Economic fallouts and lockdowns caused by the Covid-19 pandemic may drive more people towards substance abuse as more illicit drugs are available now and more people are using them, says a report.
This can also push them towards drug trafficking and other related crimes, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warns.
Around 269 million people used drugs in 2018 – a 30 percent jump from 2009 – with adolescents and young adults accounting for the largest share of users.
Some 35.6 million people suffer from drug use disorders globally, according to the UNODC's World Drug Report 2020.
The report highlights that rising unemployment and plummeting opportunities are expected to disproportionately affect the poorest – making them more vulnerable to drug use, trafficking, and cultivation to earn money.
The Covid-19 crisis and economic downturn threaten to compound drug dangers further "when our health and social systems have been brought to the brink and our societies are struggling to cope," the UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly said.
As Covid-19 is prompting traffickers to find new routes and methods, illicit activities via "darknet" and shipments by mail may increase, the UNODC report pointed out.
"And because the pandemic has led to highly-addictive opioid shortages, people may seek out more readily available substances, including alcohol, sedatives or by using more harmful delivery methods, such as intravenous injection."
People in the developed countries and wealthier sections of the society have a higher prevalence of drug use than the ones in developing countries.
And people from the lower segment of the society who are economically and socially disadvantaged are more likely to develop drug use disorders.
But only one out of eight people who need drug-related treatment receive it.
More than 33 percent of drug users across the world are women but only 20 percent of them receive treatment.
However, cannabis remains the most widely used drug worldwide with an estimated 192 million users in 2018.
But opioids, used by around 58 million people, remained the most harmful ones.
Reports show that destruction of cannabis plants in 2017 in Bangladesh increased more than 75 percent from 2012.
"We need all governments to show greater solidarity and provide support, to developing countries most of all, to tackle illicit drug trafficking and offer evidence-based services for drug use disorders and related diseases," the UNODC chief said.