Studies have shown that alcohol remains the most harmful drug to Australian communities, causing one death every 90 minutes.
Despite the well-publicised damage wrought by illicit drugs like ice, ecstasy, heroin and cocaine, the research showed it was the most available drug which had the biggest impact.
The study, led by Associate Professor Yvonne Bonomo and consulting emergency workers, police, doctors, and welfare workers, found the overall cost of alcohol to the Australian economy was around $6.8 billion, compared to methamphetamine which costs $5 billion.
Each substance was ranked between 0 and 100 based on the level of damage they inflicted on users including illness, injury, and death, and the effect on the wider community including violence, crime, unemployment, and economic cost.
Alcohol was ranked the most damaging with a score of 77, leaving other drugs commonly thought to be more harmful by the wayside, including fentanyl (51), heroin (58), and methamphetamine – known by its street name ‘ice’ (66).
Associate Professor Bonomo said one person dies every 90 minutes from alcohol-related harm in Australia.
‘Up to half a million Australians are unable to access the help they need from alcohol and other drug treatment services,’ she said. ‘With the largest unmet demand being for alcohol dependence.’
Alcohol was also linked high rates of depression, anxiety, and brain injury, seven forms of cancer, and around 60 additional physical illnesses.
A spokesperson for the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education told Daily Mail Australia the issue largely stems from the normalised culture of alcohol.
‘Alcohol is legal, there’s strong industry marketing promotion, it has been around for centuries, an it’s used population-wide whereas illegal drugs tend to be used by smaller groups.’
‘Alcohol has become very normalised in our culture so people aren’t properly aware of the risks, but it kills about 6,000 people per year.’
The foundation also said prevention could include curbing the heavy marketing efforts by alcohol companies, and managing the presence of alcohol delivery services.