Everywhere we look, we see ads, memes, commercials and slogans about drinking and alcohol. “Wine Wednesday,” “Turn Up Tuesday” and “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere,” are all examples of the things we see or say on a regular basis as it relates to alcohol.
Outside of bars, you can buy alcohol at grocery stores, gas stations, drug stores and events of all kinds. You can’t flip through a magazine or watch television without seeing advertisements about wine, hard liquor or beer depicting that alcohol will make you the most desirable and fun person on earth. Because of how common drinking has become, most people do not even realize this substance is an addictive drug.
Our society has unfortunately created a concept about alcohol that makes it seem more innocent than other drugs. It says, “it’s no big deal to drink regularly or heavily and that everyone should be able to drink ‘normally.’”
Our culture communicates that it’s some kind of right of passage to drink heavily and nurse a hangover the next day. When in reality, alcohol can be an extremely dangerous drug. It is a mind-altering substance with the ability to develop serious dependencies, with a stronger likelihood of doing so than is usually warned. Alcohol is highly addictive and can be extremely dangerous, both while someone is under the influence and when facing withdrawals that result from addiction. Both scenarios can be fatal.
So, why is it that it is socially acceptable and legal to consume alcohol – an addictive drug — but street drugs are viewed in a different manner? Both have the same effects and outcomes, so why aren’t they viewed with the same considerations? This article aims to dissect the myth of “It’s just alcohol” — the downplaying of alcoholism — and to understand how this misconception is harming people.
The Stigma of Alcohol Addiction
When asked to name specific drugs, street drugs such as cocaine, heroin or even opioids probably come to mind, while alcohol rarely comes up.The lesser stigma surrounding alcohol addiction compared to other drugs can lead to less urgency in seeking help. This is because most people think they have to hit “rock bottom” or have intense symptoms, such as the shakes, every day to signal a need for help.
When Social Drinking Becomes A Problem
The sad fact is that because of our culture’s glorification of drinking, many people hesitate to seek help because drinking is so widely and socially accepted.
Most people think of alcohol as a harmless stress reliever or way to have fun. Often, people with a substance use disorder will compare themselves to other addicts and think their issue isn’t as bad or that they have it more under control. They may also be influenced by the amount of drinking their peers partake in, unable to recognize it is an unhealthy standard.
However, what usually starts as social drinking or drinking to relax can quickly become a nasty habit leading to alcohol dependency. It’s important to know how to recognize when you or someone you know crosses over from social drinking to addiction.
Signs of an alcohol addiction may include:
– Drinking alone in secret or hiding how much is consumed
– Blacking out
– Inability to limit intake of alcohol and increase in consumption
– Extreme cravings for alcohol
– The onset of alcohol withdrawal symptoms once they stop drinking
Why Alcohol Addiction Is a Serious Addiction
In actuality, alcohol should never be treated as a lesser addiction, especially since it affects millions of people every single day. According to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “Approximately 7.2 percent or 17 million adults in the United States ages 18+ had an Alcohol Use Disorder in 2012.” 1 This number has increased since then.
Furthermore, in a Psychology Today article, it reported that alcohol causes 88,000 deaths every year and is responsible for shortening the lifespan of those 88,000 by 30 years, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.2
In addition, alcohol withdrawal can be fatal. A person with an alcohol dependency will typically need to be under medical supervision as they detox, just as with other drugs. You can literally die from alcohol withdrawal if the symptoms are not properly managed, a scary and startling fact.
We must start viewing alcohol as a drug and educate people about how detrimental its effects can be. Addiction to alcohol is just as much a pressing issue, if not more so, as any and all other substances.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, contact us today to learn more about treatment options. There are many choices available to help you or your loved one get back on track and get on the path to recovery.
1 “Alcohol Use Disorder.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed 20 August 2017.