The World Health Organization recently released an update of it’s study of global risk factors for premature death and disability. The size of the bar in the chart below indicates the percent of the total global burden of disease (GBD) associated with a particular risk factor. (Click to enlarge image)
Note two important facts about this data:
1) Two of the top three global causes of premature death and disability involve addiction. Nicotine addiction represents somewhere between 6% and 7% of the Global Burden of Disease and alcohol consumption is responsible for somewhere between 5% and 6% of the GBD.
2) The GBD contribution from ‘Drug Use’ (opiates, marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine etc) is much smaller than that of nicotine or alcohol, contributing roughly 1% to the GBD.
Collectively the consumption of addictive substances represents roughly 13 or 14% of the total premature death and disability on the planet. That makes it a big problem, not a small problem.
All the details here: Stephen Lim et.al., A comparative risk assessment of burden of disease and injury attributable to 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters in 21 regions, 1990—2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. The Lancet, Volume 380, Issue 9859, Pages 2224 – 2260, 15 December 2012