Addiction Around the World

world map

Substance abuse is not only a problem in the United States but also all over the world. Countries all over the world have their own share of substance abuse issues and a huge number of people suffering from addiction. What are the types of substances being abused around the world? Read more to know what they are.

Facts About Drug Abuse Around the World

Each year, millions of people succumb or die due to drug/alcohol abuse. That being said, the World Health Organization is doing its best to help countries all over the world to develop, organize, monitor and evaluate these cases. Here’s what you need to know about drugs around the world.

  • People ages 15 years old or older can drink 6.3 liters of alcohol each year.
  • An estimated 3.3 million deaths occur each year due to alcohol abuse.
  • 31 million people around the world have drug use disorders.
  • 38.3% of the population drinks alcohol which means that an average of 17 liters of alcohol is consumed yearly.
  • 11 million people choose to inject drugs.
  • 1.3 million people who have abused drugs through injection are living with HIV while 5.5 million have Hepatitis C.
  • 1 million people suffer from both HIV and Hepatitis C due to substance abuse.

Drug Crisis 

One of the major threats in public health and law enforcement all over the world is the non-medical abuse of prescription drugs. In fact, opioids are one of the leading drugs that causes extreme harm, accounting for overdose cases around the world.  This is according to the reports conducted by the World Drug Report as released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Drugs like fentanyl and its analogs are among the most used drug in North America. Tramadol, which is an opioid used to treat mild to moderate-to-severe pain, is also widely abused in Africa as well as Asia. Both drugs are best used to treat pain in a medical setting. However, drug traffickers are able to produce them illegally and place them in illegal markets which is even more dangerous since it is not regulated properly, nor produced in a medical laboratory.

In 2016, about 87 tons of pharmaceutical opioids and heroin were confiscated around the world. Among the drugs seized, Tramadol in West, Central, and North Africa accounted for 87% of it while 7% of it belongs to Asian countries. In the same year, the global manufacture of cocaine reached its highest level ever reported. It is believed that 1,410 tons of cocaine were produced in Colombia, while countries like Asia and Africa are among the countries where cocaine is widely trafficked and consumed.

The global opium production increased by 65% between 2016 and 2017. According to reports, 10,500 tons of opium were released and became the highest production ever made since the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime or UNODC monitored its production into the 21st century. An increase in opium poppy cultivation was also reported and about 9,000 tons of opium was produced last year.

Besides opium, Cannabis is also one of the widely used substances in 2016. In fact, an estimated 192 million people were reported to use it at least once. Cannabis use all over the world continues to rise and has increased by 16%. Heroin and cocaine, on the other hand, have been available for a long time and have said to be coexisting with new psychoactive substances. Not only that, but there are also reports stating that cocaine or heroin are used along with prescribed medications. Because of these new drug combinations, the problems of drug use around the world have increasingly become more complex, thus making it harder for those in the health care system to resolve the ongoing issue.

The Increasing Rates of Substance Use Disorders

The number of people suffering from substance use disorders is reported to be the highest across Eastern Europe as well as in the United States. In fact, 5-6% of people in these countries suffer from such disorders. This means that 1 in every 20 people suffer from substance dependency.

Western and Central Europe, the Americas, and Oceania, on the other hand, have a prevalence of 2-5%, which is slightly lower than Europe and the United States. Countries like Africa, Asia, and the Middle East also have a 1 to 2% prevalence. It is also reported that there are more men than women who have substance use disorders. About 164 million people in the world are estimated to be suffering from alcohol or drug use disorders.

Deaths by Substance Abuse

One sad fact about drug and alcohol abuse is that people can die from it. Either due to overdose, alcohol poisoning or suicide, the end game for many drug addicts is not always a happy one.

The mortality rate of direct deaths from drug and alcohol abuse has significantly increased in 2017, totaling to 351,547 deaths. However, suicide deaths are also accounted for as it is strongly linked to substance use disorders and mental health issues. In 2016, about 318,000 estimated deaths all over the world were believed to be direct results of a substance use disorder.


When it comes to treating addiction, there are various programs in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. A patient is assessed by staff who will also recommend a medically-supervised detox even before the patient begins a rehab program. Counseling, meetings, and medications are often used to treat the user as well as other special treatments, depending on the severity of their drug use.

There are countries that have started to develop stronger treatment methods for substance addiction. One of these countries is Germany, which only began using drug-substitution treatment as part of treating patients with heroin addiction in the 1990s. All over the world, similarities of drug addiction treatments include:

  • Voluntary treatment – this means that people who want to get well must volunteer themselves for treatment and must work hard to recover. Forcing people to undergo treatment will only end in relapsing and even cause serious illness.
  • 12 Step Program – this program is offered for people suffering from drug and alcohol addiction and is proven to be universally effective. These 12 Steps have been translated to be used in different cultures in order to help addicts all over the world.
  • Support groups – many health care professionals believe that no one can get sober by themselves and successful recovery means having an extensive support system. They believe that with therapy/counseling groups and the help and support of family members or friends, addicts can recover.

Substance abuse does one thing and one thing only – destroys lives. It doesn’t matter if you live in a rich or poor country, drug and alcohol addiction will only lead you to a path that’s hard to recover from. If you or someone you know is suffering from drug addiction, it’s time to get help. Be an advocate to your own well-being and campaign against drug or alcohol abuse.