Substance abuse disorders can have severe negative consequences on healthcare systems and society as a whole. Here, explore global, regional, and national data regarding alcohol and illicit drug addiction.

Illicit drugs include opioids, cocaine, amphetamines and cannabis. Although smoking is not included here as part of this analysis, tobacco-related diseases continue to claim lives on an alarming rate.

1. Alcohol

Alcohol is an easily accessible yet hazardous substance that poses many health hazards to its users. Alcohol abuse affects people of all ages and genders; however, most prevalent among 15 to 49 year olds. Alcohol has been linked with cancers, cardiovascular disease, liver diseases, mental disorders as well as infections such as Lyme disease; it has even been implicated in car crashes or suicide attempts.

On average, people who drink alcohol consume roughly 6.4 liters of pure alcohol annually, equivalent to two glasses of wine or one large bottle of beer. Heavy drinkers who exceed this threshold are considered heavy consumers and run an increased risk for alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Alcohol addiction should not be taken for granted; anyone can drink responsibly without developing an addiction. A person only becomes dependent upon drinking when their drinking habits cannot be managed and start having a detrimental impact on their life, including missing work due to being too inebriated, spending too much money on it, and straining relationships with family and friends.

Researchers used self-reporting surveys and alcohol sales data to establish that approximately 2.3 billion people are currently alcohol drinkers worldwide; more than half are found in Europe and Western Pacific regions, and most begin drinking early with Europe having the highest rates.

The authors of the report claim that while there have been positive trends in drinking patterns, alcohol continues to cause unacceptably high rates of disease and injury. Researchers also note that an expanding market of treatment options can save countries and businesses tremendous losses caused by harmful alcohol consumption; especially as more effective treatments become available. Furthermore, addressing alcohol and drug abuse may save lives by preventing or mitigating many conditions or health concerns that result from misuse.

2. Drugs

Use of prescription drugs, cocaine, methamphetamines, opiates and other illegal substances often leads to addiction in many individuals. Not only is drug abuse physically damaging; it can also result in mental health issues like depression and anxiety as well as social and financial strain like homelessness. Relapse can occur frequently with drug addiction; those who have previously struggled are at greater risk for HIV, Hepatitis and other infections spread via needles used when injecting substances.

Drug addiction is more likely to strike young males than young women, with men being affected more frequently and more easily than their counterparts. Female victims can often have other underlying health conditions that make treatment harder; thus 7.3 million adults in the U.S. alone struggle with both alcohol and drug addiction, with hydrocodone (prescription painkillers) misuse accounting for 6 million misusers; another 3 million take heroin while another 1.4 million misuse opioids such as fentanyl. The 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Use by Healthcare Providers Key Findings report details hydrocodone (prescription painkillers) being most frequently misused; almost 3 million use heroin while another 1.4 million misusing opioids such as fentanyl.

Other popular illegal drugs include marijuana, methamphetamines and cocaine. Their abuse can be especially risky due to their impact on a user’s mood and energy levels – and the potential risk of overdose.

Genetics and family history can increase one’s likelihood of drug addiction, as can mental health conditions like anxiety and depression that affect impulse-control centers in the brain. People suffering from these issues who take drugs in an attempt to self-medicate may increase their risk even further of becoming dependent.

drug addiction can be managed, and recovery is possible. Medication may help alleviate withdrawal symptoms, prevent relapse and promote long-term recovery success; they can be administered orally, sublingually (dissolving under the tongue) or parenterally (injected directly into vein). Other treatment options may include behavioral therapy and support groups – professional medical assistance at an early stage is key for successful recovery.

3. Smoking

Nicotine found in cigarettes is highly addictive, leading to an intense desire and dependence for tobacco products as well as altering the reward system of your brain, making quitting difficult without professional support or assistance. Smoking has been linked with cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness, over 20 types of cancer (subtypes included), debilitating conditions like MS and more than 1 million deaths annually from secondhand smoke exposure – in addition, smoking during pregnancy has serious repercussions for its infant.

Most countries have seen smoking prevalence decline over time – however, progress isn’t uniform and may even reverse itself among younger people. Countries which have implemented effective policies – including stricter public smoking laws, increased taxes and price hikes on tobacco products, smoke-free environments, cessation support programs and mandatory pictorial health warnings – have seen most success at combatting smoking prevalence.

Smoking-related diseases impose substantial global burdens of death, illness and poverty. Over 80% of the 1.3 billion smokers globally reside in low and middle income countries – where tobacco companies employ aggressive marketing practices aimed at targeting them directly – which makes tobacco use one of the leading causes of poverty by diverting household expenditure away from essential needs such as food and shelter.

To accelerate global progress, countries must bolster current efforts and adopt new measures to combat tobacco epidemic. One such step would be ratifying and fully implementing WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), now signed by 182 parties representing 90% of world population.

Evidence indicates that one of the best ways to reduce tobacco-related harm is preventing people from starting smoking altogether in the first place. Preventing smokers from starting is more cost-effective than trying to stop once someone has already become hooked; education, social marketing campaigns, and stringent enforcement of public smoking bans all can play their part.

4. Injection Drugs

Drugs may be taken orally (by mouth), smoked, inhaled through the nose as an inhalant (snorting), or injected directly into a vein intravenously (IV). People who inject drugs may become dependent upon either their drug of choice or to the injection process itself – which has become particularly prevalent among young people across Africa and Latin America.

When people inject drugs, the high can come more quickly and intensely than when taking the same substance orally. This is because injecting bypasses first-pass metabolism in the liver and allows a higher concentration of drug to reach the brain more directly. Needles used for injection can pose various health issues including infection and scarring of skin (track marks) as well as spreading diseases like HIV, Hepatitis C, or active tuberculosis.

Injection-related infections pose a major threat to those who inject drugs and their communities. According to the World Drug Report, over one million people worldwide have HIV or hepatitis C due to injection drug use; furthermore, their risks increase exponentially if someone injects multiple substances.

People who ingest drugs intravenously typically inject their chosen drug in their arms, thighs, neck or chest; however, as these sites become scarred and damaged they may turn to injecting muscle or subdermally in an effort to find an accessible vein. Overusing one injection site may lead to complications like collapsed veins or necrotizing fasciitis infection which could subsequently require hospitalization or even surgery to correct.

People who inject drugs have unique health needs. They need to be evaluated for hepatitis and HIV infection and treated using both medication and counseling, and provided with safe injection supplies such as clean syringes and alcohol pads. Many countries have implemented needle exchange programs which offer these drugs free of charge to those who inject, while collecting contaminated needles safely for disposal – these initiatives have proven their worth in decreasing infection spread while simultaneously decreasing stigma associated with injection drug use.

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