Alcohol and tobacco by far the worst drugs for human health, global review finds

Click here to get this post in PDF

Alcohol and tobacco by far the worst drugs for human health, global review finds

Alcohol and tobacco by far the worst drugs for human health, global review finds
No country in the world reports harm from illegal drugs rivalling culturally acceptable substances Friday 11 May 2018 10:20 BST Click to followThe Independent Online Europe is leading the global field in both alcohol consumption and rates of smoking Getty
Alcohol and tobacco are by far the biggest threat to human health around the world, while illegal drug harms “don’t even come close”, a major report on addictive substances has found.
The Global Statistics on Alcohol , Tobacco, and Illicit Drug Use: 2017 Status Report found a quarter of a billion hours of healthy human life are lost each year because of smoking and drinking, ten times more than is lost to illicit drug use.
The study measures the impact in “disability adjusted life years”, which factors in the years lived with cancers, respiratory disease or cardiovascular disease alongside the lives cut short by things like overdoses. Read more Illegal drug use figures do not suggest UK law is ‘working’
The harm from smoking and alcohol is largely down to markedly higher prevalence: globally, one-in-seven adults smoke – the single biggest health harm globally – while one-in-five drink alcohol.
It notes that death rates per 100,000 people were three times higher for smoking (110.7 deaths) than alcohol (33). Illicit drugs only accounted for 6.9 deaths per 100,000.
“Smoking and alcohol are always well ahead [of illicit drugs], there’s nowhere that it even comes close,” Professor Robert West of University College London and one of the report’s authors told The Independent. Is Portugal winning the War on Drugs?
The report, published in the journal Addiction , also found that Europe is a world leader in these bad habits.
In 2015 the regions with the highest alcohol consumption were Eastern, Central and Western Europe, with 11.98 litres, 11.61 litres, and 11.09 litres of pure alcohol consumed per person over 15 years old, each year.
This compared to the global average of 6.42 litres, and heavy drinkers accounted for 40 to 50 per cent of these.
These regions also had the highest smoking rates, with Eastern Europe leading with 24.2 per cent of the population being smokers. Nine out of 10 councils cutting weight loss and addiction schemes
Western sub-Saharan Africa had the lowest smoking rates (4.7 per cent), while North Africa and the Middle East had the lowest per capita alcohol consumption, at 0.91 litres.
“We think of ourselves as bastions of civilisation, but on this particular area we’re doing worse than the developing world,” Professor West said.
“It’s a bit of a wake-up call, for me anyway, let’s stop congratulating ourselves that we’ve got smoking prevalence in Britain down to around 16 per cent – that’s only down to the global average.
“If we’re going to make the impact we really want on death rates, we need to address the cultural normality of it all.”
Use of illicit drugs was less common. Globally fewer than one in 20 are estimated to have used cannabis in the past year, while amphetamines, opioids and cocaine are much lower.
