Background: While new psychoactive substances (NPS) have become a global phenomenon, epidemiological and qualitative knowledge remains very limited in Belgium. Such rapidly emerging trends cannot be easily monitored by means of the national Health Interview Survey in the general population because it is only held every five years. In addition, the questionnaire on substance use is limited and the number of people in the sample who have used substances other than cannabis is too low to permit further analyses. To provide in additional information on the patterns of use, EMCDDA’s European Web Survey on Drugs was conducted in Belgium by the Reitox national focal point at Sciensano between mid-November 2017 and the beginning of January 2018.
Methodology: The survey ran in Dutch, French, German and English. The applied self-selection sampling strategies included targeted advertising on social networking sites and sharing the web link through a variety of media from national network partners. Selection criteria were a minimum age of 18, living in Belgium and having used one or more of the drugs covered by the survey. Participation was anonymous and respondents could opt out at any stage in the questionnaire. Next to cannabis, cocaine, MDMA, amphetamine and methamphetamine, a specific module was available covering questions on the pattern and motivation of NPS use as well as the conditions of purchase.
Conclusions: NPS are prevalent on the regular drug market in Belgium and experimental use is established in recreational settings. Questioning of NPS use remains methodologically challenging due to the diversified groups of available NPS and therefore different related user profiles, as well as the limited common terminology among users.