Global Opium And Cocaine Production Has Never Been Higher

REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Production of cocaine and opium, particularly in Afghanistan and Colombia, has never been higher as the global appetite for drugs continues to increase.

The World Drug Report, released Tuesday by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), reveals that nearly 6 percent of the global population ages 15 to 64 consumed some form of drugs in 2016, with roughly 31 million people suffering from a drug use disorder, reported CNN.

The global supply of cocaine and opium is “hitting absolute record highs” to meet the increased demand for narcotics across the world. Roughly 167,750 people with drug use disorders died from drug overdoses in 2015, while roughly 282,250 people died from diseases contracted from unsafe injections.

“The real problematic issues for us have been the increase in opium production in Afghanistan and the massive increase in cocaine production, particularly because of Colombia,” Thomas Pietschmann, a researcher and co-author of the UNODC report, told CNN.

Opioids are linked to 76 percent of deaths among those with drug abuse disorders, the U.N. report noted. Researchers warn that the spread of synthetic opioids like fentanyl are of particular concern, and are fueling the opioid crisis in the U.S. (RELATED: Fentanyl Overdose Deaths Surge 1,000 Percent Across Greater Cincinnati Region)

Researchers also found drug use is accelerating faster among people over 50 than with young adults.

“Baby boomers are getting older and continuing to take drugs,” Pietschmann told CNN. “We see this in Europe, the U.S., South America and Australia.”

Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Opioid overdose made up a staggering 66 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016, surpassing the annual number of lives lost to breast cancer. Deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl experienced a particularly dramatic increase, more than doubling from 9,580 lives in 2015 to 19,413 lives in 2016.

The epidemic is contributing to declining life expectancy in the U.S., officials say. Life expectancy dropped for the second consecutive year in 2016 for the first time since an outbreak of influenza in 1962 and 1963.

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