The US and Canada have some of the highest rates of cannabis and cocaine dependence, in addition to opioids which are currently at epidemic levels and caused 42,000 deaths in the US alone in 2016 . Health news in pictures Health news in pictures 1/50 Gay, lesbian and bisexual adults at higher risk of heart disease, study claims
Researchers at the Baptist Health South Florida Clinic in Miami focused on seven areas of controllable heart health and found these minority groups were particularly likely to be smokers and to have poorly controlled blood sugar iStock 2/50 Potholes are making us fat, NHS watchdog warns
New guidance by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the body which determines what treatment the NHS should fund, said lax road repairs and car-dominated streets were contributing to the obesity epidemic by preventing members of the public from keeping active PA 3/50 New menopause drugs offer women relief from ‘debilitating’ hot flushes
A new class of treatments for women going through the menopause is able to reduce numbers of debilitating hot flushes by as much as three quarters in a matter of days, a trial has found. The drug used in the trial belongs to a group known as NKB antagonists (blockers), which were developed as a treatment for schizophrenia but have been “sitting on a shelf unused”, according to Professor Waljit Dhillo, a professor of endocrinology and metabolism Rex images 4/50 Doctors should prescribe more antidepressants for people with mental health problems, study finds
Research from Oxford University found that more than one million extra people suffering from mental health problems would benefit from being prescribed drugs and criticised “ideological” reasons doctors use to avoid doing so. 5/50 Student dies of flu after NHS advice to stay at home and avoid A&E
The family of a teenager who died from flu has urged people not to delay going to A&E if they are worried about their symptoms. Melissa Whiteley, an 18-year-old engineering student from Hanford in Stoke-on-Trent, fell ill at Christmas and died in hospital a month later. Just Giving 6/50 Government to review thousands of harmful vaginal mesh implants
The Government has pledged to review tens of thousands of cases where women have been given harmful vaginal mesh implants. Getty 7/50 Jeremy Hunt announces ‘zero suicides ambition’ for the NHS
The NHS will be asked to go further to prevent the deaths of patients in its care as part of a “zero suicide ambition” being launched today. Getty 8/50 Human trials start with cancer treatment that primes immune system to kill off tumours
Human trials have begun with a new cancer therapy that can prime the immune system to eradicate tumours. The treatment, that works similarly to a vaccine, is a combination of two existing drugs, of which tiny amounts are injected into the solid bulk of a tumour. Wikimedia Commons / Nephron 9/50 NHS reviewing thousands of cervical cancer smear tests after women wrongly given all-clear
Thousands of cervical cancer screening results are under review after failings at a laboratory meant some women were incorrectly given the all-clear. A number of women have already been told to contact their doctors following the identification of “procedural issues” in the service provided by Pathology First Laboratory. REX 10/50 Potential key to halting breast cancer’s spread discovered by scientists
Most breast cancer patients do not die from their initial tumour, but from secondary malignant growths (metastases), where cancer cells are able to enter the blood and survive to invade new sites. Asparagine, a molecule named after asparagus where it was first identified in high quantities, has now been shown to be an essential ingredient for tumour cells to gain these migratory properties. Getty 11/50 NHS nursing vacancies at record high with more than 34,000 roles advertised
A record number of nursing and midwifery positions are currently being advertised by the NHS, with more than 34,000 positions currently vacant, according to the latest data. Demand for nurses was 19 per cent higher between July and September 2017 than the same period two years ago. REX 12/50 Malnutrition deaths in hospitals in England and Wales at highest level for a decade
The number of people dying in hospital as a result of malnutrition has hit its highest level for a decade, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show. Death certificates from England and Wales show that malnutrition was listed as the primary cause in a total of 66 deaths in 2016. 13/50 Fertility ‘breakthrough’ as human eggs grown in lab for first time
Human eggs with the potential to become fertilised embryos have been grown in a laboratory for the first time in a breakthrough that could unlock future fertility treatments. 14/50 Cannabis extract could provide ‘new class of treatment’ for psychosis
CBD has a broadly opposite effect to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active component in cannabis and the substance that causes paranoia and anxiety. Getty 15/50 Babies’ health suffers from being born near fracking sites, finds major study
Mothers living within a kilometre of a fracking site were 25 per cent more likely to have a child born at low birth weight, which increase their chances of asthma, ADHD and other issues Getty 16/50 Over 75,000 sign petition calling for Richard Branson’s Virgin Care to hand settlement money back to NHS
