Gramps McHops recently forwarded me a link to this study which has become all the rage on the Interwebs. He was just doing his Grampsly duty by letting me know that my drug of choice, beer, was exponentially more dangerous than something harmless like, say, crack or heroin. It’s all there in the lead:
“Alcohol is more dangerous than illegal drugs like heroin and crack cocaine, according to a new study. “
Well then…I better sell my pint glasses and invest in some needles!
Before you start cooking up some smack, let’s delve, shall we? I needn’t go into detail about the scare tactics and muckraking of modern day journalism. Watch any episode of the Daily Show or Colbert Report for a far funnier, more insightful look at the the epic failures of the media today. In a crowded field, where viewers are fickle and seemingly universally afflicted with ADD, news outlets will resort to anything to catch your attention…even if it’s just for the briefest moment. If a study shows that alcohol is more dangerous than other drugs, then you should clearly make your headline: “Alcohol Worse Than Heroin!” It certainly got Gramps’s attention…
And I’m sure a lot of people saw that headline, didn’t bother reading the article, and are now convinced that alcohol is the source of all evil. That seems to be the direction we’re headed as a country. A look at last night’s election results reveal that people have the attention spans of squirrels these days and only respond to sound bites and scandalous headlines. Obamacare will murder your grandparents! Immigrants are destroying America! We’re becoming Socialists! Aaaaaah!!!
The “alcohol is worse than every other drug” study is a good example of that. If you just spend a few minutes perusing the article, you’ll realize that the lead is ridiculous and the attention-grabbing headline is spurious at best.
Now look…I’m not saying that alcohol has no ill effects. We’ve all seen the horrific impact it can have on people’s lives. From the more mundane stuff like bar fights and risky, drunken hook-ups, to the devastating issues of drunk driving and domestic violence. And, of course, alcoholism runs rampant in most societies and can lead to the destruction of relationships, families, and death. Alcohol is a drug…and if abused, it will hurt you and those around you. End of story.
BUT, to imply that it’s “worse” than something like heroin or crack? I mean…really? That’s not what the study said at all. Not even close.
Alcohol “won” the worst drug award because the study looked at overall societal impact. Well, OF COURSE, alcohol has a bigger impact than other drugs. It’s LEGAL! It’s used by billions more people than the other drugs on the list! Claiming that alcohol is more dangerous than heroin is like saying that cars are more dangerous than bombs or dogs are more dangerous than grizzly bears. If one drug is exponentially more common than other drugs…it’s CLEARLY going to have a greater impact. I only know a couple people who have done heroin (tellingly, both are dead). But almost EVERYONE I know drinks in some capacity. Whether it’s my beer-swilling fellow Aleheads or my friends who just have a glass of wine at dinner…most people have some relationship (for better of for worse) with alcohol. It’s been the drug of choice for humanity since time immemorial and it’s been an important part of every culture in history.
So the study IS accurate in portraying alcohol as the most devastating drug as far as society is concerned. More people use it, by far, than any other drug. Every bar, package store, and almost every restaurant serves alcohol. You can get it anywhere and everywhere. Alcohol makers advertise on TV…at sporting venues…in magazines…EVERYWHERE. It’s part and parcel with the human condition and, as such, it will always be the most “dangerous” drug. But as far as you the individual are concerned, I promise you…100% PROMISE you…that heroin, crack, PCP, etc…are much, much, MUCH worse for you than booze. If you’re not an alcoholic, a beer, glass of wine, or cocktail in moderation will NOT hurt you. But one dose of heroin could potentially kill you…or at least hook you immediately. Not to mention the fact that it’s, you know, illegal.*
*Marijuana should clearly just be left out of the study since the only ill effects it seems to have are increased consumption of Doritos and viewings of Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
So the study may be accurate, but, as usual, people are focusing on the wrong point. The title should have been “Drugs Are Dangerous” and the lead should have been, “Because of it’s widespread use, alcohol has a bigger negative impact on society than other drugs, but it is still far safer than other drugs as far as individual consumption is concerned.”
I know…it’s an idiotic headline and the lead is boring, but I guess that’s why I’m not a journalist. I prefer the truth to horseshit. Oh, also I’m a terrible writer and fact-checker, have no experience in the field of journalism, I’m not very personable, and no one cares about what I have to say.
Regardless, put down that crack-pipe and pick up your beer glass. It’s not going to hurt you.