Alcohol is just as dangerous as drugs, and we should treat it that way 

I was watching an episode of American Pickers and they featured an old bootleg liquor still. They talked of the history of the period, and it occurred to me that the bootleggers were the drug manufacturers and dealers of their time. And yet to this day, we can and should consider even lawful manufacturing and distribution of alcohol to be a drug operation on a massive scale. 

For those not familiar with how many Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings are structured, a typical 90-minute gathering begins with random volunteers in attendance reading organizational pieces of literature. These readings are an important aspect of NA and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. 

The last paragraph of the NA reading called “How it Works” reads as follows: “Thinking of alcohol as different from other drugs has caused many addicts to relapse. Before we came to NA, many of us viewed alcohol separately, but we cannot afford to be confused about this.” 

At this time it’s common for most all attendees to say in unison, “Alcohol is a drug.” And it’s not unusual for one or more folks to emphatically add the word “period” at the end of that last sentence. 

The reading concludes: “We are people with the disease of addiction who must abstain from all drugs in order to recover.” 

My dear friend Alice was an addict. Her drug of choice for a significant period of time was crack cocaine. She also took a lot of cough and cold medicine over the years. She was taken to the emergency room several times after having taken as many as 64, yes, sixty freaking four cough and cold pills. But it was the damn alcohol that eventually took her life. Legal, cheap, and readily available. 

I’m not about to suggest that we revive Prohibition. We tried that already. But we do need to do something, don’t we? Even if it’s just a matter of attempting to influence the narrative and culture around alcohol. Call it out loudly and consistently as being a drug. And not just any drug. It’s a drug that kills and the statistics bear that out. An estimated 95,000 people die from alcohol-related deaths annually, making alcohol the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States. 

But it’s not just about alcohol. Or opioids or any other dangerous drug. It’s about the disease of addiction. And it’s very much about the internal pain that drives people to self medicate. My friend Alice used and boozed to cope with her chronic emotional and psychological pain. If we were able to further break down the stigmas around mental health and other reasons that cause so many people to use and abuse alcohol and other drugs then I believe that would go a long way toward saving countless lives. 

Perhaps creating a stigma around alcohol as being a drug just like crack or opioids could help? I honestly don’t know what the solution is, but we do need to go about trying to find a solution. Our sense of humanity and decency demands it. Real lives depend on it. 

But it seems to me a good place to start might be calling the alcohol industry what it really is: A drug business. 

Jeff Taylor is an artist and vendor with Street Sense Media. 

Issues |Addiction

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