According to a United Nations report released in Vienna, the number of people who have tried a narcotic substance in their lives has increased by 26% in the last decade. In 2020, 13.6% of users suffered from drug-related disorders to the point of being dependent or requiring treatment.
Some 284 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 had used some type of drug during 2020, which would show that the younger generations are more prone to fall into these habits than the older ones, due in part to the growth of the global population (12%), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its World Drug Report 2022.
Nearly 500,000 drug-related deaths were recorded in 2019, an increase of 17.5 % in a decade, with opioids as the deadliest drug, accounting for 77 % of the total. Men take more cannabis, cocaine, and opioids than women, although the percentages are balanced when it comes to tranquilizers, amphetamines, stimulants, and pharmaceutical opioids.
Regarding age groups, the UNODC report notes that in many countries a higher level of use had been detected among adolescents than in previous generations.
The report also points out that cannabis remained by far the most widely consumed narcotic drug, with 209 million users, 23% more than in 2010. It is also the substance identified by more countries as the most harmful in terms of created disorders, although it is only behind 4% of consumption-related deaths. Its cultivation has spread worldwide, and indoor plantations are overtaking outdoor ones, something that also has environmental effects due to the energy consumption it requires.
Although consumption is universal, it is especially intense in North America, where 16% of the population tries the drug, the highest prevalence in the world, while Spain was the country with the highest number of cannabis seizures in 2020.
Legalized cannabis use in some countries and states appears to have accelerated daily use and related health impacts, the UNODC document also highlighted.
As it happened with cannabis, cocaine production and use also grew in 2020, when 1,982 tons of cocaine were supplied, 11% more than in the previous year, even though the extent of coca bush cultivation has stabilized or even declined, such as in the case of Colombia.
These results would speak of a much more sophisticated output technique resulting in higher laboratory efficiency.
Opium production also continued to grow in 2021, especially due to a high harvest in Afghanistan. The UNODC report highlights that if the ban on opium cultivation announced by the Taliban, who before regaining power in August 2021 were involved in heroin trafficking and methamphetamine production, is implemented, the global market for this drug will be highly affected.