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Addiction affects nearly everyone, and it's no longer taboo to talk about it. With society's increasing acknowledgement of addiction comes great opportunities for those battling theirs to locate professional help and support. Helping to spread awareness and recovery information to everyone in need.
Drug and alcohol addiction is one of the biggest challenges facing America today, and the problem is getting worse. In October 2017, President Trump declared the Opioid Crisis a “Public Health Emergency,” but he is not the only politician who has decided to use the influence of public office to take action in the fight against addiction. Within the last several weeks, several other prominent politicians have taken action of their own.
On Tuesday, February 13, 2018, Oregon Governor Kate Brown declared addiction a public health crisis in the state. At the same time, Governor Brown also announced a new executive order for Oregon’s Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission. The order requires the Commission to develop a plan that lays out steps for state agencies to take to battle the addiction epidemic. The Commission must meet deadlines as early as September.
Governor Brown has also requested that the Oregon Legislature pass legislation designed to fight the growing opioid epidemic, which is responsible for the majority of overdose deaths in the state and nationwide. The law tackles the problem from multiple angles, requiring the state to study how to improve treatment access for drug addicts and mandating that doctors register with an Oregon-wide prescription-monitoring system. The bill is currently moving through the Oregon Legislature, but it is widely expected to pass. The legislation has widespread bi-partisan support, and so many people wanted to testify in favor that leaders had to cut some off to make sure the committee working on the bill stayed on schedule.
Florida’s Fight Against Addiction
Politicians on the direct opposite side of the country are getting involved with this truly national problem as well. On February 6, 2018 Senator Marco Rubio of Florida asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and two federal agencies help combat the problem of disreputable treatment centers. He wants the Department of Justice to develop a strategy to investigate centers that abuse the system, specifically those that take bribes and make false statements to take advantage of government health care plans.
Senator Rubio wants to put an end to the, “Florida Shuffle,” a system of disreputable rehab facilities that operate in South Florida that don’t actually provide treatment but instead scam treatment seekers and the Federal Government. Millions of dollars that was meant to aid those members of society who are most in need of assistance has been lost to fraud.
These facilities not only conduct criminal activities, but they are also damaging the good name of the many top-rated and excellent treatment centers found in South Florida. The negative press surrounding recent high-profile arrests and news reports detailing this abuse has given millions of Americans a negative view of treatment and addicts in need of treatment an additional excuse to not attend. This has made it even less likely for many to get the treatment that they so desperately need, and for the government to turn the tide in the addiction epidemic. Hopefully, Senator Rubio’s request will be answered, and more action will be taken.
While access to health care continues to be a topic of global discussion, accessibility to specific treatment needs continues to be a challenge. In 2017, more than 100 million people in the United States lived in areas with a shortage of mental health professionals necessary to serve their populations, according to a Snapshot of Mental Illness infographic created by the online MSW program with University of Southern California.
Recovery at treatment centers may not always be feasible, but taking the necessary steps for treatment should always be a priority. What steps can rural Americans take to ensure they have access to treatment and stick to a recovery plan regardless of their location?
Updating a journal or planner every day to see visible progress while on a recovery plan can be both therapeutic and helpful for a patient.
Explore online recovery options.
From computer-based training to self-management, there are many online recovery programs to help patients stay motivated, deal with temptation, and manage emotions.
It’s important to note lapses may occur in the early months of treatment, but the ultimate goal is to avoid full relapses. A prevention strategy is to conduct an early assessment of specific relapse triggers, and educate clients’ family members about addiction and the recovery process. Retention in these types of treatments is an obstacle but also a priority that counselors try to mend. A few strategies to improve retention, according to NIH, are increasing the frequency of contact during early treatment, forming a working relationship with your client, and never giving up.
The opioid addiction epidemic has been increasing for many reasons. The prescriptions written for opioids have more than doubled since 2000. It is now the norm to be prescribed and take these drugs. Many even think these drugs are “cool” to take and pressure their peers to feel the euphoric high these medications have to offer. On top of that, manufacturers have been heavily marketing these drugs. However, there may be a new weapon in the fight against opioid addiction: the relationship between cigarettes and opioids.
