Illnesses caused by heavy drinking claim the lives of about 5,000 Greeks each year, according to figures released yesterday ahead of a conference in Thessaloniki next week on the dangers of alcohol. The Greek Society for the Study of Addictive Substances, on whose behalf the survey was carried out, also said that statistics showed that some 200,000 people in Greece are alcoholics. Even though this indicates that there is plenty of heavy drinking in the country, Greeks are by no means Europe’s heaviest drinkers. The average Greek drinks 9.5 liters of pure alcohol every year. In comparison, the average European throws back 11 liters, which equates to 1,400 small bottles of beer per year. However, the new survey shows that 30 percent of Greek teenagers drink spirits more than 20 times a year.