01/06/2012 11:44 EST | Updated 01/06/2012 11:51 EST

Illegal Drugs Used By 200 Million Annually Worldwide


Globally, about 200 million people use illicit drugs each year, according to new research, with use highest in developed countries.

Approximately 1 in 20 people between the ages of 15 and 64 take illicit drugs, says a study published Friday in the medical journal The Lancet by Australian researchers. Their findings show there are:

  • 125-203 million marijuana users.
  • 56 million amphetamine users (speed, crystal meth).
  • 12-21 million opioid users (heroin, oxycodone).
  • 14-21 million cocaine users.


Marijuana use is highest in Australia and New Zealand, with 15 per cent of 15 – 64-year-olds smoking the drug.

Heroin use is highest in the Near and Middle-east with 1.4 per cent of people using it.

Amphetamine use is highest in Australia and New Zealand with 2.8 per cent of people using speed and crystal meth.

Cocaine use is highest in North America with 1.9 per cent of people using it.

Because of the illegality of illicit drug use, the authors point out that their figures are estimations.

Illicit drug use accounts for 250,000 deaths worldwide, according to 2004 data from the World Health Organization. Alcohol abuse leads to 2.3 million and smoking kills 5.1 million people annually.

While the impact of illicit drugs on the individuals taking them can be measured, the burden of drug use on the societies in which they live cannot, say the authors.This impact includes discrimination against drug users, drug dealing and the dangers associated with it, drug violence and crime associated with drug abuse.