A few nights ago, I sat at a table where a group of people were drinking large amounts of alcohol while discussing the heroin problem in Northern New Mexico. “That damn drug,” a large and stubbly man said. “Is the Devil’s handtool. We’ve got to get that crap out of our communities.” While I had no doubt of his anger towards heroin, I also had no doubt that the four or five beers he drank fueled his call to action. What really got to me was when several people raised a shot glass in honor of someone who recently died of a heroin overdose. “To Hell with Heroin, but get me another drink!” they seemed to be saying…
Which got me to thinking: Which is worse, Heroin or Alcohol? For starters, I like to teach that nothing in and of itself is good or evil; only its use makes it so. However, I’ve had more clients, friends, family die and suffer from alcohol addiction than I have from heroin addiction. As a matter of fact, I’ve had more success treating heroin and other opiate addictions than I have treating alcohol addiction. So, though I do believe in the neutrality of all substances until their use is examined, I still had to think through the argument of which is worse and I did so through five (5) major points:
- Both alcohol and heroin are nervous system depressants; both cause physical and psychological addiction.
- Both are associated with criminality and social deviance; several laws exist to measure alcohol intoxication in relation with driving impairment and heroin use is often associated with gang-related activity.
- Alcohol is legal and socially acceptable; heroin is neither (which makes alcohol all the more dangerous)
- Alcohol is toxic and lethal in high doses; Heroin is also toxic and lethal in high doses (however, alcohol is controlled, heroin is not);
- Alcohol withdrawal can be lethal; Heroin withdrawal is not.
After I thought through all five (5) points, I decided that while I do understand the problems that heroin has caused within our communities, I can’t overlook the problems that alcohol has also caused within our communities. And, though I also understand that it’s easy to judge others and ignores our own issues, I can’t help but see hypocrisy when a group of people will speak out in rage against heroin, but drive home after drinking copious amounts of alcohol. To me, there’s no difference between injecting a lethal amount of heroin and killing someone while driving drunk. And while neither alcohol or heroin or evil, in and of themselves, I think that using either is loaded with risks and harm and we shouldn’t be so quick to wipe our drunk asses with the tracked-arms of our acquaintances. So to answer my own question: Which is worse, heroin or alcohol, I say: They are both paths to suffering that should be avoided at all costs.