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Alcohol is Still the Deadliest Drug

Alcohol is Still the Deadliest Drug


Source: Chicago Tribune

August 11, 2015


Media attention given to heroin abuse has led to a misconception by the public.


Most people believe that heroin addiction is far more serious than alcoholism. That, however, is a myth fueled in large part by the media attention given to heroin abuse.


“Don’t get me wrong. Heroin abuse is a very serious issue, especially as the addiction rates are increasing dramatically in our suburbs,” says David Bohl, Executive Director of Kiva Recovery, a substance abuse and treatment center in Vernon Hills. “But the tsunami of media coverage about heroin addiction has taken some needed attention away from the dangers of alcohol.”


For instance, did you know that alcohol is far more dangerous than heroin or crack? So says a study in the UK — and this discovery has important implications because it means that legal drugs are causing more problems than illegal ones.


Researchers used a number of criteria to determine the potential damage of various drugs including alcohol, ranking them based on how destructive they are to the individual who takes them and to society as a whole. Each drug was given a danger score out of 100. Alcohol scored the highest with a danger of 72; heroin scored 55 and crack cocaine scored 54.


Alcohol 72

Heroin 55

Crack 54

Crystal meth 33

Cocaine 27

Tobacco 26

Amphetamine/speed 23

Cannabis (marijuana) 20

GHB 18

Benzodiazepines (e.g. valium) 15

Ketamine 15

Methadone 14

Mephedrone (aka drone, MCAT) 13

Butane 10

Khat 9

Ecstacy 9

Anabolic steroids 9


Buprenorphine 6

Mushrooms 5


Experts said alcohol scored so high because it is so widely used and has devastating consequences not only for drinkers but also for those around them.


Let’s take a closer look. First of all, the prevalence of alcohol abuse is much greater than heroin abuse. According to 2013 SAMHSA survey, 681,000 people reported using heroin in the past year. The same survey found that 52.5% of Americans aged 12 or older reported being current drinkers of alcohol, 22.9% (60.1 million people) were binge alcohol users in the past 30 days, and heavy drinking was reported by 6.3% or 16.5 million people.


It’s a well-known fact that when drunk in excess, alcohol damages nearly all organ systems. But did you also know that it is connected to higher death rates and is involved in a greater percentage of crime than most other drugs, including heroin? In fact, according to DrugWarFacts, the CDC found that alcohol kills more people than all other illicit drugs combined and is associated with more crime than other intoxicating substances. A recent article in the Washington Post explains that 40% of people incarcerated for violent crimes had been drinking at the time they committed these offenses. Among those who had been drinking, average blood-alcohol levels were estimated to exceed three times the legal limit.


Further, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the link between alcohol abuse and both the prevalence and severity of domestic violence is undeniable. The World Health Organization says that, “Studies of intimate partner violence routinely identify the recent consumption of alcohol by perpetrators.” A WHO fact sheet states that victims believed their partner to have been drinking prior to 55% of physical assaults in the US.


Says Bohl, “It’s clear that drugs that are legal such as alcohol cause at least as much damage, if not more, than drugs that are illicit. Which is why while we should never minimize the severity of heroin addiction, it’s important not to turn our attention away from the dangers of alcohol abuse. If you think you or someone you know has a problem with drugs or alcohol, help is just a phone call away.”