Locally, a group of well-intentioned people have been meeting to find ways to address the area’s substance abuse issues. Following a number of highly publicized events, people in Port Angeles want to identify ways to curtail the damages being done by illicit drug use.
Whereas much attention is focused upon illegal drugs and the problems they create, it is important to consider some other, relevant information.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated more than 5 million people die each year as a result of direct tobacco use, and another 600,000 die from exposure to second –hand smoke.
Also according to WHO, 3.3 million deaths are caused by alcohol world-wide, every year.
In a 2014 report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states drunk driving costs the US $199 billion every year.
Tobacco use costs the world an estimated $500 billion each year in health care expenditures, losses in productivity, and other costs.
In 2002, it was estimated that the global economic burden associated with alcohol consumption was $665 billion.
By comparison, all illegal drug use results in 250,000 deaths each year, worldwide.
In these studies, illicit drugs include marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, or prescription drugs used without a
In the US alone, all illicit drug use results in an estimated $20 billion in healthcare costs, $40 billion in legal costs (including efforts to stem the flow of drugs), and $130 billion in lost productivity.
It is estimated over $100 billion is spent globally each year on enforcing illegal drug laws.
From these numbers, it is clear that the legal drugs of alcohol and tobacco kill more people, do more harm to society, and cost society more than the illicit drugs do, by a huge margin. Of course, far more people use the legal drugs, than do the illegal ones.
Long term studies conclude that exposure to advertising by the alcohol industry increases drinking in underage youth. The alcohol industry spent over $2 billion in advertising in 2013.
The tobacco industry spent $12.4 billion in 2006, or $34 million a day, advertising its products in the US.
Drugs, other than those used to treat a medical condition such as cancer, are desired because they can alter how a person thinks or feels. Why people seek out and take drugs encompasses a wide variety of reasons and causes.
Almost every day we see recalls of products that have demonstrated the possibility of doing harm. Millions of vehicles are recalled at a time. People are hunted down, a sentenced to life times in prison for harming another person.
Nations go to war to avenge the killings of far fewer than the 5 million a year tobacco kills each year.
Laws and policies are passed at the local, state and federal levels of government to cut costs and save money. To be “fiscally conservative”. Yet, alcohol and tobacco continue to be allowed to cost our healthcare, law enforcement and other aspects of our society hundreds of billions each year. We cut back in services to our citizens, while allowing these clearly harmful drugs to incur huge costs to our communities.
In the context of “illicit” drugs, the huge sums spent by governments to enforce laws and policies are often justified by citing the harm done to individuals and society by the use of these drugs. But as the figures reveal, this cannot be justified when these same governments allow huge sums to be spent for the continued legal promotion and sale of alcohol and tobacco.
If the concerns really are about the deaths, harms and costs to society, is it any wonder our youth see mix messages in the obviously contradictory policies espoused by society?