Opinion: Alcohol is Worse Than Other Drugs

Gillian May

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I am six and half years sober and as a former nurse and health educator, I have looked deeper into alcohol and its effects on health. It was important to me to understand alcohol better as I knew it had been eroding my health for years before I quit. What I’ve learned about alcohol has shocked me and made me wonder how it can be so easily distributed and marketed given that it’s one of the worst drugs out there. In fact, it’s worse than all the illegal or dangerous substances that we know of.

Below, I will explain why alcohol is worse than other drugs like cocaine, heroin, opiates, etc. Now, many people who read this may think that since I am now sober, I want to bash other drinkers who enjoy their alcohol. This is not the case. If the facts showed that alcohol was in any way healthy, I would discuss that in my educational posts. But the truth is, there’s really nothing healthy about alcohol and new research shows that even low-dose alcohol is still harmful. Old research purporting that alcohol is good for heart health has since been refuted.

Alcohol, even in low doses, is harmful to the grey matter of the brain. It alters our neurochemistry and causes the brain and nervous system to adapt to alcohol in dysfunctional ways. For some people, low-dose alcohol may be ok for them if they don’t have other health issues or take certain medications. However, alcohol taken in quantities that are beyond the safe limits is dangerous and can cause addiction and health problems.

Let’s look at a few issues that make alcohol worse than other drugs.

Withdrawal from alcohol is dangerous.

Most drugs have some withdrawal process once a person stops using them. Drugs like cocaine, heroin, or opiates have very uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that can make life difficult for people. However, the withdrawal process for these drugs is not likely to cause serious harm. But for alcohol, withdrawal can actually cause death for some people if they don’t get help to withdraw safely.

The effects of alcohol on the nervous system are such that it primes the nervous system for hyper-excitation. Chronic use of alcohol changes the way neurotransmitters and nerve receptors function. The end result is a nervous system that can snap into an over-excited state once alcohol is no longer available. Alcohol withdrawal can cause serious seizures, heart problems, psychosis, and death. This usually happens in people who have a vulnerable nervous system and who have abused alcohol in large or frequent quantities over a long period of time. However, you don’t have to be the stereotypical dysfunctional “drunk” in order for this to happen. You just need to participate in heavy drinking a few times a week over many years. Unfortunately, this is a common way that many people consume alcohol.

Alcohol can cause serious mental health issues.

As stated above, alcohol alters the function of the nervous system in a potentially dangerous way. It causes hyperexcitation and a shift in how neurotransmitters are distributed and used. It also alters the receptors for neurotransmitters. When a person consumes alcohol and then stops drinking, they can have mild to serious withdrawal symptoms depending on frequency and dosage. This process causes issues with mental health. For people who already struggle with mental health issues, alcohol can be like adding gasoline to a fire. For those who didn’t have mental health issues to begin with, they can actually develop mental health problems as a result of using and abusing alcohol.

Although other drugs can be a risk for serious mental health issues, alcohol use is much worse as it can cause physical health issues that further add to mental health problems. For example, chronic alcohol use can deplete certain nutrients as well as cause liver damage. These physical health issues can cause symptoms that are mental health-related such as depression and anxiety.

Alcohol can cause serious physical health issues.

Chronic alcohol use can erode the organs and brain enough that a person can become quite ill and disabled over time. Heavy alcohol use can cause serious issues with the pancreas and liver which can be deadly. Pancreatitis and liver failure are a common and serious problem as a result of alcohol abuse. Liver damage usually happens over time, but pancreatitis can come on suddenly after a binge drinking session.

Chronic alcohol use can deplete certain nutrients which can cause several confusing health issues that are not easy to pinpoint. For example, thiamine deficiency is very common amongst people who drink frequently because alcohol blocks the absorption of thiamine. People low in thiamine have problems with their nervous system, heart, and digestion causing chronic health problems. Over time, serious thiamine deficiency can cause severe issues that can become deadly.

Chronic alcohol use can increase blood pressure and put pressure on the cardiovascular system. Alcohol abuse has also been linked with the development of type 2 diabetes and other metabolic issues. Lastly, alcohol abuse can put people at risk of injuries that cause significant disability.

Alcohol combined with certain drugs and medications can be deadly.

Unfortunately, the risk of developing physical and mental health issues from alcohol use is considerably higher if other drugs and certain medications are used at the same time. Combining alcohol and other illegal drugs can greatly increase the risk of liver, nervous system, digestive and mental health problems. This is also true of certain medications used to treat pain, mental illness, high cholesterol and diabetes — just to name a few. Also combining alcohol with antibiotics can cause liver injury. It’s common for people to take medications to treat other health issues, but many don’t realize that combining alcohol with these medications can cause worsening health problems.

As we can see, alcohol use and abuse can create chaos in our bodies and minds. Many people who drink heavily and frequently have experienced at least one issue mentioned above. Unfortunately many chronic drinkers can experience almost all of the above issues causing a cascade of health and mental health problems. And once all of these problems begin to combine together, a person can become quite disabled. For example, many incidences of withdrawal can damage the nervous system causing worsening withdrawal over time. Chronic liver damage and nutrient deficiencies can combine together to further erode other organs causing even worse physical and mental health issues.

As a former nurse and recovering alcoholic, I want to help educate others about the combined dangers of alcohol use. Most people are not fully aware of this because alcohol is legal, heavily marketed, and commonly used around the world. My mission is to increase awareness of alcohol use and its effect on our health. Although other drugs can be quite dangerous, none of them are as problematic as alcohol, yet this is a commonly used and legal drug. But I think the more we talk about this, the more people can be made aware of the potential risks.

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I'm a former nurse turned freelance writer. I have extensive experience in administration, frontline care, and education in mental health, public health, and geriatrics. However, after 20 years, I needed a change and always wanted to write. I have personal and family experience in mental health and addictions, so I'm passionate about advocacy and education in those areas. I'm also a traveler, photographer, and artist. I funnel all my various expertise into my writing and hope to provide valuable content that is entertaining and educational. Join my email list if you want to read more of my work - https://upbeat-trader-4181.ck.page/839d0ab3f9.

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