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Seven Countries with the Worst Drug Problems

Seven Countries with the Worst Drug Problems


Some countries are locked in a death match with dangerous drugs. While Amsterdam is widely known for decriminalizing recreational marijuana use, the city’s drug-related problems are actually relatively tame. The real chaos can be found in countries where the manufacture and trade of drugs make up most of their economy. This creates constant headaches and turmoil for the doctors and rehab clinics charged with treating the intoxicated populace. Here are seven countries with the most vexing drug problems and how they got that way.

1) Afghanistan

Afghanistan is well known as the world's foremost producer of opium, one of the essential ingredients in heroin. This makes Afghanistan an obvious problem area for those concerned with the spread of harmful and addictive substances. According to the CIA World Factbook, "if [Afghanistan's] entire poppy crop were processed, it is estimated that 526 metric tons of heroin could be produced." The Factbook also states that an astounding 80 to 90 percent of the heroin consumed in Europe can be traced back to Afghan opium. Not surprisingly, many Afghan citizens wrestle with horrific withdrawal symptoms and other heroin-related problems each year.

2) New Zealand

According to one website, New Zealand has the dubious distinction of ranking first in the world in cannabis consumption, teen suicide, rape, property theft, and teen pregnancy. While it's unclear to what extent drug use factors into these high rates, it certainly has at least some influence. A recent study clocked New Zealand's cannabis-using population at an alarming 22 percent of people aged 15 and over. As a frame of reference, the United States and Britain clocked in at 12.3 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

3) Russia

Certain parts of Russia are plagued by HIV/AIDS outbreaks as a result of people sharing syringes and needles. The problem is so serious that the World Health Organization has tabbed Russia as the nation with the worst HIV/AIDS epidemic in all of Europe, encompassing nearly a million infected people. cites "intravenous drug use, especially among young people" as the primary vehicle causing the rapid infection to continue and worsen with each passing year. Moscow and St. Petersburg are believed to be the most heavily impacted areas.

4) Britain

According to a June 2007 study by Maryland University and the UK's Kent University, Britain has the highest level of overall drug abuse in Europe and the second highest number of drug-induced deaths. Specific findings in the study revealed that a quarter of the UK's 26 to 30 year olds have experimented with dangerous drugs such as cocaine or heroin, while nearly half of the nation’s youth has experimented with cannabis. In total, Britain's illegal drug trade encompasses about $10 billion per year.

5) The United States

While the US is not known for producing all that much of the world's drug supply, the country is a very heavy consumer. Numerous reports rank the US as the world's leading consumer of cocaine, for example. The US is also, along with Australia, the country with the highest number of drug-related deaths in the world. Marijuana is another American favorite, as both the US and UK rank just behind New Zealand on the list of the world's biggest cannabis consumers.

6) Iran

Worsening heroin problems in Iran have led to the opening of the nation's first for-profit methadone clinic in 2004. According to the BBC, the Persepolis Center offers struggling addicts "a package of syringes, clean needles, tape, alcohol pads, condoms and distilled water - as well as food, clothes, a bath and medical attention, including wound and abscess management." Unfortunately, the heroin problems appear to be a precursor to another major medical issue: the rapid spread of AIDS/HIV. Of the first 500 addicts to visit the center, a quarter of them tested positive.

7) Australia

A February 2007 article in The Australian opens by claiming that "today, about 175 Australians will go into the hospital because of a major drug problem." Readers then learn that alcohol is a major cause of drug-related problems in the country. It is estimated that a mind-blowing $23 billion per year is spent on alcohol by Australians young and old, which the author suggests leads to an array of health issues including brain damage, high blood pressure, and stroke.

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