The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) World Drug Report 2016 said there was a record 29 million drug-dependent adults worldwide, a two million increase on previous data.
Among the most commonly abused substances, heroin use has “increased sharply” over the last two years, particularly in western Europe and North America – along with related overdoses, the report claims.
Linked to intravenous drug abuse is the issue of HIV/AIDS, the consequences of which the UN said “continues to be devastating”.
The UN research says around 14 percent of the 12 million people who inject drugs are living with HIV.
In terms on non-dependent drug use, the UN suggests as many as 250 million adults worldwide tried at least one drug in 2014.
The reasons for drug abuse vary, but the new report says poverty and disadvantage are prominent factors in drug dependency:
“Indeed, the brunt of the drug use problem is borne by people who are poor in relation to the societies in which they live, as can be seen in stark terms in wealthier countries.
“The strong association between social and economic disadvantage and drug use disorders can be seen when analyzing different aspects of marginalization and social exclusion, such as unemployment and low levels of education.”
In a statement UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov said it was “critical that the international community come together” to implement measures to cut down on drug abuse worldwide.