World Facts

Drug-Related Death Rate Is Highest In America

USA has the highest drug-related mortality rate among the countries of the world.


Statistics from the United Nations on Drugs and Crimes puts drug abuse as the leading cause of drug mortality in the world. UNODC and the World Health Organization approximate 5.2% of the global population between the age of 15 and 64 consumed illicit drugs in 2015. That represents an increase of 24 million people since 1990. The magnitude of drug mortality has been fueled by opioids that account for 70% of the outcomes comprising of addictions and accidents in the global population.

Drug-Related Mortality Rates per Million People

Unites States of America, 245.8

For centuries, USA has been ahead of much of the world in drug overdose deaths. Between 1998 and 2015, drug-related deaths in the US tripled from 16,800 to 52,400, accounting for a quarter of the number of drug deaths in the globe. Various socioeconomic factors have played a key role in fueling the epidemic in the American society. Weak social ethics in the US society coupled with the poor access to health care addiction services and the cutting down of recreation facilities by state governments are the leading causes of illegal drug use and addiction. Liberal rules and regulations in regards to the manufacture, prescription, and use of opioids have contributed to a huge spike in drug overdose deaths over the past decade.

North America, 172.2

North America has been facing the drug mortality epidemic for decades with the death rate estimated at 172.2 per million people between the age of 15 and 64. In 2015. An estimate of 50,000 people lost their lives to drugs, with the highest number being among youths between the ages of 15 and 35. Albeit the strict rules implemented by most countries in North America, the broad expansion of the pharmaceutical industry in the 1990s led to the increased abuse of medical and synthetic opioids as anti-depressants by economically stressed and vulnerable population. The pandemic is further fueled by the heroin crisis that had hit countries like Canada in the 1980s and 1990s.

Oceania, 102.3

In 2015, UNODC reported the highest percentage increase in drug-related deaths from 80.2 to 102.3 per million people between 2013 and 2015. In the Oceania region, states along the Pacific coast remain vulnerable to drug trafficking and precursors. The unique geography of the region synonymous with vast coastlines, remotely inhabited islands, as well as poor treaty adherence and the limited resources for monitoring and detecting drug and precursor trafficking, pose the largest challenge of drug deaths and spillover effects to the local communities. Increased tourism activities and well connected maritime borders have intensified the use and abuse of methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin which are the major causes of mortality deaths in the region.

Asia 61.9

Asia is the largest and the most populous continent accounting for half of the global population. The rapid social, political, economic, and cultural transformations have created a complex drug-use pattern in Asia. The historical, cultural, political and economic forces have shaped drug use in Asia contributing to a high drug mortality rate in the region. It is estimated that 61.9 per million people in Asia lose their lives annually to drug-related issues. Most Asian countries have instituted strict measures to curb drug trafficking and consumption by executing drug cases with capital punishments.

Latin America and the Caribbean, 55.6

Latin America and the Caribbean have been the most prime regions for drug crop cultivation, drug production, drug trafficking, and drug consumption. Since the early 1970s, drug cartels dealing with cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and methamphetamine have established a multi-billion dollar black market for the supply of these illicit drugs to all parts of the continent. Today, South America is the sole producer of cocaine in the global market while Mexico and the Caribbean are the leading global sources of cannabis and methamphetamine. Albeit being the global supplier of drugs, mortality rates have declined in the region and are approximated at 55.6 per million people due to the strict measures enacted in the region to curb consumption.

Western and Central Europe, 26.4

Western and central Europe account for the highest percentage of drug mortality in Europe. Germany, Spain, France, Italy, and Britain account for 76% of the opioids addiction in the European continent. France has mainly been targeted as the major transshipment center for drugs to other European countries from Asian and African countries. Heroin and cocaine are the most consumed drugs by the young cohort and their effects have been detrimental by increasing drug mortality to 26.4 per million people annually.

Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, 22.5

Eastern and South-Eastern Europe experienced a wave of heroin addiction in the late 1990s whose effects are on the aging cohort of the population. Prescription medicines have highly been abused in the region with 38% of the population demanding treatment from fentanyl and other opioids addiction. Even with the strict regulatory approach in opioid prescription, a majority of the adult population is still highly dependent on the drugs hence the high number of drug mortality approximated at 22.5 per million.

Africa 14.9

Africa has the lowest drug mortality rate partially because many death cases related to drugs go unreported due to stigmatization. According to the UNODC, 14.9 per million people die annually due to drugs. The figure is likely to increase following the increased shipment points in Africa as diversion routes to European nations. Cannabis is the most abused drug in the African continent accounting for 32.5% of all drug deaths in the region. Amphetamine-type stimulants and methamphetamine have found their way among the young cohort of the African population, challenged by unemployment thus increasing the drug burden in Western and South Africa.

Drug Burden Index

The drug burden index is increasing at an unprecedented rate accounting for $250 billion which is 0.9% of the global GDP. Since prescription opioids are the most abused drugs, global policies should be implemented against pharmaceutical companies to regulate the manufacture and prescription of the drugs. Leaders from all continents should come up with strategies to outlaw the multi-billion dollar black market for illicit drugs. These measures will help to reduce the drug mortality rate globally while creating a drug-free environment for future generations.

Drug-Related Death Rate Is Highest In America

RankCountry/RegionDrug-related deaths per million people, 2015
2North America172.2
5Latin America and the Caribbean55.6
6Western and Central Europe26.4
7Eastern and South-eastern Europe22.5


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