Drugs Vs Alcohol: Is One Addiction Worse Than The Other?
This is a very interesting and controversial question, and I wanted to take a stab at getting my view out about the subject. Two of the worse afflictions that plague most societies in the world, are alcoholism and drug addiction. Though as many have pointed out, each can be better or worse than the other, depending on the situation.
So in order to discover the best possible answer to this question, first we must dissect it. Break it down and understand it. Then we can go from there to deduce a calculate answer that might help clear some things up.
What makes an addiction bad?
The first thing to examine, is the word "worse". I suggest this, because the question is subjective precisely because of the word "worse". It can hold many meanings to different thinkers. So let's take a look at what can take a drug or drinking problem from a passion to an obsession and into the world of problem addictions. What makes them bad?
1. Societal Norms
Drinking and enjoying recreational substances is nothing new to humanity. Though what is relatively new, are laws against these acts. With this whole majority/minority deal going, many people are subject to laws and societal rules put in place to decide if something is wrong or right. If you happen to be in a society that feels drinking isn't so bad, but doing drugs is way out of line - then having a drug addiction would be seen as much worse then an alcohol problem. It could also work the other way, if you were in a society that view alcoholism as a worse problem then drugs.
2. Health Consequences
Over time, our bodies will age, wear and fade away. It happens. And as of yet, there is no magic fountain of youth to stop that from happening. Though even with the absolute fact of this, we are also stifled with the knowledge that the human body is designed to live approximately 180 years or more. Yet your average human rarely sees anything over the age of 80 years. Even the longest living of our species have yet to make it over 120, and several of them had a regular six pack of beer and pack of smokes every day, among other things.
So we cannot necessarily say that drugs or drinking are the main causes of premature deaths in our genus, though we do have plenty of definitive evidence that unnatural, man-made or broken down substances - including alcohol - can accelerate the age and condition of our bodies. When this starts to happen, most people stop with what they have been doing and allow their bodies to heal. Though for a person with an addiction, they are not endowed with such willpower and will often continue with their habit until it breaks their body down along with their mind. In this instance, you could judge that the worse addiction, is the one that takes more of a toll on the human body in the shortest amount of time.
Everyone has a person view about the things that effect them. It's that little voice in your head that tells you when you are doing something wrong or right. That voice might agree with societal norms or religious views, or it might disagree. Either way, that little voice in your head, plays a part in this question. If your moral mind says that it's not good to pollute the body in anyway, than alcoholism and drug addictions are equally as bad. Though if your the average person, there are some drugs and some kinds of drinks that are seen as better or worse on the scale of addictions. There are definitely plenty of grey areas, but it will ultimately come down to what you think. What's worse? Drug addiction or Alcoholism?
4. Effects on Others
This is a key factor that I hope everyone takes into account. Alcoholism and drug addiction take more than just a toll on the abuser. The question is, how many people are affected by the individual abuser. Someone with no family, who lives on a secluded forest home, probably wouldn't effect too many other people around them. Though someone with a family, kids or who is in a relationship, will impact a lot of others lives around them. Sometimes addictions will affect a persons career as well, and as we know all to well, some addictions can effect total strangers. Such as when a drunk barrels down the road and runs someone over, or when a drug addict robs a store to get money for their next fix. Depending on how many people are co-affected by the addiction, can make one worse than the other.
If you can't afford to pay your bills, yet you choose to buy alcohol or drugs with your remaining funds, that can be a lot worse than a person who pays all their bills and uses surplus funds to provide for their recreational substances. Both drugs and drinking are expensive, though some are more expensive then others. A person with an addiction to cheap boxed wine might be seen of more of a nusaunce than a problem, whereas someone whose pawned everything they know for some meth, would be seen as much worse of a problem. It could also be reversed, where an alcoholic might spend their whole paycheck on a night out at the bar finishing off expensive drinks, and that would be much worse than someone who occasionally bought some shrooms to enjoy with a friend.
There can be other factors involved in deciding what makes drugs or drinking worse, though I'll leave those up to you. For now, let's finish dissecting this question and get to the answer.
Alcoholism: Breaking it down
Going by the above factors, let's break down alcoholism and see how bad it really is right now.
Society: There are approximately 6.92 Billion people in the world. Out of that six bill, there are about 2 Billion who consume alcoholic beverages to one degree or another. It is estimated that more than 76 Million of those alcohol consumers are afflicted with at least one form of alcoholic disorder (meaning they have an abuse problem of varying degrees). So 20% of those who consume alcohol, have an alcohol problem. That's about every 2 out of 10 people. Which means that there are a lot of people in society effected by alcoholism, even if they aren't the abuser. You could estimate that for every addict, there are at least 3 people that are directly effected by their alcohol problem, which would be around 228,000,000 people.
