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14/07/2016

Belgium: the social cost of legal and illegal drugs

A recent publication by the Belgian Science Policy Office (belspo) estimates for the first time the social cost to the country due to the use of addictive substances, i.e. alcohol, tobacco, psychoactive medication and illegal drugs.

Source: VAD

The research was carried out by academics from the University of Ghent and from the Free University of Brussels, and the figures are related to health, crime and traffic accidents in 2012.

The total cost is estimated at 4.6 billion euros (= 419 euros per inhabitant, or 1.19% of the Gross domestic product (GDP)).

  • Legal drugs incur the highest financial burden to society: 45% (2.1 billion euros) is due to alcohol, and around 32% (1,5 billion euros) is attributed to tobacco.
  • Illegal drugs cost to the country around 16% (726 million euros).
  • 5% (215 million euros) of the cost is attributed to psychoactive medication.

The researchers also estimate more than 515,000 healthy years lost due to substance abuse, and they explain that this is mainly due to tobacco and alcohol use. These substances together are responsible for 470,000 (91%) healthy years lost.