Mr Branson’s company sued the NHS last year after it lost out on an £82m contract to provide children’s health services across Surrey, citing concerns over “serious flaws” in the way the contract was awarded PA 17/50 More than 700 fewer nurses training in England in first year after NHS bursary scrapped
The numbers of people accepted to study nursing in England fell 3 per cent in 2017, while the numbers accepted in Wales and Scotland, where the bursaries were kept, increased 8.4 per cent and 8 per cent respectively Getty 18/50 Landmark study links Tory austerity to 120,000 deaths
The paper found that there were 45,000 more deaths in the first four years of Tory-led efficiencies than would have been expected if funding had stayed at pre-election levels. On this trajectory that could rise to nearly 200,000 excess deaths by the end of 2020, even with the extra funding that has been earmarked for public sector services this year. Reuters 19/50 Long commutes carry health risks
Hours of commuting may be mind-numbingly dull, but new research shows that it might also be having an adverse effect on both your health and performance at work. Longer commutes also appear to have a significant impact on mental wellbeing, with those commuting longer 33 per cent more likely to suffer from depression Shutterstock 20/50 You cannot be fit and fat
It is not possible to be overweight and healthy, a major new study has concluded. The study of 3.5 million Britons found that even “metabolically healthy” obese people are still at a higher risk of heart disease or a stroke than those with a normal weight range Getty Images/iStockphoto 21/50 Sleep deprivation
When you feel particularly exhausted, it can definitely feel like you are also lacking in brain capacity. Now, a new study has suggested this could be because chronic sleep deprivation can actually cause the brain to eat itself Shutterstock 22/50 Exercise classes offering 45 minute naps launch
David Lloyd Gyms have launched a new health and fitness class which is essentially a bunch of people taking a nap for 45 minutes. The fitness group was spurred to launch the ‘napercise’ class after research revealed 86 per cent of parents said they were fatigued. The class is therefore predominantly aimed at parents but you actually do not have to have children to take part Getty Images/iStockphoto 23/50 ‘Fundamental right to health’ to be axed after Brexit, lawyers warn
Tobacco and alcohol companies could win more easily in court cases such as the recent battle over plain cigarette packaging if the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights is abandoned, a barrister and public health professor have said. Getty 24/50 ‘Thousands dying’ due to fear over non-existent statin side-effects
A major new study into the side effects of the cholesterol-lowering medicine suggests common symptoms such as muscle pain and weakness are not caused by the drugs themselves Getty Images/iStockphoto 25/50 Babies born to fathers aged under 25 have higher risk of autism
New research has found that babies born to fathers under the age of 25 or over 51 are at higher risk of developing autism and other social disorders. The study, conducted by the Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment at Mount Sinai, found that these children are actually more advanced than their peers as infants, but then fall behind by the time they hit their teenage years. Getty Images/iStockphoto 26/50 Cycling to work ‘could halve risk of cancer and heart disease’
Commuters who swap their car or bus pass for a bike could cut their risk of developing heart disease and cancer by almost half, new research suggests – but campaigners have warned there is still an “urgent need” to improve road conditions for cyclists. Cycling to work is linked to a lower risk of developing cancer by 45 per cent and cardiovascular disease by 46 per cent, according to a study of a quarter of a million people. Walking to work also brought health benefits, the University of Glasgow researchers found, but not to the same degree as cycling. Getty Images 27/50 Ketamine helps patients with severe depression ‘when nothing else works’ doctors say
Ketamine helps patients with severe depression ‘when nothing else works’ doctors say 28/50 Playing Tetris in hospital after a traumatic incident could prevent PTSD
Scientists conducted the research on 71 car crash victims as they were waiting for treatment at one hospital’s accident and emergency department. They asked half of the patients to briefly recall the incident and then play the classic computer game, the others were given a written activity to complete. The researchers, from Karolinska Institute in Sweden and the University of Oxford, found that the patients who had played Tetris reported fewer intrusive memories, commonly known as flashbacks, in the week that followed Rex 29/50 Measles outbreak spreads across Europe as parents shun vaccinations, WHO warns
