Are there any estimates on each drug's popularity globally?

Hi there,

I was reading an article about methamphetamine, and a question popped up in my mind. How popular is meth when compared to other substances?

Like, if the total number of addicts in the world is 100 millions, then how many are using meth? How about heroin? What percentage is for marijuana? Mushroom? etc…
Well, that’s the “people” approach. We can approach it economically, by calculating the value of all the meth and compare it with the grand total of all drugs.

I guess there’d be some reports or scientific findings that do similar stuffs, but my search ability is not enough to dig them out. Meanwhile, quora blocked my account when it scanned and found “drug” in my question, lol. Fuck quora.

I have only done a cursory search and it may not drill down enough for you, but there is this:

The U.S. does regular surveys (and I expect lots of other countries do the same):

I worked at a place that did drug use surveys every year by knocking on doors all over the US. Some people don’t want to talk but vast majority will talk and some admit to using all kinds of illegal drugs.

Police and government health departments also take samples from the wastewater treatment plants. This gives a good overall understanding of the types and relative quantities of drugs being consumed, especially when correlated against seizures and such policing work

A slightly odd observation from that report.

Among people aged 12 or older in 2018 who misused pain relievers in the past year, the most common main reason for their last misuse of a pain reliever was to relieve physical pain (63.6 percent).

OK, I know what they mean, but it is a curious thing to be considering alongside other forms of illicit drug use. I think they need to define terms more carefully. Illicit use and misuse are not synonymous.

Holy crap. Another example of American “exceptionalism”.

Thank you guys. Though the links describe mostly the situation in the US, I guess that the percentage distribution of various drugs does not fluctuate much when it is projected onto the whole world. Or isn’t it?

I can tell you there is a huge meth problem in Thailand. Pills, not smoking. Slang for meth used to be ya ma (horse drug). The government thought that was serving to popularize it, making people think they could be as strong as a horse. So there was a campaign to replace the term with the rhyming ya ba (crazy drug), meaning it will make you go insane. And it worked to some extent, as the new term has stuck. You never hear ya ma anymore. Unfortunately, the users could not care less what you call it, just so they can take it.

It does. Some of it is raw availability–a lot of the world’s opium supply comes from Afghanistan (like 90+% of it) so seeing heavy opiate use in the middle east doesn’t come as a surprise at all. Likewise, there’s disproportionately heavy cocaine use in South America.

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/add.14234 (turn to page 1913 for charts).

And, according to Our World in Data (linked above), Russia has a massive alcohol problem that dwarfs its cocaine problem, whereas the US is nearly 2:1 various drugs vs. alcohol.

It’s a complicated question that, if I have to give a better answer, relies partially on availability, partially on available wealth, and partially on culture. Case in point: Of all the middle eastern countries, (excluding Libya), the UAE has a massive opiates problem.

Thanks man. It makes sense. But I don’t understand the UAE part: does it have something to do with its culture?

I’m not a sociologist of any stripe, @longtry, so take everything I say as, at best, an educated guess. There is so much speculation and handwaving in what follows that this post runs the risk of being mistaken for British royalty.
Wealth and opportunity are easily addressed: The UAE is enormously wealthy; the ostentatious construction projects in Dubai ought to dispel any doubts. It’s also close to Afghanistan and all that ocean access gives the opium a route to international markets, which means a lot of it is coming through and is available.

All that remains for my pet theory is culture.

I was originally specuating on UAE’s mix of highly-autocratic and yet highly pro-business scheme as being open to corruption. There are “tax-free zones” that reward businesses and there are also businessmen invited into council meetings. And yet there seems to be pretty low corruption in general at all levels.

The only other thing I can think of is the enormous underclass in the UAE, mostly comprised of foreign workers. Surely some larger number of them are using opiates in some form to be able to keep working despite the pain of injuries, and with a little poking about, I found they’re not allowed the same level of medical access as proper citizens are. These services are, apparently, “expensive” to non-citizens.

That’s my barely-scratching-the-surface treatment of the problem.