The coronavirus epidemic in Belgium had little overall effect on the use of leisure drugs, according to a survey carried out by federal health institute Sciensano.
Sciensano carried out a poll during three periods in 2020, and gathered more than 8,000 responses. The respondents were mainly males under the age of 25, and living in Flanders. Eight out of ten were users of cannabis, two out of ten were cocaine users and one in ten used ecstasy or amphetamines.
During the first lockdown in March 2020, the use of marijuana increased compared to the months before. However six months later the situation had returned to normal.
Consumption of cocaine and amphetamines, in contrast, dropped substantially in the first lockdown, only to recover six months later to exceed pre-lockdown quantities.
For ecstasy, meanwhile, consumption fell during the March lockdown and stayed down six months later.
The survey also found a difference between regular users and occasional users.
Heavy users of drugs – of all sorts – tended to consume greater quantities during the first lockdown, while for occasional users the reverse was true.
Availability may have something to do with this. During lockdown, bars and night clubs were closed, taking away many of the chance opportunities to purchase drugs for occasional users.
Regular users, on the other hand, tend to have personal contacts with suppliers, who are known to have developed new methods to cope with the restricted circumstances – orders via internet, payment via app and home delivery.
“This research shows that the drug market remained relatively stable and that drugs were still available during the pandemic,” the report concludes.
“Users appear to have bought relatively larger quantities than before, perhaps to have stock in case the drugs were less readily available or simply because the mode of transaction allowed it. Retail prices rose in 2020 for marijuana and cocaine in powdered form, while they fell for ecstasy pills and powdered amphetamines.”