The 10 Most Wasted Countries
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6. Afghanistan: Heroin
After the U.S. toppled the Taliban, they inadvertently helped Afghanistan regain top place as the world’s foremost producer of heroin. Previously the Taliban had outlawed the cultivation of opium poppies but responsibility for destroying poppy fields now lies with the international community. As heroin production has flourished, prices have gone down and, at only a few dollars per gram on the country’s streets, heroin and other opiates provide a welcome escape from the drudgery of poverty for Afghan nationals. According to UN figures, between 2005 and 2009, the number of opiate drug users in Afghanistan grew by 53 percent to 230,000, with six percent of those figures pertaining to intravenous drug users. This means that nearly three percent of Afghans between the ages of 15 and 64 are addicted to opiates, according to a study by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
7. Canada: Pot
If an award for Toker Nation had to be handed out in the developed world, it would have to go to Canada. According to the 2007 World Drug Report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, 16.8 percent of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 64 smoked pot last year. This is in part due to what The Guardian calls Canada’s “substantial and highly profitable marijuana industry that is almost completely dependent on the U.S. market”: between 60 and 90 percent of the marijuana produced domestically in Canada is exported to the US via cross-border smuggling operations.
8. United States: Prescription pills
The misuse of prescribed medication in order “to get high” is the nation’s most prevalent drug problem after marijuana use. It’s estimated that up to 20% of people in the US have used prescription pharmaceuticals—narcotic painkillers, sedatives, tranquilizers and stimulants—for reasons other than why they were prescribed. In 2000, about 43 percent of hospital emergency admissions (that’s about half a million people) were the result of prescription drug abuse. Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) show that “nearly one-third of people aged 12 and over who used drugs for the first time in 2009 began by using a prescription drug non-medically.” The Obama administration has responded to the growing crisis with its 2011 Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan, which outlines action in four major areas designed to combat abuse: education, monitoring, proper medication disposal and enforcement. But the rest of the world might be thinking that the day the US takes addictive medication out of the free-market economy is when this little problem will start to be resolved.
9. Brazil: Oxi
Brazil’s been hitting the headlines recently with its contribution to the addiction canon in the form of Oxi—not a misspelling of a little opiate pill with a big pull but Oxidado, the latest drug to emerge in the Amazon basin. Oxi (or “rust”) is a highly addictive mixture of cocaine paste, gasoline, kerosene and quicklime, which is far more powerful than crack at just a fraction of the price. It’s essentially a corrupted version of crack that is consumed in the same way: through smokeable rocks or bumps. There are an estimated 8,000 users in western Brazil, and its highly addictive properties have been imbued with an almost mythical power in the numerous scare-mongering articles sweeping through the online press. Still, only time will tell whether this “super drug” will branch out into a chronic worldwide epidemic rather than merely media-hyped speculation.
10. Mexico: Meth
Mexico used to be sitting pretty as a nation largely untouched by addiction problems, despite housing a considerable number of drug cartels, meth labs and other entrepreneurial spirits. Mexico was a provider, not a consumer, if you want to get all socio-economic about it. However, since 2007, that’s started to change as increased US border control has forced traffickers to look closer to home for viable markets. This doesn’t, however, seem to change the ongoing debate that exists between Mexico and the US—where the US point all the blame at Mexico for providing them with illegal narcotics, and Mexico has to shoulder the blame for the US’s enormous drug consumption problem. The problem, of course, is that such squabbles tend to obfuscate the growing numbers of addicts in Mexico, the newness of this problem, and the lack of viable treatment options for them.