How Drug Addiction Differs From Alcohol Addiction

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Chemical Difference

Drug addiction and alcohol addiction are very similar, particularly in terms of treatment. However, drugs and alcohol are chemically unique and individual substances which will have different physical effects on the body. The chemical dependence the body reaches can be very different with drugs such as Crystal Meth and heroin compared to alcohol or marijuana. As a result, the detoxification process will be dependent upon which drugs were used. Opiate addicts, for instance, may need to take certain drugs to help them detox so they don’t have severe withdrawals. Those who have been chemically dependent on alcohol for a very long period of time must be monitored, and sometimes medically assisted, during detox because the withdrawal can be fatal.  However the physiological motivations and proclivity towards a dependence on substances are often similar across the spectrum.


Social Acceptability

Further, the social acceptability of alcohol can lead those addicted to take longer to come to the realization that they have a drinking problem. Because of the extreme mental and physical toll that drugs take on your body and the social stigma attached to it, drug addicts are often identified as problem users at a much earlier stage in their using. Despite these physical effects and obvious difference in substance, the treatment for all addictions is strikingly similar. The most effective treatment for both alcohol and drug addiction has been found in the twelve step program outlined in the big book of alcoholics anonymous. The reason is that, through there is certainly a physical component to alcohol and drug addiction, the disease centers in the mind. Thus a complete psychic shift must occur in order to create a lasting sobriety.


Twelve Step Construct

Within the 12 step construct there are fellowships that focus on narcotics (NA) and cocaine (CA). These programs have their own unique take on the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and use their own literature, which is founded in the Twelve Steps of AA. These fellowships are important because a big part of recovery from alcohol and drug addiction is the ability to connect with those who have like experiences. This enables you to come to the realization that you are not alone, that there is a solution, and that others who have a similar condition have been able to get help and stay sober. These fellowships that focus on drugs allow for a more direct forum where people who specifically have a problem with narcotics or cocaine can come and relate.



Overall, drug addiction and alcohol addiction are extremely similar with some clear distinctions. For the most part, the differences center on the physical effect unique substances have on the body, the process for detoxification, the social perception of alcoholics vs. drug addicts, and the extent to which alcoholics and drug addicts relate to each other’s experience when it comes to the type of substances used. That being said, an addict is an addict regardless of substance used and the long-term solution is in a twelve step program and abstinence from mind-altering substances.


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