Alcohol Deadlier Than Heroin?

I love studies that state the obvious. Especially when the no-brainer conclusions still manage to shock people . Latest example: “Alcohol More Deadly Than Heroin, Study Finds.”

Mood music:

According to the Associated Press report, “British experts evaluated substances including alcohol, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and marijuana, ranking them based on how destructive they are to the individual who takes them and to society as a whole. Researchers analyzed how addictive a drug is and how it harms the human body, in addition to other criteria like environmental damage caused by the drug, its role in breaking up families and its economic costs, such as health care, social services, and prison.”

The report says booze scored so high because it’s legal and, therefore, much more available than the hard drugs it was compared to. When abused, alcohol damages nearly all organs and is connected to higher death rates, higher crime and higher rates of collateral damage (the families devastated by living with an alcoholic, for example).

I don’t take issue with the folks who conduct these studies. There is a lot for the masses to learn from them. The reason I’m feeling snarky about it is that the results are always so painfully obvious to someone who has struggled with addictive behavior. And to me, it’s painfully obvious that addictive substances that are legal will always kill more people than the illegal, harder-to-get stuff like heroin.

Anything will kill you if done to excess.

Drink a lot of alcohol every day and it’ll destroy your organs quicker than it will for the person who drinks in moderation.

Binge eat all the time and you’ll get heart disease, colon cancer and other maladies more quickly and severely than the guy who eats everything in moderation.

If you’re a recovering addict as I am, you know that it’s really the compulsive behavior itself — not the substance — that will kill you eventually.

You can’t solve the problem by outlawing the substance. Prohibition didn’t work. I don’t think it works with pot and harder drugs either.

Smokers understand. They know cigarettes cause cancer, but they do it anyway. It’s a compulsion they can’t control, and they can’t stop until push comes to shove. Even then, it’s not always enough.

You have to find whatever is at the core of your soul, the pain that makes you abuse the substance. Then you have to address that core problem. Otherwise, it’ll kill you someday. I did this with intensive therapymedication and lifestyle changes.

But saying “just do it” or “just say no” oversimplifies things. If you’re under the spell of whatever you’re addicted to, those statements are a joke.

Some of us are lucky enough to get beyond the joke and take action, but man, it’s hard. One of the hardest things ever. 

I guess my point is that these studies, while valuable, are never the definitive, final word. It’s easy to declare one substance more lethal than another.

But in doing so, we skate over the more insidious beast at the heart of the matter.

4 thoughts on “Alcohol Deadlier Than Heroin?

  1. Well said… I forget where I first heard it, but I like the analogy that “just say no” is like telling someone with dysentery to use willpower to quit that diarrhea. It baffles me that even a lot of clinicians still use the phrase “drugs and alcohol” as if alcohol wasn’t a drug itself. That’s like saying “food and spaghetti.”

  2. Bill, well written! The article states the obvious. Any abuse of any substance is going to deadly..eventually if the abuse is not stopped. As you stated, the “beast” is what is behind these addictions and it seems to me that too many times this fact is either minimized or completely skipped over in articles and in treatment. Treatment centers that have you go in for one week and detox are BS. I truly think that in some cases it actually worsens the situation. I have seen addicts (such as my ex) go into these treatments..twice he detoxed and when he got out he did the same amount of drugs he used before he went in. His body couldn’t handle it and he overdosed. Some of these addicts don’t realize that after being a way for a week or two you can’t leave and use the same amount. On top of it, the “beast” is still there! How are you supposed to get clean when the beast inside you still lives and is still controlling you. There HAS to be extensive psychotherapy, outpatient support and medication. Most addicts have other issues going on such as OCD, bi-polar, depression, anxiety that are being ignored. Cure the beast, cure the addiction. Detox or rehab alone wont work unless work is done on oneself. Inside of oneself. It takes a strong person to get to this point (much props to you my friend) I have seen my ex go through it. Over 15 rehab facilities. One day he changed his environment, started going to therapy and got clean. He had slips up but kept moving forward. My son and I were part of the ‘change of environment” but I loved him that much that I let him go. I would rather him be alive and clean without me then be constantly reminded of his mistakes being with me…great blog post as usual Bill and thank you for sharing your experiences!

    • I just want to add that when I said “cure” the beast, “cure” the addiction..I should of chose a different word. There really isn’t a “cure” but skills and tools that are given to help control these issues.

  3. Well stated as always, Bill. I briefly heard a news teaser last night that said, “A new study shows that the most dangerous drug can be found right at your local bar!” and found myself thinking, “Really? Who didn’t know that?” Although I guess they really weren’t trying to shock or surprise anybody, but maybe just ram home the point that alcohol is in fact a drug, a fact everybody knows but I think a lot of people tend to forget because it isn’t sold in prescription bottles and it’s legal for anyone over the age of 21 to obtain. So part of me thinks that maybe these studies aren’t so useless after all.

    Then, of course, I see an article in the paper that says, “A new study shows that chocolate is kids’ favorite Halloween candy.” That’s about the point where my forehead and my palm meet up.

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