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Illegal drug users - Global prevalence 1990-2018

It is estimated that around 5.4 percent of the global population uses illicit drugs. Use of illicit drugs varies by country and region as countries enact their own laws regarding such substances. Access to illicit drugs also differs by country and region and culture plays a role in how acceptable drug use is.

Global drug use

Worldwide, cannabis is by far the most used type of illicit drug, followed by opioids and amphetamines. It is estimated that around 269 million people worldwide consume illegal drugs and 35.6 million could be considered addicts or problem drug users. Drug addiction and abuse can negatively impact relationships, increases the risk of a number of diseases, and can ultimately lead to death.

Opioid epidemic in the U.S.

The United States has a long and complicated history with illegal drugs, once going so far as to fight a “War on Drugs”. Today, the U.S. is experiencing what has been called an opioid epidemic. This has been characterized by an increase in overdose deaths from prescription opioids, heroin and, more recently, illegally manufactured synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. In 2018, there were 46,800 opioid deaths in the United States.

Prevalence of illegal drug use among the global population from 1990 to 2018*

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Release date

June 2020



Survey time period

1990 to 2018

Age group

15-64 years

Supplementary notes

* All figures are estimated mean values. This statistic was assembled from several editions of the World Drug Report. The source gives no data on problem drug usage prevalence before 2004, or for 2014 or 2015.

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Statistics on "Drug use in the U.S."

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