VIENNA -- Drug abuse worldwide is stagnant but still kills about 200,000 people a year, the U.N.'s drug-fighting agency said in a report released Tuesday.
Based on 2010 figures, the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime also said global treatment for drug abusers would cost to $250 billion a year if everyone needing help received the proper care.
But the report noted that far less than that is being spent, meaning fewer than 1 in 5 people needing help actually get it. Also, it said, loss of productivity and crimes committed by those needing to finance their habit result in additional huge costs for many countries.
In its annual report, the U.N. body said that about 230 million people – or 5 percent of the world's population – used illegal drugs at least once in 2010. But the agency noted significant gender gaps among them depending on where users came from, with female consumption in the United States about two-thirds that of males and as low as one tenth in India and Indonesia.
The report said the estimate of $200 billion-$250 billion – about 160 billion to 200 billion euros – needed for treatment of all requiring it is equivalent to between 0.3 and 0.4 percent of the world's GDP. In some countries, it said, per capita productivity losses are even more costly. For example, in the United States, such losses last year equaled 0.9 percent of GDP.
Last year, the report said, global opium production was 7,000 tons, a fall of more than a fifth compared to the peak year of 2007. Still that was up from 2010, when disease destroyed almost half of the harvest in the No. 1 opium producer, Afghanistan.
While the area under coca bush cultivation has fallen globally by 33 percent over the past 12 years, that gain has "been offset by rising levels of synthetic drug production, including significant increases in the production and consumptions of psychoactive substances that are not under international control," said the Vienna-based agency.
Overall, illicit drug use "remained stable in the five years up to and including 2010, at between 3.4 and 6.6 percent of the adult population," the report said. Cannabis was the most widely used drug worldwide.