The Most Common Illicit Drugs in the World

Many popular illicit drugs are still widely used despite strong drug laws in many parts of the world.

Drugs have a long and tumultuous history with humans. Many drugs, such as coffee, nicotine, and alcohol, are used medicinally or accepted culturally and are defined as chemical chemicals that create a change in our physiology or psyche.

However, many drugs, including pharmaceuticals and non-medicinal substances used as drugs, are misused recreationally.

Each nation and its people have their unique attitudes about drugs, with some encouraging its usage while others openly reject it.

What are the most often used drugs that are deemed illegal in various regions of the world? In today’s visuals, the most commonly used drugs in each nation are highlighted using data from the United Nations’ World Drug Report 2021.

What Drugs Are Tracked in the U.S.?

The World Drug Report examines the supply and demand of the worldwide illicit drug market in detail, excluding widely legal drugs such as coffee and alcohol.

Medications are classified by class and kind, with six categories of drugs being the most common globally.

Cannabis-derived drugs, such as hemp, are known as cannabis*. Marijuana (dry flowers), hashish (resin), and other for various other elements of the plant or derived oils fall within this category.

Cocaine is a class of drugs made from the leaves of coca plants. Cocaine salts or crack refers to cocaine that has been processed with baking soda and water into a rock form.

Opioids include both natural and synthetic opiates generated directly from the opium poppy plant, such as morphine, codeine, and heroin.

Amphetamine and substances produced from amphetamine, such as meth (also known as speed), MDMA, and ecstasy, are known as amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS).

Sedatives and tranquilizers: This group includes other drugs that make people less energetic, excited, or anxious, as well as drugs that make it easier to fall asleep or stay asleep (also called hypnotics).

Solvents and inhalants are gases or chemicals that can make you feel bad but aren’t meant to be drugs, like fuels, glues, and other industrial substances.

The survey also looked at the prevalence of hallucinogens, which are psychoactive chemicals that create a “trip” in the user. However, no nation had hallucinogens as the most common drug.

*Editor’s note: Cannabis is authorized for recreational use in five nations and several non-federal areas (i.e. states). However, it was included in this research since it is still extensively illegal in most nations throughout the world.

Each country’s most commonly used drug

According to an estimate, 275 million individuals will take drugs in 2020 throughout the globe. Around 5.5 percent of the worldwide population took drugs at least once between the ages of 15 and 64.

Many nations included various varieties of the same drug class together, while a few, such as Saudi Arabia and North Macedonia, listed numerous drug categories as the most common.

Cannabis, on the other hand, was the most widely used drug in all 107 nations and territories listed:

Country or territoryMost Prevalent Drug(s)
ZambiaCannabis (herb)
UzbekistanCannabis (herb)
UruguayCannabis (herb)
UKCannabis (herb)
The U.S.Cannabis (herb)
TurkeyCannabis (herb)

What is the worldwide incidence of cannabis? Cannabis was indicated as the most frequent substance in 72 places or more than two-thirds of those who reported it.

Canada, Georgia, Mexico, South Africa, and Uruguay are among the nations that have legalized recreational cannabis.

What Is the Addiction Rate to Opioids and Other Drugs?

Though the worldwide ubiquity of cannabis is predictable, particularly as it becomes authorized and recognized in more nations, other narcotics have established significant footholds as well.

Opioids were the most often used medications across the Middle East, South and Central Asia, including India and Iran (14 sites). Afghanistan is the world’s greatest opium grower, providing more than 90% of all illegal heroin worldwide.

Amphetamine-type medications (9 sites), mostly in East Asia, were the third most common drugs overall. In China, South Korea, and Japan, methamphetamine was the most often used substance, whereas amphetamine was only used in Bangladesh.

However, it’s important to note that illegal drug use is difficult to monitor. Cannabis use may be understated in Asian nations where it is less often detected (or reported).

Simultaneously, the opioid pandemic in the United States and Canada reflects widespread opioid use in the West.

A fresh “war” on certain medicines and an increase in the availability of others will change the scene during the next several years.

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