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5 World Countries with the Worst Drug Problems

Many Americans believe the United States is home to the world’s worst drug problems, but other countries actually experience higher rates of addiction. Making matters worse, many of these countries offer fewer opportunities for addiction treatment leaving many drug users homeless and hopeless.

News reports in America focus on the U.S. drug problem, primarily centering on the opioid epidemic. With around 3.8 million people misusing prescription painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin,1 and opioid overdoses killing around 33,000 people in 20152, there are many reasons to take immediate action.

Understanding the impact of addiction in other countries and how worldwide drug trafficking increases supply is also important. Countries with more severe addiction rates have an impact on bordering countries and make drug trafficking more profitable.

The following are five countries with severe drug problems:


Addiction rates in Iran are high compared to other countries, with a greater percentage of the country’s population using drugs like opium (including heroin) and crystal meth. The country does offer some methods for addressing the problems: methadone clinics, needle-exchange programs and charities that work to fight addiction.

But a combination of high youth unemployment and inflation along with cheap heroin from Afghanistan makes fighting addiction there particularly challenging.3 The country’s fundamental Islamic presence fights addiction with severe penalties, including putting some people with drug crimes to death. Recent movements are at work to end capital punishments for nonviolent drug offenders.4


The world’s number one producer of opium, Afghanistan is the center of the opium trade and now refines some of its opium into heroin. One news report estimates that 1 million people in the country are addicted to drugs out of a population of 35 million. Decades of violence and war may drive some people to drug use, while officials with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime point to a huge increase in cheap heroin as one reason behind the epidemic.

World surveys show 90 percent of all heroin used in Europe traces back to this tiny mountainous country. In addition to trafficking, the country lacks the ability to offer adequate treatment. People of all ages, including young children are addicted to heroin, but the country has a limited number of treatment centers, around 95 with beds for around 2,300 people.5


Intravenous drug use has become a huge problem in Russia – especially among teenagers and young adults. Russian officials say there are 1 million heroin users, although other experts believe the number is closer to 2 million. The country’s drug use rose dramatically after the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s.

Government officials do not support harm reduction strategies, such as methadone clinics or needle-exchange programs, favoring a punitive approach to drug use that incarcerates drug users. As a result, Russia has one of the fastest-growing HIV/AIDS epidemics on the planet. Rates of these diseases (caused by sharing dirty needles) rose faster in Russia than anywhere outside of sub-Saharan Africa.6

The United States

The United States is not a big producer or trafficker of drugs, but it is among the world’s top users of illicit substances. Americans are at the greatest risk of drug-related deaths and currently have the most people with prescription painkiller addictions in the world. Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in America with 22.2 million current users, while 3.8 million people misuse prescription painkillers. In addition, more Americans now report using heroin than in years past, while cocaine use remains steady.1

Great Britain

More than 15 million people in Great Britain report trying drugs, and around 3 million take them on a regular basis. The number of people using drugs, according to 2014 figures, is up compared to 2008. Most people in Great Britain do not report a problem with drug use, but 1 million do report current problems. Marijuana is the most commonly used drug, followed by amphetamines and cocaine.7


England is one of the number one users of illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin in Europe. Social mores in the United Kingdom make experimenting with drugs at an early age more acceptable. Teenagers and even pre-teens experiment with highly dangerous drugs at an early age.

Getting Treatment

No matter a person’s country of origin, it’s important for him or her to get help for an addiction. If you are looking for a reputable treatment center for yourself or a loved one give us a call today at 760-548-4032. Our admissions staff would be happy to answer any questions you may have about treatment for substance use issues.

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1. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2016). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Retrieved Mar. 8, 2017 from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR1-2015/NSDUH-FFR1-2015/NSDUH-FFR1-2015.pdf.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Injury Prevention & Control: Opioid Overdose. Retrieved Mar. 8, 2017 from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/.

3. The Economist reporters. (2013). The Other Religion: Drug Addiciton in Iran. The Economist. Retrieved Mar. 8, 2017 from http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21583717-why-so-many-young-iranians-are-hooked-hard-drugs-other-religion.

4. Mostaghim, Ramin & Bengali, Shashank. (2016). Iran’s growing drug problem: ‘No walk of society is immune.’ Los Angeles Times. Retrieved Mar. 8, 2017 from http://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-iran-drug-addiction-2016-story.html.

5. Qadiry, Tahir. (2013). Afghanistan, the drug addiction capital. BBC News Magazine. Retrieved Mar. 8, 2017 from http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22091005.

6. Oakford, Samuel. (2016). How Russia Became the New Global Leader in the War on Drugs. Vice News. Retrieved Mar. 8, 2017 from https://news.vice.com/article/how-russia-became-the-new-global-leader-in-the-war-on-drugs-ungass.

7. Mann, Jim. (2014). British drugs survey 2014: drug use is rising in the UK – but we’re not addicted. The Guardian. Retrieved Mar. 8, 2017 from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/oct/05/-sp-drug-use-is-rising-in-the-uk-but-were-not-addicted.