Alcohol is one of the deadliest habit-forming drugs the world has ever known, but you rarely see this reflected in public discourse and media coverage. With that in mind, we have collected five not-so-subtle reminders of why alcohol is so dangerous.
There’s no doubt about it – alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs the human race has ever known. Even so, it is often downplayed (or even overlooked) as a cause of societal harm. But the fact that alcohol is such a deeply ingrained part of human culture makes it an even greater risk. People become addicted to alcohol – and their lives forever changed – in large part because the risks of alcohol are so often downplayed.
In this post, we are going to look at five telling reasons why alcohol is the most dangerous drug in the world:
1. Alcohol is a Deadly Drug
Alcohol may not offer the acute per-use risk of so-called hard drugs, but it achieves a much higher death toll. For example, in the UK, alcohol claims more lives each year than heroin and crack – which take second and third place, respectively. This has led to calls to scrap the classification of drugs as ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ and reinvest that energy into a concerted campaign specifically against alcohol.
If you limit the sample of at-risk persons to heroin or crack users, that sample would be at a much higher per-person risk than the entire set of all alcohol users. But when you look at society as a whole, there is no question that alcohol takes many more of our lives each year. Take the US as an example, where alcohol kills five times more people per year than every other drug combined. Alcohol is – without a doubt – the overall deadliest drug on the planet.
2. Alcohol is Widely Consumed
While hard drugs may offer more pronounced risks for those who are in the process of using them, alcohol is much more widely consumed. One of the most startling alcohol-related statistics has to do with just how much of it people drink. According to the World Health Organisation, an average of 6.2 litres per year of pure alcohol is consumed by each person over the age of 15 in the world. This translates to 13.5 grams (or just shy of one standard drink) per person per day.
Of course, not everyone is drinking this much. Some people do not drink at all, and most do not drink every day. But all this means is that those who are drinking consume more than the daily per capita average. And in many cases, they are drinking much more. This dramatically increases the risk of health issues, accidents and a host of other problems for those who consume alcohol.
3. Alcohol Contributes to Sexual Assault
There is plenty of research linking increased alcohol use to increased violence against women. One oft-quoted Harvard study looked at university campuses in the US and found that those with a reputation for binge drinking also had a higher reported incidence of sexual assault. In fact, it found female students on campuses known for binge drinking had a 150 per cent higher chance of being raped.
This phenomenon is by no means linked specifically linked to universities. Several other studies have found that perpetrators are likely to be intoxicated. And the same is often true for victims. Alcohol is clearly an instigator for sexual assault around the world. The more people consume, the more likely that tragic incidents like this will occur.
4. Alcohol Makes People Unhappy
We are not talking about general malaise. According to the Grant Study – which began at Harvard University in 1938 and remains one of the longest-running studies of its kind in the world – alcohol abuse was the ‘greatest disruptor’ of happiness for the subjects involved.
The Grant Study found many negative correlations between alcohol abuse and discontented life:
- Alcoholism was the main cause of divorce for subjects.
- It correlated strongly with major depression and other mental health issues.
- It was the single-greatest contributor to morbidity and death.
At The Cabin Dhaka, studies like the Grant Study reaffirm what our practitioners see on a daily basis. Alcohol abuse is an acutely disruptive force for the mental health of our clients.
5. Alcohol Abuse is Often Overlooked by Mainstream Media Sources
The reality of this particular point varies from one place to the next, but it is safe to say that alcohol use is often championed by media outlets, advertisers and popular culture in general. Mainstream media sources are much more likely to cover the perils of hard-drug addiction than those of alcohol. The reason for this is complex and has a great deal to do with societal norms. Alcohol use is widespread, and media outlets are prone to downplay or even ignore alcohol-related deaths and problems.
The UK’s David Nutt (a specialist in drug research) made this issue crystal-clear when he surveyed news reports of drug-related deaths in the 1990s and compared them with coroners’ reports. He found the following relationships between officially reported drug deaths and those covered by the media:
- Aspirin – 1 in 275 reported
- Morphine – 1 in 72 reported
- Heroin – 1 in 5 reported
- Methamphetamines – 1 in 3 reported
- Ecstasy – 13 in 14 reported
Nutt concluded that the first two entries in this list received little media coverage because they presumably were not of interest to media consumers. A total of 2,225 people in Scotland died of (non-alcohol) drug-related deaths over that period. Some 2,000 to 3,000 people also died of alcohol-related deaths over the same period – upwards of 70 times the number of those involved in ecstasy-related deaths. Even so, alcohol-related deaths received little coverage.
Alcohol Abuse Deserves More Attention than it Receives
Opinions on alcohol vary between countries and from one culture to the next. Even so, it is safe to say that alcohol is more dangerous than many people realise. This can lead to lax attitudes regarding the risks of alcohol abuse – as well as its promotion and glorification.
If you or someone you care about is exhibiting risky alcohol-related behaviour, early intervention is essential. The addiction counsellors at The Cabin Dhaka are experienced at helping our clients understand the real risks of alcohol abuse. Call us today on +88 0177 152 8086 to arrange a confidential assessment.