Worldwide, there are an estimated amount of nearly 400 million drug users. Today, I list what their favorite (illegal) drugs are.
These data are taken from the World Drugs Report (2010) by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
It’s estimated that there are, globally, between 15,07 million and 19,38 million people who used cocaine over the year 2009. Cocaine is particularly popular in Northern America, where most of the users are located (6,17 million users). It’s also popular in West/Central-Europe. Interestingly, although close to the source of cocaine cultivation and manufacture, cocaine is relatively unpopular in Central America and the Caribbean, where the estimate lies between 110 and 320 thousand users.
4. Ecstasy (aka MDMA, XTC, X, etc)
MDMA stands for 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, which actually means it falls into the amphetamines group. However, the UNODC distinguishes between ecstasy and the non-specified amphetamines group because often, more specific information about ecstasy-users is available.
Worldwide, there are between 10,45 and 25,82 million ecstasy users. MDMA is generally known as a party drug – it induces a sense of euphoria, increases the sense of intimacy with others and decreases anxiety. The drug is popular around the world, in the Americas (est. 3,04-3,28 million users), Europe (3,85-4,08 million) and Asia (2,37-15,62 million – a rougher estimate since data could only be obtained from limited parts of Asia), whereas it’s not particularly popular in Africa (0,35-1,93 million users).
3. Opiates (including Heroin)
Opiates are most popular in Asia. This might not be surprising as Asian countries are where most opiates are produced (particularly Afghanistan, but also Burma, Pakistan, Vietnam and Laos). Drugs produced from opium poppies are often used as sedatives and pain-killers (due to often unavailable medical care), with severe addiction as a consequence. The estimate of opiate users in Asia lies between 6,46 and 12,54 million users, the worldwide estimate is between 12,84 and 21,88 million users, so the majority of users is definitely located in Asia.
Use of opiates is in Europe and the Americas, compared to the numbers in Asia, relatively low (and use has declined over the past years). In Europe, between 3,29 and 3,82 million people use opiates. In the Americas, that estimate is between 2,29 and 2,44. A rise in popularity of opiates has been seen in Africa (due to the decrease in price of opiates): there are an estimated 0,68 to 2,67 users.
2. Amphetamine-type Stimulants (ATS)
Amphetamines are chemical drugs – also known as designer drugs. They don’t have organical components and are mostly produced in ‘drug labs’. The manufacture of these drugs often include dangerous chemical processes. The UNODC’s amphetamines group includes amphetamine, methamphetamine and methcathinone and related substances.
The popularity of ATS has increased incredibly over the past few years. Worldwide, there are 13,71 and 52,90 million users. The drugs are particularly popular in Asia, where the estimate lies between 4,43 and 37,99 million users. It’s also popular in the Americas, particularly in North America – the estimate lies between 4,76 and 5,89 million users. In Africa, the estimated amount of users is between 1,55 and 5,20 million.
1. Cannabis (a.k.a. marijuana, weed)
Cannabis is by far the most used drug in the entire world. The global estimate lies between 129 and 191 million users, which is an incredible lot more than the previous drugs. This has probably to do with the fact that cannabis is a soft drug and therefore more readily available (for instance, cannabis is sold legally here in The Netherlands, although recent reports pointed out that the relative amount of cannabis used in the US lies many times higher).
The amount of users spread over the continents is high and somewhat equal everywhere – in Africa, the estimated amount of users is 27,68-52,79 million. In the Americas, that amount lies between 38,21 and 40,03 million (with it being particularly popular in North and South America). In Asia, the estimate is between 31,51 and 64,58 users and in Europe there are an estimated 29 million users.
If you’re interested in the World Drug Report, you can find a short summary of the originally 307 pages long report here.
Were these numbers as you’d expected? What surprised you most about these numbers, if at all?
P.S. I’d like to mention that of course, cafeine, alcohol and nicotine are the most used drugs worldwide, however, considering that these drugs are legal nearly worldwide, I left these out of the equation.