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The Global Landscape of Substance Use: A Public Health Perspective

Updated: Jan 27

South Africa's Substance Use: Strengthening Public Health Solutions

Delve into the global landscape of substance use, examining its profound impacts on public health and development. Uncover key statistics and trends related to alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, and new psychoactive substances worldwide. Understand the immense toll of alcohol and tobacco on disability-adjusted life years and the rising challenges posed by cannabis, opioids, amphetamines, cocaine, and new psychoactive substances. Explore the infectious disease risks associated with unsafe injecting practices and the urgent need for harm reduction services. Recognize the influence of social and structural determinants on adverse health outcomes and the unique challenges faced by women and young people. Conclude with the imperative for evidence-based public health strategies, focusing on prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and social support globally.


 

Substance use and misuse have far-reaching impacts on global public health and development. This blog provides an overview of key statistics and trends related to alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, and new psychoactive substances worldwide.


The Immense Toll of Alcohol and Tobacco

Alcohol and tobacco use contributed to over a quarter billion disability-adjusted life years lost globally in 2015 alone. Alcohol is the leading risk factor for death and disability in sub-Saharan Africa, especially among male youth. Over 1 billion people smoke cigarettes worldwide, resulting in 8 million tobacco-attributable deaths annually. The immense disease burden from alcohol and tobacco underscores the need for better control policies.


Rising Cannabis and Opioid Use

Cannabis remains the most used illicit drug with about 200 million users worldwide in 2019. The non-medical use of opioids, including heroin, is also increasing significantly in Africa and other regions. This contributes to substantial morbidity and mortality. In Eastern and Southern Africa, heroin is the most used opioid.


Amphetamines, Cocaine and New Psychoactive Substances

Around 27 million people used amphetamine-type stimulants globally in 2019, while 20 million used cocaine. Though cocaine use in Africa is relatively lower than worldwide averages, the doubling of global cocaine output since 2014 is worrying. The use of novel psychoactive substances, albeit still emerging in Africa, can cause severe health consequences depending on the compound and usage patterns.


Infectious Disease Risks

Unsafe injecting practices contribute to HIV, hepatitis B and C acquisition among people who use drugs. An estimated 11 million people inject drugs worldwide, of whom 1.4 million live with HIV and 5.6 million with hepatitis C. This highlights the urgent need for harm reduction services.


Social and Structural Determinants

The adverse health outcomes of substance use are shaped by social and structural factors like stigma, discrimination, violence, and lack of access to services. Women and young people who use drugs face unique challenges that need to be addressed through equitable policies and programs.

In summary, this global overview of psychoactive substance use reveals the immense disease burden imposed and the importance of considering environmental influences. Evidence-based public health strategies focused on prevention, treatment, harm reduction and social support are imperative worldwide.


Continue Reading


The Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse

Substance Use Trends and Strategic Interventions

Comprehensive Policy for Substance Use Disorders

Approach to Substance Use Prevention and Treatment

Approach to Substance Reduction Strategies

Overview of Substance Abuse Governance

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