Randox Toxicology: Global drug use trends going into 2019

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In the turn of the new year, we look at the current trends in drug abuse in 3 key continents and what their key 2018 figures say about drug use in their countries.

The Americas

New psychoactive substances have been an emerging drug market in the Americas, with a total of 130 different new psychoactive substances being reported in seven South American countries in August 2017. This was more than a 50% increase within the year, as over 60 different substances had been reported in 2016 alone, according to the OAS and CICAD Report on Drug Use in The Americas 2019. Latin America have experienced a surge in LSD, synthetic cannabinoid, plant substance and ketamine use among the general population as well.

Meanwhile, opioids and prescription opioids have been a major cause for concern in the Americas, with opioid analgesics involved in more overdose fatalities than any type of illicit drug, exceeding cocaine and heroin-related fatalities in Canada and USA combined. Users are increasingly turning to street opioids as well, which are often mixed with heroin and other drugs. The major challenge noted in the same report is the complexity of the appearance of NPS and the counterfeit substances it contains.


Cannabis has had the highest use among males, with most cases being regular patterns of use. Around 1% of European adults are considered daily users according to the European Drug Report 2018. Regarding opioids, heroin is the most common drug of abuse in this category, and prevalence of high risk opioid use among adults is estimated to be at 0.4% of the EU population.

Synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, are growing in use in Europe. In 2016, over 18 European countries reported more than 10% of all opioid clients entering specialised services suffering from opioid addiction other than heroin.


Opioids present the largest drug problem in Asia, having the highest proportion of causes of drug users going to treatment centres, followed by amphetamine-type stimulants and cannabis. Production of drug substances in Asia have been significant in the last 3 years, with cocaine and opium production hitting record highs. Methamphetamine is also an emerging threat to Asia, with production of the synthetic drug overtaking heroin.

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