Facts & Stats


According to the most recent World Drug Report, an estimated 585,000 people died as a result of drug use in 2017.

Opioids account for the majority of drug-related deaths and in most cases such deaths are avoidable.

Source: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) ‘World Drug Report 2020

United States

North America continues to experience the highest drug-related mortality rate in the world, accounting for one in four drug-related deaths globally, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports.

In April 2021, the Centre for Disease Control has estimated that the number of people in the USA who had died from overdose in the 12-month period to the end of September 2020 was 90,237.

Sources: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) ‘World Drug Report 2019’; The Centre for Disease Control ‘12 Month-ending Provisional Number of Drug Overdose Deaths’, as of April 4, 2021


Like elsewhere, opioids account for the majority of drug-induced deaths in Canada.

In 2020, in the three months of July–September, there were at least 1,705 apparent opioid-related deaths, with another 1,646 having occurred in April–June of the same year.

This report does not include deaths caused by drugs other than opioids, so the total number of drug-induced deaths will be somewhat higher.

Source: ‘Opioid- and Stimulant-related Harms in Canada’ March 2021


Statistics on drug-related deaths in Asia are unreliable due to poor regional coverage and reporting of mortality data, however, it is estimated that the Asian sub-region accounts for 35 per cent of the global total of drug-related deaths.

Source: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) ‘World Drug Report 2019’


In 2015, China gave it’s first-ever assessment of the human impact of drug overdose with 49,000 deaths recorded for 2014.

Source: Business Insider, June 24, 2015. www.businessinsider.com

England and Wales

There were 4,393 drug poisoning deaths registered in England and Wales in 2019 – the highest since comparable records began in 1993.

“Almost half of all drug-related deaths involved opiates such as heroin and morphine. However, cocaine deaths rose for the eighth consecutive year to their highest level,” the Office for National Statistics’ report said.

Deaths involving heroin and morphine peaked in 2018. In the 2019 calendar year these two substances were implicated in 1,329 deaths.

Drug poisonings involving cocaine rose for the eighth consecutive year to 708 in 2019 – more than double the figure only four years earlier of 320.

Drug poisoning disproportionately affects younger and middle-aged people in England and Wales: 23.9 per cent of deaths occur in the 30–39-year age group, 30.7 per cent in the 40–49-year age group and 28.2 in the 50–69-year age group.

Source: Office of National Statistics ‘Deaths Related to Drug Poisoning in England and Wales: 2019 registrations’, Office for National Statistics.


In September 2020 the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction said Scotland had the highest recorded drug death rate in Europe (with more than three times the rate of second-placed Sweden): 295 per million compared to the entire British average of 76.2 per million, the Swedish figure of 81.5 and the European average of 22.3). This represents a catastrophic increase: in 2015 Scotland’s drug-induced mortality rate was 94 per million (McAuley et al 2016).

In 2019, 1,264 people died of drug misuse, according to the National Records of Scotland. In the two decades to 2019 the median age of people dying from drug-related causes rose markedly from 28 to 42 years and nearly two-thirds of mortalities occurred in the 35–54-year age bracket.

Sources: European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction ‘European Drug Report: Trends and Developments 2020’; National Records of Scotland ‘Drug-related deaths increase’, December 15, 2020; McAuley et al (2016) ‘Engagement in a National Naloxone Programme among people who inject drugs’, Drug and Alcohol Dependence, vol. 162: 236-40


It is estimated provisionally that estimated that 8,317 overdose deaths involving illicit drugs (primarily opioids) occurred in the European Union in 2018, with a further 904 in Norway and Turkey. The United Kingdom – which as then still an EU member – and Germany together accounted for more than half of all reported overdose deaths in the region.

The 2018 drug-induced mortality rate in Europe sat at 22.3 deaths per million population aged 15-64. Rates of greater than 40 deaths per million were reported in eight countries, with the highest rates reported in Sweden (81.5 per million), the pre-Brexit United Kingdom, Ireland, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Estonia and Slovenia.

Source: European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction ‘European Drug Report: Trends and Developments 2020


Oceania, primarily comprised of Australia and New Zealand, has a drug mortality rate 2.5 times the global average (at around 100 per million population). However, due to the region’s comparatively small population, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says raw numbers remain low (2,000–2,500 drug-related deaths in 2015).

Australia recorded 2,070 drug-induced deaths in 2018 (of which 1,556 were unintentional) – the fifth year running of 2,000+ mortalities according to data analysed by Penington Institute.

Sources: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) ‘World Drug Report 2019’; Penington Institute ‘Australia’s Annual Overdose Report

South America and Latin America

Countries in South America, the Caribbean and Central America report a mortality rate well below the global average. The number of drug-related deaths was estimated at 7,000–11,000 in 2015.

Source: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) ‘World Drug Report 2019’


In its World Drug Report 2019 report, The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) highlighted an alarming trend in North, Central and West Africa: “The opioid crisis that has featured in far fewer headlines but that requires equally urgent international attention is the non-medical use of the painkiller tramadol, particularly in Africa.”

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