Drug abuse is a worldwide problem and drug abuse occurs in almost every country on the planet. Worldwide, the three most widely abused drugs are marijuana, opiates (such as heroin, opium, and narcotic pain medication), and cocaine. The U.S. leads the world in illegal drug abuse, but drug abuse is on the rise for certain drugs throughout the world. While drug use has stabilized in the developed world as far as cocaine and heroin, there are signs of an increase in drug use in developing countries and growing abuse of amphetamine-type stimulants and prescription drugs around the world
Drugs have played a part in every culture throughout history. Drugs have been used medically, recreationally, and as part of religious ceremonies. Cannabis has been used for centuries in almost every culture; opium has been used in medical communities for centuries, and laborers chewing coca leaves for energy has been going on for thousands of years. Drug abuse certainly occurred in the past, but it wasn’t until refined drug manufacturing began that drug abuse spread worldwide.
In the past two decades, drug abuse of amphetamines has grown dramatically throughout the world. The most growth has been shown in Asia, which is the leading region in amphetamine manufacturing and use. Cocaine is on decline in North America. However, the rate of cocaine abuse is still the highest in the world, with more than 2/3 of all countries reporting cocaine use. Drug abuse of opiates is increasing at an alarming rate throughout the world. Opiate use is highest in developing nations and nations in transition hence one of the reasons for the increase in the rise of opiates manufactured throughout the world. Drug abuse of prescription opiate painkillers is also increasing. Cannabis remains the most widespread drug in use worldwide. Its use has stabilized in most of the developing world. Cannabis will likely remain the most widely used drug because the crop is easily grown in many different climates and requires no processing for use.
The growing and processing of drugs usually takes place in developing nations. For developing nations, drug production may form the basis of the country’s economy. Much of the population is employed in various positions growing and processing drugs. This can make elimination of this production a major problem. Many people in developing nations consider it worth the risk to work in the drug trade.
In the past ten years, worldwide drug policy has become more responsive to those most affected by drug abuse. The most affected include poor farmers who cultivate drugs, desperate addicts who consume drugs, and those caught in the crossfire of the traffickers. There is an understanding that in regions where illicit crops are grown, it is vital to eradicate poverty, not just drugs. Drug policy also has focused on the health aspect of illicit drug abuse around the world. Addiction as a disease has been increasingly accepted worldwide, although there is still a serious lack of drug treatment programs in the third world. The United Nations is working towards emphasizing community-based prevention, early intervention, integration of drug treatment into the health-care system, and evidence-based prevention and treatment.