By 2030, people using drugs in Africa alone is expected to rise by 40 percent as compared to 11 percent around the world, the 2021 World Drug Report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime(UNODC) has shown.

The COVID19 pandemic has fueled major increases in drug use worldwide, with most countries having seen an increase in the use of cannabis and non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs such as benzodiazepines during the pandemic.

“Globally, around 275 million people used drugs in the last year, an increase of 22% over the last decade.” The report noted.

Drug use killed almost half a million people in 2019, while drug use disorders resulted in 18 million years of healthy life lost, mostly due to opioids.


COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 crisis has pushed more than 100 million people into extreme poverty, as the world lost 114 million jobs in 2020.

“In doing so, it has created conditions that leave more people susceptible to drug use and to engaging in illicit crop cultivation,” the report has said.

According to the UNODC, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced drug peddlers to find innovative ways of trafficking drugs at lower risks of being caught and to increase profit which means that:

  1. Access to drugs has also become simpler than ever with online sales, and major drug markets on the dark web are now worth some $315 million annually.
  2. Contactless drug transactions, such as through the mail, are also on the rise, a trend possibly accelerated by the pandemic.



There is often a substantial disconnect between real risks and public perception. In some parts of the world, for example, cannabis products have almost quadrupled in potency, and yet the percentage of adolescents who perceive cannabis as harmful has dropped by as much as 40 percent, despite the evidence linking regular use to health problems, particularly in young people, and despite the correlation between potency and harm.

New psychoactive substances also continue to be a challenge, as markets witness the introduction of new drugs that are unpredictable and poorly understood.

Regulatory and legislative steps have been successful in stemming the tide globally, but in low-income countries, the problem is on the rise; between 2015 and 2019, South and Central America recorded a fivefold rise in the amount of new synthetic psychoactive substances seized, while seizures in Africa increased from minor to substantial amounts. Strong increases were also reported in South and Southwest Asia as well as the Near and Middle East.


World Drug Day Report

The World Drug Day Report is annually conducted in anticipation of World Drug Day, celebrated on June 26 by the United Nation. This year’s observation was on the theme “Share Facts on Drugs. Save Lives” to promote awareness of drug use facts and dangers and reduce stigmatization.


By: Mawuena Azumah