World drug use by the numbers from the latest UN report. A United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, report released Tuesday revealed there are around 27 million problem drug users alive today. While this is less than half a percent of the world’s population, it is a major concern for global health.
"Heroin, cocaine and other drugs continue to kill around 200,000 people a year, shattering families and bringing misery to thousands of other people, insecurity and the spread of HIV," UNODC director Yury Fedotov said.
While world drug consumption has been relatively stable, The UN has noticed a worrying trend in the trafficking and use of narcotics. Europe, the largest consumer of cannabis resin, is reporting an increase in the number of people growing their own marijuana. Authorities have also seen a spike in the involvement of organised crime in the use and distribution of cannabis. Currently, there are around 224 million cannabis users worldwide, making it the most popular narcotic.
Meanwhile, Opium production in Afghanistan, which grows 90% of the world’s opium, jumped by 61% since 2010. Southeast Asia is also beginning to produce large quantities of opium. Traditionally, this would have been shipped to the west, but a shrinking market in Europe and North America has driven sales to Africa and Asia. These areas are now home to 70% of the world’s opium users.
The UNODC found a similar trend for cocaine. While use in the west is stagnant or falling, South America and Australia as well as parts or Africa and Asia are seeing a growing number of people using cocaine.
The shift in narcotic consumption is a major concern for experts. As drug use shifts from developed to developing countries, many worry there will be a huge spike in users. The nations now most affected by the drug trade often do not have the money, manpower or experience to deal with the rising threat. To help deal with the problem Fedotov is appealing for more aid to the affected nations.
As drug use expands, so do the costs of treatment. Currently the UNODC estimates that 5% of the global population between 15 and 65 used at least one illegal drug in 2010. The cost of treatment for the most serious users could be as much as $250 billion worldwide. This is much higher than any current treatment budget and does not include diseases spread through drug use.
Nearly 1 in 5 injecting drug users are HIV positive and the UNODC estimates 50% have hepatitis C. If action is not taken quickly, these numbers could climb even higher. Without quick action, these addictions and the diseases they spread could pose an even greater global threat.