Reports by the UNDCP have shown that there has been a global increase in the production, transportation and consumption of opioids, mainly heroin. Heroin use has become increasingly common in North America and Europe since the 1960s. The worldwide production of heroin has more than doubled or even tripled since 1985. Evidence from national surveys and other data sources suggests that the prevalence of heroin use in general populations is relatively low. Globally, it is estimated that 13.5 million people take opioids, including 9.2 million who use heroin. However, in many countries (notably those from Europe), the majority of heavy drug users seeking treatment are primarily addicted to opiates.
The use of heroin in particular is causing widespread health and social problems in many countries. In Europe heroin injectors who regularly consume large amounts of different drugs, face a risk of death which may be 20 to 30 times higher than non-drug users in the same age range. Since heroin is commonly used by injecting, the health risks including that of HIV and hepatitis transmission, are substantial.