World Drug Report 2015

Even though 1 out of 3 drug users is a woman, only 1 out of 5 drug users in treatment is a woman

Drug use prevalence continues to be stable around the world, according to the 2015 World Drug Report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) launched on June 27. It is estimated that a quarter of a billion people aged 15 to 64 worldwide used an illicit drug in 2013, of whom some 27 million people are problem drug users. In addition almost half of this number are people who inject drugs, among whom about 1.65 million were living with HIV in 2013.  (Images credits: UNODC)

Treatment and Prevention

Speaking on the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov noted that, although drug use is stable around the world, only one out of six problem drug users has access to treatment. 

"Women in particular appear to face numerous barriers to treatment – while one in three drug users globally is a woman, only one in five drug users in treatment is a woman."Additionally, Mr Fedotov stated that more work needed to be done to promote the importance of understanding and addressing drug dependence as a chronic health condition requiring sustained treatment and care. "There is no quick and simple remedy for drug dependence and we need to invest in long term, evidence-based solutions."

Femmes en traitement

The availability of harm reduction programs remains low: apart from Europe where service coverage for needle exchange programs and opioid substitution therapy are relatively high, the level of access to these services in other countries does not match the targets set by r WHO, UNDOC and UNAIDS.


As regards prevention, research shows the need to rethink strategies and shift the focus from counter-productive, fear-arousing messages to more positive approaches.


As regards drug prevention, research shows the need to rethink strategies and shift the focus from counter-productive, fear-arousing messages to positive approaches recognizing that young people start to use drugs in the context of personal or environmental vulnerabilities that are largely out of their control. Effective drug prevention can provide youth with the skills and opportunities to develop safe and healthy behavior in their families, schools and communities.

Health Consequences

A stable yet still unacceptably high number of drug users worldwide continue to lose their lives prematurely, the UNODC Chief said, with an estimated 187,100 drug-related deaths in 2013. In some countries women who inject drugs are more vulnerable to HIV infection than men and the prevalence of HIV can be higher among women who inject drugs than among their male counterparts. The number of new HIV infections among injecting drug users declined by roughly 10 per cent between 2010 and 2013: from an estimated 110,000 to 98,000. 

World Drug Report 2015

However, the World Drug Report also indicates that many risk factors, including the transmission of infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C and the incidences of drug overdoses, cause the death rate among IV drug users to be 15 times higher than in the rest of the population.

Data indicate that the use of opiates has remained stable globally despite a dramatic increase in heroin and opium production which has not yet been reflected in an increase in heroin supply in most regions. Cocaine use continues to decline in Western and Central Europe and North America. Supply reduction measures seem to have contributed to the decline in coca cultivation in producing countries.

Cannabis use is increasing, with an estimated global number of users of 182 million and evidence  suggests that more users are suffering from cannabis use disorders, and that cannabis may be becoming more harmful, as reflected in the high proportion of persons seeking first-time treatment in several regions of the world. 

Demand for treatment has also increased for amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), including methamphetamine and Ecstasy and for new psychoactive substances (NPS). Methamphetamine use continues to be a major problem in large parts of East and South-East Asia. In 2013, people receiving treatment for methamphetamine use accounted for the majority of people treated for drug use in many countries.

Alternative Development

The 2015 World Drug Report thematic focus is on Alternative Development, a long-term strategy aimed at developing alternative sources of income for farmers dependent on illicit drug cultivation.

Drug cultivation is driven by many factors, including marginalization, the lack of security, and the social and political situations of rural communities. Alternative Development aims to reduce these vulnerabilities and ultimately eliminate the cultivation of illicit drugs. More than 40 years of experience have shown that this approach works when there is a long-term vision, adequate funding, and the political support to integrate it into a broader development agenda. 

Alternative Development

Unfortunately, this year's World Drug Report shows that despite the amount of attention given to alternative development at the international level, there is a disconnect between international rhetoric and funding. UNODC's Executive Director Yury Fedotov noted that Funding allocated by OECD countries to support Alternative Development declined by 71 per cent since 2009, accounting for just 0.1 per cent of global development assistance. 

Finally, the report on alternative development concludes by highlighting that such approach could be extended beyond the context of illicit drug cultivation into other illegal markets. Alternative development could support communities affected, for example, by illegal mining, wildlife and forest crimes, and drug trafficking. This broadening of alternative development strategies could go well beyond the existing measures against illicit crop production areas.