About a quarter of a billion people between the ages of 15 and 64 used at least one illicit drug in 2014, a U.N. report issued Thursday said.
That's about one in 20 adults, or the equivalent of the populations of France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom combined, said this year's World Drug Report from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The U.N. also said that although drug-related mortality has remained relatively stable in recent years, about 207,000 deaths were reported in 2014. It called that "an unacceptably high number of deaths which are preventable if adequate interventions are in place."
The U.N. also noted the number of people with drug-use disorders has climbed in six years and now stands at 29 million, 2 million more than previously reported.
Heroin use and related overdose deaths appear to have increased sharply over the last two years in some countries in North America and western and central Europe, the report said. The report noted that in the United States, the number of heroin users in 2014 was nearly three times the figure of 2003 and the number of drug-related deaths was five times that of 2000.
The report noted a slight increase in coca bush cultivation but the area used for that was the second smallest since the late 1980s.
More psychoactive drugs
Regarding synthetic drugs, the report said that 75 new psychoactive substances were reported last year with data still being collected, while the total for the previous year was 66.
The UNODC said poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, the key provider of opium base, dropped significantly, by nearly 50 percent. As a result, overall opium production declined by 38 percent last year, when compared with 2014, to a level not seen since the late 1990s.
The UNODC report highlighted strong link between poverty and several aspects of illicit drug use and abuse.
The brunt of drug-use problems are "borne by people who are poor in relation to the societies in which they live,” the report said, adding that it “can be seen when analyzing different aspects of marginalization and social exclusion, such as unemployment and low levels of education.”