Some 271 million people globally, or more than one in 20 of the population aged 15 to 64, used recreational drugs in 2017, according to newly released data from the United Nations World Drug Report. That’s a 30% increase from 2009.
The use of cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines and prescription stimulants are at post-recession highs in the U.S., the study said. And although the use of prescription opioids has dipped recently, the number of overdoses has increased. More than 47,000 deaths were recorded there in 2017, many of them attributed to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
The most popular drug globally continues to be cannabis, with an estimated 188 million people having used it in 2017, according to the study. Cannabis usage is most prevalent in North America, where there are an estimated 56.6 million users, followed by Asia with 54.2 million.
One-third of Israeli men in the 15-to-64 age bracket and 28.5% of those in Jamaica used cannabis at a greater frequency than all other countries measured, the study said. American men followed at 21.4% while Canadians and New Zealanders rounded out the top five with 19.1% and 18.6%, respectively, according to the latest data available.
The legalization of cannabis in some North American jurisdictions has contributed to a decline in seizures, which have slumped 77% since 2010, the study said.
Meanwhile, a record 693 tons of opiates was seized worldwide in 2017, a 5% increase from the previous year, as law enforcement efforts and international cooperation curtailed the global distribution of opium.
Still, the temptation to traffic illegal drugs remains strong for some. A Brazilian Air Force sergeant traveling with President Jair Bolsonaro’s entourage en route to the G-20 summit in Japan was arrested earlier this week for allegedly possessing 39 kilograms (86 pounds) of cocaine.