Cigarettes and opioids act similarly in stimulating the brain and altering its function. When smoked, cigarettes release addictive chemicals that make you feel good. Once the brain detects the drug, it produces natural opioids, as well as an overabundance of dopamine, which is what produces a pleasurable feeling.
So, can smoking cigarettes effect your opioid dependence? A recent six-month study called the Management and Point-of-Care for Tobacco Dependence by The Ottawa Hospital, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, and the University of Ottawa was conducted to find out. The study concluded that a reducing the number of cigarettes smoked a day also reduced a smoker’s dependence on opioids. Interestingly, 96% of participants smoked cigarettes while only 9% of Ottawa’s general population smoked cigarettes. They wanted to conduct a study to see if they could reduce the use of addiction among the homeless in the area.
The risk for addiction is extremely high among the homeless due to lack of resources for food, shelter, and help with mental issues. They abuse drugs to deal with the daily stress their life of homelessness brings. For six months, the researchers followed around 80 Ottawa residents, giving them support, making them attend regular counseling meetings with a mental health specialist, and providing Nicotine Replacement Therapy (which included a patch, gum, and inhaler). The residents also attended life-skills workshops to support positivity in their futures.
The entire research study helped boost the residents’ confidence and their hope to improve their life for a successful future. This helped the participants mentally and physically so much that there was a drastic decrease in daily cigarettes used. At the beginning of the study, the average participant would smoke about 20 cigarettes a day. By the end of the study, they cut their consumption more than half, by averaging 9 cigarettes per day.
As a result of cutting down on the high number of cigarettes they smoked per day, along with the constant support, results showed there was an 18.8% decrease in the use of opioids among the participants, this included heroine, fentanyl and Oxycotin.
What Another Research Study Concluded
Another study conducted by the University of Michigan studied the effects of smoking cigarettes on the brain and how it affected the flow of opioids.
Participants consisting of six men who smoked a pack of cigarettes a day lied in a PET imaging scanner to have their brain scanned while they smoked cigarettes. What they found was that while the men smoked low-nicotine cigarettes, their brains changed the flow of opioids, compared to smoking regular cigarettes where opioid levels increased.
What was concluded was that nicotine binds to opioid receptors, ensuring the pleasurable feelings and increasing dependency on opioids.
Perhaps not smoking cigarettes would allow time for their brain to produce normal levels of opioids and allow a natural flow of these opioids. This produces a natural feel-good feeling, thus reducing the dependence on cigarettes and prescription opioids.
Every year, we create New Year’s resolutions to help us improve ourselves and our lives. Every year, we fully hope and intend to follow through with them. Most years, we don’t. Sometimes, we start off strong, only to sputter after a few weeks. If you are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction issues, this is the year to keep your New Year’s resolution to get sober and actually make a meaningful change in your life.
You’ve seen what your addiction has done to your life. You’ve watched as you slowly hurt everyone who loves you more and more, until bridges are completely burnt. You’ve watched as your career has suffered one day at a time, leaving you in a far different place than you had imagined or intended. You’ve watched financial and legal problems pop up, making it harder and harder for you to live your life the way you want and support the people who depend on you.
Luckily, all of that can stop. You may need help overcoming your substance abuse issues, but that’s not unexpected. If it was easy to stop using drugs and alcohol, the concept of an addiction wouldn’t even exist. Millions of Americans live with drug and alcohol addiction problems every day. The vast majority will never seek help. You can. You have it in your power to take the first steps towards sobriety.
Sobriety is a lifelong process, and that is a very difficult concept for those who are first starting out on a life free of substance abuse. The first few days, weeks, and months, are the hardest for most in recovery. There are so many changes in your life, from the people you socialize with to your daily routine. The cravings that you experience can be incredibly intense. Withdrawal can be an intensely painful and frightening process, and it can even be deadly if unsupervised in some circumstances.
Keep Your New Year’s Resolution To Get Sober
When you have a bad experience, especially one that can be as severe as withdrawal, you are often unwilling or unable to continue, and you are typically much less willing to try again. This is one of many reasons that so many addicts and alcoholics are discouraged from their solo attempts at recovery. However, when you have professional help, the process is significantly different and more positive.
