Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Thursday, December 30, 2021

The Most Used Drugs in the World by Country

"Socalj" for Borderland Beat

Mapped: The Most Common Illicit Drugs in the World

Despite strict prohibitory laws around much of the world, many common illicit drugs still see widespread use. Humans have a storied and complicated relationship with drugs. Defined as chemical substances that cause a change in our physiology or psychology, many drugs are taken medicinally or accepted culturally, like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.

But many drugs—including medicines and non-medicinal substances taken as drugs—are taken recreationally and can be abused. Each country and people have their own relationship to drugs, with some embracing the use of specific substances while others shun them outright.

What are the most common drugs that are considered generally illicit in different parts of the world? Today’s graphics use data from the UN’s World Drug Report 2021 to highlight the most prevalent drug used in each country.

The World Drug Report looks explicitly at the supply and demand of the international illegal drug market, not including commonly legal substances like caffeine and alcohol. Drugs are grouped by class and type, with six main types of drugs found as the most prevalent drugs worldwide.

Cannabis*: Drugs derived from cannabis, including hemp. This category includes marijuana (dried flowers), hashish (resin), and other for various other parts of the plant or derived oils.

Opioids: Includes opiates that are derived directly from the opium poppy plant, including morphine, codeine, and heroin, as well as synthetic alkaloids.

Cocaine: Drugs derived from the leaves of coca plants. Labeled as either cocaine salts for powder form or crack for cocaine processed with baking soda and water into rock form.

Amphetamine-type Stimulants (ATS): Amphetamine and drugs derived from amphetamine, including meth (also known as speed), MDMA, and ecstasy.

Sedatives and Tranquilizers: Includes other drugs whose main purpose is to reduce energy, excitement, or anxiety, as well as drugs used primarily to initiate or help with sleep (also called hypnotics).

Solvents and Inhalants: Gases or chemicals that can cause intoxication but are not intended to be drugs, including fuels, glues, and other industrial substances.

The report also tracked the prevalence of hallucinogens—psychoactive drugs which strongly affect the mind and cause a “trip”—but no hallucinogens ranked as the most prevalent drug in any one country.

Recreational cannabis is legal in five countries, and some non-federal jurisdictions (i.e. states). However, in the context of this report, it was included because it is still widely illicit in most countries globally.

According to the report, 275 million people used drugs worldwide in 2020. Between the ages of 15–64, around 5.5% of the global population used drugs at least once. Many countries grouped different types of the same drug class together, and a few like Saudi Arabia and North Macedonia had multiple different drug types listed as the most prevalent.

But across the board, cannabis was the most commonly prevalent drug used in 107 listed countries and territories. How prevalent is cannabis worldwide? 72 locations or more than two-thirds of those reporting listed cannabis as the most prevalent drug.

Unsurprisingly these include countries that have legalized recreational cannabis: Canada, Georgia, Mexico, South Africa, and Uruguay. Though the global prevalence of cannabis is unsurprising, especially as it becomes legalized and accepted in more countries, other drugs also have strong footholds.

Opioids (14 locations) were the most prevalent drugs in the Middle-East, South and Central Asia, including in India and Iran. Notably, Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, supplying more than 90% of illicit heroin globally.

Amphetamine-type drugs (9 locations) were the third-most common drugs overall, mainly in East Asia. Methamphetamine was the reported most prevalent drug in China, South Korea, and Japan, while amphetamine was only the most common drug in Bangladesh.

However, it’s important to note that illicit drug usage is tough to track. Asian countries where cannabis is less frequently found (or reported) might understate its usage. At the same time, the opioid epidemic in the U.S. and Canada reflects high opioid usage in the West.

As some drugs become more widespread and others face a renewed “war,” the landscape is certain to shift over the next few years.



  1. Mexican cartels the most powerful criminal organizations in the doubt about that!

  2. If anyone was curious, like I was, about how they gathered this data, like if it was drug users self-reporting, or based on drug seizures... well they have an image icon made for the Methodological Annex but it's not clickable unlike all the other images.

    Hopefully just an oversight that'll be corrected.

  3. Floyd abused every single drug on this list,he was Covid19 positive and had heart problems! (Toxicology, Autopsy )
    Yet an innocent Officer Derek Chauvin is in prison

    1. Why doesn't this asshole get blocked from commenting? He's obviously just looking for a reaction. Please delete his comments nobody cares about his opinion or agrees with him...

    2. @6:45 Thank you for your reaction BLM trash and excrement

    3. 6:45 he is stating facts. Too many brain washed softies in this site!

    4. Let me guess try to recall Newsom one more time which won't happen, Trump 2024 😁😁😁😁yeah right!! Thanks to the beautiful state of California it won't happen!😁😁😁😁

    5. 9:01 PM this is a drug war site, not a 'Brainwashed and butt hurt by BLM' website

      Mods need to take out the trash, this endless thread hijacking BS is getting old we can barely discuss the drug war anymore.

    6. Lmao..Cry me a river.So what that racist pig is in jail. Send him commissary and a few pictures of yourself and maybe visit

  4. blocked from commenting? He's obviously just looking for a reaction. Please delete his comments nobody cares about his opinion or agrees with him...

    1. I Love that BLM occupies your EVERY thought EVERY second of EVERY day..Thats their purpose and if one of the BLM sicarios dont get you 1st you will surely did ftom a heart attack or high blood pressure worrying so much about BLM..i bet you piss your pants and have trouble getting a erection thinking about BLM..i will sleep well tonight supporting BLM while you toss and turn before finally falling asleep only to have your Nightly BLM Nightmare...Black Lives Matter and aint nothing you can do about it short man.

  5. Can't anyone make a normal comment without being sarcastic and getting insulted? They ask for it; who cares about a racist cop getting sentenced he asked for it because he messed up and got filmed it went viral.which means he had done similar assaults before so his luck ran out and got caught but many more are out there.

  6. Les faltó el alcohol y la nicotina, yo tengo inclinación hacia el alcohol,mota, y perico . Feliz año a todos les mando un fuerte abrazo y un beso en la nuca a todos.

  7. It’s on the amphetamine/stimulant map. Not the most used drug in enough countries to warrant its own.

  8. I wonder if mj is the most used product for senior citizens? It works for me.


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