Drug use disorders soar 45% in just one decade

Younger generations are the most affected by addiction problems. Marijuana and opioids continue to be the most widely used illicit substances in the world.

The United Nations (UN) World Drug Report 2023 revealed that in a matter of a decade, the number of people suffering from drug use disorders has increased by 45% (to a total of 39.5 million). UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres detailed:

Tens of millions of people suffer from drug use disorders. Less than one-fifth are in treatment. Drug users are doubly victimized: first, by the harmful effects of the drugs themselves and, second, by the stigma and discrimination they face.

The study conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warned that in 2021, among every five people suffering from these drug-related disorders, only one was in treatment or receiving help to overcome it. UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly stated:

We are witnessing a steady increase in the number of people suffering from drug use disorders worldwide, while treatment is not reaching all those who need it.

Special Points WDR2023 Web ... by Verónica Silveri

Methamphetamine continues to dominate the world in terms of production. The report states that criminals continue to seek synthetic drug production that is "cheap, easy and fast" in order to make higher profits. He explains that fentanyl has drastically changed the opioid market in North America:

The cheap, easy and rapid production of synthetic drugs has radically transformed many illicit drug markets. Criminals producing methamphetamine, the world's dominant illegally manufactured synthetic drug, are attempting to evade regulatory and law enforcement responses through new synthesis routes, bases of operation and uncontrolled precursors.

More than 296 million people used drugs in 2021

The report also exposed that globally more than 296 million people used drugs in 2021, this reflects a 23% increase compared to the previous decade. Among the most consumed substances:

- Marijuana is consumed by 219 million people (70% men and 30% women). The number of people consuming it increased by 21% in the last decade.

- Opioids: 60 million (75% men and 25% women). This group of drugs remains the most lethal, accounting for two-thirds of drug-related deaths. Consumption has remained stable over the last ten years.

- Amphetamines: 26 million (55% men and 45% women). There was an increase in consumption in 2021 and over the last decade.

- Cocaine: 22 million. (73% men and 27% women).

- Ecstasy: 20 million (68% men and 38% women).

The analysis reported that younger generations - under 35 years of age - are the "most vulnerable" to drug use and are also those who are "most severely affected" when attempting to enter treatment to end addiction.

Predominant drug by continent

The predominant drug in each continent was measured in the report by the number of people in treatment for addiction. Although the most widely consumed drug worldwide is marijuana, opioids currently dominate consumption on three continents:

- Africa: opioids (37%) are the most commonly used drug, followed by marijuana (36%).

- Europe: opioids (45%); marijuana (17%).

- Oceania: amphetamines (42%); marijuana (39%).

- America: opioids (36%); marijuana and amphetamines (18%).

- Asia: amphetamines (47%); opioids (34%).