Kraus, L., Seitz, N.-N., Schulte, B., Braun, B., Verthein, U., Pfeiffer-Gerschel, T.

Estimation of the number of people with opioid addiction in Germany


Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, 116(9), 137-143. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2019.0137

Open Access

Background: Opioid addiction is one of the most common substance-related disorders worldwide, and morbidity and mortality due to opioid addiction place a heavy burden on society. Knowing the size of the population that is addicted to opioids is a prerequisite for the development and implementation of appropriate health-policy measures.

Methods: Our estimate for Germany for 2016 is based on an enumeration of opioid-addicted persons who were entered in a registry of persons receiving substitution therapy, an enumeration of persons receiving outpatient and inpatient care for addiction without substitution therapy, an extrapolation to all addiction care facilities, and an estimation of the number of opioid-addicted persons who were not accounted for either in the substitution registry or in addiction care.

Results: The overall estimate of the number of opioid-addicted persons in Germany in 2016 was 166 294 persons (lower and upper bounds: 164 794 and 167 794), including 123 988 men (122 968 to 125 007) and 42 307 women (41 826 to 42 787). The estimates for each German federal state per 1000 inhabitants ranged from 0.1 in Brandenburg to 3.0 in North Rhine-Westphalia and 5.5 in Bremen. The average value across Germany was 3.1 per 1000 inhabitants.

Conclusion: Comparisons with earlier estimates suggest that the number of persons addicted to opioids in Germany has hardly changed over the past 20 years. Despite methodological limitations, this estimate can be considered highly valid. Nearly all persons who are addicted to opioids are in contact with the addiction care system.


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