One in five Maltese students believes cocaine, crack are easy to obtain, study shows

The ESPAD report on substance use released today shows that Maltese students are more likely than their European counterparts to believe cocaine, crack and alcohol are easy to obtain

The ESPAD study covers students aged 15 and 16. In Malta the research was carried out by Sedqa
The ESPAD study covers students aged 15 and 16. In Malta the research was carried out by Sedqa

One in five Maltese students aged 15 and 16 believe it is ‘fairly easy’ or ‘very easy’ to obtain cocaine, new research out today shows.

This is significantly higher than the European average, according to the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD). The research was carried out last year.

While 20% of students surveyed in Malta perceived it was relatively easy to obtain cocaine, the European average stood at 13%.

A similar dissonance was reported for crack cocaine. The study found that 14% of students in Malta perceived it was fairly or very easy to obtain crack, six points more than the European average.


Alcohol was also easier to obtain in Malta. The research showed that 85% of students in Malta perceived it was fairly or very easy to obtain alcohol, seven points higher than their European counterparts.

The figures for Malta show that 34% of students used alcohol at the age of 13 or younger, in line with the European average of 33%.


However, use of cigarettes in Malta at a young age was significantly lower. While 7.4% of Maltese students reported smoking cigarettes at the age of 13 or younger, the European average stood at 18%.

The daily smoking rate at age 13 or younger in Malta was almost half the European average.

Cannabis use

Other numbers suggest that 4.7% of Maltese students used cannabis in the previous 30 days when the survey was conducted.

Cannabis is also perceived as being the easiest illicit drug to obtain, with 33% of Maltese students suggesting it was fairly or very easy to acquire. This is at par with the European average of 32%.


The study found that 14% of Maltese students gambled for money in the previous 12 months, while 3.8% engaged in online gambling.

The report went on to estimate that 7.1% of Maltese students who reported gambling in the previous year had a problem of excessive gambling, while 5.2% were considered problematic gamblers.

The report

The report with the data and analysis on substance use and risk behaviours among 15–16-year-old school students was released today. The findings are based on a 2019 survey in 35 European countries conducted by ESPAD.

A total of 99,647 European students participated in the survey. The Maltese research was carried out by Sedqa, a government agency.

The full ESPAD report can ve viewed here.

Malta numbers to be dissected by policy makers

Social Solidarity Minister Michael Falzon said that while statistics showed an improvement in society’s approach to addiction, policy makers had to look beyond the numbers to address the problems.

He was speaking earlier today at the launch of the Malta report.

“What is causing addiction? Why are our children and young people looking to escape reality through that addiction? What are they escaping from?” he asked.

He said the issues must be resolved through informal and formal education. “Children must be taught that addiction is not an escape, but the problem,” he said. 

Falzon said professionals now face the added challenge of exploring new addictions like video games and social media.

“The problems go beyond substances and drugs, and we sometimes might not realise the harm other factors may be causing,” he said.

Charles Scerri, Sedqa pperations director, said the study was crucial for the agency to carry out its work. “We will be dissecting the study, and seeing what decisions we will take on the issues at hand,” he said.

He also said that is crucial for empirical research to be available for professionals, helping in giving a wider perspective on the issue and what to base interventions on. 

Drug expert Richard Muscat, professor of physiology at the University of Malta, told the conference that the study carried out by ESPAD is one of the biggest data sets related to addiction in Europe. 

“Not only does it provide a snap shot of the current situation, but also how trends have shifted,” he said. 

Muscat stated that understanding the shift in trends is crucial to constructing effective policies. 

“Policies have cycles. We have to have that information available to us, or the policy is not properly constructed,” he said.