‘Drug overdoses have reached epidemic proportions in North America’: UN issues warning to US as it says world opioid addiction is 50 per cent higher than thought and cocaine use is at record level
- Number of people taking opioids has jumped 56 per cent in 2017 globally
- US was also warned it was facing a crisis of ‘epidemic proportions’ with the drug
- Global drug use was up 30 per cent as cocaine use hit a record high
The United Nations has issued a warning to the US of an ‘epidemic’ opioid crisis as it says the number of people taking these drugs jumped 56 per cent around the world.
In the 2019 World Drug Report, published today in Vienna, the organisation also warned that cocaine use had hit a new global record as a relaxation of tensions in post-conflict Colombia created space for further production.
Opioids are a broad group of drugs – including heroin and fentanyl – that are used for pain relief while cocaine, made from the leaves of the coca plant, causes people to become hypersensitive and irritable.
Global opium production is shown by this graph to have risen 56 per cent in 2017 after data from India and Nigeria caused the figures to be revised, before falling again in 2018
The number of people taking opioids has jumped 56 per cent after new data from Nigeria and India caused the UN to revise its previous estimate. (Stock image of heroin – a tyle of opioid)
North America remained the area with the highest concentration of opioid users globally, according to the report compiled by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, prompting the UN warning as the number of deaths from overdosing on the drugs rose 13 per cent to 47,000.
Research chief for the agency, Angela Me, said: ‘Drug overdoses have really reached epidemic proportions in North America’.
Fentanyl was identified as being a key problem in the crisis alongside other opioids.
The stark warning comes as global opioid use is revised upwards 56 per cent to 53million in 2017 as new data from Nigeria and India was added.
A separate crisis has been identified in North Africa and the Middle East, affecting Egypt, Nigeria and Ghana among others, where the opioid tramadol is being used for recreation.
Graph showing the number of deaths from opiod use by category in the US. The UN has warned that the United States is facing a crisis of ‘epidemic proportions’
Graph showing the number of people who use drugs. The level is seen to remain similar between 2016 and 2017
The strong painkiller is being trafficked into the area from South Asia, for farmers, who take the drug and give it to their animals when having to work under extreme conditions.
It is also being used for its euphoric effects and to ‘improve sexual stamina’, according to the report.
Near and Middle East and South-West Asia is the area with the third highest level of opioid users, at 2.3 per cent, behind Oceania on 3.3 per cent.
Cocaine production was also found to have jumped 25 per cent in 2017 after tensions reduced in Colombia.
Areas of the country, which produces 70 per cent of the world’s supply, were reported to have been taken over by criminal gangs who are sowing new fields to produce cocaine.
Cocaine production was also found to have jumped 25 per cent in 2017 as reduced tensions in Colombia have led to further production of the drug
Cannabis remained the world’s most popular drug, according to the report that was published in Vienna, with an estimated 188million annual users
The stimulants use is rising in Central and Western Europe, according to the report, after surveys of wastewater found more traces than expected, and in North America.
It was also reported that over the last 10 years seizures of the drug have increased by 70 per cent worldwide, with most of these happening in the Americas and Colombia.
Drug use globally was found to have risen 30 per cent when compared to 2009, while cannabis remained the most commonly used with an estimated 188million users in 2017.