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Marijuana use up in US but more users seeking help

The report noted that, although global drug use prevalence is stable, approximately 200,000 people die every year due to illegal drugs
The report noted that, although global drug use prevalence is stable, approximately 200,000 people die every year due to illegal drugs
Robin Wulffson, MD

According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, drug overdose, including unintentional alcohol poisoning, is the fourth leading cause of premature death in the county and the 17th leading cause of death overall. Beyond Los Angeles County, however, drug abuse is a global problem. According to the 2014 World Drug Report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which was released in Vienna, Austria on June 26, approximately 243 million individuals, or 5%t of the world’s population aged 15-64, used an illicit drug in 2012. In addition, problem drug users number about 27 million, which accounts for 0.6% of the global adult population, or 1 in every 200 people.

The report noted that, although global drug use prevalence is stable, approximately 200,000 people die every year due to illegal drugs. The report appealed for a stronger focus on the health and human rights of all drug users, but particularly those who inject drugs and are living with HIV. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC, explained, “There remain serious gaps in service provision. In recent years only one in six drug users globally has had access to or received drug dependence treatment services each year.”

The report noted that globally, the use of cannabis may have decreased; however, a perception of lower health risks has led to increased consumption in North America. It notes that it is too early to determine the effects of new regulatory frameworks making the recreational use of cannabis legal in some states of the US under certain conditions, more individuals are seeking treatment for cannabis-related disorders in most regions in the world, including North America.

From 2010 to 2012, seizures of methamphetamine more than doubled globally. Methamphetamine manufacture expanded have continued to expand in North America; however, a significant increase has occurred in the dismantling of methamphetamine laboratories in the US and Mexico. Among the 144 tons of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) seized globally, 50% were intercepted in North America and 25% were intercepted in East and South-East Asia. From 2009 through 2013, the number of unregulated new psychoactive substances on the global market more than doubled to 348.

Mr. Fedotov noted that sustainable success in drug control required firm international commitment. The UNODC recommends a balanced and comprehensive approach addressing both supply and demand should be reinforced by evidence-based responses focusing on prevention, treatment, social rehabilitation and integration. He said, “This is particularly important as we move towards the Special Session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem in 2016.” Mr. Fedotov stated. In addition, he stressed that controlled substances should be made more widely available for medical purposes, including for ensuring access to pain medication, while preventing their misuse and diversion for illegal drugs.

Many drug-related deaths are due to opioids such as heroin. The report noted that a surge in opium production in Afghanistan marked a setback, because the planet’s largest opium-poppy grower has increased its area under cultivation by 36%t from 154,000 hectares in 2012 to 209,000 hectares in 2013. With a crop yield of approximately 5,500 tons, Afghanistan accounted for about 80%t of global opium production. In Myanmar, land under opium poppy cultivation covered 57, 800 hectares, continuing the increase in cultivation, which began after 2006. Furthermore, in 2013, the global production of heroin rebounded to the high levels witnessed in 2008 and 2011.

The full report is available at this link.

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