Drug use and its health and social consequences

Drug use continues to exact a significant toll, with valuable human lives and productive years of many persons being lost. An estimated 183,000 (range: 95,000-226,000) drug-related deaths were reported in 2012. That figure corresponds to a mortality rate of 40.0 (range: 20.8-49.3) deaths per million among the population aged 15-64. While that estimate is lower than for 2011, the reduction can be ascribed to the lower number of deaths reported in a few countries in Asia.
Globally, it is estimated that in 2012, between 162 million and 324 million people, corresponding to between 3.5 per cent and 7.0 per cent of the world population aged 15-64, had used an illicit drug - mainly a substance belonging to the cannabis, opioid, cocaine or amphetamine-type stimulants group - at least once in the previous year.
The extent of problem drug use - by regular drug users and those with drug use disorders or dependence -  remains stable at between 16 million and 39 million people. However, there continues to be a gap in service provision, as in recent years, only one in six problem drug users globally have had access to or received drug dependence treatment services each year.
Although the general public may perceive cannabis to be the least harmful illicit drug, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of persons seeking treatment for cannabis use disorders over the past decade, particularly in the Americas, Oceania and Europe. Nonetheless, opiates remained the most prevalent primary drug of abuse among those seeking treatment in Asia and in Europe, as did cocaine in the Americas.

Injecting drug use and HIV remain a public health concern

With regard to injecting drug use, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), drawing on the most recent data available, jointly estimate that the number of people who inject drugs is  12.7 million (range: 8.9 million-22.4 million). That corresponds to a prevalence of 0.27 per cent (range: 0.19-0.48 per cent) of the population aged 15-64. The problem is particularly stark in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, where the rate of injecting drug use is 4.6 times higher than the global average.
The sharing of used injecting equipment makes people who inject drugs particularly vulnerable to HIV and hepatitis C. It is estimated that an average of 13.1 per cent of the total number of people who inject drugs are living with HIV. UNODC, the World Bank, WHO and UNAIDS jointly arrived at a global estimate of the number of people who inject drugs living with HIV of 1.7 million persons (range: 0.9-4.8 million). That situation is particularly pronounced in two regions of the world: South-West Asia and Eastern/South-Eastern Europe, where it is estimated that the prevalence of HIV among people who inject drugs is 28.8 and 23.0 per cent, respectively. More than half of the people who inject drugs are estimated to be living with hepatitis C.

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