When most people hear the term “hard drugs” they probably think of heroin and other opiates, meth, or cocaine. These drugs get a lot of attention due to the current drug crises in cities and towns across America involving fentanyl overdoses and prescription drug abuse. However there is another substance many fail to recognize as a “hard drug,” yet its effects on the body and society are just as severe: Alcohol.
So what exactly is a hard drug? There isn’t a clear definition or set of criteria of what makes a substance a “hard drug.” But when we talk to our friends and family about them we usually have a shared idea of what we’re talking about. Hard drugs cause physical harm and can be deadly, they are addictive, they may be illegal to make and use, and they make people do things that are against the law or maybe they’re not proud of. Alcohol fits the bill on all these points except that it is legal to produce and use in most places.
Alcohol use and misuse can have many negative consequences. It can negatively impact a drinkers health and interpersonal relationships. Alcohol withdrawal can be extremely dangerous, even deadly. Withdrawal from heroin and other opiates gets a lot of attention because of the extreme discomfort and pain the person goes through. Withdrawal from opiates can feel like you are going to die, but you can’t die from not taking opiates. The same can’t be said for alcohol.
Alcohol withdrawal is often described as being Mild, Moderate, or Severe. The severity of the withdrawal symptoms depends on the individual, the amount they were drinking, and for how long they were drinking it. Mild withdrawal symptoms include tremor, craving, insomnia, vivid dreams, anxiety, hypervigilance, agitation and irritability, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, headache, and sweating. And that is sometimes the best case scenario. Moderate and severe withdrawals include all those symptoms as well as hallucinations, psychosis, seizures, and delirium tremens, which can lead to death if left untreated.1
Alcohol can cause other physical effects even outside of withdrawal. Studies have shown that alcohol use can cause brain damage, lead to change in mood and behavior, make it harder to think clearly, and decrease coordination. Alcohol use has also been shown to contribute to heart disease, stroke, liver disease, pancreatitis, and multiple forms of cancer2.
In addition to the physical impact of alcohol, dinking can also cause negative emotional side effects. Alcohol use is well known to cause depression and anxiety. It can also cause other long term issues like learning and memory problems, including dementia.3
The effects of alcohol use and misuse go far beyond the individual and include harms to other people close to the alcoholic, as well as society at large. The effects of alcohol abuse costs the United States nearly $250 billion in one year alone.4 Over 10% of children ages 17 and under are living with a parent with an alcohol use disorder.5 This leads to an increased risk of abuse, neglect, poverty, emotional disorders, and adverse childhood experiences.
Because it is legal for most adults to purchase and drink alcohol, most people don’t think of alcohol as being a hard drug. The effects show otherwise. The physical, emotional, and social effects of alcohol use and misuse are tremendous. And without help it can be too much for most people overcome. Bay Area Recovery Center has over 30 years’ experience helping individuals and family heal from alcoholism and addiction. The effects of hard drugs like meth, opioids, and alcohol can be overcome with treatment facilitated by qualified professionals. If you or a loved one has found yourself experiencing any of the effects of these hard drugs, please contact Bay Area Recovery Center today. We can help.