Worldwide opioid use shows large increase says UN report

Worldwide opioid use shows large increase says UN report

  • June 2019
  • Posted By James Lawson

The use of opioids worldwide increased dramatically according to a new UN report released on 26 June, with a rise in deaths in the US from overdoses and a ‘crisis’ of tramadol abuse beginning in parts of Africa. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that about 271 million people worldwide used drugs in 2017, which was a 30% increase from 2009.

The reported increase in drug use was partly due to the 10% increase in the number of people aged between 18 and 64 worldwide but was also caused by increased opioid use in North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, as well as higher cannabis use in Asia and North and South America.

Opioid use, including tramadol, fentanyl, and other synthetic opioids, increased by 56% from 2016, with an estimated 53 million users across the globe in 2017. The report noted that the increase in drug use has led to a rise in adverse health effects, with 35 million people in 2017 affected by drug-related illnesses needing treatment, an increase from a previous estimate of 30.5 million.

But, only about 14% of the people who needed treatment for drug-related problems have received it. Two-thirds of the 585,000 people worldwide who died in 2017 from drug use had overdosed on opioids. Over 51,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2017 in the US and Canada. Overdoses of fentanyl and similar synthetic opioids were the main causes of drug fatalities in these countries. Globally, the estimated illegal manufacture of cocaine hit a record high of about 2,000 tonnes in 2017, which was a 25% increase from 2016.


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