances most frequently consumed during the past month by those frequenting the “low threshold” facilities, apart from alcohol, tobacco and cannabis, were cocaine, high-dose buprenorphine (HDB) and heroin (Bello et al. 2003).

In 2002, the number of deaths by overdose recorded by the police services was 97. This is the lowest level recorded since the beginning of the nineties. The growing share of cocaine and medicines in fatal overdoses (14.6% of reported fatalities in 2002 against 9% in 2000 for cocaine, 33% of reported fatalities in 2002 against 29% in 2000 for medicines) is one of the major trends in the figures for 2002.

To complement the official mortality statistics, this report gives the first results of a cohort study of the mortality of arrested users. This survey, carried out in the absence of a cohort study amongst active users frequenting a treatment centre, is the first large-scale cohort study of the mortality of drug users carried out in France (42,000 records). This study showed that the users arrested, for same sex and age, have a rate of mortality that is higher than that of the French population but, nevertheless, remains lower than that measured for active users in other European countries.

After a marked drop in all the criminal indicators (arrests, convictions, imprisonments) in 2001, the figures for 2002 indicate a return to the levels of 2000 and earlier.

Arrest for use of cannabis remains the most frequent (76% of all arrests made in 2002 against 71% in 1998). More than 10,000 were imprisoned in France during 2002 for Infringement of drug law (ILS), making 13% of all those going to prison in 2002. On January 2003, 15% of the prison population were detained for a drug offence (12% on the same date in 2002 and 215 in 1995).


The new legislative provisions and the increase in police activity during 2002 had an impact on the organisation of trafficking in urban1 areas and in the techno party context (Bello et al. 2003).

In urban areas, we observed a fall in the accessibility of heroin, an increasing supply of stimulants and hallucinogens and a movement of trafficking to less visible locations and venues.

In the techno party context, the new regulations governing the organisation of events have contributed to a displacement of trafficking to urban areas and music festivals outside the techno culture, because of the reduction in the size of party events.

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