Global Drug Use on the Rise

Around 270 million people used drugs last year worldwide, while over 35 million people suffered from drug use disorders according to the World Drug Report released by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna which gathered data from 130 countries.

The report said many countries saw a rise in the use of many different drugs saying:

The COVID-19 pandemic brought new trends in drug trafficking and accelerated some existing ones: an increased use of maritime and water routes was observed in many regions, including in countries in Europe, Latin America, North Africa and South-East Asia. These shifts may have been initiated or accelerated by border closures and difficulties in trafficking by land, as well as by the reduction in commercial flights.

The report also highlighted how countries already struggling with opioid use saw uptick in deaths due to overdoses saying, “In some countries already heavily affected by the opioid crisis, COVID-19 appears to have accelerated the trend of increasing overdose deaths. For example, overdose deaths in North America increased by up to 74 percent in 2020 over 2019.”

This was partly due to because as the study found critical ser-vices for the prevention of adverse health consequences of drug users were partially or completely disrupted in 65 per cent of 130 reporting countries, opioid agonist treatment for opioid use disorders was disrupted in 45 per cent of countries, and overdose prevention and management programs were disrupted in 53 per cent of countries due to shutdowns.

The report also said many countries saw a rise in the use of cannabis during the coronavirus pandemic. They surveyed health professionals in 77 countries 42 percent said cannabis use had increased as well as an increase in non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs during the pandemic shutdowns. While the percentage of adolescents who perceived the drug as harmful fell by as much as 40 %. This despite evidence that cannabis use has been associated with a variety of health problems and harmful effects especially among long-term users.

“Lower perception of drug use risks has been linked to higher rates of drug use, and the findings of UNODC’s 2021 World Drug Report highlight the need to close the gap between perception and reality to educate young people and safeguard public health,” UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly said.

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