First Worldwide Addiction Stats Released

We are being led to believe that decriminalizing / legalizing marijuana will save taxpayer money.  A new study shows the opposite is true – more damage is done by legal drugs. The firist worldwide addiction statistics are summarized below.

First Worldwide Addiction Stats Released

by Fran Lowry, May 18, 2015

Tobacco and alcohol use are by far the most prevalent addictive behaviors and cause the large majority of harm, according to the results of the first compilation of addictions around the globe.

“Addictive behaviours are among the greatest scourges on humankind,” write Linda R. Gowing, MD, from the School of Medical Sciences, University of Adelaide, Australia, and colleagues in Addiction. “It is important to estimate the extent of the problem globally and in different geographical regions.”

With this aim, Dr Gowing and her team were commissioned by Addiction to determine the most up-to-date evidence on addictive disorders around the world.

The investigators identified and then assessed online sources of global, regional, and national information on prevalence and major harms relating to alcohol use, tobacco use, unsanctioned psychoactive drug use, and gambling.

Primary data sources included the websites of the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the Alberta Gambling Research Institute.

The study findings include the following:

  • 5% of the world’s adult population (240 million people; 8% of men, 1.5% of women ) have alcohol use disorder, resulting in some 257 disability-adjusted life years lost per 100,000 population.
  • 22.5% of adults (1 billion people; 32% of men, 7% of women) smoke tobacco, with an estimated 11% of deaths in men and 6% of deaths in women attributed to its use annually each year.
  • 3.5% of the world smoke cannabis.
  • <1% of the world use other “unsanctioned” psychoactive drugs.
  • 0.3% of the world (15 million people) inject drugs.
  • Use of unsanctioned psychoactive drugs accounts for about 83 disability-adjusted life years lost per 100,000 population.

Stark Reminder

The researchers were unable to find global estimates of problem gambling. However, in countries where it has been assessed, the prevalence is estimated to be 1.5%.

The study also found huge regional differences in the use of addictive substances.

With regard to alcohol, the heaviest drinkers are in Eastern Europe, where 13.6 liters of alcohol are consumed by each drinker each year. Next comes Northern Europe, with at 11.5 liters per person.

Central, Southern, and Western Asia have the lowest alcohol consumption, at a mere 2.1 liters per person annually.

Eastern Europe also has the most smokers. There, 30% of adults smoke tobacco products.

Oceania follows close behind, at 29.5%, as does Western Europe, at 28.5%.

Africa has fewer smokers, at 14%.

In North and South America, 13% of adults smoke.

North and South America and the Caribbean have the highest rates of injecting drug use, at 0.8%.

The authors point out that although there is relatively good information on the prevalence of use and harms associated with alcohol and tobacco use, the data are limited with respect to unsanctioned or illicit drug use.

There is almost no information on the prevalence of dependence on drugs “used in an unsanctioned way, a gap that is significant given that it is dependence that primarily drives demand for treatment,” they write.

The lack of global data on this issue “leaves a knowledge gap that impedes the capacity for agencies such as WHO, UNODC, and UNAIDS and international non-governmental organizations to plan their activities with a view to achieving the greatest possible impact,” they write.

Notwithstanding this limitation, “Bringing all this data together has been very challenging, but having this global snapshot in one accessible resource should prove invaluable for policy makers and researchers,” Dr Gowing said in a statement.

“The most striking thing to emerge is how much more damage is done to society by legal drugs than illegal ones,” Robert West, MD, an author of the report and editor-in-chief of Addiction, from University College London, in the United Kingdom, said in a statement.

“It is a stark reminder of how the need to create shareholder value can work against global health and wellbeing.”

Dr Gowing reports no relevant financial relationships. Dr West undertakes research and consultancy for companies that develop and manufacture smoking cessation medicines.

Addiction. Published online May 11, 2015. Abstract

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