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Someone with a problem with alcohol may reach for a bottle of tequila and pour some into a large glass. Then, they might wake up wondering where the night went.

Someone with a drug problem might grab a piece of paper, crush some marijuana into a shake, and then roll a sweet-smelling joint or take a Vicodin, much like a character from Doctor House.

What’s the difference? What is the difference between being dependent on alcohol and other drugs? Perhaps we should ask another question: Is alcohol a substance?

What are the differences between drugs and alcohol?

This question is answered succinctly by the National Institute of Drug Abuse. It places alcohol alphabetically at the top of its published “Drugs of Abuse” list. The National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependency, (NCADD), agrees.

However, we have managed to separate alcohol from other drugs in our culture. We refer to “alcohol and drug” which gives “alcohol” a special status. And, let’s not forget, alcohol is legal while other drugs aren’t.

Is there a difference between an addiction to alcohol or dependency on other drugs? Yes, but in the end, they all have more in common than their differences.

What is the Difference Between Addictions to Drugs & Alcohol?

In the subheading, “drugs” refers to drugs such as heroin, painkillers, and cocaine. Not all drugs are created equal. Heroin users describe feeling like they are “covered in a warm blanket where worries are gone”, while cocaine users describe feeling euphoric, with increased confidence and the desire to be with other people.

We will not be able to distinguish drugs by their characteristics, so we will only consider these two groups: alcohol and other drugs as they are used in common speech.

What Legality Means for Addiction

Americans over the age of 21 have been legally able to purchase alcohol in their states since 1933 when prohibition was lifted. This is because it is culturally acceptable to be addicted to legal substances rather than to illegal ones. We laugh about drinking too many margaritas, but we don’t joke about injecting heroin.

Our cultural attitudes toward alcohol and its legal availability have likely contributed to the fact Americans are more addicted to alcohol than any other drug. Over 18 million Americans are dependent on alcohol. 4.2 million are also addicted to marijuana.

It can be different to feel addicted to legal substances than it is to illicit ones.

Stigmas associated with drug and alcohol addiction

The social stigma associated with addiction tends to be more severe when the substance is illegal. For example, it has been shown that many people working in healthcare have negative views about people who use illegal drugs. This obviously impacts the quality of the treatment they provide.

It is easy to feel less worthy due to the stigma surrounding illicit drug use.

How does physical addiction differ between drugs and alcohol?

We can see some differences between illegal drugs and alcohol when we discuss them as a group.

In terms of the physical consequences of alcohol abuse, depression, high blood pressure and ulcers are some of the most serious.

Overdoses, accidental or violent death, organ failures and organ damage due to accumulated toxicities are all serious consequences of drug abuse.

Although the effects of alcohol and other drugs have different physical consequences, it is important to consider addiction’s total cost to humanity. According to the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, drugs (including alcohol) are rated according to how much harm they cause us as individuals. Alcohol is ranked as the most harmful substance at a 72 on the developed scale while Ecstasy is rated a 9. It is the similarities of these substances, not their differences that an addict feels most strongly about, regardless of whether they are pain pills or vodka to soothe their inner turmoil.

The Effects of Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Addiction can have a profound impact on our lives. They can make us cruel to our loved ones, cause us to lose our jobs, damage our bodies, and even cause us to become addicted to addictive substances. It’s not about the substance you are addicted to, but rather why.

Experts will differ on the similarities and differences in drug and alcohol addictions, as both are forms of addiction.

Learn to stay positive during your addiction recovery.


Addiction to alcohol is a term that refers to an addiction to alcohol. Drug addiction refers to a generalized condition in which one can become addicted to any substance.

The addictive substance known as drugs is a drug that alters the way the body processes information and handles communication.

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Both alcoholism and drug addiction can be treated with the same methods. Because alcohol addiction is a type of larger drug addiction, they are all interconnected.

Although not all addictions cause withdrawal symptoms or feelings the same, substance abuse is all rooted in the desire to numb emotional or physical pain.

We at Crescent Moon Recovery understand what it’s like to feel completely alone and be held captive by an addictive substance. The holistic approach to treatment focuses on the individual and their addiction. It also explains how and why it happened and offers ways to overcome it.

The first step is to be honest with yourself. It is liberating to realize that you can change. Crescent Moon Recovery can help you overcome addiction together. Call us today!

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