Cannabis Is the World's Most Consumed, Least Deadly Drug, According to the United Nations
According to the 2017 United Nations World Drug Report, around 183 million people got stoned in 2015.
Published on July 5, 2017

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) just released its 2017 World Drug Report, which collates drug statistics from 2015. Cannabis tops the list as the world's most consumed, most widely grown, and most confiscated drug. Yet, despite its worldwide popularity, not one single person died from cannabis use in 2015, the same as in previous years.

The report estimates that 3.8% of the world's adult population, an estimated 183 million people, used cannabis in 2015. Opioids and opiates were the next most popular drugs used worldwide, followed by cocaine, amphetamines, and ecstasy. In the U.S., as more states have legalized cannabis, the number of people reporting using pot within the past month has increased. In 2015, 8.3% of Americans over age 12 reported recently using cannabis, compared to 6.2% in 2002.

In Europe, around 6.6% of people aged 15 to 64 used cannabis in 2015. Around one percent of Europeans, about 3 million adults, are estimated to be daily cannabis users. In countries that allow medical marijuana, non-medical adult use of cannabis increased from 5.8% to 7.2% from 2004 to 2013. However, the report notes that countries that legalized medical cannabis did not see an increase in non-medical cannabis use by children or young adults under 26.

The UNODC also reported that cannabis is the most popular “illicitly produced” drug in the world. Cannabis was grown in 135 different countries between 2010 and 2015. By comparison, opium is only grown in 49 countries, and coca bushes are only grown in 8 countries. The report also found that cannabis is the most confiscated drug in the world. Paraguay destroys around 12 million cannabis plants a year, the Ukraine destroys around 7.5 million, and Jamaica destroys around 1 million. The U.S. doesn't report the destruction of individual plants, but officials reported destroying over 4 million grow-operations.

The UNODC estimates that there were 190,900 drug-related deaths in 2015, which they state “is most likely an underestimate.” A quarter of all drug-related deaths that year occurred in North America. “Mostly driven by opioids, overdose deaths more than tripled in the period 1999-2015 and increased by 11.4 percent in the past year alone, to reach the highest level ever recorded,” the report read. “Of the 52,000 total drug-related deaths reported for the United States, those related to opioids accounted for more than 60 percent.”

Despite the worldwide prevalence and popularity of cannabis, not one single marijuana-related death was reported in 2015. The UNODC estimated that male drug users lost around 12,000,000 “healthy” days of life due to their drug use in 2015. When broken down by individual drugs, opioids had a significantly higher impact on healthy living, and cannabis had the least harmful impact.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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