By Adrian O’Dowd for BMJ

The number of people using illegal drugs globally has risen by 30% over the past decade to 269 million while 35.6 million people have drug use disorders, according to the latest World Drug Report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The report, published on 25 June, also warns that the covid-19 pandemic could worsen the situation because the resulting restrictions on borders and other areas are causing shortages of drugs locally, leading to increased prices and reduced purity.

UNODC’s report gives a global overview of the supply and demand of opiates, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamine type stimulants, and new psychoactive substances, and their impact on health.

Cannabis was the most used substance worldwide in 2018, with an estimated 192 million people using it, the report said. It noted that while frequent use of cannabis had increased in all countries that had legalised it, it remained the main drug that brought people into contact with the criminal justice system.

Opioids, however, remained the most harmful drug. Over the past decade, the total number of deaths from opioid use disorders rose by 71% to more than 110 000 in 2017.