The United Nations on Drug and Crime (UNODC) said cannabis is the most widely used drug globally with an estimated 188 million people having used the drug in the previous year.
UNODC Country Representative, Oliver Stolpe, disclosed this at the 2019 World Drug Day on Wednesday in Abuja.
The theme for the 2019 International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is: ‘Justice for Health, Health for Justice.’
According to him, an estimated 10.6 million Nigerians had used cannabis in the previous year as disclosed in a survey conducted by National Bureau of Statistics with the technical support of UNODC and funded by the European Union.
Mr Stolpe said more than one third of cannabis users suffer from drug use disorders.
He said UNODC annual report shows that 271 million people or 5.5 per cent of the global population aged between 15 and 64 have used drugs in the previous year.
“In this context, I would like to remind you that drug use prevalence in Nigeria stood at 14.4 per cent of Nigeria’s population in the age group of 15 to 64 years.
“That means that the prevalence of past year drug use in Nigeria is more than twice the global average of 5.5 per cent.
“In 2017, more than 53 million people worldwide had used opioids, 56 per cent higher than the estimate for 2016.
“In Africa, the survey data from Nigeria led to a revision of the number of past year users of opioids to 6.1 million, compared to the previous estimate of 2.2 million.
“With the new information from India and Nigeria, the number of people who are thought to suffer from drug use disorders is now estimated to be 35 million globally.
“This number is 15 per cent higher than the previous estimate of 30 million,” Mr Stolpe said.
He said the use of cannabis and poly-drug have been a fairly common phenomena in Nigeria with large number of dependent users.
Mr Stolpe said cannabis production, trafficking, prevention and treatment should not be addressed in isolation, but as part of a holistic approach to drug control.
He explained that a single substance approach such as the ban of codeine, containing cough syrup, are unlikely to produce results in terms of reduced drug use.
The UNODC rep added that in spite of the aim to prevent criminals from generating profits from the illicit trade, cannabis market continue to exist in countries that have legalised the non-medical use of the drug.
He also said the UNODC world drug report shows that the intensity of cannabis use has been increasing in the context of cannabis legalisation.
Mr Stolpe said that the issue of cannabis legalisation should be considered within the international legal framework and the specific country’s context.
He added that with the renewed commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari to tackle the issue of drug use the country would continue to employ a balanced approach to drug control.
The World Drug Day is celebrated every 26th of June.