Many of us enjoy a good drink. Turns out, however, that many of us are drinking ourselves into our own graves. Alcohol is one of the leading causes of death and the cause of 1 in 10 working age deaths. Across the world, some 3 million people died from alcohol abuse in 2012. Owing to the high death toll, WHO officials are calling for a more serious effort from governments to curb alcohol abuse.

Alcohol teens

Alcohol Abuse is Rampant

Some 38 percent of people drink alcohol, and the average person drinks 17.7 liters of pure alcohol. It’s important to distinguish “pure alcohol” as it is much strong than most forms of liquor and alcohol sold on the market. The average bottle of vodka or whisky, for example, will be only 40 percent alcohol.

Of all drinkers, about 16 percent engage in heavy episodic drinking, or binge drinking. This means they drink far in excess. These excessive drinking is the most damaging to our bodies as our bodies are not able to cope with the high levels of alcohol. Bing drinkers are also much more likely to suffer from the negative social consequences, such as an ability to hold a job or maintain family relationships, that are often associated with drinking.

Alcohol abuse is further complicated by poor health care systems in many of the countries where alcohol abuse is most common. For example, in the United States many alcoholics lack proper health insurance and thus do not have access to medical care. This makes it harder to treat alcoholics.

Europe appears to have the worst drinking problem, with Eastern European companies in particular doing rather poorly. The study found that a quarter of all Russian men die before they reach their mid fifties, largely from drinking in excess. Vodka is a particular favorite among Russians.

The WHO Urges Countries to Respond

The World Health Organization is urging governments to bring the problem under control. The WHO is urging countries to raise taxes on alcohol and to regulate marketing and raise drinking ages. Doing so should hopefully reduce alcohol sales, but could be met by strong resistance from companies and citizens.

It’s unclear whether such measures will work in countries like Russia where the enforcement of laws is somewhat sporadic. Corruption, bribery, and poor general social conditions will likely ensure that alcohol remains easily available and widely used even if the government should try to reduce drinking.