Dr. Monnat presents research at (UNODC)
Posted: June 30, 2016
Around five per cent of the adult population, or nearly 250 million people between the ages of 15 and 64, used at least one drug in 2014, according to the latest World Drug Report released today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Although substantial, this figure has not grown over the past four years in proportion to the global population. The report, however, suggests that the number of people classified as suffering from drug use disorders has increased disproportionally for the first time in six years. There are now over 29 million people within this category (compared to the previous figure of 27 million). Additionally, around 12 million people inject drugs with 14 per cent of these living with HIV. The overall impact of drug use in terms of health consequences continues to be devastating.
Drug use and its health consequences
While drug-related mortality has remained stable around the world, in 2014 there were still around 207,000 deaths reported: an unacceptably high number of deaths which are preventable if adequate interventions are in place.
Heroin use, and related overdose deaths, appear to have increased sharply over the last two years in some countries in North America and Western and Central Europe. Underlining the significance of this, Mr. Fedotov noted that while the challenges posed by new psychoactive substances remain a serious concern, "heroin continues to be the drug that kills the most people and this resurgence must be addressed urgently." Overall, opioids continue to pose the highest potential harm and health consequences among major drugs.
Cannabis, meanwhile, remains the most commonly used drug at the global level, with an estimated 183 million people having used it in 2014. By analysing trends over several years, the report shows that with changing social norms towards cannabis - predominantly in the west - cannabis use has climbed in parallel with higher acceptability towards the drug. In many regions, more people have entered treatment for cannabis use disorders over the past decade.
The report also includes new findings related to people who inject drugs (PWID). For example, the link between the use of stimulants (among them new psychoactive substances which are not under international control) and engaging in risky injecting and sexual behaviours which can result in a higher risk of HIV infection, is looked at. Additional findings point to high levels of drug use in prison, including the use of opiates and injecting drug use. Prisons therefore remain a high-risk environment for infectious diseases, and the prevalence of HIV, hepatitis and tuberculosis among persons held in prison can be substantially higher than among the general population. The risk from overdose continues to be high among ex-prisoners particularly shortly after their release from prison.
The report notes that men are three times more likely than women to use cannabis, cocaine or amphetamines, whereas women are more likely than men to engage in the non-medical use of opioids and tranquilizers. Gender disparities can be attributed to the opportunity of drug use in a social environment, rather than gender being a factor determining drug use. Despite the fact that more men use drugs than women, the impact of drug use is greater on women than it is on men, because women tend to lack access to the continuum of care for drug use dependence. Within the family context, female partners and children of drug users are also more likely to be the victims of drug-related violence.