Cerca de 230 milhões de pessoas, 1 em cada 20 pessoas, consumiram alguma droga ilícita pelo menos uma vez em 2010. Segundo o relatório, no Brasil, as apreensões federais têm mais do que triplicado desde 2004, atingindo 27 toneladas em 2010. Alguns dados indicam ainda uma expansão do mercado de cocaína, particularmente de crack (droga derivada de cocaína) em alguns países da América do Sul. O aumento nas apreensões também pode refletir o papel do Brasil como um país de partida para a cocaína contrabandeada por meio do Oceano Atlântico, isto é, através de conteineres, dispersos nos postos e navios.

Cannabis is the world’s most widely used illicit substance: there are between 119 million and 224 million cannabis users worldwide, and consumption is stable. Global estimates show that current tobacco use (25 per cent of the population aged 15 and above) is 10 times more widespread than current illegal drug use. Alcohol, which is legal in most countries, has an annual prevalence rate of 42 per cent, which is eight times larger than that of illicit drug use. Heavy episodic weekly drinking is eight times more prevalent than problem drug use.

The major markets for cocaine continue to be in North America, Europe and Oceania (mainly Australia and New Zealand). The decline in seizures in Europe, despite the apparent stability of the region’s cocaine supply, implies that a change in trafficking modes is occurring as traffickers may be making increasing use of containers. Some data indicate an expansion of the cocaine market, particularly of “crack” cocaine, in some countries of South America. There is also some evidence that cocaine trafficking through West Africa.

In the United States, for instance, illicit drug use affected 7.9 per cent of the population aged 12 and above in rural communities in 2010. Drug use was twice as high (16.2 per cent) in large metropolitan areas with a population of more than 1 million. In Germany, communities with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants had 2.7 drug-related offences (identified by the police) per 1,000 households in 2010, while urban areas with more than half a million inhabitants had, on average, 6.6.

One of the key impacts of illicit drug use on society is the negative health consequences experienced by its members. Drug use also puts a heavy financial burden on society. Expressed in monetary terms, some US$ 200 billion-250 billion (0.3-0.4 per cent of global GDP) would be needed
to cover all costs related to drug treatment worldwide.

Cocaine hydrochloride (cocaine in powder form) is usually snorted, whereas “crack” cocaine is usually smoked. With the emergence of “crack”
cocaine in the 1980s, however, the image of cocaine changed there. Cocaine use was no longer considered relatively benign, but as something that might have severe consequences for one’s family and community. That change in perception is likely to have contributed to the strong
decline in cocaine use witnessed in North America since the mid-1980s.