International drugs—a series introduction

Substance abuse is a global problem affecting millions of people across the world. In 2017, upwards of 35 million people struggled with a drug use disorder.1 Although we typically focus on the United States, looking at a broader landscape allows us to better understand the true size and scope of substance abuse.

In this new series, we will look at data published annually by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The UNODC’s World Drug Report examines the impact of drug use on a global scale and details the path of drugs from seed to sale. The research is thorough and provides striking insights into drug use on every continent.

Because the findings are extensive, we will break up this series into sections in order to highlight topics and show how drug use is evolving.

  • Section I: Opioids and the worldwide epidemic
  • Section II: From seed to sale—where are all the drugs coming from?
  • Section III: Marijuana, accepted, vilified, and in large measure confusing
  • Section IV: Drug use treatment and recovery

Drug use is pervasive, unforgiving, and, unfortunately, according to new data, growing at a higher rate than ever before. Stay tuned as we take a deep dive into the world of drugs, gaining insights into the trends and commonalities between other countries and our own corner of the planet.

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  1. “World Drug Report 2019: 35 million people worldwide suffer from drug use disorders, while only 1 in 7 people receive treatment.” United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime website. Accessed September 3, 2019.