Global Trends in Drug Use

Written by admin

A summary of the latest annual report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime indicate that governments and relevant agencies around the world may have stepped up efforts to stem the harmful effects of illegal and illicit substances. Especially since the number of people struggling with drug addiction has increased from 27 million to 29.5 million.

2016 surveys also found that beside alcohol, tobacco and caffeine products; cocaine, cannabis, MDMA, Nitrous Oxide and opioid medications are among the 10 most commonly abused drugs in the world.

Another notable current statistics in global drug use is the rise of the dark net in drugs purchase. The date shows that 1 out of 10 people surveyed have bought banned substances off the dark-net, with MDMA, cannabis and new substances topping the list. Dark-net purchase also increased 6.7% from 4.5% the previous year, and 5% of the users said it was their first time of ever consuming drugs.

Regional Reports

There are also interesting statistics on drug use from across the continents.


  • There are over 22 million drug users in Western, Central and South East Europe, with an estimated value of more than €9 billion annually and making it Europe’s largest drug market.
  • In West and South East Europe, the use of new psychoactive substances (NPS) or ‘illegal highs’ has increased with the European Commission reporting that every week, a new substance is detected somewhere in Europe.
  • The cocaine market in Europe has expended and is currently the most popularly used stimulant on the continent accounting for an estimated annual value of €5.7 billion.

The Americas 

  • Lifetime use of cannabis in Canada and the USA is over 40%, which is much higher than in South America.
  • At a rate of around 20%, Chile and Uruguay have the highest lifetime use of cannabis in South America.
  • NPS or ‘illegal highs’ drug market in the USA and Canada has almost quadrupled since 2010, making it the largest and most diversified in the world.
  • With the exception of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and excluding cocaine and cannabis, drug use is generally low in the Caribbean. Also, drug use by injection is rare in the region.


  • Asia hosts two thirds of the total 16.5 million opiate users worldwide.
  • At an average of 1.5% of the adult population, opiate is used in Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan and is among the highest worldwide, almost quadrupling the global prevalence rate.
  • Although the number of people taking treatment for cannabis use in the region is small, its 62% rate of first time entrants is the highest in the world.
  • In comparison to neighbouring countries, the Maldives has low prevalence of illicit drug use.

Middle East and Africa 

  • 5.2-13.5% of the population aged 15 between 64 use cannabis in Africa, which is higher than the global average.
  • Cocaine use is prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa while cannabis is prominent in North Africa.
  • Heroin is commonly consumed by injection in West, Central and Southern Africa.
  • In some Middle Eastern countries like Iraq and Iran, it is traditional practice to smoke opium.
  • Besides Egypt, use of NPS or ‘illegal highs’ is uncommon in the region.


  • Australia and New Zealand mainly account for an increase in cocaine in the region from 1.4%-1.7% in 2009 to 1.5%-1.9% in 2010.
  • The estimated annual opiate use in the region of about 2.3%-3.4% is higher than the global average.
  • Excluding heroin, the annual drug use in the region exceeds the global average.
  • Prescription opioids are mostly used compared to illicit heroin.


Article Submitted on behalf of and

About the author


Leave a Comment