February 9, 2023

10 facts about the consumption and production of drugs in Latin America

Read Time:3 Minute, 23 Second


(CNN Spanish) — About 284 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 — the majority of whom were men — used some type of drug in 2020, according to the World Drug Report 2022 of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

This means that approximately 1 in 18 people in that age group used some type of drug in 2020, an increase of 26% compared to 2010, which is due in part to the growth of the world population.

Ghada Waly, Executive Director of UNODC, wrote in the report published at the end of June that the challenges that drugs present to the post-pandemic world further complicate the current picture. “Cocaine production is at a record level and seizures of amphetamine and methamphetamine have skyrocketed. The markets for these drugs are expanding into new and more vulnerable regions,” Waly said.

According to the report, which is intended to serve as a basis for taking effective responses in the future, in 2020:

  • 209 million people used cannabis, which represents 4% of the world population.
  • 61 million people used opioids, representing 1.2% of the world’s population.
  • 21.5 million people used cocaine, which represents 0.4% of the world population

The UNODC establishes that cannabis legislation in some parts of the world is a factor that led to the acceleration of their daily use as well as the health consequences related to cannabis use, such as increases in psychiatric disorders, suicides and hospitalizations.

In fact, the majority of people receiving treatment for drug use disorders in Latin America are under the age of 35, and in “many countries” in Central and South America, cannabis use is the main reason for treatment, followed by cocaine use.

However, globally, opioid use remains the greatest concern due to potentially serious health consequences. In 2019, opioid use accounted for 69% of drug use disorder deaths.

In Canada, the US and Mexico alone, overdose deaths from fentanyl use reached unprecedented levels during the covid-19 pandemic. In accordance with provisional data published by the Center for Health Statistics of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), annual drug overdose deaths reached a new record in the country, with a Estimated 105,752 deaths in the 12-month period ending October 2021.

Much of Fentanyl Entering US Comes from Mexico, Report Says 0:58

These are 10 consumer trends in Latin America, according to the UNODC report:

  • The nonmedical use of pharmaceutical stimulants—medications generally used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy—is comparatively high in the Americas compared to other regions of the world.
  • In the last five years, only three countries (Afghanistan, followed by Myanmar and Mexico) accounted for more than 95% of the world’s cultivation of opium poppy or royal poppy
  • Three countries (Colombia, followed by Peru and Bolivia) accounted for virtually all of the world’s coca bush cultivation.
  • In 2020, Colombia remained the country with the largest share of global coca bush cultivation, accounting for approximately 61% of the global total.
  • Illicit coca bush cultivation in Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru has been associated with deforestation, soil erosion and depletion, water pollution, biodiversity loss, and other environmental damage.
  • Mexico reported that amphetamines had recently become the most frequently detected drug in the deceased.
  • Treatment admissions for methamphetamine in Mexico have outnumbered those for alcohol. People entering treatment for methamphetamine use disorders increased by 218% between 2013 and 2020.
  • Opium produced in Latin America, primarily Mexico and to a lesser extent Colombia and Guatemala, accounts for the majority of heroin supplied to the US and relatively limited heroin markets in South America.
  • Opioids do not currently play a significant role in drug use in Mexico. However, a relatively high prevalence of heroin use has been documented near the northern border of Mexico.
  • A recent trend in Latin America and the Caribbean is the appearance of blotters containing various psychoactive substances with hallucinogenic effects.



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