The World Health Organization (WHO) released a global strategy aimed at reducing global alcohol abuse rates. High rates of alcohol consumption are tied to a myriad of public health issues and costs. Most governments around the world are aware of the need for more prevention and treatment services.

The World Health Organization states that 3 million people die annually due to alcohol abuse. The key points they promote to decrease mortality and related issues include:

  1. Leadership and education/awareness initiatives
  2. Response protocol and practices for health care providers
  3. Community-based work
  4. Policies and prevention for driving under the influence
  5. Alcohol availability
  6. Alcohol marketing guidelines
  7. Pricing standards and guidelines for alcoholic products
  8. Reduction in the consequences of inebriation
  9. Reduction of homemade or illicit production of alcohol
  10. Surveying and monitoring programs and policies

This holistic approach would be sure to impact the prevalence and consequences of harmful alcohol consumption habits.

Global Alcohol Abuse Reduction Strategies

Help for addiction often occurs on local levels but is funded and fueled by initiatives that reach as high as governments. The effects of chronic alcohol abuse can have far-reaching impacts on multiple sectors of society and there are significant costs on both an individual and national level.

Health Costs of Alcohol Abuse

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive alcohol use can cause many short- and long-term health risks, including:

  • Injury
  • Increased violence
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Heart issues
  • Cancer
  • Learning issues
  • Mental health issues
  • Alcoholism

All of these health issues are preventable when brought on by alcohol abuse. If societies can better support those that struggle with alcohol addiction, the likelihood that they find a treatment program and long-term success in recovery is greater.

Financial Costs of Alcohol Abuse

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported that 5.9% of all deaths globally were related to alcohol in 2012. Eastern Europe, Europe and the United States consistently rank in the top 10 highest alcohol consumers worldwide. In 2010, alcohol abuse cost U.S. consumers $249 billion

One factor that may influence whether a country has higher rates of alcohol use is the regulation of alcohol. In 2004, the WHO issued a comprehensive study detailing alcohol policies by country. Some of the areas in which countries provide different regulations are:

  • Legal drinking age
  • Quantity of alcohol measurements and definitions of servings
  • Blood alcohol level legality
  • Driving laws
  • Percentage of alcohol in different kinds of beverages

Through the study, the WHO found that:

  • Alcohol policies directly influence drinking behavior and patterns
  • Limitation of access and legal drinking ages are helpful deterrents to alcohol abuse early and later in life
  • The price of alcohol directly impacts demand, thus limiting consumption

Social Costs of Alcohol Abuse

A study on alcohol use and its burden, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, found that alcohol abuse is a leading factor for disability. The impact of alcohol issues on families, societies, workplaces and all areas of life is incalculable, but represent a devastating margin of the population that would otherwise live productive lives.

U.S. Strategies to Reduce Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse statistics continue to remind policymakers of the need for consistent attention and updates to be made that best empower people to overcome addiction. WHO’s recommendations are timely and have direct relevance to issues within our nation that can be addressed in a positive and proactive way.

There are multiple ways that adopting these suggestions can help our society move beyond the crippling economic and social burden of alcohol addiction, including:

  • Improved regulation
  • Increased taxes
  • Strict monitoring of alcohol provider marketing methods
  • Reduced access for underage consumers
  • Local funding and support for prevention messaging and services
  • Increased support in treatment 

The ultimate goal of all of these initiatives is to promote a society that provides positive direction and hope in recovery for people who struggle with alcohol addiction.