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Alcohol and tobacco is still a bigger public health problem than illicit drugs

Posted May 15, 2018

Nowadays there are a lot of different highly addictive drugs and it seems like there are new ones coming out all the time. As all addictive stuff, drugs are dangerous and can seriously damage one’s health and life in general. Scientists conducted a study comparing alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs and found that alcohol and tobacco are the biggest threat to lifespan.

Alcohol and tobacco is causing more health issues than illicit drugs just because people consume more of them. Image credit: Len Rizzi via Wikimedia

Scientists discovered that illicit drug use tens of millions of disability-adjusted life years for the global population. Meanwhile the alcohol and tobacco cost more than a quarter of a billion disability-adjusted life years, also in this way tobacco is worse for the public health, with 15.2% of adults smoking tobacco regularly. Scientists say that more than anything this research shows how the governments are failing to address the issue of tobacco and alcohol abuse, while making regulation on illicit drugs stricter. Furthermore, scientists say that the issue may become so bad that in the future politicians will start trying to gain leverage in the elections by promising to solve tobacco and alcohol problem.

Interestingly, Europe is the worst when it comes to smoking and drinking – no regions in the world are as full of heavy drinkers and regular smokers as Europe. However, it is much better regarding illicit drug use – the US, Canada, and Australasia were much worse in this regard. People in US and Canada are especially abusive of cannabis, opioid, and cocaine, while Australasian people suffer from amphetamine dependence more. You may notice that Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, and Asia regions are not mentioned, but it is not because they don’t have drug problems. Instead, data about these places is not complete.

Drug data is typically very limited when it comes to less developed countries. Policy makers in them should be worried about what problems drug abuse may cause, especially if the political situation is not entirely stable. However, the West is not much better either as policy makers there fail to address growing problems of tobacco and alcohol abuse. Professor Robert West, co-author of the study from UCL, said: “We should be under no illusion that what we are seeing here is corporate profit taking precedence over health well-being. This may well need to become an election issue for governments to take the action needed.”

That, of course, is not to say that regulations of illicit drugs should be loosened. Instead, policy makers should recognize the real cost of alcohol and tobacco abuse. It is not just the money spent on healthcare, but also lost labour hours and lost human potential.


Source: UCL

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