In its annual World Drug Report issued on Thursday, June 23, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said there were now more than 29 million people suffering from drug use disorders worldwide, well up on the 27 million reported a year ago, Deutsche Welle reports.
UNODC said the rise resulted in part from an increased consumption of heroin in North America and some parts of western and central Europe.
"Heroin continues to be the drug that kills the most people and this resurgence must be addressed urgently," said Yury Fedotov, the head of UNODC, in the report, Deutsche Welle says.
The report said that heroin was still plentifully available across the world despite a 38-percent fall in global opium production, with traffickers building up massive stockpiles over the past few years from previous bountiful harvests. It said customs in Italy and France had recorded higher numbers of seizures, pointing to a rise in heroin shipments to Europe.
Some 17 million drug users are addicted to opiates, which include heroin, opium and morphine. The UNODC report said opium-derived substances continued to pose the greatest threat to health among the major drugs.
Asia remained the world's largest market for opiates, the report said, with an estimated two-thirds of all users living in that region.
However, the report showed cannabis as remaining the most commonly used drug across the world.
According to the report, 1 ha of herbal cannabis has been cultivated and eradicated in Armenia.
Although the number of drug-related deaths has remained stable since 2014, when some 207,000 such fatalities were reported, the UNODC website described the figure as "unacceptable," saying such deaths were preventable if adequate measures were taken.
However, in a positive development, the UN agency said the global cocaine market appeared to be "shrinking," with consumption in the U.S. and Europe continuing to fall despite a massive increase in output from Colombia, the world's top coca producer.