* Please refer to the table below for ranges, where these are available. The maps display midpoint averages only.
Drug use and related harms
Globally, there are estimated to be between 155 and 250 million people that have used illicit drugs in the past year (1). Some of the most severe drug-related harms are associated with injecting drug use. Between 11 and 21 million people inject drugs around the world (2). Most live in low- and middle-income countries. The map below shows the 158 countries and territories where injecting drug use has been reported (3). The largest injecting populations are found in China, the United States and Russia (2).
HIV is one of the most serious harms associated with injecting drug use. Around 10% of all new HIV infections occur through injecting drug use. Globally, 120 countries have reported HIV among people who inject drugs. In much of Western Europe as well as Australia and New Zealand, where harm reduction initiatives are long established, HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs remains low. But in eight countries – Argentina, Brazil, Estonia, Indonesia, Kenya, Myanmar, Nepal and Thailand – HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs is estimated to be over 40%. Worldwide, approximately three million (0.8 to 6.6 million) people who inject drugs are living with HIV (2).
Extremely high proportions of people who inject drugs in all regions of the world are also affected by viral hepatitis (in particular, hepatitis B and C) often with HIV co-infection. They are also at greater risk of tuberculosis, which is a leading cause of death among people who inject drugs, particularly those living with HIV. Overdose is another significant risk among injecting populations around the world. Other major health harms faced include injection-related infections, some of which can be fatal (3).
People imprisoned on drug-related charges make up a large proportion of prison populations around the world. As a result, prisoners often have a history of drug use and some may continue to use while incarcerated. Others may initiate drug use while in prison. The prevalence of HIV, viral hepatitis and TB is often higher inside prisons than outside prisons (3).
- UNODC (2010) World Drug Report. New York, UN publications.
- Mathers B et al (2008) The global epidemiology of injecting drug use and HIV among people who inject drugs: a systematic review. The Lancet, vol 372 (9651) 1733-45. (DOC, 1 MB)
- Cook C (2010) Global State of Harm Reduction 2010: Key issues for broadening the response. London, International Harm Reduction Association