Australian Study Reports 200 Million Illicit Drug Users


A new study published January 6, 2012 in the Australian medical journal The Lancet reports that the number of illicit drug users worldwide has reached 200 million. It is estimated by the study’s authors that global illicit drug use ranges from 142-271 million people which translates to 1 out of every 20 people aged 15-64 years in the world.

While the study points out that gathering reliable data about illicit drug use can be difficult due to users being hesitant to admit use because it is illegal, the study still had some interesting findings.

According to the data the researchers were able to gather globally there are an estimated:

• 125-203 million people using cannabis
• 14-54 million people using amphetamines
• 14-21 million people using cocaine
• 12-21 million people using opioids
• Between 11-21 million drug users inject their drugs

The United States has the highest rate of cocaine use in the world with an estimated 1.9% of the country’s population aged 15-64 using it. Australia has the highest use of cannabis and opiod use, including heroin is highest in the Middle East.

The authors cite four main types of health effects of illicit drug use in this study:
• Acute toxic effects-overdosing
• Acute effects of intoxication-violence or injury
• Developing dependence or becoming addicted to drugs
• Long term drug usage effects on health

Illicit drug is correlated with a high disease burden as well as high rates of stigma and discrimination. Other negative factors include dangers of used drug injection equipment that has been discarded, violence related to drugs such as drug dealing, robbery, and muggings. These so called burdens are higher in high income countries than in third world or developing countries.

Because most research on illicit drug use studies addiction and dependence issues, this study is significant for researching the estimated number of people who use illicit drugs.


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