Addiction remains and continues to grow as a public health concern across the world. Not only can it have a huge impact on families and communities, increase social issues such as crime, it also causes major health problems for those trapped by long term addictions.
Reliable worldwide statistics for addiction were few and far between until a major report by Australian researchers in 2015 that showed around about 240 million people had an alcohol dependency and almost a billion were smokers. Addiction covers a wide range of behaviours including drug and alcohol dependency but also food and gambling addictions
According to the Society for the Study of Addiction:
- The percentage of people across the world who drink alcohol is 43% but there are significant variations across different regions. For example, in areas of Asia the level is under 10% while in Europe it can be as high as 88%.
- Of the people who drink alcohol around the globe, 13% revealed that they had indulged in heavy, episodic drinking with this behaviour being more common amongst males.
- Around 4.9% of the global population have what is termed an alcohol use disorder, again with the prevalence being higher amongst males.
- The percentage of the world population who smoke is 22.5% and is thought to contribute to death in 6% of females and 11% of males within this group.
- 5% of adults have used cannabis around the world and 0.3% inject psychoactive drugs. The world statistics relating to drug addiction are more difficult to assess because of the hidden nature of the practice. The number of deaths that can be attributed to drug misuse is around a quarter of a million per year.
Data is also fairly sparse when it comes to assessing the prevalence and harm caused by an addiction to practices such as gambling but recent research suggest this is less than 2% of the population.
In the USA, according to DrugFacts:
- In 2009, 23 million people aged 12 and over required treatment for substance or alcohol abuse of which just over 11% went to a specialist facility.
- Of these, over 41% had either problems of alcohol abuse or alcohol and another drug problem.
- Those getting access to publicly funded facilities for the treatment of their addiction were predominantly white (50.9%).
- If you have an alcohol addiction you are 23 times more likely to develop a gambling addiction. 50% of those with a gambling addiction are involved in some form of criminal activity to feed their habit.
In Europe, addiction statistics are more widely available:
- The UK has the highest use of cocaine amongst 18-24 year olds in the whole of Europe with 4.2% admitting having taken the drug over a 12 month period.
- 1 in 7 deaths amongst males between 16 and 64 years can be attributed in some way to alcohol use, almost 7 out of ten from abuse.
- With the rise of online activity, there are some 6.8 million people who gamble at some point or another and problem gambling varies between 1% in Italy to 6.9% in Estonia.
In Africa the situation is often clouded by poor reporting, especially in the most deprived areas:
- UN research suggests that there 37,000 deaths due to illegal drug use each year on the continent and there could be as many as 28 million drug users.
- While many African countries abstain from alcohol, consumption in South Africa is one of the highest in the world, on a par with countries such as the UK and the Ukraine.
- The most widely used and abused drugs are ecstasy and methamphetamine, ahead of opium which is still widely produced in the region.
- Alcohol consumption in Asia is almost half that in Europe (6.2 litres per capita compared to 12.2 litres per capita).
- In Singapore, 44% of residents admitted to engaging in some form of gambling activity over a period of a year, with higher rates amongst certain groups such as the Chinese (55%).
Global Statistics on Addictive Behaviours: 2014 Status Report
2014 European Drug Report
Alcohol Consumption, Alcohol Dependence and Attributable Burden of Disease in Europe
Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health