Estimating the burden of disease attributable to illicit drug use and mental disorders: what is ‘Global Burden of Disease 2005’ and why does it matter?


Louisa Degenhardt, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. E-mail:


Background  The estimated impact of illicit drug use and mental disorders upon population health needs to be understood because there is evidence that they produce substantial loss of life and disability, and information is needed on the comparative population health impact of different diseases and risk factors to help focus policy, service and research planning and execution.

Aims  To provide an overview of a global project, running since the end of 2007—Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2005.

Methods  The new GBD aims to update comprehensively the findings of the first GBD exercise. It aims to provide regional and global estimates of the burden of disease attributable to hundreds of diseases, injuries and their risk factors. Groups have been assembled to provide expert advice on the parameters needed to inform these estimates; here, we provide a brief summary of the broad range of work being undertaken by the group examining illicit drug use and mental disorders.

Discussion  The estimates of the contribution of mental disorders and illicit drugs to GBD will inform and potentially shape the focus of researchers, clinicians and governments in the years to come. We hope that interested readers might be encouraged to submit new data or feedback on the work completed thus far, as well as the work that is still under way and yet to be completed.