LONDON – Marijuana is perhaps the most abused drug in the world, but these are painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin and codeine that kill the most people, according to the first global study of this type of drug .
In addition to cannabis and opioid analgesics, scientists have also examined the use of cocaine and amphetamines in 2010, largely based on previous studies. The ecstasy and hallucinogenic drugs were not considered due to lack of data about them.
The researchers found that for all substances studied, it is men in their twenties who have the highest rate of consumption. The countries most affected by the drug are Australia, Britain, Russia and the United States.
The study, to be published on the website of the Lancet medical journal on Thursday, however, provides little concrete figures, and scientists have had to rely on modeling techniques for their estimates.
According to Theo Vos, lead author of the study and researcher at the Institute of Metrology and health assessment at the University of Washington, even though the data are not very strong, it is possible to say that substance is present in the majority of regions.
Mr. Vos said that people tended to consume drugs and medicines produced close to home: the cocaine in North America, amphetamines and opioids in Asia and Australia. Asia and Africa have the lowest rates of consumption.
Of the approximately 78,000 deaths related to drug use in 2010, more than half were caused by painkillers.
According to Professor Vos, the countries with the most stringent laws against drug use also have the worst mortality rate for drug users, compared to countries that prefer other approaches such as needle exchange programs and methadone clinics.
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