healthHealth and Medicine

Which Substance Is Your Country Addicted to?


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockDec 10 2015, 15:40 UTC
65 Which Substance Is Your Country Addicted to?

For thousands of years, drugs have been a fundamental part of culture, society, and the human experience. Even as we zip into the current age of technological growth and boundless information, a surprising amount of the world is still viewed through a mind-altered haze. Statistics on the world’s drug use provides interesting insight into how we view these habits and how we try to tackle abuse of these substances.

Using data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Recovery Brands has created some incredible infographics and an interactive map that detail the many global trends of drug use and the subsequent treatment of users.


Maybe unsurprisingly, they show that the world’s drug of choice is marijuana. Apart from El Salvador and a handful of Southeast Asian countries, marijuana is every country’s most consumed drug by the proportion of users. The biggest stoners of the world appear to reside in Iceland, with an estimated 18.3 percent of adults reported as users. This was closely followed by the United States (14.8 percent).

Image credit: Recovery Brands

The drugs that result in the highest number of people receiving treatment for addiction are opioids – a group of drugs including heroin, opium, and prescription opiods to relieve pain. The reason for this is a mixture of the drugs' addictive properties and their accessibility. The highest rates of opioid treatment are seen across Central Asia, where the majority of the world’s heroin poppies are grown.


Iceland, the United States, and Australia have the most reported drug overdoses. But as Recovery Brand points out, this statistic is perhaps more indicative of underreporting than how heavy each country’s drug usage is. Most of Africa and much of Asia and South America have no statistics.

The countries that had the highest amount of people treated for drugs were New Zealand, Iran, and the United States. However, this perhaps says more about the cultural attitudes towards drugs rather than the amount of people who need treatment. For example, New Zealand is heralded for “aggressively addressing” drug-related issues, reportedly spending $120 million NZD (~$80 million USD) a year to treat drug addictions – that’s around $27 NZD ($19 USD) spent on every person.



New Zealand’s take on drugs is perhaps best revealed by this graph, which shows the rates of treatment against the percent of prisoners on drug-related charges. While most countries follow a steady correlation, New Zealand, Australia and Iceland show far higher rates of treatment compared to those they lock up. America and its “war on drugs” is often thought to involve aggressive and law-based attacks on drug abuse. However, while it does have a high percentage of prisoners on drug charges, they have a proportionally high rate of drug-abuse treatment, too.

Image credit: Recovery Brands


Check out Recovery Brand's website for more insight into these statistics.

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