In the US alone, over 140,000 people die from excessive alcohol use – 380 deaths per day. In 2020, opioid-related deaths only surpassed alcohol deaths by seven percent. These numbers place alcohol as the third-leading preventable cause of death in the country. Let’s explore why alcohol is among the deadliest and most harmful drugs in the world.
5 Reasons why alcohol could be the deadliest or most harmful drug
Excessive alcohol consumption can be increasingly dangerous and harmful. Worldwide, over 3 million deaths yearly result from the harmful use of alcohol. That’s nearly 5.3% of all deaths.
1. It’s perhaps the most widely available drug in the world
If you are above the legal age, you can buy alcohol everywhere. You probably wouldn’t need to walk more than a few blocks (and sometimes less) to purchase alcohol at any time of the day. Nowadays, delivery apps like Grubhub and UberEats offer alcoholic beverages to be delivered straight to your doorstep.
Moreover, even people below the legal age can acquire alcohol fairly easily. According to 2021 data by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), as of 2020, 79.5% of Americans aged 12 and above had tried it before.
2. It leads to tens of thousands of accidents
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 140,000 people die annually from excessive alcohol use in the U.S. Because of some of the effects of alcohol, people under the influence are more likely to be involved in car accidents, machinery accidents, and engage in risk-taking behavior that could lead to fatal outcomes.
3. It may be more harmful to society than all other drugs
A study performed by British scientists determined that, when taking into account its combined harm to users and the people around them, alcohol is a more dangerous drug than both crack and heroin.
The scientists created a scale to rate the personal and societal damage caused by a drug, from 0 (not harmful) to 100 (most harmful). Alcohol was ranked as the most harmful drug, scoring 72, followed by heroin (55) and crack (54).
4. It’s a socially acceptable drug
Alcohol is perhaps the most common social drug globally, being extremely common in social gatherings. This widespread acceptance can make people ignore its noticeable harmful effects and normalize excessive drinking in social settings.
5. It’s a widespread “gateway drug”
A “gateway drug” is a term used to refer to psychoactive substances that, when abused, may increase the probability of using and abusing other substances. Essentially, it’s a drug that leads to further drug use.
Alcohol, nicotine-based products, and cannabis are the most widespread gateway drugs. Its wide availability and addictive potential, legal status, and social acceptance solidify alcohol as a potentially hazardous substance, perhaps the most harmful.
Alcohol abuse effects
Alcohol is classified as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. It slows down your brain function and neural activity while interfering with vital bodily functions. In large enough quantities, alcohol acts as a depressant. When misused or abused, alcohol can have harmful effects on the body.
- Slurred speech
- Vomit, nausea, headache, and diarrhea
- Difficulties breathing
- Distorted vision and hearing
- Impaired judgment and decreased physical coordination
- Anemia (loss of red blood cells)
- In extreme amounts, loss of consciousness (blackouts)
Long-term effects of repeated abuse:
- Decreased job performance
- Alcohol poisoning
- Conflicts with friends and family
- Sexual dysfunctions
- High blood pressure, liver diseases, and strokes
- Nerve damage and permanent brain damage
- Vitamin B1 deficiency
- Ulcers and gastritis
- Mouth and throat cancer
What to do if you struggle with alcohol abuse?
Alcohol abuse is a significant public health issue, and people suffering from it need to find help for themselves and those affected by their addiction.
Various treatments are available, such as behavioral treatments, medical detox, medications, support groups, or even a combination of some or all.
However, most people have difficulties recognizing they struggle with alcohol abuse. Here are some questions to ask yourself to see if you or someone you know might have an issue with alcohol:
- Not limiting the amount of alcohol you drink
- Attempting unsuccessfully to reduce alcohol consumption
- Spending a lot of time drinking, getting alcohol, or recovering from alcohol use
- Feeling strong cravings to drink
- Failing personal and professional responsibilities as a result of alcohol use
- Continuing to drink alcohol despite the signs of physical, social, work, or relationship issues
- Reducing social and work activities and hobbies to using alcohol
- Using alcohol when driving, swimming, or in other unsafe situations
- Needing more alcohol to feel the same effects (developing a tolerance)
Remember, every journey toward addiction recovery is different, and you and your loved ones would greatly benefit from professional assistance. With the right tools and adequate support, you’ll be on your way to recovery.