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Global Drug Use Trends

29th June, 2024 Social Issues

Global Drug Use Trends

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  • In 2022, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported a significant and concerning rise in global drug use, with an estimated 292 million people worldwide using drugs.
  • This figure represents a 20% increase over the past decade, highlighting a persistent and escalating issue on a global scale.

Findings of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Report

Drug Preferences

  • Among the various substances, cannabis stands out as the most widely used drug globally, with approximately 228 million users.
  • Following cannabis are opioids, with 60 million users, amphetamines with 30 million users, cocaine with 23 million users, and ecstasy with 20 million users, according to the UNODC report.
  • These statistics underscore the diverse range of substances contributing to global drug use patterns.

Treatment Disparities and Challenges

  • Despite the high prevalence of drug use disorders globally, the report reveals a stark treatment gap.
  • Only one in eleven individuals suffering from drug use disorders receives treatment.
  • Particularly concerning is the disparity in treatment access between genders: only one in eighteen women with drug use disorders receive treatment, compared to one in seven men. These disparities underscore systemic barriers that prevent adequate support for individuals struggling with substance use.

Responses and Urgency

  • UNODC’S Regional Representative for South Asia, highlighted the urgency of coordinated responses to address the escalating drug use crisis.
  • UNODC emphasized the importance of evidence-based prevention programs, especially targeting young people.
  • Such programs aim to equip individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to avoid drug use, thereby preventing the onset of substance use disorders.

Criminal Implications and Organized Crime

  • The UNODC report also underscores the profound implications of drug trafficking, which not only fuels addiction but also empowers organized crime groups globally.
  • These groups often diversify into other illicit activities such as wildlife trafficking, financial fraud, and illegal resource extraction.
  • Addressing drug trafficking requires comprehensive strategies that not only focus on law enforcement but also disrupt the economic incentives that sustain criminal networks.

Regional Insights: Opium Production

  • One notable trend highlighted in the report is the drastic decline in global opium production, which fell by 74% in 2023. This decline was largely driven by a staggering 95% reduction in Afghanistan's opium production, historically a major global supplier.
  • The implications of such a decline extend beyond supply chains, affecting heroin purity levels and potentially increasing demand for opiate treatment services in affected regions.

Strategic Imperatives

  • To effectively combat the complex challenges posed by global drug use, the UNODC advocates for a comprehensive strategy.
  • This strategy includes robust prevention efforts, expanded access to treatment for substance use disorders, and strengthened law enforcement measures to disrupt illicit drug markets.
  • Crucially, these efforts must be grounded in principles that uphold human rights and prioritize public health, ensuring that interventions are equitable and effective across diverse populations.


  • The UNODC report serves as a critical call to action, urging global stakeholders to address the multifaceted issues surrounding drug use with urgency and coordinated efforts.
  • By implementing evidence-based strategies, enhancing treatment accessibility, and disrupting criminal networks, the international community can work towards mitigating the impact of drug use on individuals, communities, and societies worldwide.

READ ABOUT DRUG ABUSE IN INDIA: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/drug-abuse-in-india#:~:text=According%20to%20a%20survey%20by,as%20stealing%2C%20crime%20and%20violence.

DRUG RECALL LAW IN INDIA: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/drug-recall-law-in-india

ALL ABOUT UNODC: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/unodc#:~:text=The%20UNODC%20is%20a%20United,Centre%20for%20International%20Crime%20Prevention.


Q. Examine the impact of global drug abuse on public health, socio-economic stability, and international relations. Propose strategies for international cooperation and policy frameworks to mitigate these challenges.