Treatment experts know how to guide you through one of the most difficult challenges you will ever face. They can provide you with the medical, emotional, and psychiatric support that you need to get through the worst of withdrawal so that you start your journey to sobriety off right. Just as importantly, they will help guide you through the first days of sobriety, when it is most vulnerable and susceptible to relapse.
The truth is that a lot goes into staying sober. Most individuals develop substance abuse issues for a reason, and unless those underlying causes are addressed, it will prove extremely challenging to continue the recovery process successfully. Drug and alcohol rehab facilities provide the counseling that helps you get to the bottom of why you use and help you address your problems in a way that minimizes the likelihood of relapse. These facilities also provide you with numerous tools to use in your daily life that help you become happier, healthier, more successful, and sober.
You have a choice. This year can be the same as last year and the year before that. This year, you can stay the same. However, you can make this year different. This can be the year that you keep your New Year’s resolution to get sober. This can be the year you get help. This can be the year you’re in a much better place in December than in January. This can be the year that you set yourself up for success going forward. This is the year you can break free. This is the year you can start becoming the person you know you are inside. This is the year you can take your life back.
In high schools around the country, many students who abuse drugs aren’t doing so to slack off and get high. Instead, they’re using them to prop up their efforts to overachieve and excel. Faced with enormous pressures to compete and succeed, these students are turning to “study drugs” that can be dangerous, addictive, illegal, and even fatal. Here, we’ll examine some of the dynamics behind this disturbing trend.
What is a Study Drug?
Medications referred to as study drugs are usually stimulants prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but are instead used improperly by the person with a prescription, or illegally by someone without one. Since they work by increasing focus, students under pressure use them to improve concentration and increase stamina to help them study. Medications commonly misused for this purpose include Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, Focalin, and Vyvanse. Other medications used as study drugs include Modafinil, Adrafinil, and Phenylpiracetam. These are all types of nootropics, which are touted as helping to enhance cognitive functioning. Students usually obtain study drugs by purchasing them from students with a prescription or ordering them online.
Why Do Students Use Them?
Study drugs are used by students who view this as common practice to deal with the pressures they face for academic success. In addition to using study drugs to live up to academic pressures, students may use them to increase mental focus and productivity.
One example is the pressure experienced by many students who want to perform well on exams and finals. A large class load or an overwhelming amount of material may cause students to look for help concentrating elsewhere. This can lead to misusing ADHD drugs. In addition, students who have ADHD are sometimes pressured to sell their prescriptions around the time of finals. Studies have found that up to 29 percent of students with these prescriptions have been asked to sell or trade their medication to friends or classmates. According to a recent post by Counseling@NYU, which offers an online masters in school counseling from NYU Steinhardt, students with ADHD need both their medication and behavioral therapy for proper treatment, so selling their needed medicine to those who are not prescribed can create an unhealthy gap in their treatment plan.
What’s important in this context is being able to understand and identify contributing factors to the misuse of ADHD medication— so students can be offered better and more effective solutions.
Do Study Drugs Lead to Addiction?
In addition to the legal and academic ramifications of using study drugs, they also have many side effects and may lead to addiction for some young teens. Since the adolescent brain is still developing, the persistent abuse of study drugs could have “long-term cognitive and behavioral effects” that may contribute to developing an addiction in adulthood. This is further complicated by the fact that stimulants that are used to treat ADHD can be habit-forming and have a high potential for abuse. Individuals who don’t have ADHD but misuse drugs like Ritalin may be more susceptible to addictive effects.
In addition to addiction and other serious side effects, using some of these drugs can have very dangerous outcomes. For instance, an overdose of Adderall can lead to heart attack, stroke, and liver failure, and taking it with other substances can be fatal.
Better Tools for Success
Instead of relying on harmful, illegal, and potentially lethal study drugs to excel in school, students can rely on better tools to help them succeed, including:
Regardless of age, brains function best with the right amount of sleep.
Struggling students should be encouraged to talk to teachers, parents, and other resources when they feel overwhelmed.
Keeping track of deadlines helps students know what-needs-to-be-done-when to plan their study time accordingly.
