Mapped: The Most Common Illicit Drugs in the World – Visual Capitalist

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Despite strict prohibitory laws around much of the world, many common illicit drugs still see widespread use.
Humans have a storied and complicated relationship with drugs. Defined as chemical substances that cause a change in our physiology or psychology, many drugs are taken medicinally or accepted culturally, like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.
But many drugs—including medicines and non-medicinal substances taken as drugs—are taken recreationally and can be abused. Each country and people have their own relationship to drugs, with some embracing the use of specific substances while others shun them outright.
What are the most common drugs that are considered generally illicit in different parts of the world? Today’s graphics use data from the UN’s World Drug Report 2021 to highlight the most prevalent drug used in each country.
The World Drug Report looks explicitly at the supply and demand of the international illegal drug market, not including commonly legal substances like caffeine and alcohol.
Drugs are grouped by class and type, with six main types of drugs found as the most prevalent drugs worldwide.
The report also tracked the prevalence of hallucinogens—psychoactive drugs which strongly affect the mind and cause a “trip”—but no hallucinogens ranked as the most prevalent drug in any one country.
*Editor’s note: Recreational cannabis is legal in five countries, and some non-federal jurisdictions (i.e. states). However, in the context of this report, it was included because it is still widely illicit in most countries globally.
According to the report, 275 million people used drugs worldwide in 2020. Between the ages of 15–64, around 5.5% of the global population used drugs at least once.
Many countries grouped different types of the same drug class together, and a few like Saudi Arabia and North Macedonia had multiple different drug types listed as the most prevalent.
But across the board, cannabis was the most commonly prevalent drug used in 107 listed countries and territories:
How prevalent is cannabis worldwide? 72 locations or more than two-thirds of those reporting listed cannabis as the most prevalent drug.
Unsurprisingly these include countries that have legalized recreational cannabis: Canada, Georgia, Mexico, South Africa, and Uruguay.
Though the global prevalence of cannabis is unsurprising, especially as it becomes legalized and accepted in more countries, other drugs also have strong footholds.
Opioids (14 locations) were the most prevalent drugs in the Middle-East, South and Central Asia, including in India and Iran. Notably, Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, supplying more than 90% of illicit heroin globally.
Amphetamine-type drugs (9 locations) were the third-most common drugs overall, mainly in East Asia. Methamphetamine was the reported most prevalent drug in China, South Korea, and Japan, while amphetamine was only the most common drug in Bangladesh.
However, it’s important to note that illicit drug usage is tough to track. Asian countries where cannabis is less frequently found (or reported) might understate its usage. At the same time, the opioid epidemic in the U.S. and Canada reflects high opioid usage in the West.
As some drugs become more widespread and others face a renewed “war,” the landscape is certain to shift over the next few years.
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See how America’s 1.8 million truckers are distributed across the nation in these two heatmap visualizations.
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In 2021, the U.S. imported $2.8 trillion worth of goods.
This incredible quantity of goods—along with much of what is produced domestically—is handled by the country’s 1.8 million truckers, which represents the 14th most common occupation nationally.
To see how these truckers are distributed across the nation, we’ve visualized data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to create two separate heat maps.
The relative density of each state’s truckers is measured by their location quotient.
This represents the ratio of truckers in a state compared to the national average (both as a % of total employment). For example, if truckers made up 10% of a state’s employment, and the national average was 2%, the location quotient for that state would be 5.
This data is listed in the table below.
There are four states with a location quotient of two or more: Arkansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Iowa. This means that their trucker workforce (as a % of total employment) is at least double the national average.
On the other hand, California and New York have some of the lowest location quotients in the country. Trucking companies have been competing fiercely to attract drivers in these areas, but with limited success.
At a time when the whole American population is aging, truck drivers tend to be older than average. The work is stressful, lonely, exhausting and long plagued by a pay system that can make drivers feel they can’t get ahead of the game.
– Los Angeles Times
To entice more young people to enter the industry, New York recently created a truck driver training program for 18-20 year olds. Some have voiced their concerns about safety, though few alternatives exist. In October 2021, the American Trucking Association (ATA) announced that the national driver shortage had reached a record-breaking 80,000.
The location quotient is an effective measure because it controls for the differences in each state’s population. Seeing the raw data, though, can still add useful perspective.
The following image shows the number of trucker’s in each state. As a reminder, the national total is 1.8 million.
distribution of truckers in america
With these numbers, we can gain a more practical understanding of the location quotient. For instance, California has the second highest number of truckers, but it’s dwarfed by the state’s massive population of 40 million.
The BLS expects employment of truck drivers to grow by 6% from 2020 to 2030, which is close to the national average for all jobs. Based on total employment of 1.8 million, this would translate to 108,000 new openings.
Whether these openings will be filled is an entirely different story.
In the American Trucking Association’s latest report, analysts estimate that the industry will need to recruit 1 million drivers just to replace retiring drivers, or those that leave voluntarily.
EV valuations have exploded since 2020, dwarfing those of legacy automakers like Ford and Toyota. Gain further insight with this infographic.
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The global push for lower emissions has created a mania around pure-electric automakers. While Tesla leads the charge, institutional investors have also piled into many of its younger rivals.
For example, in 2019, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund invested $1.3 billion into Lucid Motors. One year later, it was revealed that Amazon had a 20% stake (worth $3.8B) in Rivian.
To see how quickly EV valuations have ballooned, we’ve visualized the historical market capitalizations (market caps) of 10 prominent automakers.
The legacy group includes five top traditional automakers, while the EV group includes the five most valuable pure-electric automakers that are listed on an American exchange.
The following table lists the market caps of these companies at various dates. While XPeng and NIO are listed on the New York Stock Exchange, they do not currently sell cars in the U.S.
Source: Companies Market Cap
At the end of 2021, Tesla and its four EV rivals were worth a combined $1.3 trillion. This was more than double of the legacy group, which was worth $635 billion. EV valuations have cooled since then, though Tesla is still the world’s most valuable automaker by a significant margin.
Comparing U.S. sales gives an interesting perspective on these companies’ relative scale. Once again, note that XPeng and NIO do not sell cars in America. We’ve provided figures for their home market (China) instead.
Source: Good Car Bad Car
Impressively, Tesla has overtaken Mercedes in the U.S. to become one of the country’s top luxury brands.
To satisfy investor expectations, Rivian and Lucid will need to rapidly scale their production and sales. Failing to do so could lead to significant stock price volatility.
Investors should also note that both companies could experience similar challenges as Tesla, which Musk has referred to as “production hell”. Rivian has already pushed back deliveries of its first SUV, while Lucid customers have been notified of delays due to “fit and finish” issues.
Nevertheless, these young manufacturers are setting some serious goals. Rivian aims to produce one million cars annually by the year 2030, while Lucid is targeting a more conservative 49,000 cars in 2023.
Tesla is still the undisputed EV leader, but competition is rapidly heating up.
On one hand, legacy automakers have been investing heavily in EV development, and new models are coming en masse. The Volkswagen Group is the biggest threat, selling 453,000 EVs globally in 2021 (up 96% over 2020). For reference, Tesla reported global sales of 936,000 in 2021.
On the other hand, Tesla must also defend its market share from an onslaught of Chinese entrants. This includes XPeng and NIO, which appear to be on similar trajectories. Both firms were founded in 2014, both sold nearly 100,000 EVs in 2021, and both have recently expanded into European markets. A U.S. expansion also seems to be imminent.
With the entire auto industry moving towards battery powered vehicles, will the market rethink its valuation of Tesla?
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