The 2014 World Drug report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime profiles drug use in South Africa – including those illegal substances most in use by the population.

According to the UN, in 2012 around 243 million people had used illicit drugs, mainly belonging to the cannabis, opioid, cocaine or amphetamine-type stimulant (ATS) group of narcotics.

This is slightly up from the estimated 240 million drug users in 2011.

Global “problematic” drug use by regular drug users with disorders or dependencies has remained stable in 2014, with between 16 million and 39 million estimated to fall into the category.

This figure represents the number of people who are actively seeking treatment for various drug disorders.

Drugs in South Africa

According to the UN report, drug use in South Africa is still largely centred around cannabis use, where almost 4% of the population are considered frequent users.

Despite it being the most popular drug in the country, South Africa still ranks rather favourably compared to other nations (100th, overall) – but fares much worse with cocaine and prescription opioid use.

The prevalence of cocaine use in the country has risen from 0.8% of the population in 2009, to over 1.02% in 2011, confirming a sizeable – and expanding – consumer market for the drug.

South Africa is also believed to be a major consumer market for heroin, deriving its supply from Asia, East Africa and the Middle East.

South Africa has also been linked to global cocaine drug trafficking. In Africa, South Africa is the main exporter of licit precursor materials and chemicals.

On the positive side, while, the country has seen the use of quaaludes such as Mandrax become increasingly concentrated in the country, usage has declined since the 90s.

South Africa’s drug profile

# Drug group Estimated % of population Global rank
1 Cannabis 3.65% 100th
2 Cocaine 1.02% 32nd
3 ATS (excluding ecstasy) 1.02% 27th
4 Opioids 0.50% 62nd
5 Opiates 0.41% 34th
6 Ecstasy 0.40% 71st
7 Prescription opioids 0.09% 27th

The tables below outline the top 10 countries for drug use (expressed as the estimated percentage of the populate that peruse the substances) across the eight categories covered by the United Nations report.

The estimated population represented is the “best estimation” by the UN, excluding the the highest and lowest estimated presented in the report.

Cannabis

Cannabis is a type of flowering plant that, once cultivated and processed can be used for hemp fibre, medicinal use, and also as a recreational drug.

The plant produces tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which causes the high, along with 483 other compounds present in the plant.

# Country Estimated % of population
1 Iceland 18.30%
2 Zambia 17.70%
3 United States of America 14.80%
4 Italy 14.60%
5 New Zealand 14.60%
6 Nigeria 14.30%
7 Canada 12.20%
8 Bermuda 10.90%
9 Spain 10.60%
10 Australia 10.60%

Cocaine

Cocaine is a strong stimulant, derived from the coca plant, often used as a recreational drug and also as a numbing agent in some medical practices.

# Country Estimated % of population
1 Spain 2.70%
2 Scotland 2.70%
3 Chile 2.40%
4 United States of America 2.30%
5 England and Wales 2.20%
6 Uruguay 2.10%
7 Italy 2.10%
8 Australia 2.10%
9 Northern Ireland 1.90%
10 Malta 1.78%

ATS (excluding ecstasy)

Amphetamine-type stimulants refer to a group of drugs whose principal members include amphetamine (used to treat ADHD) and methamphetamine (meth), as well as other drug types such as Cat (methcathinone), and MDMA/ecstacy.

Hallucinogens refer to any class of drug that creates psychological or sensory experiences that alter thinking and perception. This includes Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD, or “acid”), Psilocybin – found in “magic mushrooms” – or phencyclidine (PCP).

# Country Estimated % of population
1 El Salvador 3.28%
2 Australia 2.70%
3 New Zealand 2.30%
4 Philippines 2.13%
5 Australia 2.10%
6 United States of America 1.90%
7 Poland 1.90%
8 Nigeria 1.40%
9 Thailand 1.40%
10 Laos 1.39%

Ecstasy

Ecstasy is singled out from the other amphetamine-type stimulants for its prevalence, particularly in rave and club culture.

The class of drug is often also mixed with hallucinogens for added effect. MDMA-class drugs also include related drugs such as MDPV and designer drugs called “bath salts”.

# Country Estimated % of population
1 Australia 4.20%
2 New Zealand 2.60%
3 Scotland 2.40%
4 Czech Republic 2.20%
5 Northern Ireland 1.80%
6 Georgia 1.72%
7 Estonia 1.70%
8 Slovakia 1.60%
9 Latvia 1.50%
10 Poland 1.50%

Opiates

Opiates are “natural” substances derived from the poppy plant, which contains opium. Common opiates include morphine and codeine, both made directly from poppy plants.

# Country Estimated % of population
1 Afghanistan 2.65%
2 Seychelles 2.30%
3 Iran 2.27%
4 Russian Federation 1.64%
5 Azerbaijan 1.50%
6 Maldives 1.34%
7 Ukraine 1.16%
8 Puerto Rico 1.15%
9 China 1.12%
10 Pakistan 1.00%

Opioids

Opioids are substances that are synthetic or partly synthetic, that act like opiates due to similar chemical composition. Heroin is a type of Opioid, derived from morphine.

Opioids are also commonly found in prescription medicines such as Vicodin.

# Country Estimated % of population
1 United States of America 6.10%
2 Norway 4.60%
3 Australia 3.40%
4 Afghanistan 2.92%
5 Costa Rica 2.80%
6 Pakistan 2.40%
7 Seychelles 2.30%
8 Russian Federation 2.29%
9 Iran 2.27%
10 Mauritius 1.95%

Prescription opioids

# Country Estimated % of population
1 United States of America 5.70%
2 Australia 3.10%
3 Costa Rica 2.80%
4 Pakistan 1.50%
5 Mauritius 1.04%
6 Canada 1.00%
7 New Zealand 1.00%
8 Estonia 0.71%
9 Afghanistan 0.55%
10 Brazil 0.50%

Prescription stimulants

# Country Estimated % of population
1 El Salvador 3.28%
2 United States of America 1.60%
3 Costa Rica 1.30%
4 Canada 0.70%
5 Brazil 0.70%
6 Indonesia 0.51%
7 New Zealand 0.50%
8 Venezuela 0.37%
9 Uruguay 0.30%
10 Chile 0.14%

 

Source: Businesstech.co.za