Similar to most European countries, in Spain, cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug. 1 in 100 adults aged 15-64 reported using a new psychoactive substance following a report for 2017. Typically, most users of cannabis are young male adults.
Several Spanish cities, among those Barcelona and Madrid, are active participants in the European wastewater campaigns undertaken by SCORE (Sewage Analysis Core Group Europe). The campaigns focus on obtaining data for drug use at municipal level by measuring the drug and metabolite levels found in the sewer.
As such, and according to the Country Drug Report of 2019, Barcelona recorded an increase in MDMA/ecstasy, amphetamine and methamphetamine residues between 2011 and 2018. In several monitored cities, MDMA and cocaine levels increase during the weekends.
At the same time, heroin consumption has seen a steady decrease over the last decade. As such, HIV infection levels have also gone down since the end of the 1990s. While the number of drug-induced deaths remains relatively low in Spain – with 16 deaths per million in 2016 – in 9 out of 10 cases, it was attributed to the presence of more than one psychoactive substances. In other words, polydrug use is a common occurrence in Spain.
Spain allocates approximately 0.03% of its GDP for drug-related public expenditure, around EUR 317.36 million. 30% of this was spent by the central government, with the remainder going to communities and cities.
Unlike France, Spain has chosen to focus less on drug and alcohol testing or drug screening, and more on prevention. Spain’s National Strategy on Addictions is focused on creating a healthier, better-informed, and more secure society. The interventions, according to this strategy, will focus on promoting safety in the nightlife environment by addressing drunk driving and preventing alcohol consumption among minors. At the same time, the Autonomous Community Drug Plans – implemented together with schools – are aimed at implementing and monitoring drug prevention programs. Some municipalities have up to 30 different such programs.
A particular Spanish approach is community work together with parents associations, implementing alternative leisure-time programs for minors and young people in general. These mostly target bars, nightclubs, and music concerts, using peer education or even online delivery.