Society needs to stop ignoring alcoholism, and rethink our attitude towards it in relation to other narcotics

The past few months have seen numerous drug related incidents, including the unexpected deaths of three men from Ipswich related to the superman pills/PMA, an MDMA (ecstasy) analog. Tabloid newspaper articles erupted with an unnerving disparity to the scale of disaster, incorrectly labelling the culprit as MDMA – a recurring trend with an age old agenda, sensationalism, for profit.

The problem with sensationalism as a business model is that it denies the media responsibility for impartiality and accuracy. The conundrum of illegal drug deaths, reality versus perception, is that the latter far exceeds the former, with the media being the driving force in this issue. To put this into perspective, in 2011 there were 847 illegal drug related deaths, with 27 of those due to amphetamines and “ecstasy-type drugs”, whilst alcohol weighed in with 40,000 and tobacco 114,000. Whilst admittedly the user base isn’t the same, the BBC asserts that UK users of MDMA total 500,000, whilst alcohol users amount to around 40 million. For comparison, that’s equal to 1 in 1000 alcohol users dying per annum versus 0.054 in 1000 MDMA users dying per annum. Now these figures shouldn’t be taken to imply that MDMA is a safe drug, even one death is too many deaths in an ideal world, but it does highlight what is a fair or logical representation of drugs in a modern society.

Imagine then, if you will, a world in which every alcohol or tobacco related death generated the same breathtaking quantity of articles that a drug or even a suspected drug related death did; our media would pretty quickly have no place to report anything else.

Perhaps the reason illegal drug deaths are ‘relatively low’ in comparison to other substances is the spurious links made by the media and the ensuing hype. Perhaps we then should be thankful. But at the same time is misinformation the way we want our lives dictated? Should we not push for the same onus and education to be placed on other substances demonstrated to be more harmful? Culturally we have adopted alcohol and tobacco. With universities thought to be hotspots of binge-drinking culture, spurring the creation of YouTube videos glamourising various ‘lads’ necking a whole bottle of spirits. If this was looked on with the same disdain as someone who could do three grams of cocaine in one line, we’d pretty quickly reduce that 40,000 deaths per annum figure.

Evidently neither of these approaches is working. What needs to occur is a meet in the middle mentality where drugs are recognised for the perilous lands they occupy, but as more of a quick sand laden swamp and not a minefield logged battlefield and alcoholism identified for the real risks it poses. The carefree mentality of a bottle a day left in the past, scrubbing out the humour of the drinking ‘competitions’ and a spotlight shone on the actual nature of addiction.


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January 2022
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