Dangerous Addictions

February 23rd, 2012
in Op Ed

by Elliott Morss

Several years back, I documented that drinking, drugs, and sex were the leading entertainment sectors globally.  Not surprising – human nature. Everything in moderation is fine - we all dig our own graves, etc. But what happens when “entertainment” becomes addictive? Which are the most dangerous addictions? And what regions are most seriously addicted?

Follow up:

The Most Dangerous Addictions

We often hear that 5+ million die of smoking every year. And most certainly, nicotine is a nasty, addictive drug. However, I have always felt that even though only half as many people die from alcoholism than smoking, alcoholism is more destructive. Why? Because drunks lose jobs, kill people while driving, and destroy family/friend relationships. As I just reported, this is borne out by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO has developed a health risk statistic (the Disability-Adjusted Life Years [DALYs]). It measures years lost both because of a premature mortality and years lost due to time lived in less than full health. The DALYs for dangerous addictions are presented in Table 1.

 

Table 1. – Dangerous Addictions’

Share of Total DALYs, 2004


DALY

Cause

Share

Alcohol

9%

Tobacco

7%

Overeating

5%

Illicit Drugs

2%

Source: WHO

Alcohol has the largest DALYs’ share even though DALYs do not include harm done to families and friends. There are two other items worth remarking on in Table 1:

  • The inclusion of overeating as a dangerous addiction;

  • The small DALY share for illicit drugs.

 

Overeating = Overweight/Obese

The DALYs included in Table 1 for overeating come from the WHO’s “Overweight and Obese” risk category. Overeating leads to being overweight/obese. That makes it a dangerous addiction. The United Nations reports that even in developing countries, the number of obese children now exceeds the number malnourished. And the DALY number could be much higher. Table 2 shows what share of breast cancers, cerebrovascular diseases, colon and rectum cancers, corpus uteri cancers, diabetes mellitus, hypertensive heart disease, ischaemic heart disease, and osteoarthritis the WHO attributed to being overweight or obese (5%). But look at the other headings in Table 2: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood glucose, low fruit and vegetable intake, and physical inactivity. Ask any doctor, and s/he will affirm that all of these are all directly linked to being overweight/obese. As Table 2 indicates, if all of the DALYs listed are included under the overweight/obesity DALY Share, it would be 27%, far more than any other dangerous addiction.

Table 2. – Other DALYs Associated with Being Overweight/Obese

Cause

DALYs

DALY Share

Overweight and obesity

35,795,832

5%

Breast cancer

439,409


Cerebrovascular disease

6,108,964


Colon and rectum cancers

749,894


Corpus uteri cancer

308,195


Diabetes mellitus

8,692,439


Hypertensive heart disease

3,028,912


Ischaemic heart disease

14,401,987


Osteoarthritis

2,066,032


High blood pressure

57,226,514

7%

Cerebrovascular disease*

22,172,940


Hypertensive heart disease*

5,484,883


Ischaemic heart disease*

25,068,863


Other cardiovascular diseases

4,499,827


High cholesterol

29,723,136

4%

Cerebrovascular disease*

4,128,251


Ischaemic heart disease*

25,594,886


High blood glucose

41,304,911

5%

Cerebrovascular disease*

7,467,118


Diabetes mellitus*

19,705,201


Ischaemic heart disease*

14,132,591


Low fruit and vegetable intake

15,973,943

2%

Cerebrovascular disease*

4,011,162


Colon and rectum cancers*

126,508


Ischaemic heart disease*

7,762,193


Oesophagus cancer

1,313,227


Stomach cancer

1,399,981


Trachea, bronchus, lung cancers

1,360,870


Physical inactivity

32,099,068

4%

Breast cancer*

1,667,906


Cerebrovascular disease*

4,972,717


Colon and rectum cancers*

1,218,107


Diabetes mellitus*

5,241,336


Ischaemic heart disease*

18,999,001


Total

212,123,403

27%

* Indicates illness associated with overweight/obesity

Source: WHO

For the reasons stated above, I believe the 5% figure is low. I believe overeating is the most dangerous global addiction. However, I use the data underlying the 5% share for the remainder of this article.

 

Illicit Drugs

The second notable point about Table 1 is how small the illicit drug share is use is relative to the other dangerous addictions – only 2%. And yet, illicit drugs are the only “illegal” dangerous addiction. What has making them illegal accomplished?

  • The number of drug users is increasing worldwide;

  • 25% of the people in US jails are non-violent drug offenders, and

  • The US spends billions annually on unsuccessful drug eradication programs.

One might argue that the DALYs resulting from the use illicit drugs would increase if they were legalized. I agree. But history tells us banning/prohibiting a product for which there is a market never works. It only creates a lucrative new profit center for criminals. The best thing we can do with illicit drugs is what we now do with cigarettes – legalize them, tax them, and use some of the tax revenues for education and rehab services.

 

Which Region Has the Most Serious Addictions?

Table 3 provides data on per capita DALY’s of dangerous addictions per region. The findings are quite shocking The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) has much higher rates on all four dangerous addictions than any other region in the world. Countries in the CIS are: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

Table 3. – Per Capita DALYs by Region, 2004

Cause

World

Developed

SE Europe

CIS

Africa

Caribbean /Latin America

Oceania/Asia

Alcohol use

10.79

8.90

14.71

41.38

8.85

17.75

8.35

Tobacco use

8.84

14.92

23.46

29.32

2.98

5.78

7.41

Overeating

5.52

8.57

14.99

21.72

2.41

7.80

2.89

Illicit drug use

2.05

2.68

1.42

4.44

1.94

3.07

1.60

Source: WHO

In the following sections, I examine CIS country data on these addictions using the US and Japan as reference points.


