Drugs ‘and alcohol’

Following a discussion with a friend about the incidence and prevalence of illicit drugs, in comparison to the incidence and prevalence of alcohol (whereby our opinions different considerably), I thought it might be cool and/or insightful to do a post on drugs and alcohol. And since I’m studying a masters of science in Addiction(s), I’m hoping I may be qualified enough to put a few thoughts and opinions on the subject out into the world without pissing too many people off (if that’s still possible in 2019 hehe).

In short – we were having a discussion about illicit, class A drugs – which are illegal to make, sell or use here in the U.K and pretty much all other parts of the world. The most commonly used illicit drugs being cocaine/crack cocaine, MDMA/ecstasy, ketamine, amphetamines (such as speed), heroin and hallucinogenics (mushrooms, LSD etc). And it’s no secret that these illicit / club drugs are used recreationally among our society, much in the same way that alcohol is.

Thus sparks the controversial debate as to why drugs and alcohol are regarded separately, giving alcohol a special status of its own i.e ‘drugs AND ALCOHOL’ when alcohol is essentially just that. With an estimated alcohol-specific death rate of over 3 million a year (roughly 8,000 of which within the U.K.), it has severe adverse effects on the mind and body when consumed in larger quantities. Effects such as extreme agitation / anxiety, interrupted sleep, seizures and in some cases hallucinations. And when consumed over a period of time causes irreversible damage to crucial organs in our bodies such as the liver (predominately), nervous system, heart and brain. Pretty gnarly shit really.

Looking at two of the most addictive substances on earth for example; alcohol and cigarettes which, unsurprisingly, are significantly detrimental to our health, yet are legal to buy in our local corner shop with no limit on the strength or quantity that we can purchase at any one time – only adds to an ever growing body of evidence suggesting an unprincipled and somewhat corrupt government. But you already knew that.

So now is probably a good time to mention that my argument is not that class A drugs should be legalised. My argument is – HOW have we created such a stigma surrounding the use of illicit drugs?? Especially when the vast majority of us partake in regular binge drinking and/or smoking. Does the term sanctimonious spring to your mind too?

Most experts will agree that alcohol is more harmful than pretty much all illicit drugs. And this consensus draws support for a number of studies in recent years. Studies which reveal alcohol to be THE most harmful substance (suggested to be 3x more harmful than cocaine and 8x more harmful than pure ecstasy for reference) in terms of the risks and harms associated with each, as well as being the leading cause of death each year. I think Saturday night A&E staff would also agree with these statistics!

It is also known as the number 1 ‘gateway drug’ on a global scale!

So is there actually any difference between alcohol and ‘drugs’? Both are mind-altering chemicals.. both can be highly addictive.. both can be dangerous.. So I guess they only differ in their legal status and social acceptability. In that, alcohol is legal and street drugs are not. Which ultimately leads to lack of knowledge in terms of what alcohol actually is – a REAL drug.

Opioids on the other hand have been taking the news headlines by storm for years, and rightfully so, as we are living amongst a bit of an opioid epidemic here in the U.K. However, what we don’t hear enough about is alcohol and just how serious the adverse effects associated with excess consumption really are. Yet still, alcohol is the most socially acceptable drug on the market and the most easily accessible. But even with this acknowledged, the general public still has a tendency to believe alcohol to be non-dangerous, or at least not really, not in comparison to “actual drugs”. Although scientific research on the subject reveals an extensiveee amount of conflicting evidence.

But most importantly and from a more ‘health-care provider’ perspective, this stigma surrounding illicit drug use is shown to massively effect an individuals sense of self-worth, especially when considering a predisposition to low self-worth/self-esteem is a huge contributing factor to drug and alcohol misuse. So surely the use of such substances that are labelled as unprincipled among our society is only going to exacerbate an existing problem. My take on the matter is to hold no preconceived or judgemental opinions. Stigma only worsens a situation. And when you think about it, there really is minimal difference between a homeless person on the streets of Liverpool addicted to a substance, and a middle-class professional entering a pharmacy to collect their prescription drugs in which they cannot function without.

Remember:

Drugs “and alcohol” have a lot more in common than what distinguishes them from one another.

And:

Any form of substance which alters your behaviour and perception needs to be taken very cautiously and with a great deal of respect. Have fun and stay safe always.

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