Despite strict prohibitory laws around much of the world, many common illicit drugs still see widespread use. Humans have a storied and complicated relationship with drugs. Defined as chemical substances that cause a change in our physiology or psychology, many drugs are taken medicinally or accepted culturally, like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. But many drugs – including medicines and non-medicinal substances taken as drugs – are taken recreationally and can be abused. Each country and people have their own relationship to drugs, with some embracing the use of specific substances while others shun them outright.
What types of common drugs are tracked?
Drugs are grouped by class and type, with six main types of drugs found as the most prevalent drugs worldwide.
- Cannabis: Drugs derived from cannabis, including hemp. This category includes marijuana (dried flowers), hashish (resin), and other for various other parts of the plant or derived oils. Recreational cannabis is legal in some countries, and some non-federal jurisdictions (i.e., states). However, it is included because it is still widely illicit in most countries globally.
- Cocaine: Drugs derived from the leaves of coca plants. Labeled as either cocaine salts for powder form or crack for cocaine processed with baking soda and water into rock form.
- Opioids: Includes opiates which are derived directly from the opium poppy plant, including morphine, codeine, and heroin, as well as synthetic alkaloids.
- Amphetamine-type Stimulants (ATS): Amphetamine and drugs derived from amphetamine, including meth (also known as speed), MDMA, and ecstasy.
- Sedatives and Tranquilizers: Includes other drugs whose main purpose is to reduce energy, excitement, or anxiety, as well as drugs used primarily to initiate or help with sleep (also called hypnotics).
- Solvents and Inhalants: Gases or chemicals that can cause intoxication but are not intended to be drugs, including fuels, glues, and other industrial substances.
Most prevalent drug in each country
It’s important to note that illicit drug usage is tough to track. As some drugs become more widespread, others face a renewed war, the landscape is certain to shift over the next few years.
|No.||Country/Territory||Most prevalent drug(s)|
|2.||Albania||Sedatives and tranquillizers (general)|
|15.||Burkina Faso||Cannabis (general)|
|17.||Central African Republic||Cannabis (herb)|
|20.||Costa Rica||Cannabis (herb)|
|21.||Côte d’Ivoire||Cannabis (herb)|
|25.||Dominican Republic||Cocaine (powder)|
|27.||El Salvador||Cannabis (herb)|
|34.||Greece||Solvents and inhalants (general)|
|37.||Hong Kong||Heroin, opium, opioids|
|52.||Lithuania||Sedatives and tranquillizers (general)|
|64.||New Zealand||Methamphetamine, solvent and inhalants|
|67.||North Macedonia||Multiple types|
|78.||Saudi Arabia||Multiple types|
|83.||South Africa||Cannabis (general)|
|86.||Sri Lanka||Cannabis (herb)|
|91.||Syrian Arab Republic||Cannabis (hashish)|
|96.||Trinidad and Tobago||Cocaine (crack)|
|100.||United States||Cannabis (herb)|
|101.||United Kingdom||Cannabis (herb)|