While it’s important to be “well-rounded” and enjoy extra-curricular activities, academics need to be a priority to prevent last-minute pressure.
Overachievers can be too hard on themselves and should instead remember that nobody’s perfect.
It may be peaceful. There may be less traffic. However, getting adequate health care can be quite a challenge in rural America — particularly when addiction treatment and rehabilitation services are needed. Trying to get help for substance abuse or mental illness is a very different experience in these communities than it is in urban America. Here, we’ll examine why that’s the case.
Health Care in Rural America
It’s been well-documented that people in America’s rural areas face significant barriers accessing effective health care. That may partly explain why they’re more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions such as diabetes, cardiac issues, and cancer. A variety of factors influence this difficult dynamic, including:
a shortage of health care providers
decreased quality of care within available health care systems
transportation issues — either it’s too far to drive or transportation isn’t available
lack of financial resources to obtain care
social dynamics of small communities, such as lack of privacy
Access to Behavioral Health
For those living in rural America who are also struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues, the challenge is even greater. According to a 2016 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), people in these communities have a similar — and often higher — need for these services as those in urban communities but “have less access to the behavioral health continuum of care than do people in urban areas.” SAMHSA says there are three key issues that play a role:
If patients don’t consider treatment to be “relevant, beneficial, and worthwhile,” they won’t seek treatment. In some communities, there may be a normalization of substance abuse and certain types of mental illness, such as depression. Lack of privacy and lack of culturally appropriate treatment both have a major influence on whether an individual will seek help.
Specialized services are usually lacking in hospitals and clinics, and qualified practitioners trained in using evidence-based practices (EBPs) often aren’t available.
Issues such as lengthy travel requirements, lack of transportation, and poverty make it difficult for individuals to access the needed services.
These factors contribute to a dangerous scenario for rural Americans who need behavioral health services, but can’t reach them. A recent infographic from the University of Southern California’s online MSW program highlights how prevalent the worst-case scenario of suicide has become:
Suicide now ranks as the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States.
Rates of suicide for rural populations are higher than in urban areas.
Rates of suicide in rural areas are increasing faster than rates in metropolitan areas.
The Impact of the Opioid Epidemic
Across America, the opioid epidemic is taking an incredible toll, especially in rural communities.
In these communities, the labor intensity of the workforce — many are employed in industries like agriculture and mining — contributes to increased work-related injuries. With the lack of complementary therapies, such as physical therapy, small-town providers have traditionally used opioids as a significant component of pain management.
However, if a patient begins to abuse these substances — a dynamic that is enhanced by the social networks within small communities — there is limited treatment available.
The Role of Telehealth
The good news is that technology is providing new ways to improve care in rural communities. The increased use of telehealth in rural areas has expanded the availability of all types of health care, especially treatment for substance abuse and mental health.
Using information and communication technologies (ICTs), such as videoconferencing, email, and text messaging, telehealth is helping to overcome the barriers to acceptability, availability, and accessibility that rural Americans face.
“Telehealth may be part of the solution to improving access to behavioral health services in rural areas and increasing the likelihood that individuals living in rural locations will engage with the behavioral health system,” notes SAMHSA in its report, “Rural Behavioral Health: Telehealth Challenges and Opportunities:”
When it comes to addiction, one of the most difficult things for people to do is ask for help. In fact, asking for help can be so difficult that sometimes it seems easier to just continue living in a downward spiral rather than reach out.
For me personally, that was the case. There were many instances when I was drinking that I realized I probably needed help, but I didn’t know how to ask for it. Plus, I didn’t want to. I felt like asking for help was admitting that I had no control over my life, and I so desperately wanted to cling to feeling like I did have control. So, I just continued living the way I was, even though I was miserable. It was only once that help was forced upon me that I realized there were numerous ways in which I could have reached out when I was struggling.
If you find yourself in the same position, these are a few ways you can ask for help.
1. Write a letter or an email.
Though not the case for everyone, writing is sometimes easier than speaking, especially when it comes to asking for help. There is something about writing that allows you to collect your thoughts and organize them in a way that makes sense. Through doing so, you may even come to some new realizations about yourself and your struggles. Another benefit is that once you hit send or mail what you have written, there’s no going back. You can’t suddenly decide you don’t want help and undo your actions, and there is some relief in knowing that it’s out of your hands to an extent.
