Culture Around Alcohol and Drugs

Oftentimes, even on this blog, I will refer to alcohol use disorder or alcoholism, and then I will also refer to substance use disorder and drug addiction. The reason I do this is so that this blog is accessible and readable for people at all levels of literacy about health, medicine, and addiction. Substance use disorder is the correct term, and the clinical term, for all of these substance abuse disorders, but sometimes I will refer to alcohol use disorder when I am discussing patients who have a history of abusing alcohol and not much else. The best drug and alcohol rehabs in Florida and elsewhere treat both “alcoholics” and “drug addicts” as people with substance use disorder. That is the best practice, regardless of any stigma that may exist around these issues.

There are many reasons that we make distinctions between different drugs in our culture. Alcohol has been legal for most of the history of the United States, and human history for that matter, in most places. For most people alive now in 2021, drugs of abuse have been illegal for most of their lives. That is one major reason to separate alcohol and other drugs, legality. Tradition, for me, is an even bigger reason for these distinctions. Alcohol use goes back many thousands of years. Alcohol is easy to produce, unlike many other drugs, and many cultures have connected the idea of celebration and relaxation to the use of alcohol. Alcohol is so much a part of so many different cultures in our world, it is hard to put its place in society into proper context. Other drugs are basically the opposite. Illegal drugs do not hold this type of important place in society. This is one likely cause for the negative stigma associated with using illegal drugs other than alcohol. It is considered acceptable to drink beer and even get drunk at a public event like a concert or baseball game, even if children are present, and even if that drunkenness poses obvious dangers to others. On the other hand, we kick in doors and arrest people for using Marijuana, and although further study needs to be done, it is safe to say that marijuana is much safer than alcohol and kills thousands less people each year. In the substance use disorder field, none of these facts matter too much, we simply treat all drugs similarly, and do whatever is best to help the patient to stop using drugs of all types. And that is not to be apologetic about the effects of drugs other than alcohol, the Opioid crisis, as we have covered here, is ravaging our county and our people with no realistic end in sight.

Alcohol Use in People with a History of Addiction

The differing ways that alcohol and other drugs are thought about by society at large has a profound effect on people who are in recovery or seeking treatment for substance use disorder. Although groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and the substance abuse treatment establishment try to encourage people to look at alcohol as just another drug, social norms make this a challenge. A recent study, published by The American Journal on Addictions, looked at the issue of people with substance use disorder using alcohol later in life.

They begin by stating, “Alcohol use is often overlooked and underestimated among patients recovered from substance dependence.” This statement is somewhat surprising in itself, because people who have suffered from substance use disorder might tend to have the most serious attitudes towards drugs of all types. For our purposes here today, their results are as follows,

“About 5.7% of US adults, nationally representative of 14.2 million, have been reported to have recovered from past SUDs. Of these, 28.9% met criteria for current AUD and 48.4% had former AUD.”

It is obviously good news that many millions of people have been in recovery from substance use disorder. That includes addiction to substances of all types, including heroin, methamphetamine, alcohol, fentanyl, cocaine, crack cocaine, ecstasy, and others. Unfortunately, this study has found that almost 30% of those people developed an alcohol problem after treatment, and a further 200,000 or so people had developed an alcohol use disorder and subsequently recovered from that as well. These findings, in my opinion, show us that regardless of what society or culture has to say about alcohol or any other drugs, people with substance use disorder should categorize alcohol as another drug that is a serious danger to them and their sobriety if ingested. If you or a loved one is in need of substance abuse treatment, the best drug and alcohol rehab in Florida is Florida Springs in Panama City, and their phone number is listed at the top of the page.

By T.A. Cannon (Contact me at


“Alcohol Use Disorder Among Adults Recovered From Substance Use Disorders”. Authors: Rhee TG; Department of Public Health Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Connecticut, Farmington, Connecticut.; Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.; US Department of Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System, Mental Illness, Research, Education and Clinical Center of New England, West Haven, Connecticut.