Alcohol is so commonplace in our society you might not consider it a drug. Alcohol has become a socially acceptable way to relax and unwind. It is seen as a harmless stress reliever that is marketed as fun, exciting and stress-free. But the truth is that alcohol is dangerous, even deadly when abused. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol is responsible for 88,000 (62,000 men and 26,000 women) deaths annually in the U.S. Those 88,000 people also had a lifespan 30 years shorter than the normal population, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S.

Despite these frightening statistics, alcohol is still not considered a drug by most. You wouldn’t go to a party and expect to be served heroin, cocaine or meth. But being offered an alcoholic drink is socially acceptable, even expected. So how does alcohol keep such an acceptable reputation when it is responsible for so many dependence-related deaths?

10% Make up the Majority of Sales

Approximately 50% of Americans don’t drink alcohol at all (a truly surprising statistic). The rest of the population that drinks consume only a low to moderate amount of alcohol (about 1 drink or less per day). The majority of alcohol sales are, therefore, driven by 10% of population that are considered heavy drinkers (consuming 75 drinks per week). There are sub groups that consume between 6-15 drinks per week. This means that in order to make a profit alcohol manufacturers target these heavy drinking groups. That is their target audience for making sales.

The problem arises that most people in the U.S. are not taught how to drink alcohol responsibly. Most consume alcohol well before they are 21 and by then they don’t know the real or long term dangers of alcohol abuse. This can be due to a lack of education, but also a lack of truth in advertising. If alcohol was marketed as a drug, would it be so accepted and consumed? Like drug dealers, alcohol manufactures want you to get hooked on their product. They just enjoy advertising privileges that any cocaine or heroin dealer can dream about.  

Science Says It’s a Drug

Alcohol is classified as a depressant. It slows down vital functions including the ones that control consciousness. A small amount of alcohol (1-2 drinks) can act as a stimulant. It can loosen you up of take the edge off. When large amounts are consumed, however, its depressant effects appear – slurred speech, reduced mental capacity, inability to feel pain, and unconsciousness.

Ethyl alcohol (ethanol) is the only alcohol found in beverages. It is created by the fermentation of grains or fruit where yeast acts on these foods and creates alcohol as a byproduct. Alcohol content can range from 2% to 20% in drinks like beer and wine and between 40% to 50% in distilled spirits. The amount of alcohol in each beverage, the speed at which they are consumed, and other factors like body weight and tolerance determine how alcohol will affect each individual.

It’s More Harmful than Other Drugs

There are 3 million new cases of alcoholism reported each year in the U.S.  A recent study found that alcohol is more dangerous than crack or heroin. Neuropharmacologist David Nutt, MD of Imperial College of London, rated 20 drugs based on their harm to users. The drugs were rated from 0 (no harm) to 100 (greatest possible harm). Harm was determined by 9 harmful factors to the individual and 7 harmful factors to society. The results? Alcohol scored a 72! It was found to be the most harmful drug to society and the fourth most harmful to the individual. Alcohol was also found to be linked to over 60 different diseases.

“Alcohol does all kinds of things in the body, and we’re not fully aware of all its effects. It’s a pretty complicated little molecule.” James C. Garbutt, MD, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Heroin, crack, and meth were the most harmful to the individual (scoring in the mid-50s), while alcohol, heroin and crack were the most harmful to others. The study also found that alcohol is three times more harmful than tobacco and cocaine.

Next Steps

Alcoholism is a serious condition that can often go untreated. If you or a loved one are struggling with an alcohol addiction, there is hope for recovery.  If you need advice on next steps, Rock Recovery Center is West Palm Beach, FL can help. Call our 24-hour helpline or chat live with us now.