Global Drug Survey Shows Alcohol Is Most Commonly Used Drug In The World

By McCarton Ackerman 04/16/14

Far outpacing tobacco and marijuana, alcohol remains humanity's drug of choice.


This year’s Global Drug Survey (GDS) confirms that three common drugs still reign supreme across the globe. More than 80,000 people in 18 countries across the globe completed the questionnaire and the data showed that alcohol was the most used drug last year. Tobacco and cannabis finished a distant second and third, respectively.

Approximately 90.8% of GDS respondents this year have used alcohol, followed by 58.7 percent for tobacco and 48.2 percent for cannabis. However, the numbers were somewhat skewed because the participants are self-selected and would therefore have a greater interest in substances than the general population. Caffeinated energy drinks, MDMA, shisha tobacco, cocaine, electronic cigarettes, amphetamines, and magic mushrooms rounded out the list of top 10 most used drugs.

The data also showed that alcohol was the most common drug associated with emergency room visits, and the substances that friends and relatives of the users were most concerned about. GDS participants in nearly every country also showed a minimal understanding of their national drinking guidelines, while just under 40 percent of participants who identified as heavily dependent on alcohol weren’t even aware that this put them at high risk of alcohol-related problems.

But some of the data also showed certain countries have their own unique issues to grapple with when it comes to drinking. The Republic of Ireland has more employees showing up to work hungover than any other country by a long shot, with respondents admitting they had arrived to their job in rough shape from the night before. Data also showed that heavy drinkers from Portugal exhibit the least amount of awareness when it comes to the harms associated with their drinking. Perhaps surprisingly, the U.S. recorded among the lowest numbers of hungover workers and ranked among the highest when it came to awareness of the consequences of heavy drinking.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.