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More than 3 million deaths annually due to alcohol and drug consumption, the majority among men

A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) highlights that 2.6 million deaths per year were attributable to alcohol consumption, representing 4.7% of all deaths, and 0.6 million deaths to the consumption of psychoactive drugs. In particular, 2 million alcohol-attributable deaths and 0.4 million drug-attributable deaths occurred among men.

from the WHO Report on the global status of alcohol and substance use disorder health and treatment provides a comprehensive update based on 2019 data on the public health impact of alcohol and drug use and the status of alcohol use and substance use disorder treatment around the world. The report shows that approximately 400 million people were living with alcohol and drug use disorders worldwide. Of these, 209 million people were living with alcohol dependence.

“Substance use seriously harms individual health, increases the risk of chronic diseases and mental health conditions, and tragically causes millions of preventable deaths each year. It places a heavy burden on families and communities, increasing exposure to accidents , injuries and violence,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO. “To build a healthier and more equitable society, we must urgently commit to bold actions that reduce the negative health and social consequences of alcohol use and make treatment for substance use disorders accessible and affordable.”

The report highlights the urgent need to accelerate global action to achieve target 3.5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 by reducing alcohol and drug use and improving access to quality treatment for use disorders of substances.

Health consequences of alcohol consumption

The report highlights that, despite some reduction in alcohol-related death rates since 2010, the total number of deaths due to alcohol consumption remains unacceptably high and stands at 2.6 million in 2019, with the highest figures highs in the European Region and the African Region.

Mortality rates due to alcohol consumption per liter of alcohol consumed are highest in low-income countries and lowest in high-income countries.

Of all alcohol-attributable deaths in 2019, an estimated 1.6 million deaths were due to non-communicable diseases, including 474,000 deaths from cardiovascular diseases and 401,000 from cancer.

Some 724,000 deaths were due to injuries, such as those caused by traffic accidents, self-harm and interpersonal violence. Another 284,000 deaths were related to communicable diseases. For example, alcohol consumption has been shown to increase the risk of HIV transmission due to an increased risk of unprotected sex and by increasing the risk of tuberculosis infection and mortality by suppressing a wide range of immune responses.

The highest proportion (13%) of deaths attributable to alcohol in 2019 occurred among young people aged 20-39.

Alcohol consumption trends

Total per capita alcohol consumption in the world population decreased slightly from 5.7 liters in 2010 to 5.5 liters in 2019. The highest levels of per capita consumption in 2019 were observed in the WHO European Region (9 .2 liters) and the Region of the Americas (7.5 liters). ).

The level of per capita alcohol consumption among drinkers averages 27 grams of pure alcohol per day, approximately the equivalent of two glasses of wine, two bottles of beer (33 cl) or two servings of spirits (4 cl). This level and frequency of alcohol consumption is associated with increased risks of numerous health conditions and associated mortality and disability.

In 2019, 38% of current drinkers had binge drinking, defined as consuming at least 60g of pure alcohol on one or more occasions in the previous month, equivalent to approximately 4 to 5 drinks. of wine, bottles of beer or portions of spirit. Excessive and continuous alcohol consumption was highly prevalent among men.

Globally, 23.5% of all 15- to 19-year-olds were current drinkers. Rates of current alcohol use were highest among youth ages 15 to 19 in the European region (45.9%), followed by the Americas (43.9%).

Treatment gap for substance use disorders

Effective treatment options exist for substance use disorders, but treatment coverage remains incredibly low. The proportion of people in contact with substance use treatment services ranged from less than 1% to no more than 35% in 2019, in countries that provide this data.

Most of the 145 countries that reported data did not have a specific budget line or data on government spending for the treatment of substance use disorders. Although mutual aid and peer support groups are useful resources for people with substance use disorders, almost half of the countries that responded reported that they do not offer such support groups for substance use disorders.

Stigma, discrimination, and misconceptions about treatment effectiveness contribute to these critical gaps in treatment provision, as well as the continued low priority of substance use disorders by health and development agencies.

Actions for progress

To accelerate progress towards achieving SDG target 3.5 and reduce the health and social burden attributable to substance use, governments and partners must intensify action in eight strategic areas. These include:

  • increase awareness through a coordinated global promotion campaign;
  • strengthen the prevention and treatment capacity of health and social care systems;
  • expand the training of health professionals;
  • recommit to the implementation of the Global Alcohol Action Plan 2022-2030 focusing on the SAFER package;
  • accelerate international efforts on capacity building and knowledge transfer;
  • involve civil society organizations, professional associations and people with lived experiences;
  • improve multi-level monitoring systems and corresponding investigation capacity; and
  • expand resource mobilization and allocation and innovative financing mechanisms to strengthen the capacity of health and social systems.

Notes to the editor

The previous WHO report on SDG target 3.5 was published in 2018. The report published today was scheduled for 2022 after the usual time frame of about three years, but was postponed due to challenges associated with the COVID pandemic. -19. Health target 3.5 of the SDGs calls for “strengthening the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and the harmful use of alcohol” and has two indicators: 3.5.1 – coverage of treatment interventions ( pharmacological, psychosocial and rehabilitation and aftercare services) for substance use disorders, and indicator 3.5.2: per capita alcohol consumption (15 years and older) within a calendar year in liters of pure alcohol. The WHO Global Survey on Progress against SDG Target 3.5 was conducted in 2019-2020. Of the 194 WHO Member States, 154 (79.4%) responded to the survey. The WHO Global Action Plan for Alcohol 2022-2030 is a comprehensive plan to further guide the implementation of the 2010 WHO Global Strategy to Reduce Harmful Consumption of Alcohol, aimed at reducing alcohol-related harms Worldwide.

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