The Lancet, a leading world medical journal, has released a three-part series examining addiction from a global perspective.
The series’ authors, Louisa Degenhardt and Wayne Hall, estimate that 200 million people worldwide use illicit drugs each year. Their first paper is the series examines the adverse health effects of dependence on different drugs, and compare them with tobacco and alcohol use. Other papers in the series examine the effectiveness of drug control initiatives, and assess whether international drug conventions are effective or not in protecting public health.
The authors point out that many people who use illegal drugs don’t just stop at one, a factor that could cause even more health woes.
In looking at mortality rates, though, drug use takes a back seat to some other substances. In 2004 the World Health Organization reported that globally there were 5.1 million deaths due to tobacco use, 2.25 million from alcohol and 250,000 from illegal drug use. But when looking at years of life lost, drugs came in the highest at 2.1 million (followed by alcohol at 1.5 million), since younger people are generally more susceptible to drug-related deaths.