The Society for the Study of Addiction recently released a report that suggests tobacco and alcohol is the “most harmful substance” utilized by people around the world. The report compiles data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Institute for Health metrics and Evaluation and World Health Organization.
While the data is fairly limited, the organization’s report provides a clear image of the burden and mortality of diseases associated with illicit drugs, tobacco and alcohol.
As more and more states legalize medical and recreational marijuana, its popularity continues to soar. The data revealed that only 259 people out of 100,000 were dependent on cannabis.
Deaths Related To Tobacco And Alcohol
According to the Society for the Study of Addition, more deaths are related to alcohol and tobacco than illegal drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, and cannabis. This basically means that more lives are lost to tobacco and alcohol use than their illicit counterparts.
Researchers utilized what is known as “disability-adjusted life years” (DALYs) to study the overall harm caused by illicit drugs, cannabis, alcohol and tobacco. This method measures the number of years people with cancers and heart and respiratory diseases survive. Overdose deaths are also included in this measurement.
Researchers combined overdose deaths from illicit drug use and DALYs to measure the level of harm caused by illegal substances, tobacco and alcohol. The results revealed that the harm caused by tobacco and alcohol was much more severe than the harm caused by illicit drug use.
Focusing solely on the substance-attributable mortality rates, tobacco use contributed to 110.7 deaths per 100,000 people, alcohol contributed to 33.0 deaths out of 100,000 people. So, tobacco us is contributed to more than three times more deaths than alcohol.
Now, when you look at the substance-attributable mortality rates for illicit drugs, the numbers are much lower. According to the SSA report, illegal drug use contributed to 6.9 deaths per 100,000 people.
If you believe the substance-attributable mortality rates are disturbing wait until you see the DALYs results. Tobacco and alcohol contributed to a loss of 250,000,000 disability-adjusted life years – alcohol 85.0 million years and tobacco 170.9 million – worldwide. Illegal substance use did not even come close to that number. However, it still contributed to a loss of tens of millions DALYs.
Europeans Suffer The Most From Tobacco, Alcohol And Illicit Drug Use
The SSA report also focuses on geographic areas. According to the report, Eastern Europe has the highest DALYs and mortality rates for both illegal drugs and alcohol.
The highest DALYs and mortality rates goes to Oceania, which consists of Australia, New Zealand and East Timor.
Low- and middle-income countries in Europe suffered the worst losses.
While the data was scant in those regions, researchers were able to determine that they had the highest mortality rates.
The report revealed that alcohol use in Southwest Asia and North Africa was the lowest – less than a liter per capita – and West sub-Saharan Africa had the lowest smoking rates.
Co-author of the study and West of University College London Professor Robert West said, “We think of ourselves as bastions of civilization, but on this particular area we’re doing worse than the developing world,” according to an Independent report.
Are Alcohol And Tobacco Losses Higher Because They Are More Accessible?
The SSA study reveals that the number of lives and years lost to tobacco, illicit drugs and alcohol use continue to climb. It also reveals that alcohol and tobacco contributes to more losses than illicit drugs. But, it does not take into account that tobacco and alcohol are so much more accessible than illegal drugs.
People around the world can walk into a convenience store and purchase tobacco and alcohol. Illegal substances, such as opioids, cocaine, heroin and amphetamines, are not easily accessible. So, when you consider these facts, it is no wonder that the mortality and DALY rates are higher for tobacco and alcohol.
National Study Focuses On Drug, Tobacco and Alcohol Abuse In Rural Areas
Several studies of low-income, rural families reveals that substance abuse – tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs – contributes to negative behaviors. One particular study, Rural Families Speak, yields information about the risks of substance use.
A total of 414 mothers participated in the study and only half of them were employed. These mothers worked one to three jobs, earning anywhere from $1.11 up to $1840 an hour.
Some of the mothers working multiple jobs reported using substances, with tobacco being the most widely used among these mothers. According to U.S. government, children exposed to second-hand smoke are at a high risk of cognitive impairment. Most of the mothers who reported utilizing substances were not aware of the resources available through the community.
Among the mothers who participated in the study, 57.8 percent were satisfied or very satisfied with life. Another 42.2 percent reported being dissatisfied, very dissatisfied or having mixed feelings about life.