One of the more pervasive myths about addiction is that drug addiction is worse than alcohol addiction. Perhaps this erroneous thinking stems from the fact that street drugs are illegal while alcohol is not. Or maybe it's due to the fact that more of us have seen someone drunk than stoned or high.
Yet according to a 2010 study in The Lancet, alcohol is the most harmful drug of all — more harmful than heroin, crack cocaine, methylamphetamine, cocaine, tobacco and a slew of others. In the study, drugs and alcohol were rated on a scale of 1 to 100 according to their harmfulness to the individual user and to others. Alcohol had the top danger rating (72), while heroin and crack cocaine were distant runners-up with scores of 55 and 54, respectively. While heroin and crack cocaine were ranked as more harmful to users than alcohol, alcohol came out on top because it is the mostly widely used drug and therefore the most dangerous to society [sources: BBC News, Nutt].
Addiction is a tragedy any way you look at it. But the better educated we all are about this issue, the better we'll be able to fight it.
Author's Note: 10 Myths About Addiction
Like many of us, I know people struggling with addiction. If only becoming healthy was as easy as recovering from the flu.
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HowStuffWorks looks at the language and treatment around today's opioid addiction versus the crack cocaine addiction of the '80s and '90s.