1. Epidemiology of Drug Abuse: A Global Overview

  1. Hamid Ghodse2,
  2. Helen Herrman3,
  3. Mario Maj4 and
  4. Norman Sartorius5
  1. Maria-Elena Medina-Mora,
  2. Tania Real and
  3. Rebeca Robles

Published Online: 18 MAR 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470975084.ch1

Substance Abuse Disorders

Substance Abuse Disorders

How to Cite

Medina-Mora, M.-E., Real, T. and Robles, R. (2009) Epidemiology of Drug Abuse: A Global Overview, in Substance Abuse Disorders (eds H. Ghodse, H. Herrman, M. Maj and N. Sartorius), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9780470975084.ch1

Editor Information

  1. 2

    International Centre for Drug Policy, St George's University of London, London, UK

  2. 3

    Orygen Youth Health Research Centre, Centre for Youth Mental Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

  3. 4

    Department of Psychiatry, University of Naples SUN, Naples, Italy

  4. 5

    Association for the Improvement of Mental Health Programmes, Geneva, Switzerland

Author Information

  1. Division of Epidemiology and Psychosocial Research, National Institute of Psychiatry Ramón de la Fuente Muñiz, Calzada México Xochimilco 101, Tlalpan, México D.F. 14370, Mexico

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 18 MAR 2011
  2. Published Print: 18 MAR 2009

Book Series:

  1. World Psychiatric Association Evidence and Experience in Psychiatry Series

Book Series Editors:

  1. Helen Herrman

Series Editor Information

  1. WPA Secretary for Publications, University of Melbourne, Australia

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470745106

Online ISBN: 9780470975084



  • Epidemiology;
  • drug abuse supply and demand;
  • developed and developing countries;
  • paradigms and research strategies;
  • treatment gap


The aim of this chapter is to provide a comprehensive overview of drug problem across different cultures. It summarizes the evidence from a literature review, per type of substance: i) cannabis, ii) opium and heroin, iii) cocaine, iv) inhalants, v) Amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), v) abuse of prescription drugs (APD). In general, marijuana is the most widely consumed substance; the majority of opium is cultivated in Afghanistan, while coca leaf grows in the Andean region. Inhalants, ATS and APD consumption exemplifies the major role that drug availability and sociocultural context plays. Data shows the diversity and complexity of drug problems around the world, characterized by forms of use with a long tradition in some cultures that emerge in others. Furthermore, it suggests a cyclical nature of drug abuse with periods of increase and decrease that change along with public attitudes, social policies and resources to cope with the problem.