More Than 200 Million People Use Illicit Drugs

By Luke Walker 01/06/12

Developed nations are the most enthusiastic consumers, notes a comprehensive review of studies, and the figures given are an underestimate.

Home to more than 200 million drug users
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Around 200 million people worldwide use illicit drugs such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine and meth, with use concentrated in wealthy nations like the US. A review of published studies undertaken by a group of Australian researchers has revealed the not-so-surprising figures—which in all likelihood, due to the illegal, secretive nature of drug use, are a vast underestimate.The researchers found that as many as 203 million people use marijuana, 56 million use amphetamines such as meth, 21 million people take cocaine and 21 million use opioids, including heroin and abused prescription painkillers. “Intelligent policy responses to drug problems need better data for the prevalence of different types of illicit drug use and the harms that their use causes globally,” notes the report, published today in The Lancet. The data compiled to produce the 200-million figure doesn't even account for other commonly-used psychotropic drugs such as ecstasy and LSD, or barbiturates such as Xanax and Valium, or anabolic steroids. As many as 39 million of the 200 million are considered problem users, dependent on their drug(s) of choice. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 241,000 people die each year of drug-related causes, and that illicit drug use reduces combined global lifespan by a total of 13 million years.

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