Major measles outbreaks are spreading across Europe despite the availability of a safe, effective vaccine, the World Health Organisation has warned. Anti-vaccine movements are believed to have contributed to low rates of immunisation against the highly contagious disease in countries such as Italy and Romania, which have both seen a recent spike in infections. Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, said it was “of particular concern that measles cases are climbing in Europe” when they had been dropping for years Creative Commons 30/50 Vaping backed as healthier nicotine alternative to cigarettes after latest study
Vaping has been given an emphatic thumbs up by health experts after the first long-term study of its effects in ex-smokers. After six months, people who switched from real to e-cigarettes had far fewer toxins and cancer-causing substances in their bodies than continual smokers, scientists found Getty Images 31/50 Common method of cooking rice can leave traces of arsenic in food, scientists warn
Millions of people are putting themselves at risk by cooking their rice incorrectly, scientists have warned. Recent experiments show a common method of cooking rice — simply boiling it in a pan until the water has steamed out — can expose those who eat it to traces of the poison arsenic, which contaminates rice while it is growing as a result of industrial toxins and pesticides Getty Images/iStockphoto 32/50 Contraceptive gel that creates ‘reversible vasectomy’ shown to be effective in monkeys
An injectable contraceptive gel that acts as a ‘reversible vasectomy’ is a step closer to being offered to men following successful trials on monkeys. Vasalgel is injected into the vas deferens, the small duct between the testicles and the urethra. It has so far been found to prevent 100 per cent of conceptions Vasalgel 33/50 Shift work and heavy lifting may reduce women’s fertility, study finds
Women who work at night or do irregular shifts may experience a decline in fertility, a new study has found. Shift and night workers had fewer eggs capable of developing into healthy embryos than those who work regular daytime hours, according to researchers at Harvard University Getty Images/iStockphoto 34/50 Breakfast cereals targeted at children contain ‘steadily high’ sugar levels since 1992 despite producer claims
A major pressure group has issued a fresh warning about perilously high amounts of sugar in breakfast cereals, specifically those designed for children, and has said that levels have barely been cut at all in the last two and a half decades Getty 35/50 Fight against pancreatic cancer takes ‘monumental leap forward’
Scientists have made a “monumental leap forward” in the treatment of pancreatic cancer after discovering using two drugs together dramatically improved patients’ chances of living more than five years after diagnosis. Getty Images/iStockphoto 36/50 Japanese government tells people to stop overworking
The Japanese government has announced measures to limit the amount of overtime employees can do – in an attempt to stop people literally working themselves to death. A fifth of Japan’s workforce are at risk of death by overwork, known as karoshi, as they work more than 80 hours of overtime each month, according to a government survey. Getty Images 37/50 Over-cooked potatoes and burnt toast ‘could cause cancer’
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued a public warning over the risks of acrylamide – a chemical compound that forms in some foods when they are cooked at high temperatures (above 120C). Getty Images/iStockphoto 38/50 Cervical cancer screening attendance hits 19 year low
Cervical screening tests are a vital method of preventing cancer through the detection and treatment of abnormalities in the cervix, but new research shows that the number of women using this service has dropped to a 19 year low. Getty/iStock 39/50 High blood pressure may protect over 80s from dementia
The ConversationIt is well known that high blood pressure is a risk factor for dementia, so the results of a new study from the University of California, Irvine, are quite surprising. The researchers found that people who developed high blood pressure between the ages of 80-89 are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease (the most common form of dementia) over the next three years than people of the same age with normal blood pressure. Getty Images/iStockphoto 40/50 Most child antidepressants are ineffective and can lead to suicidal thoughts
The majority of antidepressants are ineffective and may be unsafe, for children and teenager with major depression, experts have warned. In what is the most comprehensive comparison of 14 commonly prescribed antidepressant drugs to date, researchers found that only one brand was more effective at relieving symptoms of depression than a placebo. Another popular drug, venlafaxine, was shown increase the risk users engaging in suicidal thoughts and attempts at suicide Getty 41/50 ‘Universal cancer vaccine’ breakthrough claimed by experts
Scientists have taken a “very positive step” towards creating a universal vaccine against cancer that makes the body’s immune system attack tumours as if they were a virus, experts have said. Writing in Nature, an international team of researchers described how they had taken pieces of cancer’s genetic RNA code, put them into tiny nanoparticles of fat and then injected the mixture into the bloodstreams of three patients in the advanced stages of the disease. The patients’ immune systems responded by producing “killer” T-cells designed to attack cancer. The vaccine was also found to be effective in fighting “aggressively growing” tumours in mice, according to researchers, who were led by Professor Ugur Sahin from Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany Rex 42/50 Green tea could be used to treat brain issues caused by Down’s Syndrome