Alcohol

Table 4 provides data on alcohol consumption for the CIS countries, Japan, and the US. As can be seen, there are significant differences in both the percent of the population that drinks and the amount consumed by drinkers. Men in all countries consume more than women. In my recent article on drinking, I pointed out that 40 liters annually is equivalent to daily consumption of 6.2 cans of beer (12 oz. can) or 1.1 bottles of wine (.75 liter) or 6.8 shots (40 ml per shot) of whiskey.

 

Table 4. – Annual Alcohol Consumption, Selected Countries


Liters/

%

Liters/

Liters/

Country

Capita

Drinkers

Drinker

Male Drinker

Commonwealth of Independent States


Moldova

18.22

78%

23.40

32.00

Russia

15.76

59%

26.70

35.40

Ukraine

15.60

56%

27.90

37.60

Belarus

15.13

79%

19.20

28.00

Armenia

11.35

62%

18.30

24.40

Kazakhstan

10.96

51%

21.45

29.80

Azerbaijan

10.60

na

na

na

Georgia

6.40

49%

13.10

14.80

Kyrgyzstan

5.09

49%

10.40

12.80

Turkmenistan

4.63

na

na

na

Uzbekistan

3.54

na

na

na

Tajikistan

3.39

na

na

na






Japan

8.03

81%

9.90

20.00

United States

9.44

66%

14.40

13.80

Source: WHO

Alcohol consumption in Japan and the US is much lower than in the CIS.

 

Smoking

Table 5 presents data the percent of adults that smoke. Men smoke much more than women. The Russian average is higher than any other CIS country. 70% of men in Russia smoke. I have included Greece in this table because it has the highest average rate of smoking in the world. It is higher than Russia because a larger portion of women smoke in Greece than in Russia. The smoking rate in Japan is high while the US rate is lower and declining.

 

Table 5. – Adult Smoking Prevalence

Country

Male

Female

Average

Commonwealth of Independent States

Russia

70%

28%

49%

Ukraine

65%

24%

44%

Belarus

64%

22%

43%

Armenia

61%

3%

32%

Georgia

57%

6%

31%

Kazakhstan

43%

9%

26%

Moldova

45%

5%

25%

Kyrgyzstan

47%

2%

24%

Tajikistan

43%

2%

23%

Uzbekistan

23%

4%

13%

Azerbaijan

na

1%

Na

Turkmenistan

na

na

Na





Greece

63%

39%

51%

Japan

42%

13%

28%

US

26%

19%

22%

Source: WHO

 

Overeating

Data on the results of overeating are presented in Table 6. And while the CIS as a region has the highest overeating DALYs, the US as a country is off the charts on this dangerous addiction. There are only a few small South Pacific Islands and two oil-rich Middle Eastern States (Kuwait and Qatar) that have higher obesity rates than the US.

 

Table 6. – Overweight and Obesity Rates

Country

% Overweight

% Obese

Commonwealth of Independent States

Belarus

67%

16%

Azerbaijan

57%

15%

Armenia

53%

12%

Russia

49%

10%

Turkmenistan

47%

9%

Uzbekistan

46%

7%

Georgia

45%

6%

Ukraine

45%

7%

Kazakhstan

41%

8%

Moldova

41%

5%

Kyrgyzstan

39%

5%

Tajikistan

37%

4%




Japan

23%

2%

United States

74%

36%

Source: International Association for the Study of Obesity, WHO

 

Illicit Drugs

Data on illicit drugs are presented in Table 6. Here too, it is clear that while the CIS as a region has the highest DALYs for these drugs, the US as a nation is a major market for these products. As mentioned earlier it is notable how low the use rates are on these drugs relative to the other dangerous addictions.

 

Table 7. – Illicit Drugs, Prevalence of Adult Use (%)

Country

Opiods/Opiates

Cocaine

Cannabis

Amphetamines

Ecstasy

Commonwealth of Independent States



Armenia

0.60

0.10

3.50

<.1

0.10

Azerbaijan

0.40

na

3.50

na

na

Belarus

0.86

<.1

1.10

0.40

0.30

Georgia

1.16

na

2.70

0.60

0.50

Kazakhstan

2.00

na

4.20

na

na

Kyrgyzstan

1.60

na

6.40

na

na

Moldova

0.15

<.1

0.90

<.1

na

Russia

3.28

0.20

3.50

0.40

0.70

Tajikistan

1.08

na

na

na

na

Turkmenistan

0.64

na

na

na

na

Ukraine

2.32

<.1

2.50

0.40

0.70

Uzbekistan

1.60

na

4.20

na

na







Japan

na

<.1

na

na

na

United States

12.07

1.40

12.60

1.50

1.40

Source: UNODC

 

This review needs no summary or conclusion; the data speaks for itself.


Other Posts By Elliott Morss


analysis blog opinion blog investing blog

 

About the Author


elliott-morss-photo1Elliott Morss has a broad background in international finance and economics. He holds a Ph.D.in Political Economy from The Johns Hopkins University and has taught at the University of Michigan, Harvard, Boston University, Brandeis and the University of Palermo in Buenos Aires. During his career he worked in the Fiscal Affairs Department at the IMF with assignments in more than 45 countries. In addition, Elliott was a principle in a firm that became the largest contractor to USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and co-founded (and was president) of the Asia-Pacific Group with investments in Cambodia, China and Myanmar. He has co-authored seven books and published more than 50 professional journal articles. Elliott writes at his blog Morss Global Finance
















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