This report reviews research on substance use in recreational settings across Europe, using cuttingedge theoretical and empirical advancements within the field of contemporary drug research. Drug researchers and those responsible for monitoring the drug situation in Europe need to know which substances are being consumed, by whom, where, for what effects, and, if possible, under what circumstances. It is important to reflect on how best to measure people’s drug-using practices, and the challenges that these efforts may involve.

Drug consumption incorporates the non-medical use of psychoactive substances, including legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco; emergent or ‘novel’ psychoactive substances (NPS); ‘traditional’ illicit drugs such as cannabis and cocaine; and prescription medications such as (the illicit use of) opiate painkillers. Given the multifaceted, complex and highly dynamic nature of the drug situation, the research methods and tools used to gather data for monitoring require constant review and development.

The report begins by considering the role of general population surveys (GPSs) but largely concentrates on targeted population surveys (TPSs), as these are the key research tools for gathering data on substance use in recreational settings across Europe. Additional innovative research practices are also highlighted through case studies. The main empirical data sources for this report are TPSs of drug use among those frequenting recreational settings, EMCDDA national reports from 2013 to 2014, and workbooks from 2015 to 2016. Knowledge gaps are identified and recommendations are made on improving existing monitoring tools ‘by integrating new data sources and novel measurement methodologies’ (EMCDDA, 2017a:1). Where relevant, other studies are incorporated alongside TPSs, such as work on GPSs, on in situ TPSs compared with online TPSs, and on biomedical markers used to supplement self-report surveys.