Regardless of the fact that some drugs are considered illicit and have strict prohibitory laws around the world, still many are used widely.
Drugs can be defined as chemical substances that cause a change in our psychology or physiology. Many drugs are accepted culturally or medically like nicotine, alcohol and caffeine. Many substances (medical or non-medical) used as drugs can be abused. People from different regions have their own relationship to drugs, some embrace the used while other reject them completely.
The graphic uses data from the UN’s World Drug Report 2021 to highlight the most prevalent drug used in each country.
What Types of Common Drugs Are Tracked?
The World Drug Report looks explicitly at the demand and supply of the international illegal drug market, not including commonly legal substances like caffeine and alcohol.
Drugs are grouped by class and type. Six main types of drugs are found as the most prevalent drugs worldwide.
These are the drugs derived from cannabis, including hemp. This category includes hashish (resin), marijuana (dried flowers), and other for various other parts of the plant or derived oils.
These drugs are derivative of the leaves of coca plants. Labeled as either cocaine salts for powder form or crack for cocaine processed with baking soda and water into rock form.
These include opiates which are derived directly from the opium poppy plant. Morphine, codeine, and heroin, as well as synthetic alkaloids are included.
Amphetamine-type Stimulants (ATS):
Amphetamine and drugs derived from amphetamine, including meth (also known as speed), MDMA, and ecstasy.
Tranquilizers and Sedatives:
It includes other drugs whose main purpose is to reduce energy, excitement, or anxiety, as well as drugs used primarily to initiate or help with sleep (also called hypnotics).
Solvents and Inhalants:
Gases or chemicals that can cause intoxication but are not intended to be drugs, including fuels, glues, and other industrial substances.
The report also tracked the prevalence of hallucinogens, the psychoactive drugs which strongly affect the mind and cause a “trip”. None of the hallucinogens are ranked as the most prevalent drug in any one country. However, Recreational cannabis is legal in five countries, and some non-federal jurisdictions (i.e. states). It is included here because it is still widely illicit in most countries globally.
275 million people used drugs worldwide in 2020, according to the report. Around 5.5% of the global population used drugs at least once, between the ages of 15–64. Cannabis was the most commonly prevalent drug used in 107 listed countries and territories. A few regions like North Macedonia and Saudi Arabia had multiple drugs listed as most prevalent.
How Common Are Opioids and Other Drugs?
Opioids were the most prevalent drugs in 14 locations of Middle-East, Central and South Asia, including Iran and India. Notably, Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, supplying more than 90% of illicit heroin globally.
Amphetamine-type drugs (9 locations) were the third-most common drugs overall, they are mainly prevalent in East Asia. Methamphetamine was the reported most prevalent drug in China, South Korea, and Japan, while amphetamine was only the most common drug in Bangladesh.
It is important to note that illicit drug usage is hard to track. Cannabis is less frequently found (or reported) in Asian countries and at the same time, the opioid epidemic in the U.S. and Canada reflects high opioid usage in the West.
As some drugs become more common around the world, the current scenario is certain to shift over the next few years.
Infographic by: visualcapitalist