Worldwide Drug Statistics

A summary of global drug abuse statistics was released by Australian researchers last week. The report shows the estimated numbers of drug abusers in various areas of the world, and finds that wealthier, more advanced countries are more at risk. Among the study’s findings are estimates of illicit drug abuse throughout the world:

  • Between 149 million and 271 million people worldwide used an illicit drug at least once in 2009; which equals 1 in 20 people aged 15 to 64 who have used an illegal drug. (1)
  • In North America, nearly 11% of the population aged 15 to 64 used cannabis in 2009. (1)
  • Between 14 million and 56 million people aged 15 to 64 worldwide used amphetamine-type stimulants, such as speed and crystal meth. (1)
  • Cocaine use was highest in North America in 2009, and it had 14 million to 21 million users worldwide. (1)
  • Opioid use, including heroin, had an estimated 12 million to 21 million users globally. The highest rates of use were in the Near and Middle East, where up to 1.4% of the population aged 15 to 64 had tried the drug at least once in 2009. (1)
  • There are between 11 million and 21 million people who inject drugs worldwide. (2)

More Drug Abuse in Wealthy Countries

Much of the drug abuse around the world can be found in the wealthiest and most developed countries. This is possibly because residents have more access to drugs, or have the means to buy drugs, or maybe because people in these countries are of the mindset that they deserve what makes them feel the best. The study “serves to confirm something addiction experts have known for some time — that the extent of illicit drug use and abuse in developed countries like the United States has reached epidemic proportions,” said Dr. Jeffrey T. Parsons, a professor in the department of psychology at Hunter College, in New York City. (2)

Prescription Drug Abuse

Countries like the U.S. have other things to worry about also, besides illicit drugs. Legal prescription painkillers are becoming the most abused substances in our country. Dr. Marc Galanter said, “It is important that we call attention to very serious drug abuse problems that still exist in the United States. For example, we are seeing recent increases in abuse of painkillers in the United States, as well as the abuse of MDMA [Ecstasy] by adolescents and young adults. Abuse of these particular drugs is not prevalent in less industrialized countries.” (2)

Tobacco and Alcohol Are Also Risks

Other substance, like tobacco and alcohol also have a huge impact on countries throughout the world. Although illicit drug use was linked with about 250,000 deaths worldwide in 2004, alcohol claimed roughly 2.25 million lives globally during that same time period, while tobacco use led to an estimated 5.1 million deaths. (1)

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