Is Alcohol the Worst Drug?

When you think about addictive drugs, what do you think about? In all likelihood, you will probably think of some pretty heavy hitters—methamphetamines, heroin, or crack cocaine. What you may be surprised to hear is that the most abused drug is the one you are most likely to encounter each day: alcohol.

It is 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.

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This addiction goes by many names including alcoholism, alcohol addiction, and alcohol drug abuse; but no matter what this form of substance abuse is called, the risks it poses to you and the people around you remain constant.

Keep reading to find out all about alcohol use disorders and effective forms of treatment to get help for your or a loved one!

Alcohol as Drug Abuse: More Dangerous Than You Think

Alcohol as Drug Abuse

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. 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.

A Personal Story of Problems with Alcohol

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. Drinking had become my go-to recreation.

I became a loud, aggressive, and obnoxious person when I drank. I even started to get so stressed about drinking that I began to experience hair loss and worse psychosomatic symptoms. 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 were not so readily accepted in modern society.

The Triggers of Alcohol Abuse

There are many things that can contribute to your problematic drinking habits, whether these be internal or external risk factors. Things that may cause you to drink too much alcohol, or too frequently may include:

  • Negative Influences
  • Societal Pressure
  • Genetic Factors
  • Mental Health Problems

My Circle of Friends

Having a poor social circle around you can be one of the biggest contributors to your heavy alcohol use. In my experience, trying to avoid getting drunk when I went out with friends 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 any place 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 had become 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. Choosing to abuse alcohol was my only escape.

Social Pressure & Acceptance

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 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.

Whether in college or any other scenario, drinking too much (a.k.a binge drinking) is often glamorized through the media and other social venues. However, drinking too much alcohol can, in reality, have a number of negative consequences. This includes engaging in risky and dangerous activities, such unsafe sex or driving under the influence.

Furthermore, people may even be more likely to start mixing alcohol with other forms of substance misuse, which can put them at an increased risk of experiencing serious health problems, such as dehydration, vomiting, hysteria, and alcohol poisoning or overdose.

Genetic Factors

For those with a family history of addiction, it is considered that they will be significantly more likely to drink excessively and develop habits of alcohol abuse and alcoholism than those who do not. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), genetics can contribute up to half of your risk of addiction.

While this does not mean that you are destined to develop an alcohol misuse problem, it does mean that you should monitor your alcohol intake more closely. Being aware of your unique risks can help you avoid falling into the same patterns and habits as your family members before you.

Mental Health Problems

Mental Health Problem

In addition to those risks listed above, one of the most significant causing factors of alcohol (as well any other form of substance misuse) abuse is the existence of any underlying mental disorders. In particular, those which go undiagnosed or untreated.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), many people start attempting to self-medicate the negative emotions caused by their mental illness through abusing drugs or alcohol.

Unfortunately, this is rarely an effective solution, and one that only provides temporary relief – in the event that it works as intended. Furthermore, if continued over long periods of time, their alcohol problems will likely only worsen their mental health condition, or even produce new ones.

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How Does Alcohol Abuse Affect the Body?

Alcohol abuse infographic by Nicole R

Alcohol primarily affects the central nervous system, interfering with the brain’s communication pathways and changing the way your brain looks and works. Drinking alcohol makes it harder for the areas of the brain that are responsible for controlling balance, memory, speech, and judgment to work properly.

Excessive alcohol use can make it much more difficult to properly concentrate and make sound decisions, creating a much higher risk of injuries and other adverse consequences. Furthermore, when people abuse alcohol over long periods of time, this can cause additional serious health conditions and effects, including:

 

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Organ damage and failure
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Brain damage

 

What is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Once you have developed a full-blown alcohol use disorder, you will need to seek out a professional addiction treatment provider in order to overcome your habits of alcohol misuse. This is because excessive drinking habits often lead to the development of an alcohol dependency.

Once this occurs, your body will require you to continue your excessive alcohol use in order to be able to function properly. If you try to reduce your heavy drinking habits or suddenly stop drinking entirely without proper care, this can cause you to develop several uncomfortable, and even potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.

Treating Alcohol Addiction

There are several forms of treatment available to those struggling with alcohol addictions today. Due to the various ways in which alcohol affects the body, this process will more than likely begin with your participation in a medical detox program.

When alcohol detoxification is carried out under the supervision of a medical professional, this can help significantly ease alcohol withdrawal symptoms. This can be significantly beneficial if you are struggling with severe alcohol dependence.

Once detox has been completed, you will likely be encouraged to continue receiving care through inpatient and outpatient treatment centers. What specific treatment center will best serve your recovery needs will depend on the severity of your addiction.

If you are not sure what level of substance abuse treatment is best for you, seeking out professional treatment advice from your healthcare provider or a certified addiction professional can help you narrow down these options.

The Importance of Medical Detox In Treating Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol Addiction Treatment

When participating in an alcohol detox program, there are several steps that go into this form of treatment. While your specific recovery plan may vary based on your personal care needs, alcohol detox will typically follow a general treatment process.

When arriving at a treatment facility, you will go through an initial intake assessment and interview. Your treatment plan for misusing alcohol will be evaluated based on the withdrawal symptoms you present upon arrival, as well as how long it has been since your last drink.

While each person will detox at their own rate, there is a common timeline for alcohol detox of around five to ten days. During this time period, you will be treated for your symptoms with fluids and proper dietary guidelines. Your team of health professionals may also prescribe medications to help ease your withdrawal symptoms.

The alcohol detox process will also involve nutritional counseling and dietary planning, as many people who struggle with alcohol abuse also have nutritional deficiencies, or otherwise poor eating habits.

If you are suffering from a more severe condition known as delirium tremens, you will be more intensely monitored and given appropriate medications to prevent cardiac and respiratory arrest – conditions that could otherwise lead to death.

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The Next Steps of Alcohol Addiction Treatment

For many individuals, their recovery process does not end once they have completed alcohol detox. Rather, this is often just the first step on their journey to achieving sobriety. Once you have successfully detoxed, you may choose to move onto additional levels of care.

The most common of these are inpatient and outpatient treatment programs. What treatment provider you may choose to seek out will vary based on a number of factors, such as the severity of your addiction, as well as any existing financial or time constraints you may have.

Looking into after-care options, such as therapy and mental health counseling – most popularly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – as well as recovery support groups (i.e. Alcoholics Anonymous) may also be a good idea for helping you stay on track with your sobriety.

Finding Alcohol Addiction Treatment and Recovery Services Near You

If you or a loved one is struggling with an alcohol use disorder, or any other type of substance abuse, please do not hesitate to reach out to the recovery representatives at Find Addiction Rehabs today.

All calls are completely confidential and will not affect your insurance coverage in any way. Within minutes our team can provide options for treatment, costs, and further resources to help you become a happier and successfully sober you!