The social cost of legal and illegal drug consumption in Belgium every year is 4.63 billion euros, corresponding to about 419 euros per citizen or 1.19% of GDP, according to research by UGent (University of Ghent) for the Science Policy Office and published by Politeia. The study reveals that 500,000 life years in good health were lost in 2012 because of legal and illegal substance abuse. Alcohol and tobacco products alone account for 77% of the social cost (3.54 billion euros) and illegal drugs make up 726 million euros or 16% of GDP.
Social costs include direct costs (healthcare, drugs-related crime, traffic accidents), indirect costs (lower productivity for example), and “intangible costs” in number of life years in good health.
Scientists will offer a list of recommendations at a meeting in Ghent on Tuesday. They will include implementing comprehensive and integrated alcohol policies, strengthening tobacco policies, help programmes for drug users, etc.
In Belgium, 5% of the population are cannabis users and 0.8% use other illegal drugs. 23% of the population smoke, 16% use psychoactive medication and 14% consume alcohol on a daily basis.