2. Ask for help from a medical professional.
Because addiction is a disease, medical doctors have training in knowing what to look for and how to proceed when someone needs help. If you know you are struggling, make an appointment with your doctor, and tell them what has been going on. They’ll likely have some questions for you in order to better assist you in the next steps. Not much fazes doctors, which is a comfort when admitting something that is difficult for you. Just remember that they’ve likely seen and heard it before.
3. Reach out to someone online or by phone.
There are so many resources on the internet, including helpline numbers, chat rooms, and websites for treatment facilities. A quick Google search will likely turn up a variety of options. Sometimes, it’s easier to admit to struggling from the safety of a computer rather than face-to-face with someone, and that is perfectly OK. It’s also helpful for some people to talk to a stranger first, before talking to someone they are familiar with. There is less fear of judgment that way. When you reach out to someone online or via telephone, they are able to direct you as to what the ideal next steps are for you depending on your particular situation. Of course, it’s up to you to take those steps.
4. Look for someone who has been through the same thing.
There is no one who has better advice than someone who has been through a struggle similar to yours and has come out the other side. These people are often more than willing to talk to you and try to understand your position. They likely remember what it was like to be where you are and will do what they can to ease your fears. You can ask them what worked for them and try to determine whether the same course of action would work well for you.
5. Talk to someone you trust greatly.
Most people have someone in their life that they know they can talk to about anything. If you have this person, turn to them. Even if they have no personal experience with addiction, they are a listening ear and can help you make sense of what is going on. There is comfort in knowing you have someone on your side and someone who will be there through the hard parts of life.
Not everyone struggling with addiction will be able to ask for help because the truth is that sometimes it is just too hard. The good news is that even if you can’t seek out help, help sometimes still finds its way to you. If you have any desire to reach out for help, do so. Chances are you will feel like a huge weight has been lifted and that you have taken steps in the right direction.
When I first heard that my parents were sending me to treatment for alcoholism, there were so many thoughts racing through my head. Among them were thoughts of what I would miss the most about drinking. I had a list: the adrenaline rush, the unpredictability, the easy connections with people, pre-gaming before a night out, and it went on.
I was so afraid that by getting sober, I would be making a choice to be unhappy and spend my lifetime missing everything related to drinking. Luckily, the reality couldn’t be further from that. Today, four and a half years sober, there is little I miss about drinking because the negative effects on my life far outweighed the positive. Chances are, the same will be the case for you. Here are just a few of the things you probably won’t miss about drinking once you stop.
1. The Hangovers
Oh, the hangovers. There is absolutely nothing enjoyable about peeling your eyelids open with a pounding in your head and a pit in your stomach. Hangovers, which are actually alcohol withdrawals, can be incredibly debilitating over time. Some hangovers may be a minor inconvenience, but others can keep you from doing anything productive with your day. It’s only once you stop experiencing hangovers that you realize how bad they truly are.
2. The Toll on Your Physical Appearance
Alcohol isn’t the best thing to put into your body, especially in excess. Depending on what you drink, you could be taking in way more calories and sugar than you realize. Additionally, getting drunk can make people hungry, which can result in drunken eating and possible weight gain. Over time, alcohol can also cause a bloated and overall unhealthy appearance. The thing is, when you’re actively drinking you don’t necessarily realize the toll it’s taking on your body, or you just don’t care. But when you remove alcohol, it becomes pretty obvious how it was affecting you physically.
3. Wondering Who You Need to Apologize to
One of the worst things about drinking and not remembering the night clearly was waking up and wondering who I owed my apologies to this time. More often than not, I had said or done something to upset someone when I drank. There was always a sense of dread in the mornings when I couldn’t remember the night’s events. It’s so freeing to wake up today and know exactly what I said and did the night before.
4. Retracing Your Steps to Find Your Phone/Purse/Keys/Etc.
If you’re a heavy drinker, you’ve most likely lost something during one of your nights out. If you’re a really heavy drinker, you probably have no idea where you lost said items. There’s nothing fun about having to ask around to find out where you were the night before and when people last saw you with your phone or purse or whatever you are missing. If you’re lucky, whatever you’re missing turns up, but sometimes it doesn’t. In sobriety, it’s easier to keep track of your possessions.
5. Spending Your Money
Drinking is expensive, especially during nights out and at bars. At the time, it may seem like a necessary cost. But when you stop drinking, you’ll realize just how much money you were spending on alcohol. In sobriety, you can keep that money and spend it on a passion, or even save it. The choice is yours.
6. Facing Legal Consequences
This is never fun. If you had a problem with drinking, you’ve likely faced legal ramifications as a result. Whether it be for drinking underage or a DUI or as a result of a drunken encounter, legal issues are stressful and expensive. In sobriety, you are in total control of your actions and in a better state of mind to make the right choices.
7. Having a Bad Reputation
When I drank, I had a bit of a reputation as the one who always went overboard. At the time, I laughed about it, even enjoyed it. The truth is that I missed having a reputation for being a responsible and kind person. Drinking had taken that away from me, and it wasn’t until I got sober that I found my way back to a good reputation.
8. Disappointing the People You Care About
This is probably one of the worst consequences of drinking. Disappointing the people who love you is one of the lowest feelings there is, especially when you promise them something won’t happen again and it does. Eventually, you begin to run out of chances with the people you love. In recovery, you have the chance to rebuild the trust and relationships.
9. Letting Your Morals Slip Away
Another unfortunate aspect of drinking is allowing yourself to lose sight of your morals. The things that used to be important to you begin to slip away as drinking takes a front and center role in your life. Alcohol has a way of changing what you find important, and not for the better. When you stop drinking, you have the chance to find your way back.
10. Losing Yourself
This is perhaps the hardest part of all when it comes to excessive drinking. It happens gradually. One day you look in the mirror, and you don’t recognize the person looking back. You realize that somewhere along the way, you lost yourself. Continuing to drink will just allow your old self to keep fading. Taking back control of your life allows you to rediscover the person you once were.
The bottom line is that even though there are things you think you will miss when you put the bottle down, it probably won’t be as bad as you anticipate. The things you gain in recovery are much greater than the ones you lose.
A recent study from the Radiological Society of North America has linked smartphone addiction with anxiety, depression, and more. As our society becomes more and more dependent on our phones for a variety of essential uses – communication, news, entertainment – smartphone addiction becomes more prevalent.
Researchers have discovered a link between the levels of GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) and longterm smartphone usage. The connection illustrates increased levels of GABA produced by those participants determined smartphone addicted youths of the study. This neurotransmitter inhibits brain signals, which in turn slows down motor functions and motor control.
Smartphone addiction as defined within the study is the tendency of smartphone usage to interrupt essential daily tasks, such as sleep and social interactions within the lives of the participants. This emerging type of addiction is especially common amongst teenagers, the chosen focus group of the study. However, as smartphone usage becomes more and more entwined with daily life, this addiction will only become more and more common.
Smartphones and Neurotransmitter Imbalance
Increased levels of GABA are linked to depression, anxiety, and insomnia as the ratio of GABA to other, more responsive, neurotransmitters is increased. When increased compared to the neurotransmitter Gix (glutamate-glutamine) in particular, correlations to drowsiness and anxiety were found among study participants.
The correlative findings of this study are a breakthrough in the understanding of addictions and the relationships between the chemical balances within the minds of those addicted. Overall, the correlations found between these neurotransmitters may relate a loss in functional integration and regulation of processing in the cognitive and emotional neural network. A loss of quality in daily routines, productivity, sleeping patterns, and emotional instability were all found to be linked to this sort of imbalance.
Luckily, chemical imbalances amongst the affected participants were found to improve through already normalized methods of treating other technology addictions, such as addictions to gaming. This type of cognitive behavioral therapy was found to radically decrease or even normalize the ratio between GABA and Gix.
As the long-term effects of this sort of loss and impairment have yet to be explored, studies such as these are crucial in order to begin to understand treatment of long-term smartphone addiction.