Health: Alcohol is very particular when it comes to how we digest and metabolize it. Our body works the same to digest it like food, but those processes are wasted because only 20% of the alcohol is actually digested by our stomach. The rest gets dumped right onto your poor small intestine, which sends the rest of the alcohol directly into the blood stream. Once alcohol hits the blood stream, it goes right for it's favorite spot - the bodies watering holes. You might not believe it, but one of the places where the most water is stored in your body, is your brain. The rest is distributed through every one of your organs and then through your body fat and finally into your muscles. Our bodies are 90% water, which means that even though the alcohols power is somewhat diluted with the water, it is much more effective and effecting every part of your body. Women will also want to watch themselves because of this fact, because a woman's body has more water than the average male, for many biological reasons.
Alcohol is rather nasty in that it effects your main organs worse before it gets through the rest of the body, which could probably handle it better. Your liver, spleen, pancreas, heart and brain are some of the first few that will be effect first and they will be hit the hardest because the alcohol has not had as much time to dilute. On top of this, a person with an alcoholic problem will start to get delayed highs, not because of their tolerance level, but because their stomach is now very irritated from the alcohol and will trap it inside itself in an attempt to protect the body. When the stomach does this, it produces a thick layer of protective lining that will protect it for short whiles and eat away at it if the lining isn't digested soon. So someone with a drinking problem will often experience ulcers and small intestine problems and still have to deal with the poisoning of their main organs.
Because of problems created through alcohol abuse, approximately 70,000 people die every year. Most from complications of their abuse, and not from the alcohol itself. This is because the alcohol is a poison, and it kills you through causing failure in your important organs.
Morality: Your morality can vary depending on what you have experience with alcohol. I have found that most alcoholics are much worse than most drug addicts, but that is because I have experienced alcoholics who had worse problems than the people I have met with drug addictions. Which isn't to say that I have not had the unfortunate experience to come across may drug addicts with habits that could rival the worse alcoholics.
To give you a wider view, most societies and religions consider alcoholism to be much better than drug addiction. Though these views might correspond with my own, I still find the morality of alcoholism to be subjective. It can be worse than drug addiction, and it can be worse.
What does your conscience tell you?
Effects on Others: It is said that more than 200,000 people die from alcohol related illnesses, accidents and problems every year. It is estimated that between 13,000 and 18,000 of those people die from an alcohol related car crash every year, which is approximately one person every 40 minutes. The rest often die from from organ failure, cancer, falling accidents, violence or suicide.
Affordability: In America, around $57 billion is spent on alcohol per year. In Canada, the average is $18 billion. The number is $34.62 billion in Australia. This amount varies according to the economies, but in general, it gives you an idea of how much alcohol is being bought around the world. Just from these three countries, we can see $109 billion going down the tube (literally).
We should also discuss the different types of alcohol.
Wine is considered to be the lightest of the alcohols, as it is not very potent and takes longer to circulate through the body. It is also a lot less processed than most beers or liquors. Even with these factors, most decent wines cost well over what a case of beer or a few bottles of liquor might cost. Which is probably why wine is not nearly as much of a problem as other forms of alcohol.
Beer is a grain alcohol, which means it must be processed and broken down much more than wine, but it is much less refined then liquor. So it effects you less than liquor but more than wine, while at the same time, leaves you with more empty calories than either wine or liquor.
Liquor is the worst of all the categories. It is more commonly known as Hard Alcohol, and it gets it's name because it is much purer than other forms, as well as much more potent. Though these vary characteristics are why hard liquor is so much worse on the body. It takes longer to break down and get out of your system and packs more of a punch for all of your vital organs.
So an addiction to hard liquor is much worse than wine or beer in terms of health. An addiction to wine or hard alcohol is worse than beer in terms of money spent. While beer is much worse of an addiction simply because it is much easier to afford and digest.
Drugs: Breaking it down...
Health: Because there are so many different types of drugs (of which alcohol should truly be included), let's break things down even further in this section.
How many people die each year from drugs?
Heroine - 6500 people
Cocaine - 2800 people
Meth - 3000 people
Esctacy/Ebombs - 60 people
Acid/LSD - 5 people (none die from overdose, most from suicide)
Prescription Drugs/Pharmaceuticals - 200,000 people
Shrooms - 3 people (most from misidentifying mushroom/eating poisonous mushrooms or from a bad trip. None died from the correct psychadelic mushrooms.)
