Maps Show Who Uses the Most Alcohol and Drugs in Europe and the U.S.

By May Wilkerson 09/16/15

A series of maps created by Recovery Brands shows some pretty surprising results about alcohol and drug use.

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Alcohol Use Map
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A series of maps created by Recovery Brands compare drug and alcohol use in North America and Europe using statistics from the United Nations.

There are a few surprises, for example, Iceland is the heaviest pot-smoking country. Less surprisingly, the United States is way in the lead for prescription drug abuse, as well as cocaine and stimulants. Despite the stereotype of the hard-drinking Irish, the award for booziest country goes to Norway.

The first map shows how many people use marijuana at least once a year, based on 2003-2014 data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The Netherlands may be home to the famous pot-loving city Amsterdam, but Iceland actually takes the lead for marijuana use. Between 160 and 190 per 1,000 adult Icelanders reported getting high on marijuana, which is illegal in the country but decriminalized in small quantities.

Why is pot so popular in the cold country? Maybe because beer was illegal until 25 years ago and booze is expensive, according to Mic.com. Second in the running for marijuana is the United States, with between 130 and 160 users per 1,000 adults. Spain is in third place, where up to 10% of people report pot use.

When it comes to cocaine, the United States and Spain are tied in the lead. In both countries, approximately 23 people in every 1,000 reported using the white powder at least once in the past year. Because of its 1,864-mile-long coastline, Spain is the gateway for a bulk of drugs entering Europe, which could explain the drug’s popularity there. CultureSpain.com reported that up to 94% of all Euros circulating in the country have traces of cocaine on them.

The United States unsurprisingly tops the charts for use of opioids, which include heroin and prescription painkillers like morphine. Americans use opioids at more than twice the rate of people in the Czech Republic, which has the second highest rate. The United States' problem with opioids has been widely reported, with more than 2.1 million Americans reportedly misusing or abusing opioid pain relievers in 2012 and an estimated 467,000 addicted to heroin, according to The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH).

America is also in the lead for amphetamine-type stimulants like speed, with approximately 19 per 1,000 adults reporting use of amphetamines at least once in the last year.

So what is the booziest nation? This honor goes to Norway. According to a map based on European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) data, 893 Norwegian adults out of every 1,000 had consumed alcohol in the past year. Drinking in Norway often starts young, with 10% of 15-year-olds reportedly drinking at least once a week. Alcohol is expensive in the country and historically taboo, which is thought to enhance its appeal.

Next up for booziest countries were Germany and Finland, followed by France and Ireland. The Italians and Portuguese are relatively moderate in their alcohol consumption, according to the map. There were no numbers available for the United Kingdom, which is known for its binge-drinking culture.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/ @alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.

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