It’s the Legal ‘Drugs’ That Harm Us More Than the Illegal Ones, Claim Researchers

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Illegal drugs cause many deaths each year, but it’s the legal addictions that cause more death, says a new review. The review analyzed the data on 2015 global drug use from many sources: the World Health Organization, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, and other more sources.

The review aimed to examine the drug use and disability or death caused by it. Then, it looked towards the data on alcohol and tobacco smoking.

Researchers found out that almost 18% of people in the world have reported ‘heavy’ alcohol intake in the past month. Heavy use equals more than 60 grams of alcohol per day (four standard drinks).

As for smoking, worldwide, 15% of the people smoke tobacco daily. Marijuana smoking reached 3.8% last year, and 0.77% of the people have used amphetamine. The non-medical opioid use in the past year was 0.37%, and the cocaine use was 0.35%.

The biggest consumers of alcohol were from Central, Eastern and Western Europe (with 11-12 liters of pure alcohol/year, per capita), compared to almost 6 liters/year per capita in the rest of the word. These regions also recorded the biggest levels of tobacco smoking – 21-24% of the population was smoking tobacco daily.

The addiction to alcohol in 2015 reported 63 million people. Looking at marijuana dependency, in 2015 there were almost 20 million people and 17 million were dependent on opioids.

US and Canada ranked three times higher in marijuana and opioid dependence.

Rates of Death – Tobacco, Alcohol and Drug Use

Tobacco smoking has the highest rate of death: in 2015, in every 100,000 deaths, 110 cases were linked to tobacco use. Only 33 cases of death were connected to alcohol, and 7 cases to illegal drug use.

Researchers wrote in the journal Addiction on 11 May that:

“Alcohol use and tobacco smoking are far more prevalent than illicit substance use, globally and in most regions.”

However, researchers haven’t taken into account some regions, where there is little or no data on drug use (like Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and Asia):

“Better standardized and rigorous methods for data collection, collation and reporting are needed to assess more accurately the disease burden from substance use worldwide.”

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere