Drinking is considered a rite of passage for a large number of college students. Responsible drinking is a recreational past-time that’s widely accepted (although technically banned) at most colleges. The majority of parents acknowledge and accept that their little babies will be getting plastered on most weekends while away at school. It’s all part of that delicate time between, “I’m young and life is short so let’s have some fun!” and “No, I can’t go out this Friday. It was a rough week at the office and we can’t find a babysitter.” It’s both a social tool and a tension tamer (something greatly needed by all college students.)
Why is alcohol so readily accepted in our society, but the recreational use of other drugs is not? Alcohol is, after all, a drug, but society has deemed it as less harmful than others. Does alcohol deserve such a mild reputation when compared to its perception-altering cousins such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine and ecstasy? A recent British study says no, it does not.
In fact, based on the criteria used in the study, alcohol, cocaine and meth were among the drugs on the high end of the damage scale with alcohol leading the pack. Interestingly, other drugs, such as marijuana, scored significantly lower on the scale. University of Amsterdam professor, Wim van den Brink says, ”What governments decide is illegal is not always based on science.” Too true. Excessive alcohol use is linked to total body failure, as well as depression and other psychological afflictions. Broken families and chronic disease is often the direct result of alcoholism.
Exactly how did they come to the conclusion that alcohol is more destructive than heroin? Several factors were examined when determining where each drug fell on the scale. The criteria used included: environmental damage, addiction level, how it affects the body (both short and long term), economic cost (including health care and prison costs), and the effects it has on families or others.
The purpose of this study was not to encourage the use of illicit drugs. Rather, the study should raise awareness about why some drugs are outlawed and others are regulated. Above all else, it should encourage the diligent use of safe drinking practices. Just because alcohol is legal, doesn’t mean it’s safe.
The study was published on Lancet and was paid for by Britain’s Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.