Spaniards are the OECD's third biggest consumers of cocaine and alcohol

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Spaniards are the OECD's third biggest consumers of cocaine and alcohol
Spain has the third highest consumption of cocaine in the OECD after Australia and the UK. Photo: Colin Davis/Pexels

New data has revealed that Spaniards drink more alcohol and consume more cocaine than practically all of the OECD's 38 member countries.


It's not always good to be at the top of the leader board.

The latest report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) - Health at a Glance 2023 - reflects how when it comes to unhealthy hedonistic habits, Spaniards score high.

Not only do they smoke more than the OECD average, they are among the biggest consumers of alcohol and cocaine out of a list of countries which includes 26 European nations, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Australia, the United States, Canada and Colombia.




Spain is the third country that consumes the most alcohol in the world, with 11 litres per person over the age of 15.

The report, based on the latest data from 2021, indicates that the OECD average is 8.6 litres and only Latvia and Lithuania exceed Spain with 12 litres of alcohol per person each.

This may come as a surprise as it’s not as common to see drunk Spaniards on the streets or in bars as it is in the UK or Ireland, for example.

This is most likely down to the fact that the proportion of adults who admit to binge drinking in Spain is just 10 percent – one of the lowest countries on the list.

One in every five adults or 19 percent admit to binge drinking in 29 OECD countries.

The number of excessive or binge drinkers varies wildly from less than 3 percent of the population of Turkey to more than 30 percent of adults in Germany, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom and Denmark.

READ ALSO: Spain has second highest rate of daily alcohol drinkers in EU


The report also reveals (using the latest data from 2020), that cocaine is one of the most consumed illicit drugs in the world, since 1.2 percent of adults admitted to taking cocaine in that year in 36 OECD countries. 

Australia had the highest rates of cocaine consumption with more than 4 percent of the population, followed by the United Kingdom, Spain, Canada, the United States and Austria with more than 2 percent.

Spaniards have long had a penchant for cocaine, and have consistently been ranked among the biggest consumers of the white powder in Europe.

READ MORE: Why do Spaniards love cocaine so much?

The countries with the lowest cocaine consumption rates were 0.2 percent or less in Israel, Portugal, Turkey and the Czech Republic.

Men were more likely to use cocaine than women in all countries except Israel. In all OECD countries, 1.7 percent of men had used cocaine in the previous 12 months, compared to 0.7 percent of women.




According to 2021 data, 20 percent of the population over 15 years of age in Spain smokes daily, exceeding the OECD average of 16 percent.

Just like in every OECD country except Norway, male Spaniards are more likely to smoke than their female counterparts.

The country that has the most smokers is Turkey with 28 percent and France with 25 percent.

Although the data shows a reduction in tobacco consumption, between 2016 and 2021 there has been an increase in vaping in two-thirds of OECD countries, being more common among young people with a prevalence of 6.1 percent compared to 3.2 percent of vape usage in the adult population.

READ ALSO: What help is available in Spain to quit smoking?


Long life despite unhealthy habits

It may seem unlikely that a country so prone to vices has some of the people with the highest life expectancy in the world. 

In 2021, a study by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicted that Spain would surpass Japan to boast the world’s longest life expectancy by 2040.

It’s hard to fully understand why Spaniards live so long, but according to the scientists it’s a combination of their Mediterranean diet, a good healthcare system, plenty of walking, a close-knit society and a helpful serving of hedonism.

Genetics, a love of sport as well as the lack of serious social issues and wars also have also played a role in making Spaniards live longer. 

Additionally, over the past decades Spain also managed to drastically reduce the number of deaths due to cardiovascular diseases. Imagine if they cut down on drinking and smoking - Spaniards could no doubt live even longer.

READ ALSO: Why do people in Madrid live longer than anywhere else in the EU?



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