A compound found in green tea could improve the cognitive abilities of those with Down’s syndrome, a team of scientists has discovered. Researchers found epigallocatechin gallate – which is especially present in green tea but can also be found in white and black teas – combined with cognitive stimulation, improved visual memory and led to more adaptive behaviour. Dr Rafael de la Torre, who led the year-long clinical trial along with Dr Mara Dierrssen, said: “The results suggest that individuals who received treatment with the green tea compound, together with the cognitive stimulation protocol, had better scores in their cognitive capacities” 43/50 Taking antidepressants in pregnancy ‘could double the risk of autism in toddlers’
Taking antidepressants during pregnancy could almost double the risk of a child being diagnosed with autism in the first years of life, a major study of nearly 150,000 pregnancies has suggested. Researchers have found a link between women in the later stages of pregnancy who were prescribed one of the most common types of antidepressant drugs, and autism diagnosed in children under seven years of age 44/50 Warning over Calpol
Parents have been warned that giving children paracetamol-based medicines such as Calpol and Disprol too often could lead to serious health issues later in life. Leading paediatrician and professor of general paediatrics at University College London, Alastair Sutcliffe, said parents were overusing paracetamol to treat mild fevers. As a result, the risk of developing asthma, as well as kidney, heart and liver damage is heightened 45/50 Connections between brain cells destroyed in early stages of Alzheimer’s disease
Scientists have pinpointed how connections in the brain are destroyed in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, in a study which it is hoped will help in the development of treatments for the debilitating condition. At the early stages of the development of Alzheimer’s disease the synapses – which connect the neurons in the brain – are destroyed, according to researchers at the University of New South Wales, Australia. The synapses are vital for brain function, particularly learning and forming memories 46/50 A prosthetic hand that lets people actually feel through
The technology lets paralysed people feel actual sensations when touching objects — including light taps on the mechanical finger — and could be a huge breakthrough for prosthetics, according to its makers. The tool was used to let a 28-year-old man who has been paralysed for more than a decade. While prosthetics have previously been able to be controlled directly from the brain, it is the first time that signals have been successfully sent the other way 47/50 Research shows that diabetes drug can be used to stop first signs of Parkinson’s
Scientists in a new study show that the first signs of Parkinson’s can be stopped. The UCL study is still in its research period but the team are ‘excited’. Today’s Parkinson’s drugs manage the symptoms of the disease but ultimately do not stop its progression in the brain. PA 48/50 Drinking alcohol could reduce risk of diabetes
A new study shows that drinking alcohol three to four days a week could reduce the risk of diabetes. Wine was found to be most effective in reducing the risk due to the chemical compounds that balance blood sugar levels. Getty Images 49/50 NHS agree, after loosing legal battle, to fund HIV prevention drug
Having lost the legal battle over who was to pay for the drug the NHS have finally agreed to fund the HIV prevention treatment. National Aids Trust, whom Princess Diana supported, said that it was a ‘pivotal moment’. Getty 50/50 Scientists discover biological fat-switch
Scientists have discovered that the switch is controlled in the hypothalamus area of the brain. The switch acts on insulin receptors and involves the protein TCPTP. Scientists have discovered the switch in mice and are hopeful but yet to find out if the switch would be the same in humans. PA
Australia and New Zealand were the biggest consumers of amphetamines, nearly 500 people in every 100,000 have used them in the past year.
Professor West added that the report, looking at illicit drug use and harms as laws were strengthened and relaxed, showed just how ineffective prohibition policies have been.
“We think of legislation and drug laws being an important weapon in the armoury,” he told The Independent , “But if you took an evidence-based approach, you’d see there is no evidence. Yet it is something politicians love to do.”
The report does acknowledge there are gaps with the data collection, particularly for illicit drugs and in countries where data collection is not as good, such as in parts of Africa, Latin America and Asia.
In absolute numbers China, India and Indonesia have the largest numbers of smokers, with higher death rates among those who do drink.
Nevertheless, the report represents the most up-to-date audit of the state of addictive substance use and its harms today. More about:

Read More…