Tobacco - 1 Million people
Marijuana/Cannabis - 0 People
So that's 1,212,368 people per year that die from various types of drugs. As you can see from this short list, some of these drugs have faster and more debilitating effects (like pharmaceuticals or tobacco), where others show very little harm (like marijuana, shrooms or LSD). Everything can be abused. There are also many in these numbers who aren't counted for mixing drugs, dying from the drug war or from illnesses caused by these substances.
Social: Most societies around the world have prohibited one form of drug or another, and for many different reasons. None of them have thus far proved to be good or just reasons, but they are reasons none the less. As for most of the worlds people, drugs are scrutinized depending on their health consequences and how they affect other people.
Morality: Most societies frown on unnatural substances going into the body. So where shrooms, marijuana or payote might be considered acceptable recreational substances when used responsibly, man-made or synthesized drugs would be a big no-no. Pharmaceuticals, one of the biggest killers, seems to be the only one that has escaped most people's moral judgement, as it is passed on as some form of cure or another. So it isn't until someone is arrested or dies from their pharma addiction, that anyone really thinks twice about it (in most cases).
Effects on Others: The effects that a drug addict has on others can vary from person to person, but in general, it is the same as alcohol. You can count on there being at least 3 people in the addicts life who are adversely effected by the addicts addiction. That's at least 3,637,104 people.
Affordability: There are no exact answers for this in terms of illegal drugs, though through all my research, the most calculated guesstimate I can give you is an average of $36,000 per year just for your average drug addict. We could also guesstimate that approximately 1,600,000 people per year are addicted to drugs, most of which are cigarettes and pharma. That would give us approximately $57.6 billion per year. For pharmaceuticals alone, it's easier to get more precise estimate, as that is usually recorded and comes out to a whopping $278 Billion (or more) per year.
Drugs are expensive! Which is why scoundrels on both the legal and illegal side of the fence make so much from them...
Adding it all up
2 billion people drink, 76 million have an alcohol problem. Because most illegal drug users don't report their usage, we can only truly guess, though from the number of deaths per year, we could say that over 3 million people use drugs (mostly pharmaceuticals). Of those, between 20 to 30% are likely to be addicts, which would be approximately 900,000 people.
Strangely, even though alcohol clearly has an effect on way more people than drugs do, alcohol is often seen as the lesser of two evils. Go figure?
Approximately 70,000 people a year, die from alcohol related illnesses. Keep in mind that this number doesn't include the number of people who see doctors everyday for alcohol related problems. An estimated 1,212,368 people die from drug abuse, most of which is from pharmaceuticals and allergic reactions. Only about a 3rd of that total number is from illegal substances.
So from a life and death perspective, alcohol would appear to have the upper hand, especially in comparison to prescription drugs. Keep in mind though, that while drugs may kill more people, way more people abuse alcohol then drugs. Basically, alcoholism takes longer to kill you then most drugs.
Morality: Most societies take the view that drugs are worse than alcohol, though most of this belief has no logical background to it. Either way, it counts. Which gives another point to alcohol.
Effects on Other People:
At least 228,213,000 are effected by alcoholics and their abuse. At least 2,700,000 people are effected by drug addicts and their abuses. Looks like another point for drugs in this one. Because drugs are not as commonly abused as alcohol, they effect less people. It's also easier to hide many drug problems, which can also account for lower numbers. An alcoholic is pretty noticeable in most cases, where as a drug addiction can go on for years before it's truly noticed.
It looks like we have an estimate of $335.6 billion is spent on drugs per year (and going up in price), and $109 billion is the approximate amount spent of purchasing alcohol. Which gives another point towards alcoholism, for not hitting the pocket book as hard as your average drug addiction. We must consider though, that the costs are mostly this way, because alcohol is legal in almost every part of the world, whereas most drugs are illegal, which raises their value.
So if we go by these statistics, you could say that alcoholism is not as bad as a drug addiction, because it costs less, takes longer to kill a person and is considered more morally acceptable.
Though morals are continually changing and redefining themselves all over the world. So alcohol could be out on it's bum if drugs were not prohibited, were considered more morally acceptable and they weren't as highly valued. Drugs would also get another big push if pharmaceuticals were made better and not pushed on people so often, as that would lower the number of drug related deaths by a ton.
A final note...
I just wanted to add in, that though I worked tirelessly to find the best statistics available, some of these numbers were estimated solely on the lack of information or were calculated from other bits of information that is available. So these numbers are not completely accurate. I encourage you to go and research this interesting question for yourself, and see what you come up with.
For now, tell me how you feel with this fun poll question
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