This, the fifth booklet of the World Drug Report 2020, contributes evidence to support the international community in implementing operational recommendations on cross-cutting issues in relation to drugs and human rights, youth, children, women and communities, including the recommendations contained in the outcome document of the special session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem held in 2016. Many of these cross-cutting issues are complex and their analysis would require the mobilization of evidence that is not always readily available. For this reason, this booklet focuses on one issue in particular: the association between socioeconomic characteristics and drug use disorders.

The booklet begins with a discussion of general concepts of population health in order to shed light on ways in which socioeconomic characteristics are associated with drug use disorders. Next it reviews evidence regarding the association between socioeconomic characteristics and drug use disorders, from those characteristics at the macro and population levels to those at the community level that may define more vulnerable neighbourhoods. The influence of individual-level circumstances and indicators of socioeconomic position on drug use and drug use disorders are then addressed.

The booklet subsequently discusses the possible mechanisms that may explain how different factors, including genetic factors, psychological characteristics, family and peer dynamics, adverse life events and stress, social networks and neighbourhood dynamics, may contribute to the risk of developing drug use disorders. The next section addresses the negative consequences of drug use disorders on the socioeconomic status of individuals and the communities in which they live; it then discusses the impact that socioeconomic inequalities have on access to drug treatment services.

The final section of the booklet reviews evidence on subpopulation groups that may be impacted differently by drug use disorders, such as women, sexually diverse groups, indigenous and aboriginal groups, ethnic and immigrant groups, displaced persons, and those living in rural settings.