BERLIN (AP) — Around 275 million people used drugs worldwide last year, while over 36 million people suffered from drug use disorders, according to the World Drug Report released Thursday by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna.
The report also said many countries saw a rise in the use of cannabis during the coronavirus pandemic. In surveys of health professionals across 77 countries, 42% said cannabis use had increased. A rise in the non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs was also observed in the same period.
The report further noted that in the last 24 years, cannabis potency had increased as much as four times in some parts, even as the percentage of adolescents who perceived the drug as harmful fell by as much as 40%. This development came despite evidence that cannabis use is associated with a variety of health and other harms, especially among regular 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.
According to the latest global estimates, about 5.5% of those between 15 and 64 have used drugs at least once in the past year, while 36.3 million people, or 13% of the total number of people who use drugs, suffer from drug use disorders, the report said.
Globally, over 11 million people are estimated to inject drugs, half of whom are living with Hepatitis C. Opioids continue to account for the largest burden of disease attributed to drug use, according to the report.
The report said that by drugs it referred to substances controlled under international drug control conventions, and their non-medical use.