Germany: Alcohol Harm Continues Draining Society’s Resources

A brand new report shows that alcohol harm continues draining society’s resources in Germany. The DHS Yearbook Addiction 2020 is published by the German Center for Addiction Issues (DHS) and reveals the heavy alcohol burden on German society.

Key statistics on alcohol harm

  • Despite slightly declining alcohol consumption, Germany is still one of the highest alcohol consuming countries globally. 
  • Per capita alcohol consumption of Germans aged 15 years and older was 10.5 liters of pure alcohol in 2017.
  • The total consumption of alcoholic beverages in Germany rose by 0.3 liters in 2018 to 131.3 liters of finished goods per inhabitant. This amount roughly corresponds to a bathtub filled with beer, wine, and liquor.
  • At the current rate of reduction, it would take Germany 54 years to reach low consumption level (6 litres).
  • A total of 3 million adults between the ages of 18 and 64 had an alcohol use disorder in Germany in 2018 (abuse: 1.4 million; dependency: 1.6 million).
  • Around 74,000 deaths each year are caused by alcohol consumption alone or the combined use of tobacco and alcohol.

Germany has been having an untreated – and ignored – alcohol problem for years. Yet, the government does not take any strong alcohol policy measures despite advice from public health experts.

In fact, pervasive alcohol harm is draining precious resources.

According to the DHS Yearbook Addiction 2020, the annual economic costs of alcohol harm amount to €57 billion. But government revenue only reaches a tiny fraction of this with €3.2 billion from alcohol taxation every year.

Nevertheless, evidence-based alcohol policy making is absent in Germany.

The German government is relying on information campaigns to encourage “moderate” alcohol use instead of strengthening population-level policy measures to effectively prevent and reduce alcohol harm. Such campaigns are similar to the initiatives conducted by alcohol industry funded organizations and their corporate social responsibility projects and are found to be ineffective in reducing actual alcohol harm.

Moreover, it has already been scientifically proven there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. 

Germany: Massive Harm yet No Policy Change

The DHS Yearbook Addiction also provides statistics on tobacco, prescription medication, illicit drug and gambling addictions.

Key statistics on tobacco harm

  • About 13.5% of all deaths in Germany were due to the consequences of smoking. This corresponds to around 121,000 people (in 2013).
  • 26% of men and 19% of women aged 15 and over smoked in 2017.
  • The number of smokers in Germany continues to decline. The trend towards non-smoking has been observed in adolescents for around 15 years.
  • Per capita consumption in 2019 was 900 cigarettes.
  • A total of 74.6 billion finished cigarettes were consumed in Germany. This is a minimal increase of 0.3% compared to 2018.
  • The consumption of fine cuts decreased by 2% to 23,813 tons. This corresponds to around 35.7 billion self-rolled cigarettes.
  • The consumption of (water) pipe tobacco increased again in 2019. 4,150 tons were used, which is an increase of 24.5% over the previous year. 

Key statistics on abuse of prescription drugs

  • Abuse and drug addiction continue to increase overall.
  • An estimated 1.6 to 3.9 million of the 18- to 64-year-olds in Germany abuse prescription drugs.
  • Approximately 1.5 to 1.9 million people in Germany are estimated to be dependent on medication.

Key statistics on harm from illegal drugs

  • 15.2 million adults between the ages of 18 to 64 and around 477,000 young people between the ages of 12 to 17 have been estimated to have used an illegal drug at least once in their lives.
  • Cannabis use decreased from 2000 to 2011 and has been rising again since.
  • In 2018, 8% of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 used cannabis. This corresponds to 367,000 young consumers.
  • Cannabis is most commonly consumed by young adults aged 18 to 24.
  • 309,000 adults between the ages of 18 to 64 are dependent on cannabis.
  • Cocaine addiction is 41,000 and amphetamine addiction is 103,000 of the 18 to 64 year olds.
  • 79,400 people in Germany are currently receiving substitution therapy.
  • 1,398 drug-related deaths were registered by the police in Germany in 2019. This is an increase of 9.6% compared to the previous year. 

Key statistics on gambling addiction

  • In 2019, 0.39% of the 16- to 70-year-old population in Germany are problem gamblers (229,000 people).
  • 0.34% show pathological gambling behavior (200,000 people), i.e. a gambling addiction.

Care and support for people with addiction problems

The addiction help directory of the German Center for Addiction Issues (DHS) contains information on approximately 1,500 outpatient addiction advice centers and 800 inpatient addiction help centers in Germany. Access the site here.

DHS also offers a special list of resources to help those with addiction problems during the COVID-19 crisis. Access the list here.

Movendi International previously reported a list of resources complied by The New York Times for those looking for support to stay sober during the pandemic.

Virtual Tools, Real Help: Staying Sober During Pandemic