The UN report added that approximately one in eight people who inject drugs lives with HIV while half live with Hepatitis C.
The World Drug Report 2022 has revealed that more than 11 million people worldwide inject drugs.
Published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the report explained that injecting drug use is a high-risk activity and a major cause of drug-related harm, as People Who Inject Drugs (PWID) experience multiple negative health consequences.
“Injecting drug use is associated with high risks of fatal and non-fatal overdose and the development of serious and potentially life-threatening infectious diseases,” it noted.
Compared to the estimated global prevalence of injecting drug use for 2019 which was also 0.22 per cent of the population aged 15-64, the report noted that there has been no measurable change up until the latest estimate.
The UNODC, UNAIDS, WHO, and the World Bank jointly estimated that some 11.2 million persons worldwide injected drugs in 2020.
The report stated that approximately 59 per cent of PWID worldwide reside in East and South-east Asia, Eastern Europe, and North America.
It also noted that the most common combinations of substances people inject, including in Africa, are cannabis-type drugs, opioids, often referred to as painkillers; stimulant drugs, sedatives, and tranquillizers, and New Psychoactive Substances (NPS).
In the African region, PWID combines cannabis with heroin or pharmaceutical opioids, NPS with sedatives/tranquilisers; the Americans combine cannabis herb and cocaine, opioids and stimulants, while in Europe they combine heroin with cocaine or “crack” cocaine, cannabis with NPS, or with cocaine and ecstasy, among others.
PWID at risk of HIV, Hepatitis C
The report further noted that PWID are susceptible to virus transmission through unsafe injecting practices such as sharing needles and syringes.
According to a recent global systematic review, an estimate of 18 per cent of PWID engaged in receptive needle-syringe sharing at the last injection, 24 per cent in the past month, and 33 per cent in the past year.
The UN report added that approximately one in eight people who inject drugs live with HIV while half live with Hepatitis C.
“HIV and Hepatitis C continue to disproportionately affect PWID. The potential impact of the increased susceptibility of PWID to these diseases can impact the wider community, as there is the possibility of blood-borne, sexual or mother-to-child transmission,” it noted.
It added that PWID accounted for nine per cent of new adult HIV infections worldwide in 2020, with the proportion rising to 20 per cent outside sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV disproportionately affects adolescent girls and young women.
COVID-19 impact on drug use
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the report said some countries reported overall increases in drug consumption, especially among people already using drugs frequently, and mostly during the first lockdown.
It added that “increased relapses or elevated risk of relapses into substance use were also observed by the Bahamas, Canada, Israel, Japan, South Africa and the United States.”
The report also confirmed overall increases in alcohol, tobacco and cannabis consumption, especially during the first lockdowns, a decrease in drug use among adolescents, and lower COVID-19 vaccination uptake in people who use drugs “despite them being a priority group for this intervention”.
Commenting on the report, the Executive Director of UNODC, Ghada Waly, said: “This is the first World Drug Report of the post-pandemic world. While countries continue to grapple with COVID-19 and its consequences, we have emerged from cycles of lockdowns to confront a new normal.
“The World Drug Report seeks to offer the data and insights to inform our joint efforts. This year’s edition delves into the interplay between drugs and conflict, the impact of drugs on the environment and the effects of cannabis legalisation, and identifies dynamics to watch, from the opiate market in light of developments in Afghanistan to dark web drug sales.
“I hope the report serves as a basis for effective responses and generates the support we need to continue shedding light on different aspects of the world drug problem and assisting the member states to take action and save lives.”
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