Alcohol & Substance Abuse Programme

The alcohol and substance abuse programme provides leadership and technical cooperation to governments on public health policies related to alcohol consumption and the use of psychoactive substances (illegal or used for non-medical purposes).

Therefore, it generates and disseminates information on alcohol and drug consumption and related harms, evidence based policies and interventions, and monitors trends in consumption and related problems, with the goal of minimising the negative health outcomes associated with their use.  Among the various psychoactive substances consumed in the region, alcohol is a leading risk factor for the burden of disease.

The harmful consumption of alcohol is associated with a range of health and social consequences, including injuries, several forms of cancer, chronic liver disease, heart disease, alcohol dependence, and domestic violence.  Priority cross-cutting issues for the program include: gender, human rights, health promotion and services in primary health care.

Alcohol and Substance Abuse Facts

  • Alcohol consumption in Africa is approximately 45% greater than the global average.
  • In 2000 alcohol was the most important risk to health in low and middle income countries in Africa.  Illicit drugs ranked 8th among the 10 leading risk factors for Africa.
  • The average drinking pattern of adults in the majority of countries in Africa is hazardous to health.
  • It is estimated that in the year 2013, alcohol led to the death of one person every 100 seconds in Africa.
  • Health services to deal with alcohol use disorders are lacking.
  • Stigma and discrimination against people with alcohol use disorders hinder their access to health services and treatment.


AHO Programme of Action and projects

  1. identify underage and harmful alcohol consumption as a public health priority and
  2. develop plans and/or introduce measures to reduce its public health impact;
  3. recognize that harmful alcohol consumption occurs among non-dependent and
  4. dependent individuals alike, and that reducing alcohol-related problems requires a
  5. mix of population-wide policies and targeted interventions, as well as access to
  6. quality health services;
  7. promote public policies that protect and preserve public health interests;
  8. promote policies and interventions that are evidence-based, equitable, and
  9. supported by sustainable implementation mechanisms involving different
  10. stakeholders;
  11. promote prevention programs that educate children, young people, and those who
  12. choose not to drink alcohol about how to resist social pressure to drink, protect
  13. them from such pressure, and support their choice not to drink;
  14. ensure that effective prevention, treatment, and care services are available,
  15. accessible, and affordable to those affected, including families, by the harmful use
  16. of alcohol;
  17. allocate financial, technical, and human resources towards the implementation of
  18. national activities outlined in the Plan of Action.