The good news first: People in Germany smoke and drink less. This is confirmed by figures from the epidemiological addiction survey 2018 published by the "Deutsche Ärzteblatt" on 2 September and available to SPIEGEL. According to the report, tobacco consumption has declined by an average of ten percent since 1995, while alcohol consumption increased at the turn of the century but then also fell.
Germany is still far from being an international role model, as the study shows. Because compared to countries such as Sweden, Belgium, Great Britain or the Netherlands, the Germans puff with 14.4 million smokers still the most. The same applies to alcohol: On average, every German drinks almost eleven liters of pure alcohol per year. The Federal Republic therefore continues to be one of the high-consumption countries.
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In addition to the smoking and drinking behavior, the researchers also studied the use of drugs such as painkillers and illegal drugs. For their survey, they surveyed more than 9,000 randomly selected individuals aged 18 to 64 years about their consumption and addictive behavior. In addition, researchers led by Ludwig Kraus from the Institute for Therapy Research in Munich analyzed nine addiction reports published since 1995. The results in detail:
Smoking is a men problem
Fifteen percent of respondents said they had smoked at least one cigarette a day in the 30 days prior to the survey. Extrapolated this corresponds to about 7.8 million regular smokers. Most of them are men, so the result.
However, tobacco consumption has fallen over the past 20 years. The researchers attribute this to measures such as the higher tobacco tax and the non-smoking protection law of 2007.
Whether alternatives such as e-cigarettes make a contribution is not clear from the study. However, the use of electrical inhalers is increasing. Four percent of respondents said they had used e-cigarettes in the past month.
Mass drug alcohol
Alcohol remains the most commonly used drug in Germany. More than two-thirds of respondents said they had been drinking in the last 30 days. Translated to all 18- to 64-year-olds, this equates to about 37 million out of 50 million people. 34.5 percent of alcohol drinkers had consumed at least once or five glasses in one day, from this amount, the researchers talk of intoxicants.
Despite the high numbers, alcohol consumption in Germany has been falling for about 18 years. According to the study authors, people not only drink less often, but also smaller amounts. They have a positive development, especially among the young people: they too today drink less than before. Because adolescence can shape drinking behavior, researchers predict a continued decline.
Nevertheless, the damage caused by alcohol in Germany is still considerable: Alcohol plays a role in 45 percent of all third parties, such as pedestrians, who are fatally injured in road traffic. Experts also estimate the number of newborns with mental or physical harm from drinking mothers at 12,650 per year.
The economic costs of alcohol consumption amount to just under 27 billion euros per year, the revenue from the alcohol tax cover of just twelve percent.
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Suchtsurvey 2018: Less alcoholic, more potheads
Cannabis is becoming increasingly popular
While the numbers for alcohol and tobacco are falling, the study shows that more and more people in Germany are trying out illegal drugs. Seven percent of respondents said they had used cannabis in the past year, and the trend is rising. Accordingly, the use of cannabis among adolescents and young adults between the ages of 12 and 25 is also increasing significantly.
As with most drugs, cannabis has a much larger proportion of men among consumers, but the number of users is increasing. In addition, the study shows that women are increasingly taking other illegal drugs such as LSD or ecstasy. In the previous year, 1.1 percent of all respondents had used cocaine, 0.6 percent amphetamines and 0.4 percent opioids.
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The researchers relativized their own results, as people with intensive drug use hardly participate in studies like this one. The actual number of consumers is probably higher. The persons examined are predominantly "socially integrated occasional consumers", according to the study.
The use of painkillers is increasing
While the consumption of sleeping pills and sedatives is decreasing, the use of painkillers is increasing in Germany. More than 30 percent of respondents had taken painkillers over the past 30 days that had not been prescribed by the doctor. However, only 0.4 percent of it swallowed the funds daily.
Even non-prescription analgesics can become critical if someone swallows the tablets for more than 15 days a month. Then there is the risk that a so-called drug-induced headache develops, which increases consumption.
In addition, 17.5 percent of the respondents had been prescribed painkillers by the doctor over the past 30 days, of whom 7.2 percent took the medication daily.
From consumption to addiction
Nearly 14 percent of respondents were dependent on at least one substance, projected to the population equivalent to the 7 million out of 50 million 18- to 64-year-olds. Men were more affected than women, with much of the dependency on tobacco. In second place, however, come painkillers, even before alcohol. However, the scientists also documented positive changes on this point: the number of alcohol-dependent persons has fallen since 2012; the number of nicotine addicts has even dropped since 2006.
That's what the experts advise
Despite the positive developments, the authors of the study call for a tightening of tobacco policy. The fact that Germany is still one of the front runners in terms of alcohol consumption in an international comparison is attributed by the experts to inconsistently enforced measures that restrict the availability of alcohol, for example.
In addition, the experts are in favor of increasing consumer education, especially when prescribing painkillers. In addition, it would also be important to train and train medical staff in this area.