What Percentage Of The World Is Addicted To Drugs

What Percentage of the World is Addicted to Drugs?

Drug addiction is a worldwide pandemic. According to the World Health Organization Office on Drugs and Crime, about 35 million people suffer from drug use disorders that require medical help. Sadly, this figure does not include the ‘milder’ cases that still constitute substance addiction.

Dependence on Drugs


According to Our World in Data, about 2% of the world’s population is dependent on drugs. In some countries or regions, this affliction is more prevalent. In Russia. 5.93% of the population is dependent on addictive substances. Estonia follows suit at 5.47%, with the United States not far behind at 5.47%. These percentages roughly equate to these countries having 1 ‘addict’ for every 20 persons.

According to Age

The sad fact about drug use is that it mostly affects young individuals. According to another Our World in Data report, it affects 0.31% of Americans aged 10-14 years old. It’s also endemic in Spain and New Zealand, where 0.29% of the youngsters being affected.

As for the 15-19 age range, the rate is even higher. In the US, it is 7.23%. Canada comes in second at 5.83%, with Greenland at third with 5.34%.

Young Drug User
Image Credit: Google

The greatest number of users aged 20-24 years old come from the US at 8.57%. This is followed by Australia at 6.05% and Canada at 5.95%.

As for drug users aged 25 to 29 years old, a huge chunk of affected individuals come from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at 7.82%. Not far behind is the US at 7.26% and Afghanistan at 6.71%.

A similar trend persists with users aged 30 to 34 years old. UAE remains first at 6.61%, trailed by Libya at 6% and Afghanistan at 5.79%. The US is only fourth at 5.55%.

According to Gender

In terms of gender, more men suffer from substance dependence. According to the first Our World in Data report, the rate is 2.4% in males, compared to just 1.2% in women.

The countries with the highest number of drug dependency in males are Russia at 7.6%, followed by the US at 6.98% and Greenland at 6.56%. Coming in close is Estonia at 6.43% and Mongolia at 6.41%.

As for women, Ukrainians lead the pack at a dependency rate of 5.07%. Estonia follows suit at 4.58%, with Belarus at third place at 4.56%.

Burden of Disease

Disease burden refers to the impact of drug use. This is measured by the quality/disability-adjusted life years, which are measured according to cost, death, and co-existing conditions, to name a few.

Burden of Disease

In the US, the burden is a whopping 5.22%. Estonia comes in second at 5.03%, with its European neighbor Russia coming in next at 4.99%. Greenland and Belarus suffer from a disease burden of 4.06% and 4.01% respectively.


According to the first Our World in Data report, almost 752,000 thousand people die annually due to drug use.

For one, drugs serve as the direct cause of death, as with the case of overdose. Globally, it has led to the demise of 166,613 people.

At the same time, drugs can lead to indirect causes of death. As a risk factor, it can lead to fatal conditions such as suicide, liver disease, and HIV, to name a few.

According to Country

Drug-related deaths affect high-income countries more. According to the same report, such nations have contributed to 84,160 deaths. High to middle-income countries account for 29,198 deaths, while middle-income countries have 25,886 deaths. Low to middle-income nations have 15,586 cases, while low-income countries have 10,929.

The country with the greatest number of drug-related deaths is the United States with 67,629 cases. China, with its big population, comes in next at 22,445. India, which is another densely-populated country, accounts for 11,155 deaths.

According to Age

Drug addiction is responsible for a good deal of premature deaths. This is when an individual dies before the average age of death. For example, in the United States, premature death is defined as demise before the age of 75.

According to Age
Image Credit: Google

The bulk of drug-related deaths (179,884) come from the 15-49 age bracket. High-income countries take about a third of the cases at 64,926. The US again tops this list with 49,384 deaths, followed by India at 20,365. Russia, on the other hand, contributes to 19,414 deaths.

A great deal of drug-related deaths come from the 50-69 age range. This accounts for 126,403 cases, with 43,192 coming from high-income countries. The US has contributed to 27,407 deaths, followed by Russia at 16,204 and China at 14,914.

The 70+ age bracket, sadly, is not immune to a drug-related cause of death. This has led to 45,261 deaths, which is almost a 1/3 increase from the 1990 figure of 16,702. 13,349 of such deaths come from high-income countries. This time, China tops the list at 11,026, followed by India at 5,257 and United States at 4,808.

According to Substance

Mortalities also range according to substance. The most number of deaths come from opioid use, which accounts for 109,520 counts. The bulk of these deaths – 55,721 – again hail from high-income countries. The US tops the list yet again with 47,343 cases. China is again second with 15,075 deaths. This time, Russia takes the third spot with 6,455 mortalities.

According to Substance
Image Credit: Google

Cocaine contributes to 7,287 cases, with high-income countries leading the pack at 4,603 deaths. The US is the perennial topnotcher at 4,207 cases followed by Russia (615) and China (291).

Amphetamine is responsible for 4,537 deaths, with high-income nations contributing to 2,498 cases. The US has the majority of deaths at 1,986, followed by China at 567. India and Russia form a two-way tie with 305 cocaine-related deaths each.

Other types of illicit drugs bring about 45,270 deaths. Almost half come from high-income nations at 21,640 cases. The US chalks up 14,094 of the said cases, followed by China at 6,512. India ranks third with 4,445 deaths.


It cannot be denied that the world is suffering from a drug abuse pandemic. Sadly, treatment continues to fall short. According to the same WHO report, only 1 in 7 ‘addicts’ receive treatment. Fortunately, many national governments and international governments are stepping up to make interventions more accessible to afflicted individuals.

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