Is Alcohol the Worst Drug?
When you think about addictive drugs, what do you think about? In all likelihood, you thought of some pretty heavy hitters—methamphetamines, heroin, or crack cocaine. You’d be surprised to hear that the most abused drug is the one you are the most likely to encounter each day. It’s served with lunch and dinner, at Christmastime, and at virtually all parties. You can partake of it alone or when celebrating with friends. It ranges in cost from very cheap to exorbitant. This is the most harmful drug of all, and it has earned several street names—sauce, piss, hooch, booze, the hard stuff, and liquid courage. It’s alcohol, and its addiction goes by many names including alcoholism, alcohol addiction, and alcohol drug abuse.
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Alcohol Drug Abuse: More Dangerous Than You Think
Are you surprised? Yes, alcohol is the most dangerous drug to both us and those we love. Here’s the danger. It’s considered so socially acceptable that it’s not really considered a drug. But it is indeed a drug.
Technically speaking, alcohol as a drug is classified as a depressant along with Rohypnol, also known as the date rape drug.
Treating alcohol as a drug is unpopular. I, too, failed to see the danger in this drug. Because of the social acceptability of alcohol, we sweep the risks under the rug. Alcohol drug abuse is a bit of a sacred cow in Western culture.
Alcohol causes addiction at a rate more than double of users than methamphetamine, cocaine, and tobacco. The hypocrisy is astounding. The public outrage against other recreational drugs has been a brutal one, and rightfully so. However, alcohol is causing twice the harm, and yet we are not focused on that reality. Alcohol abuse is more prevalent. It goes hand in hand with other forms of drug abuse.
This is how alcohol addiction begins. Consider my story.
In my home, my parents sipped a glass or two of wine each evening. It was completely normal, and I’d be stretching to say that it was damaging for me to witness. They never got drunk or sloppy. They simply enjoyed relaxing with a drink. They raised me thinking that alcohol is a social custom. I never gave even a single thought to whether or not I would choose to drink.
I became of age to drink alcohol. The expected turning of age ritual was to go out and indulge. But it didn’t stop with that birthday celebration. Once, I was escorted out of a Hooter’s for grabbing a waitress to get her down from dancing on a table because I wanted to get up there and dance myself!
Drinking had become my go-to recreation. I was pleased with my ability to do a keg stand in my mini-skirt. I bragged about the large quantity of tequila I could shoot. I became a loud, aggressive, and obnoxious person when I drank.
When I think of the things I’ve done while drunk, I’m mortified.
I had developed such an addiction to alcohol, and I couldn’t escape it. I don’t blame my parents or my upbringing. I now know that I’m accountable for my choices and my behaviors. On the other hand, I firmly believe I would never have developed my addiction to alcohol if it weren’t so readily accepted in modern society.
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My Circle of Friends
Initially, I tried to avoid getting drunk when I went out with friends. However, refusing to drink made me a target of ridicule. What was the point of sobriety? I felt like all eyes were on me, and I gave in to the peer pressure. I drank. Not to mention the fact that being the only person sober when all your friends are drunk just sucks.
It came to a point where we just wouldn’t go anyplace where we could not drink. If we were expected to attend an occasion where alcohol wasn’t being served, we carried in our own booze. In fact, I even snuck in a 6-pack of my favorite beer even to watch a movie. The thought of that 90 minutes without alcohol was ludicrous to me.
I became an alcoholic. All my friends also became alcoholics. I began to drink alone in secret, both before and after work. Alcohol was my only dependable friend. Alcohol drug abuse was my escape.
The Accepted Harmful Drug
Alcohol is a dangerous drug that destroys lives, but society doesn’t see it that way.
If someone were dining in a restaurant and snorting a line of coke off of the table, we’d be outraged and probably call the cops. Witnessing that behavior would shake most people to the core.
Yet, we go to a restaurant and consume one drink after another until we’re so drunk that we vomit into a fish tank at a busy Chinese restaurant. Yes, that really happened.
Alcohol and the ensuing intoxication is a social custom. So, what are we to do? The key lies in educating people on the dangers of drinking alcohol and the addictive grip that it can take on anyone.
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On the surface, alcohol doesn’t appear to be as deadly as heroin or harder drugs, its long-term effects are literally killing us.
Robert S. Gable reports in Toxicity of Recreational Drugs, “Alcohol ranks at the dangerous end of the toxicity spectrum. So, despite the fact that about 75 percent of all adults in the United States enjoy an occasional drink, it must be remembered that alcohol is quite toxic. Indeed, if alcohol were a newly formulated beverage, its high toxicity and addiction potential would prevent it from being marketed as a food or drug.”
Social Acceptance Breeds Alcohol Dependency
The potential for heroin abuse is extremely high, but the potential for alcohol addiction is considered only moderate. Bear in mind that this does not offer an apple to apple comparison, as they are drugs in different classes– a narcotic and a depressant. That said, how can we perform a fair analysis?
We can surmise that since alcohol has only half of the potential for dependency than heroin but is overall more harmful, that the harm done by of alcohol stems, not from the alcohol itself, but from its status as an accepted social custom. Alcohol drug abuse is a staple of college culture, and as an adult, it’s still par for the course of socializing.
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The Harmful Grip of Alcohol Abuse
Drugs that make you more dependent also increase your chances of physical harm. This means that a heroin addict, for example, has a greater chance of falling into some physical trauma than a person who smokes marijuana. This makes perfect sense, as most drugs at the lower end of this scale are classified as depressants/downers. Therefore, they impact the body by slowing everything down by reducing the functions of our brain and body.
On the other hand, narcotics and stimulants speed up the body. Every drug, including alcohol, has a negative impact on our body as they change the chemical processes in our brains. Drug users experience changes in biologic processes after they’ve used. When these signs become clear, they are often ignored or discussed. We understate the problems out of shame. Unfortunately, that’s not likely to change soon.
Our Relationship with Alcohol
We need to stop justifying the use of alcohol as a social custom or a way to have some fun. All drugs are damaging to ourselves and our families. The mindset of “I won’t become an alcoholic,” is a dangerous one to accept. When we downplay the consequences of alcohol drug abuse, we stop seeing the danger in it. Look around the next time you visit a restaurant. People all around you are drinking so much, and they probably do so quite frequently. It’s a dangerous game we are playing. The philosopher Seneca once said, “drunkenness is nothing but voluntary madness.” We should listen to that bit of advice.