Deaths caused by drugs each year have doubled in the world in the last decade, to around half a million people, while the number of users has also increased by 22% in the same period, to a total of 275 millions.
The United Nations World Drug Report estimates that around half a million people died in 2019 from causes directly related to drug use, a figure similar to 2018 but double that of a decade ago.
This increase, according to the UN, indicates that drug use has become more harmful as there are more drugs available and they are more potent.
The deadliest drugs are opioids, such as heroin, responsible for overdose deaths and linked to diseases such as HIV or hepatitis C.
More than half of the total deaths were due to liver cancer, cirrhosis and other chronic liver diseases derived from hepatitis C.
The increase in deaths is also due to the large increase in overdoses attributed to the use of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. In the United States alone, around 50,000 overdose deaths from this type of narcotic were registered in 2019.
Around 275 million people in the world used some drug in the last year, compared to the 226 million estimated in 2010. This 22% increase was due in part to the increase in the world population.
According to these estimates, around 5.5% of the population aged 15-64 have used drugs at least once in the last year.
The most popular drug is cannabis, with around 200 million users, followed by opioids with 62 million, while there are about 20 million users of cocaine.
In the world it is estimated that there are more than 36 million people with serious drug addiction problems, a significant increase from the 30 million estimated in 2016.
Drug use will increase in the world by 11%, but most of the increase will occur in countries with fewer resources.
While in Africa it is estimated that by 2030 the number of consumers will increase by more than 40%, from 60 to 86 million, in Europe it will fall from 42 million to 39. In Latin America it is also estimated that there will be a slight decrease, from 19 million to 17.
The arrival of a new generation of cheaper synthetic drugs, the expansion of the use of opioids such as tramadol in Africa and the increase in the potency of drugs, have combined to offer a worrying trend in countries with fewer resources.
Tramadol is a powerful pain reliever in the opioid family whose illegal production and sale has exploded in Africa, where it is causing many health problems.
The report also highlights that the perception of risk among young people regarding cannabis use has decreased, despite the fact that the active principle of this drug is four times more potent than 20 years ago.
The percentage of adolescents who perceive cannabis as harmful fell by 40% in the United States and by 25% in Europe, according to the UN, which highlights that its long-term use is linked to cognitive damage.