Drug Abuse BLOG

Drug and alcohol abuse grabs attention across the world. The United Nations Office on Drug and Crimes (UNODC) reported that in the year 2015, 29.5 million adults engaged in drug abuse. So, which countries are the worst offenders?

Here are the top 10 countries in the world known for having the highest drug use rates in the world.

10. Holland

Despite popular opinion, the Netherlands has never endorsed the use or distribution of any illicit substance. The Dutch Narcotics Act (DNA) tolerates the use of “soft drugs” including cannabis. Marijuana is technically not legal, but adults above the age of 18 may possess up to 5 grams without being prosecuted. Cannabis can only be legally purchased and smoked in coffee shops for adults over 18. There is currently no penalty for juvenile marijuana users in Amsterdam. 

Holland emergency contact number: #112

9. Germany

Minor casual drug use is not considered an offense in Germany; however, drug users may be incarcerated for up to 5 years for unauthorized possession of illicit substances. In most circumstances, law enforcement will turn a blind eye to small-scale drug use. Germany ranks cannabis as an Appendix III drug, which means it is too dangerous to prescribe and distribute on the market. The penalties for drug possession or drug distribution vary depending on the case, but fines usually go as high as €25,000. According to Paragraph 31 of the Medicinal Products Act, "a person can avoid prosecution if the drugs involved are only in “small amounts". State laws in Germany have different thresholds for possession, but most states allow citizens to carry up to 6 grams of cannabis without repercussion. 

Germany emergency contact number: #112

8. Argentina

Law 23737 declares that drug possession is punishable with imprisonment up to 6 years, plus a fine. Possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use is also punishable with up to 2 years in prison, but this sentence can be replaced by rehabilitation treatment. On April 2016, the government of Argentina decided to work on amendments to Law 23737 in order to have clearer standards on the threshold for “personal use” drugs, including medical cannabis. Even though Argentina has more rigid drug laws, the country maintains a strategic geographic “trans-shipment” area for cocaine. 

Argentina emergency contact number: #101

7. Uruguay

Drug use has never been banned in the nation of Uruguay, and disciplinary action has never been issued against drug users. In keeping up with global acceptance of cannabis, Uruguay is designing a framework for recreational marijuana legalization to regulate the quality and distribution of the substance. Currently, however, citizens must find cannabis on the black market.

Uruguay emergency contact number: #999



6. Canada

Nationwide marijuana legalization has left employers confused as to whether or not employees may be held accountable for marijuana-related workplace accidents. Canadian labor laws do not impose any restrictions of pre-employment drug test or post-accident screening, but companies may enforce a zero-tolerance drug policy if they wish. Canada is now the second country in the world to legalize marijuana in every province. Not only is cannabis permitted for medicinal use, but recreational marijuana use in Canada is also acceptable. Canadians may possess up to one ounce of marijuana (equivalent to 28.6 grams) without being convicted of a criminal offense. 

Canada emergency contact number: #911

5. Mexico

Drug laws in Mexico are flexible compared to other parts of the world, with decriminalization in effect for many illicit substances. Users may carry up to 5 grams of marijuana; 500 milligrams of cocaine; 2 grams of opium; 40 milligrams of methamphetamines; and 50 milligrams of heroin without repercussion. Drug trafficking in Mexico, on the other hand, is strictly prohibited with prison time ranging from 10 to 25 years. The country is looking at total recreational cannabis legalization, but citizens are polarized on the issue. 

Mexico emergency contact number: #065

4. Colombia

Known the world over for cocaine trafficking, Colombia has relatively lax drug laws in an effort to ease tension between government and cartel. No offense may be issued for the possession of any illicit substance in the country, as long as quantities do not exceed the legal “personal limit”. In addition to the acceptance of cocaine use, the use of medical marijuana also has full support from Columbia's president. Enacted in 2011, the Citizen Security Law of Colombia does not take the possession of narcotics as a punishable crime if it is within the “personal limit”. However, the definition of "personal limit" remains to be subjective. 

Columbia emergency contact number: #119

3. Peru

Similar to other Latin American nations, possession strictly for personal use is not considered a criminal offense in Peru. Citizens may carry up to 2 grams of cocaine; 8 grams of marijuana; and 250 milligrams of ecstasy. However, Article 299 of the Peruvian Penal Code defines that possessing two different types of drugs is punishable by law regardless of the amount per drug possessed. Medical marijuana use is allowed in Peru, but the drug cannot be used in public places, and private sale is not permitted. 

Peru emergency contact number: #011

2. United States

31 states and Washington D.C. have legalized medical marijuana use, while 9 states and Washington D.C. have implemented recreational legalization of cannabis use. More states are expected to create and pass laws on cannabis use in the years to come. Despite mass statewide favor of legalized cannabis, the drug is still a Schedule I substance, indicating a very high potential for dependency with no acceptable medical use. In the wake of cannabis legalization, the United States has been victimized by a sweeping opioid abuse problem due to a nationwide dependency on the pharmaceutical industry. 

United States emergency contact number: #911

1. Portugal

In 2001, Portugal pioneered the decriminalization of all drugs. Small amounts of any drug can be used without repercussion. This radical movement has led to incredibly positive results, including a significant drop in overdoses, diseases caused by hypodermic needles, and drug-related crimes. Instead of viewing drug possession as a criminal offense, Portugal's government now regards substance abuse as a public health issue. Under extreme violations, citizens are persecuted only with small fines and court-ordered rehabilitation. 

Portugal emergency contact number: #112


All drug laws across the world share one aspect in common: it is the responsibility of the citizen or tourist to learn and understand these laws. Drug use, whether legal or not, is never encouraged by the federal government; rather, laws are in place to protect people from abusing their privileges.

Helpful Resources

List of International Emergency Contact Numbers

United Nations Office on Drug and Crimes (UNODC)

The Dutch Narcotics Act (DNA)

Medicinal Products Act

Citizen Security Law of Colombia

Peruvian Penal Code

The Drug Enforcement Administration