Extent of illicit drug use and health consequences

On the whole, the global drug use situation has remained stable. While there has been some increase in the estimated total number of users of any illicit substance, estimates show that the number of drug users with dependence or drug use disorders has remained stable. The increase in the annually estimated number of users is, to a large extent, a reflection of an increase in the world population.

However, polydrug use, especially the combination of prescription drugs and illicit substances, continues to be a concern. The misuse of sedatives and tranquillizers is of particular concern, with more than 60 per cent of the countries covered in the report ranking such substances as among the first three misused types of substances.

The increasing number of NPS appearing on the market has also become a major public health concern, not only because of increasing use but also because of the lack of scientific research and understanding of their adverse effects.

Injecting drug use and HIV remain a public health concern

New data reveal that the prevalence of people who inject drugs and those who inject drugs and are also living with HIV in 2011 was lower than previously estimated: 14.0 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 are estimated to be injecting drugs, while 1.6 million people who inject drugs are living with HIV. The new global estimates on both injecting drug use and HIV among people who inject drugs are lower than the previous global estimates reported in 2008 by Mathers et al. However, the lower estimates do not represent a decrease in the epidemic, but an improved availability of more reliable data, which allows for setting a new baseline for global estimates on injecting drug use and HIV among people who inject drugs.
In 2011, the number of drug-related deaths was estimated at 211,000. Most of those deaths were among the younger population of users and were, to a large extent, preventable. Opioids remained the most commonly reported group of substances involved in drug-related deaths. There continues to be a major gap in the delivery of treatment services for drug dependence: only an estimated one in six problem drug users had received treatment in the preceding year.

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