Is Drug Addiction the Same as Alcohol Addiction?

Isn’t Alcohol use different than drug addiction? That is a common question for most individuals, family members, and society as a whole, to ask themselves when it comes to using drugs or drinking alcohol. What is the difference? Is being addicted to alcohol different from being addicted to another drug? Is Alcohol even considered a drug? What is the difference or are they similar? These are common questions that can lead complications to a recovery process if you aren’t sure of what the answer is.

 

What is Alcohol Use?

According to the Mayo Clinic, The clinical definition is that alcoholism is the inability to control drinking due to both a physical and emotional dependence on alcohol. An alcohol abuse disorder refers to a long-term addiction to alcohol. Meaning that a person with this condition does not know when or how to stop drinking. They spend a lot of time thinking about alcohol, and they cannot control how much they consume, even if it is causing serious problems at home, work, and financially. It’s important to understand that an alcoholic does not always drink on a daily basis. Alcoholism is characterized by the inability to control the intake of alcohol.

 

What is Alcohol Withdrawal?

When you abruptly stop drinking, your body is deprived of the effects of alcohol and requires time to adjust to functioning without it. This adjustment period causes the painful side effects of alcohol withdrawal, such as shakes, insomnia, nausea, and anxiety. It is strongly recommended you engage in assistance from a medical provider as alcohol withdrawal can be life threatening. Treatment for Alcohol withdrawal typically includes detox, inpatient, and residential services which is then followed up with outpatient services which can include PHP or IOP depending on the level of care that is recommended at that time. Each individual is different and it is important to remember their treatment program will also be different. 12 Step meetings like AA (Alcohol Anonymous) are extremely beneficial for any individual who is exploring recovery.

 

Drug Use

According to the Mayo Clinic, Drug addiction, also called substance use disorder, is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication. Substances such as alcohol, marijuana and nicotine also are considered drugs. When you’re addicted, you may continue using the drug despite the harm it causes. It’s important to identify here in this definition from the Mayo Clinic, that they identify alcohol as a drug and include it in the description when discussing Drugs.

The society on the other hand use the term “drugs” when they are referring to marijuana, painkillers, cocaine, heroin, benzodiazepines, stimulants, inhalants and sleeping pills. Depending on the specific drug used it can cause a lot of social, physical, emotional, and cognitive concerns for the individual who is abusing them. Similar to alcohol use, the use of drugs can lead to a lot of serious problems at home, work, and financially.

 

Drug Addiction Withdrawal

Detoxing from drugs is very similar to detoxing from alcohol in regards to the risks and the needs to be in a medically supervised detox program. The difference between alcohol detox and drug detox is the time frame and the physical consequences. Some drug withdrawals increase a person’s risk of developing paranoia, delusions, and aggression. For example individuals who are attempting to detox from methamphetamine may experience hallucinations and psychosis. There are also medications that can be utilized when attempting to detox from drugs. This includes suboxone, methadone,and naltrexone.

Treatment for the use of drugs typically are similar to alcohol use as it also includes detox, inpatient, and residential services which is then followed up with outpatient services which again can include PHP or IOP depending on the level of care that is recommended at that time. 12 Step meetings like NA (Narcotic Anonymous) are also extremely beneficial for any individual who is exploring recover

Are there differences in regards to being addicted to alcohol or being addicted to other drugs? Sure. Is there a social stigma attached to the words; drugs and alcohol? Sure. Are there more risks for Drug use or Alcohol use? Maybe. However, at the end of the day, addiction is addiction. Alcoholism is a disease. Drug Use is a disease. Like drug addiction, alcoholism does not discriminate. It can touch any person from any gender, race, religious background, economic background, socioeconomic status, etc. Both drug and alcohol addiction can cause a lot of barriers and consequences to one’s life. Legal, physical, and emotional consequences are likely to occur. Drug and alcohol abuse causes real damage to the body, mind, and spirit. Risks of infectious diseases, overdose, organ damage, and other bodily harms exist whether it is due to alcohol use or use of illegal substances.