Alcohol consumption and psychoactive drug use claimed more than three million lives in 2019, according to a new report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday.  

The WHO’s Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health and Treatment of Substance Use Disorders, based on 2019 data, showed that 2.6 million deaths per year were attributable to alcohol consumption, accounting for 4.7 per cent of all deaths in that year, and 0.6 million deaths to drug use.

Of these, 2 million of alcohol and 0.4 million of drug-attributable deaths were among men.

“Substance use severely harms individual health, increasing the risk of chronic diseases, and mental health conditions, and tragically resulting in millions of preventable deaths every year. It places a heavy burden on families and communities, increasing exposure to accidents, injuries, and violence,” WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“To build a healthier, more equitable society, we must urgently commit to bold actions that reduce the negative health and social consequences of alcohol consumption and make treatment for substance use disorders accessible and affordable,” he added.

The report also showed that low-income countries account for the highest death rates due to alcohol consumption, while high-income countries had the lowest rates.

Importantly, an estimated 1.6 million deaths related to alcohol consumption were from 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 from traffic crashes, self-harm, and interpersonal violence. Another 284,000 deaths were linked to communicable diseases, like HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis.

Young people aged 20-39 years accounted for the highest proportion (13 per cent) of alcohol-attributable deaths in 2019, said the report.

It called for “an urgent need to accelerate actions globally towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 3.5 by 2030 by reducing alcohol and drug consumption and improving access to quality treatment for substance use disorders”.

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