Which Is More Dangerous: Alcohol or Drugs?

Caulkins and Peter Reuter, a drug policy expert at the University of Maryland, suggested a model in which all the major risks of drugs are drawn out and each drug is ranked within those categories. So heroin would be at or near the top for mortality, alcohol would be at or near the top for cause of violent crime, and tobacco would be at the top for long-term health risks. But there wouldn’t be a single ranking for all the drugs’ harms. The idea is lawmakers could look at this model to help decide on an individual basis which policies are better for each drug. If you have struggled with an alcohol use disorder, or witnessed someone you love struggle with alcohol dependence, you know how powerful alcohol is as a drug.

alcohol vs drugs

Every time we reduce alcohol we experience better health,” Witkiewitz said. But it doesn’t seem like anyone is taking on this kind of approach — and Nutt’s style of analysis remains popular around the world. Although Nutt couldn’t get funding to do an analysis in the US or Canada, he said a similar study is being published later this year assessing drug use in several countries in Europe. The analysis may be flawed, but its simplicity and accessibility have won over many policy circles.

How does alcohol affect the body?

However, even a mild disorder can escalate and lead to serious problems, so early treatment is important. Discover how many people with alcohol use disorder in the United States receive treatment across age groups and demographics. Find up-to-date statistics on lifetime drinking, past-year drinking, past-month drinking, binge drinking, heavy alcohol use, and high-intensity drinking. Finally, the sensitivity analysis results from application of human toxicity data for some of the compounds (alcohol, nicotine and THC21,55,56,57) are shown in Supplementary Table S3 online and marked in Figures 1–3. For alcohol, the human MOE results correspond closely to the ones calculated from animal LD50.

alcohol vs drugs

It may seem like reaching out for help can be challenging; however, there is light at the end of the tunnel. There are many inpatient and outpatient treatment centers available to help you or your loved one overcome their addiction to alcohol and begin the road to recovery. In regard to the physically addictive aspect, drinking alcohol stimulates the release of endorphins and dopamine, both of which produce euphoric sensations, such as feelings of pleasure. Studies conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggest that genetic factors also influence how the brain reacts for different people when they consume alcohol. This study suggests that some people’s brains release more euphoric chemicals in response to alcohol than others, making them more susceptible to developing an alcohol use disorder.

Treatments and attitudes evolve

At the end of this topic page, we provide a number of potential sources of support and guidance for those concerned about uncontrolled drinking or alcohol dependency. In the chart, we see estimates of the alcohol-attributable fraction (AAF), which is the proportion of deaths that are caused or exacerbated by alcohol (i.e., that proportion that would disappear if alcohol consumption was removed). We see that the proportion of deaths attributed to alcohol consumption is lower in North Africa and the Middle East and much higher in Eastern Europe. Alcohol consumption is a known risk factor for a number of health conditions, and potential mortality cases. Alcohol consumption has a causal impact on more than 200 health conditions (diseases and injuries). This chart is shown for the global total but can be explored for any country or region using the “Change country or region” toggle.

alcohol vs drugs

For cannabis and nicotine, the discrepancy in the sensitivity analysis can be explained in the chosen endpoints (no dose response data on mortality in humans were identifiable in the literature). For example, the only available human toxicological https://ecosoberhouse.com/ endpoint for cannabis as chosen by EFSA55 was “psychotropic effects”. The rationale for choosing this endpoint was the exclusion of risk for the inadvertent and indirect ingestion of THC when hemp products are used as animal feed55.

Expenditures on alcohol and alcohol consumption by income

It’s important to remember though that alcohol remains a serious killer of Americans; at least as serious of a killer as drugs. So when it comes to mandates and legislation and studies and — above all — treatment, it’s equally important to treat alcohol equally. First is the aforementioned NIAAA, which monitors the country’s drinking. That includes alcohol intake and its repercussions, which of course includes alcohol-related injuries and deaths. Focus on the fetus and pregnancy, rather than the mother, as this reduces stigma. For example, use alcohol-exposed pregnancy vs. mother/person who drinks during pregnancy.

  • Among adults under 65, more people died from alcohol-related causes in 2020 than from Covid-19 (White, A. M., et al., JAMA, Vol. 327, No. 17, 2022).
  • Furthermore, no chronic-toxicity data (long-term experiments) are available, which are usually used for such kinds of risk assessment.
  • Combined with medications and behavioral treatment provided by health care professionals, mutual-support groups can offer a valuable added layer of support.
  • Binge drinking raises your risk of injuries, car crashes, and alcohol overdose.
  • Behavioral therapies can help people develop skills to avoid and overcome triggers, such as stress, that might lead to drinking.

Despite one’s desire to cut down or quit drinking, alcohol can compromise one’s ability to make decisions, as well as impact one’s impulse control resulting in a compulsion to drink. This also makes relapse more likely when one attempts to quit drinking. What may begin as recreational alcohol use can quickly become abuse and can easily transition into an alcohol use disorder or alcohol dependence. Use the terms return to use, return to drinking, or recurrence instead of relapse when referring to someone who has returned to alcohol or drug use, or a recurrence of substance/alcohol use disorder symptoms. Use person with alcohol use disorder instead of alcoholic to reduce stigma. Stigma is a significant barrier in many people’s willingness to seek help for alcohol and other substance use problems and can affect how they are treated in all aspects of life, including availability and quality of care.

As we observe National Recovery Month throughout September, it’s important to recognize the scope of America’s alcohol dependence and help those with alcohol use disorder. When the issues are laced in childhood or adult trauma, they can become harder to resolve due to the presence of both issues in the patient. Luckily, many programs, such as dual diagnosis treatment options, can be used to find solutions to both issues at the same time. Tackling all issues that are related to your substance abuse is important for making the change permanent and getting onto the road to a life defined by sobriety, not by abuse. This is especially true if you have never pondered what led you to the point you find yourself or what led others to struggle with addictions. Drug abuse can be curbed through proper treatment from a professional team in your area.

Psychologists and other health professionals can also advocate for policies that reduce risky drinking. “Fear-based programs that try to scare people away from drinking aren’t effective. Some states are considering policies such as reducing the density of stores that can sell alcohol in a given area, restricting advertising by the alcohol industry, or raising taxes on alcohol sales. Older adults, too, have been imbibing more in recent years, with older women in particular showing an upward trend between 2002 and 2018 (White, A. M., et al., Alcohol, Vol. 107, No. 1, 2023). Alcohol is psychologically addictive because it becomes a learned behavior that affects one’s thoughts and beliefs.

This means that the generated output distributions are stable and reliable. The estimated means change less than 5% as additional iterations are run during the simulation. From the model input variables, the highest influence (as expressed by rank of regression coefficients) on the results is caused by the exposure, rather than the toxicological thresholds or the bodyweights. Alcohol use disorder, which includes alcohol dependence, is defined in the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases (available here). Alcohol use disorder (AUD) refers to the drinking of alcohol that causes mental and physical health problems. Alcohol is one of the world’s largest risk factors for premature death.

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