According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/medical-consequences-drug-abuse/mortality) 1 in 4 deaths can be directly attributed to either alcohol, tobacco or illicit drug use. That number is staggering considering that according to statistics from 2011 there were approximately 2.5 million deaths (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/10/us-mortality-rate_n_1953215.html). What this essentially boils down to is that about 625,000 people died from alcohol, tobacco or illicit drug use. The information from NIDA is light on the details and the breakdown of specifics from what caused what, and also what is counted as directly attributable, but it still stands to point out just how incredible these numbers really are. We dove a little deeper into these numbers to see just what was making up these alcohol deaths, tobacco deaths and illicit drug deaths to see if we could get a better overall picture.
Alcohol deaths can be a statistic skewed in many different ways. Do you attribute motor vehicle related incidents? Do the statistics include those where alcohol abuse was not the primary factor? Either way alcohol deaths in this country and around the world are extremely high. If you check out what the CDC has to say (http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm) they estimate that around 80,000 alcohol related deaths can be directly counted which leaves a hole in our numbers from the guys over at NIDA of 545,000 deaths attributable now to tobacco and illicit drugs.
If we switch focus to tobacco deaths then according to the CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/tobacco_related_mortality/) again, we come up with a whopping 440,000 deaths per year either directly through smoking or through second hand smoke. This number leaves us with a remaining amount of 105,000 deaths from which illicit drugs make up. Tobacco deaths resoundingly come from some things we’ve covered previously like lung disease, bronchitis and others.
Illicit Drug Deaths
Here is where it gets a little murkier. Finding out official numbers becomes a lot less involved with places like the CDC and on to more politically charged sites like Drug War Facts (http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/Causes_of_Death) which counts illicit drug use deaths in 2000 at a low 17,000. The White House (http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ondcp/Fact_Sheets/consequences_of_illicit_drug_use.pdf) pegs those deaths at 37,000 or so in 2007 which gets us a little closer to our figures.
No matter how you slice it, drugs make up a large percentage of deaths in this country and regardless of legal or illegal status we can make changes to some significant areas. Leave us a thought in the comments section. What would you do to change these numbers?