Alcohol, Tobacco Pose Greater Threat To Global Health Than Illicit Drugs

Study finds smoking alcohol are biggest threat to human welfare

Study finds smoking alcohol are biggest threat to human welfare

These translated to major health outcomes, according to statistical estimates based on data from the World Health Organization, the United Nationals Office on Drugs and Crime and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

The report, published Friday in the journal Addiction, provides the most up-to-date information on alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use and the burden of death and disease that the chronic use of these substances can foster.

Combined, the USA and Canada had one of the highest levels of cannabis, opioid and cocaine dependence - 749, 650 and 301 per 100,000 people, respectively.

The researchers found that, worldwide, an estimated 18 percent of people reported "heavy" alcohol use in the last month (heavy use corresponds to more than 60 grams of alcohol, or about four standard drinks, on one occasion).

Central, Eastern, and Western Europe were some parts mentioned in the report as areas of higher per capita consumption of alcohol, as compared to other parts of the world.

The study, despite its limitations, emphasizes the risks of alcohol and tobacco use which present the biggest threat to health and wellbeing worldwide.

Estimates suggest less than 5 percent of people used cannabis in the past year, while cocaine, opioids and amphetamines were consumed far less frequently, with higher recorded use in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. When looking at the impact of illicit drug use, the findings revealed the figure to be the lowest of the three, at 27.8 million DALYs.

"European regions had the highest prevalence of heavy episodic alcohol use and daily tobacco use", writes the global team of authors.

The authors of the report note that Australasia came up as the region with "the highest prevalence of amphetamine dependence", amounting to 491.5 per 100,000 people. Second in line comes alcohol consumption, to which 95 million disability-adjusted life-years are attributed.

The same European regions also recorded the highest prevalence of tobacco smoking (Eastern Europe 24.2 percent, Central Europe 23.7 percent, and Western Europe 20.9 percent).

Some countries and regions (Africa, Caribbean and Latin America, Asia regions) have little or no data on substance use and associated health burden. The authors note there are important limitations to the data but believe they "will make it easier for governments and global agencies to develop policies to combat substance use".

The researchers believe more reliable data collection and reporting is required to accurately determine geographical variations in substance abuse.

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