Opioids are taking the news headlines by storm, and rightfully so, as we are living amongst a deadly opioid overdose epidemic here in the U.S. People are dying from prescription pills every day, and we cannot do enough to reduce the number of these deaths. However, what we don’t hear enough about is alcohol and how deadly it is. Alcohol is the most socially acceptable drug on the market and the most easily accessible. Even with this knowledge, the general public still has a tendency to believe alcohol is ok, not dangerous, and an acceptable form of relaxation. Science tells us something different. Alcohol is the deadliest drug of all. Let’s look at why this is true.
Alcohol kills more people than all other drugs combined.
Alcohol is the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has reported that alcohol causes 88,000 deaths each year. Alcohol has shortened the lifespan of those 88,000 human beings by 30 years. All other drugs combined only cause 30,000 deaths a year. Alcohol is not only harmful to the individual, but it’s also harmful to society as a whole. Its negative effects are wide-ranging and can result in injuries, car accidents, violence, and sexual assault. Even with knowing this, alcohol is still more common than other drugs, and alcohol distributors and bartenders are not looked at like drug dealers who sell heroin and cocaine. Alcohol is different than other illicit substances that we know can cause overdose deaths because alcohol can also kill people slowly by deteriorating the body.
Alcohol is three times as harmful as cocaine or tobacco.
According to a study released in 2010 by a group of British scientists, alcohol was rated the most harmful drug overall and almost three times as harmful as cocaine or tobacco. In comparison, ecstasy was only one eighth as harmful as alcohol. This ranking encouraged the scientists to say that aggressively targeting the harms of alcohol is a necessary public health strategy. They also mentioned that the current drug classifications had little to do with the relation to the evidence of harm. Just because cocaine and heroin are illegal doesn’t make them more dangerous. The World Health Organization estimates risks linked to alcohol cause 2.5 million deaths worldwide each year from heart and liver disease, road accidents, suicides, and cancer. On the scale given by the scientists, alcohol received a score of 72 out of 100. Heroin received a 55, while crack received a 54.
Alcohol is more easily accessible than most other drugs.
Even though it is the deadliest drug, alcohol is legal in the U.S. and Britain, as well as many other countries around the world. As we can see from this study and alcohol’s far-reaching effects, legal substances cause just as much damage, or more, than illegal substances. This might be in part because of how easy it is to access alcohol. Most people don’t even call alcohol a drug because of its acceptance and accessibility in our society. Did you know that more people enter treatment facilities for alcohol misuse than any other drug? According to Psychology Today, only 50 percent of Americans drink. Of that 50 percent, the majority of alcohol is consumed by the top 10 percent. Those heavy drinkers consume about 73 drinks per week. This means that Big Alcohol must sell to heavy, problematic drinkers. Their target market is a group of people are sick and suffering. This is no different from regular drug dealers who depend on consumers to buy their products.
Alcohol directly causes a variety of diseases.
Last year, we learned that alcohol is the direct cause of 7 forms of cancer. Even light to moderate drinkers are at risk. The study, published in the journal Addiction, provided evidence that alcohol is the direct cause of breast, liver, colon, esophagus, and other types of cancer. The researchers also mentioned that there is growing evidence, though not conclusive yet, that alcohol also causes skin, prostate, and pancreatic cancer. Alcohol also causes fatty liver disease, cirrhosis of the liver, and alcohol hepatitis. These conditions can kill drinkers slowly and over many years. Heavy drinking can weaken the heart and affect how oxygen and nutrients are delivered to certain organs in your body. Prolonged and excessive alcohol use can also interfere with brain function and structure. Not to mention the secondhand events that occur like car accidents, DUI’s, drunken injuries, toxic relationships, and destruction of property.
The truth is alcohol is the deadliest drug and the research and statistics prove this. In a country that is focusing solely on the current opioid epidemic, these facts are a good reminder that alcohol is deadlier and more socially acceptable than other drugs. Next time someone tries to justify drinking alcohol, remember it causes cancer and other diseases, it’s three times as harmful as cocaine or tobacco, and it causes more deaths than all other drugs combined. We shouldn’t just accept alcohol was a part of life; we should talk about just how deadly it is.