A global study on drugs, alcohol and tobacco use found that consumption of alcohol and use of tobacco were by far the most threatening addiction problems faced around the world in terms of risk to health and chance of death. The one-two punch of alcohol and tobacco cost the world population more than a quarter billion years of life in 2015, the study found.


The study, published in the science journal Addiction is given a straightforward name. It is titled the Global statistics on alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drug use: 2017 status report. The study notes “alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drug use are major global risk factors for disability and premature loss of life. Their health burden is accompanied by significant economic costs, namely expenditure on health care and law enforcement.” Other costs include lost work productivity “and other direct and indirect costs, including harm to others.”

Most are convinced that becoming a statistic won’t happen to them

Quarter of A Billion Disability-Adjusted Years


While opioid drug addictions generate frightening headlines due to skyrocketing death rates, illicit drug use is not as prevalent, attesting to the relative accessibility and social acceptance of both alcohol and tobacco. “In 2015, alcohol and tobacco use between them cost the human population more than a quarter of a billion disability-adjusted life years, with illicit drugs costing further tens of millions,” the report said.


Alcohol and tobacco were far more costly due to their widespread use. The study, however, does not tell us how the loss adds up for each individual. What is the average cost per average smoker, drinker or drug abuser? This is not revealed here.


The Gambler’s Fallacy


Either way, while addicts should ask themselves if they are willing to gamble with their lives, the chances are they won’t. The reason is caught up in the black hole of addiction, which takes that choice out of their hands. Smokers, drinkers, drug-takers put their lives at risk on a daily basis, so they become immune to the threat. Most are convinced that becoming a statistic won’t happen to them. They’ve survived so far and there’s no indication that things will change.

There’s a name for this. It’s called the gambler’s fallacy. This is the belief that what has happened before will happen again. This is why a gambler who wins one bet will assume that his luck will not change – winning happened once; it can happen again. A drug addict assumes they survived drug use so far, so why is that ever going to change?


The gambler’s fallacy is the reason why telling a cigarette smoker that “those things will kill you,” has little effect on smokers. Ironically, the better option is to tell a smoker, “those things will yellow your teeth,” because the evidence of that is clearer and the consequences closer.


If you yellow your teeth, you will become less attractive. You won’t get a date on Saturday night. This tactic is often more effective than telling someone they will die of cancer or an overdose. Those threats seem far away, vague, unconvincing and hypothetical. But yellow teeth? Look in the mirror. That threat is very real.


We don’t drive small cars because of last year’s energy shortage. We don’t stop to think when we are a little bit overweight. We are slow to react and we have selective hearing. Choose a comprehensive rehabilitation today – do not wait. After all, Saturday is just around the corner. You have better odds of getting a date if you are sober and clean.