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Alcohol Around the World and How Other Countries Treat Addiction

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Alcohol Around the World and How Other Countries Treat Addiction

Stats on alcohol abuse across the globe and the very different ways addiction is handled


On learning that the number of people “hurt by violence” declined in Britain last year, people might not link fact that to the lack of liquor. But a May study reported in The New Zealand Herald (which The Washington Post linked to), found that a decline in binge drinking, which the researchers attributed to a result of the poor economy since 2008, is likely the reason. The decrease actually started in 2001, and to be fair, researchersglobe in wine glass.jpg don’t claim to know all the reasons, and they also credit “more targeted prevention efforts” as well, and possibly “joint efforts by the police, health and local authorities.” (Still, it’s no great surprise, right? Remove alcohol and  people are less violent?)

The decrease in drinking is a worldwide trend, the WaPo article says. There’s a chart that lists drinkers who binge drink at least once a week in tons of countries and that gives figures for men and women. You may find it interesting that living on an island seems to make a person drink more, and that Pakistan has a fairly large drinking problem even though it’s a Muslim country where drinking is prohibited.

Another chart in the WaPo article lists the countries where drinking was most and least likely to result in health risks in 2005. (Moldova has the highest rate of drinking, by the way.) Two additional charts illustrate a number of countries’ favorite drinks, and some that consumed the most liquor in 2005 (by male and female).

According to an article on the Real Time Economics page of The Wall Street Journal business section, drinking will increase in developing nations in the next few years, which unfortunately will cause big problems. These nations will have an enormous public health burden as a result, and could find themselves trying to treat over 200 diseases or injuries, including cirrhosis and infectious disorders. I have a hunch that this prediction will surprise no one in the addiction fied.

How Does the Rest of the World View Addiction?

In June, Huffpost had a wonderful podcast on how different cities and towns treat addiction, and featured several noted speakers.  Kerry Jang, City council member in Vancouver, British Columbia, gave an inspirational talk about what his city has done. In response to the increase in overdose deaths from heroin in Vancouver, they treat addiction as a healthcare issue, with a 4-pillar approach: harm reduction, enforcement, healthcare and treatment, and prevention. Jang said it drives all city policy decisions. The city even has safe injection sites—the first to do so.

Marie Nougier of the International Drug Policy Consortium talked about countries at the forefront of harm reduction, including the Netherlands, Switzerland and Portugal. She reminded listeners that you need an enabling environment for people to get help without fear of arrest, she said, which is what Switzerland does. That country has removed all penalties for anyone seeking help for drug addiction.

Nicolas Clark of the World Health Organization noted that the U.S has been incarcerating addicts for a long time (as if that’s news to anyone here.) There were other interesting speakers as well. Anyone interested in humane policies toward addiction should gain something from listening to this podcast.

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