An estimated 200 million people worldwide use illegal drugs, according to a new study. The health consequences of this use are wide-ranging, researchers report this week in The Lancet. They include overdose, dependence, violence or injury due to intoxication, as well as heart disease, mental disorders and cirrhosis.
The Los Angeles Times reports that 125 to 203 million people use marijuana, 14 million to 56 million use amphetamines, 12 million to 21 million use opioids, and 14 million to 21 million use cocaine. In addition, 11 million to 21 million inject drugs. An estimated 15 million to 39 million are considered problem drug users, the article notes.
Illegal drug use is highest in developed countries, the researchers found. They point out that many people who use illegal drugs take more than one drug.
The major adverse health effects of marijuana are dependence, and probably psychotic disorders and other mental disorders, the researchers conclude. They say that marijuana is unlikely to be deadly.
Drugs caused 2.1 million years of life lost in 2004, followed by alcohol, which caused a loss of 1.5 million years, according to the World Health Organization. Drug-related deaths tend to strike younger people, accounting for the higher number of years of life lost compared with other causes of death. Overall, illegal drugs led to 250,000 deaths in that year, compared with 5.1 million deaths due to tobacco, and 2.25 million due to alcohol.