Imagine I invited you over for a local networking party, which included a gathering of people who worked at the town library, the local school, community businesses, and many entrepreneurs.
As often happens at these events, I offer you a glass of wine, or maybe a cocktail. People are mingling. The event has started!
A server is walking around with some appetizers. They look delicious and you grab a few and place them on your napkin. Then imagine that I also offer you more party treats. I smile at you as I lift up a shiny silver dome to reveal a platter below full of powdery cocaine. I even have dainty silver tubes poised in a matching cup that can be used to suck the powder through your nose.
What? You don’t want any?
I notice you are not interested so I offer my other tray (I have plenty of other options to offer). I lift another lid to reveal fancy glass needles inlaid with a silver handle and a silver needle poking through the glass. I proudly share with you that it was a great year for growing poppies in Afghanistan, and that there are hints of apricot and nectarine from neighboring fields in this choice heroin.
What? You don’t want any?
Before I can offer my next option, you shake your head emphatically, “No.”
No? I look confused. All of these substances feel good! They will help you reduce stress. They will help you relax. They will certainly take the edge off, and then some.
I guess you can see where I am going with this. Why is it OK (and easy?) to say no to these substances with external and internal conviction, but with alcohol we may feel a little guilty or let down that we aren’t indulging with others, or that others may judge us (that there may be something wrong with us?)
I can guess what you are thinking… “Well, alcohol and cocaine are two completely different creatures! This is apples and oranges!”
Maybe, though apples and oranges are both from the same genre (fruit). The same goes for these examples. For starters, alcohol, cocaine, and heroin are all dangerous. However, you are correct in assuming they cannot be compared equally.
When it comes to data, alcohol is more deadly.
In fact, alcohol kills more people than all other drugs combined. Yet, we certainly do not view our friendly bartender as a drug dealer. The challenge is that alcohol is not only socially acceptable but there is a collective attachment, so as a culture we do not share the same restraint and caution that we would for other substances. Alcohol is also easily available and everywhere around us—occurring at almost every function and life event you can imagine.
We assume other drugs are more dangerous because they are illegal. However, “according to estimates from the World Health Organization, alcohol-related hazards are to blame for 2.5 million deaths globally each year due to cancer, heart and liver disease, traffic accidents, and road fatalities. Alcohol was given a score of 72 out of 100 on the scientists’ assessment. Crack received a 54, while heroin got a 55” (Rizwan, 2022, Why alcohol is more detrimental to health than illegal drugs). Wow!
Alcohol is tricky because it can lead to long-term risks and hurt individuals over time (a leading cause for disease) which can lull us into a false narrative in thinking it is not so bad. It is important to remember alcohol can cause immediate harm and fatal accidents (drinking and driving, deadly injuries, physical acts of violence, and alcohol poisoning). According to Rizwan’s article “Why Alcohol Is More Detrimental to Health Than Illegal Drugs,” alcohol is a leading cause of preventable death, yet the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has reported that 88,000 deaths per year are caused by alcohol, while all other drugs combined only cause 30,000 deaths a year (Rizwan, 2022).
Although it is important to point out that alcohol is a toxin, and a leading cause of preventable death, the more important point is that we are all walking around ignoring that essential detail. Furthermore, increasing evidence is revealing that alcohol is a lot more addictive than we give it credit for. So, if you have been beating yourself up because you have developed a compulsive drinking habit, this article is meant to cut you a break. Alcohol is an addictive substance that can commonly lead to alcohol use disorder.
Again, it is challenging to moderate alcohol because it is a toxin that is highly addictive. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines alcohol use disorder (AUD) as “a chronic relapsing disorder associated with compulsive alcohol drinking, the loss of control over intake, and the emergence of a negative emotional state when alcohol is no longer available… characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences” (National Institutes of Health, The Cycle of Alcohol Addiction, https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/cycle-alcohol-addiction).
Alan Carr is the author of The Easy Way to Quit or Reduce Alcohol. Carr does an excellent job pointing out the addictive nature of alcohol, and how the habit creeps up on you quietly until you suddenly look around, wondering, “How did I get here?” He equates drinking to nature’s Pitcher Plant… full of nice nectar for the flies, who journey deeper into the plant (as it gets steeper). At some point the flies discover they cannot fly out. They are trapped.
Much like the Pitcher Plant, alcohol can be wonderful… until it’s not. Like the flies, many of us suddenly discover we cannot get back to that original pleasant place. Drinking feels out of balance, with a craving and remorse cycle that is no fun. It’s a hushed condition, where you must decide if you qualify for that dreaded term “alcoholic” or you must muscle through the moderation game. If you find yourself feeling caught in a compulsive habit, understand that you are not weak. You are not flawed. You just sipped from the Pitcher Plant.
Society may like its alcohol, but increasing evidence encourages us to walk away. More and more people are looking at the toxic effects of alcohol (it is harmful to your body, causes disease, and ages you prematurely). The addictive nature of alcohol is surfacing, and it is a lot easier to feel proud for passing on the offerings of wine, beer, or cocktails when you understand the real story.
Understanding the truth can truly change your mindset. LOVE yourself for choosing to love your body, and love yourself for choosing health. You have a lot to feel proud about. You would never feel bad for turning down cocaine, heroin or other toxic and addictive substances—that’s just a no-brainer. You would never feel apologetic, or that you were missing out. More importantly, as more alcohol-free time goes by, you will be more and more thankful for your choice because life gets better and better.
Remember, alcohol is an addictive substance. This substance is toxic to our bodies. This substance is AGING you. There are NO health benefits, and it is a leading cause of preventable death – more than all other drugs combined.
Finding your freedom is a true gift that living free of alcohol provides. No regrets, no apologies, and NO THANK YOU to alcohol. Be psyched to be on this journey–freedom from the psychological slavery of alcohol.
Congratulations for loving yourself. Let’s celebrate!
- “The Cycle of Alcohol Addiction.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/cycle-alcohol-addiction.
- Fitzgerald, K. (2023, March 16). Why alcohol is the deadliest drug. Addiction Center. Retrieved April 12, 2023, from https://www.addictioncenter.com/community/why-alcohol-is-the-deadliest-drug/
- Lopez, German. “The 3 Deadliest Drugs in America Are Legal.” Vox, Vox, 19 May 2014, https://www.vox.com/2014/5/19/5727712/drug-alcohol-deaths.
- Rizwan, H. (2022, July 19). Explained: Why alcohol is more detrimental to health than illegal drugs. IndiaTimes. Retrieved April 12, 2023, from https://www.indiatimes.com/explainers/news/why-alcohol-is-more-detrimental-to-health-than-illegal-drugs-575038.html#:~:text=Heavy%20drinking%20can%20weaken%20the,brain%20works%20and%20is%20built