Quote from SuesquatchRN
Well, they are not really the same thing, not culturally. To become addicted to drugs without the cooperation of a prescriber one must step into the criminal world.
Interesting reply. Scientifically, they are the same thing. Regardless of the substance (or activity), they ultimately cause the same thing...an elevation of dopamine in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the brain...a SIGNIFICANT rise in those with a genetic predisposition to developing addiction. While some substances prevent the re-uptake of dopamine and others cause an increased release of dopamine, the final result...the "high"...is all that matters. The various genetic expressions (allele) determines an addict's "drug of choice". For me, it was opioids. I didn't care much for alcohol. I'd have a beer now and then, or a glass of wine, but opioids were what got me going.
I never smoked marijuana (still haven't), never tried cocaine or any other illegal substance. I received legitimate prescriptions for pain from spondylolisthesis. I'd had my fair share of broken bones (thanks to football) and surgeries (T&A, septoplasty, medial meniscectomy, pilonidal cyst X2) and never really had an urge to go out and buy heroin. But in late 1989 my back pain lasted longer than usual. For whatever reason my gene for addiction was activated and within 6 months I was almost dead. (Thanks to fentanyl and sufentanil. Increased potency speeds the rate at which addiction progresses).
I didn't commit any drug related crimes until AFTER I became addicted. While many people do buy illicit substances and become addicted, criminal acts aren't a necessary part of becoming dependent. Judging whether one addiction is "worse" than another by criminal activity has nothing to do with the science of addiction. This is one of the biggest problems addicts face (including alcohol addicts) in seeking treatment. Stigma prevents early assessment and treatment, allowing the addiction to progress, making treatment less effective and long term recovery less likely.
Alcoholics commit crimes as well. The disease of addiction causes loss of control and inhibitions. As Richard Pryor said, "Drugs and alcohol make you more of who you are...and if that's an a_ _ hole, that's not a good thing." Alcohol is involved in significantly greater incidents of violence and accidents than other mood altering substances.
- The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that in general, the heavier the alcohol use, the more likely an adolescent will be involved with criminal behaviors.
- The U.S. Department of Justice Report on Alcohol and Crime found that alcohol abuse was a factor in 40 percent of violent crimes committed in the U.S.
- An analysis of dependence among trauma center patients found that the prevalence of alcoholism was substantially higher among vehicular crash victims and other trauma patients than among the equivalent general population group. More than half of trauma patients with a positive BAC at the time of the trauma were diagnosed as alcoholics, and nearly 1 in 7 patients who were not drinking at the time of the trauma were diagnosed as alcohol-dependent.
While it generally takes years for an alcoholic to reach the same "level" of addiction as a heroin or crystal meth user, the damage done to a variety organs is significantly greater than for other drugs, especially opioids.
Addiction is addiction.