United Nations Finds Drug Use Up Worldwide During Pandemic

A World Drug Report Shows Drug Usage Increased 22% 


According to the World Drug Report 2021 released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, approximately 275 million people used drugs in the past year across the globe. This number represents a 22% increase from 2010. The report also found that “cannabis potency has quadrupled in some parts of the world” over the past 20 years.

Attitudes about cannabis have also changed. The percentage of young people who believed the drug was harmful decreased by as much as 40%. The UN findings indicate that cannabis use was on the rise during the pandemic.

The Drug Report shows that around 200 million people used cannabis in 2019, a nearly 18% increase in the last 10 years. Additionally, approximately 20 million people used cocaine in 2019.

Increase in Opioid Use

Cannabis and cocaine were not the only two drugs that saw significant increases over the past decade. Opioid-related overdoses (in the U.S.)  were nearly 2x those 10 years ago. The UN estimates that 50.000 people died from opioid overdoses in the United States alone. Fentanyl was one of the leading causes of opioid-related death.

Causes of Increased Drug Use

The pandemic had a ripple effect on the economy and people’s mental health. The report showed that the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19 may have accelerated the use and demand for drugs. 

As noted in their report, the pandemic “pushed more than 100 million people into extreme poverty.” The world lost over 250 million jobs last year. Unemployment skyrocketed and mental health conditions worsened. All of these factors likely played a role in the increased drug use detected in the United Nation’s research.