Opioid use is twice as high as previously thought, a UN report has found, with two-thirds of the 585,000 global drugs deaths in 2017 caused by the addictive prescription pain medications heroin and fentanyl.
The World Drug Report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) revealed that in 2017 some 53.4 million people had used opioids in the last year, a 56 percent increase on 2016s estimate. Opioids include both natural and synthetic drugs, like fentanyl and painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin. Of those 53.4 million people, more than half were using opiates, which only include non-synthetic drugs like heroin and opium.
The report warns that “synthetic opioids continue to pose a serious threat to health.” Over 51,000 overdoses have been reported in the opioid crisis in the US and Canada.
The study also found that the negative health effects caused by the drugs are more severe and widespread than previously thought. Around 11 million people injected drugs in 2017, and 1.4 million of those are living with HIV and 5.6 million have hepatitis C. Meanwhile, about 35 million people were found to be suffering from drug use disorders and in need of treatment, with only one in seven getting the help they need.
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