Alcohol—The Most Addictive Drug in the World

Two glasses of beer, with international map in it.

When people hear that alcohol is the most addictive drug in the world, their instantaneous response is usually one of disbelief. Most people do not believe this to be true, because after all, everyone drinks, right? Certainly, except for perhaps cigarettes, and maybe sugar or coffee, alcohol is the most commonly used substance that could be considered to be addictive. But the problem is, alcohol has an entire addiction factor to it that is extremely impinging and far more dangerous and lethal than coffee or sugar or other such substances are.

While twenty-four million Americans meet the criteria for drug and alcohol addiction, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism more than 15 million are addicted to alcohol. So imagine, for a moment, if we remove alcohol from the scene, the overall addiction problem in our country would reduce considerably.

The Big Misconceptions

The big misconception about alcohol is very similar to the one about cigarettes. With alcohol, there is the concept that everyone does it. And sure enough, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism did perform research on this and was able to prove that about eighty-six percent of Americans over the age of 21 consume alcohol at least once a year. Fifty percent consume it at least once a month, thirty percent consume it at least once a week, and about seven percent of Americans drink it every day. And the truth is, the majority of individuals who consume alcohol do not end up getting addicted to it. This is very unlike the situation with a drug like heroin for example, where are the vast majority of the people who use it do end up becoming addicted to it.

A guy drinking in the middle of the day.

But what we don’t bother to comprehend, however, is that when people do become addicted to alcohol, for them, it becomes the most addictive substance in the world. There are thousands if not millions of testimonies from recovering addicts who have said that out of all of the drugs they had ever been on, alcohol was the hardest to kick of them all. And there are thousands more who say that alcohol was the one that they relapsed back onto, even after months or years of sobriety.

In addition to that, there are the physiological manifestations of alcohol addiction, dependence, withdrawal, and relapse. Alcohol has a very different effect on the human body than drugs do. When a person has been drinking considerably for a significant amount of time, their effort to come down off of alcohol will not only be excruciatingly painful, but it will actually be dangerous to their health if it is not done properly. In fact, extreme alcohol addicts are at more risk of losing their lives from coming down off of alcohol than heroin addicts or cocaine addicts are.

This risk is manifested in the physiological phenomenon known as delirium tremens. Delirium Tremens, abbreviated as DTs, is the phenomenon of alcohol withdrawal. In this phenomenon, the person experiences massive physiological change on multiple organs, their respiratory system, and particularly their cardiovascular system. If a person does not go through a professional and inpatient alcohol detoxification program when the delirium tremens strike, this can and has killed people.

Liquor corner in a store

Another factor is the prevalence of alcohol in society, and how much it is supported and promoted. This has something to do with why it is so hard to stop drinking. To obtain heroin, one has to participate in a highly illegal activity by finding somebody who will sell it to them and buying it from them, all without getting arrested. To obtain alcohol, all one needs is a driver’s license and a few bucks and easy access to a local convenience store. Plus, our country is inundated with advertising and marketing and promotion of alcohol. We see the promotion for the substance on all forms of media channels, including TV, radio, the internet, billboards, and shop signs. It is simply a logical determination that that which we are exposed to the most will be that which we are inclined to participate in the most. That is simply human nature at work.

So all of these factors combine to create a situation where, while most people still don’t realize it, alcohol is indeed one of the most addictive drugs in the world if not the most addictive drug in the world. Thankfully, there are ways to beat alcoholism with finality, to the degree where the person never struggles with an alcohol dependence habit again.

A Predicament for All Involved

Alcoholism is not just something that adversely affects the addict himself or herself. This is also a crippling misery for their family members and loved ones too.

When the family members and loved ones of an addict have to sit and watch their loved one struggle with addiction, they often feel as though there is nothing that they can do to help their loved one. They also feel like the addiction is the end of the road, the final frontier of misery and depression for the entire family. And it usually is too.

The family members and loved ones of addicts usually feel this way because they have likely spent a great deal of time and effort in trying to help that person, only to have those efforts refuted. In fact, most family members will have spent years trying to help their loved one to break free from addiction, only to have that loved one insist over and over again that they do not want the help. This would, of course, have a depressing effect on someone, to constantly have their help refused, and to have to watch their loved one struggle and get worse as a result.

This constant failure to help their loved one will leave anyone feeling as though they are inept and incapable. However, there does exist a technology and a technique for convincing addicts to get off of drugs and alcohol and to get the help that they so desperately need. This is speaking of course of intervention and the kind of powerful influence that a properly performed intervention could have on an individual.

Getting Off of Alcohol with the Help of an Intervention and an Alcohol AddictionTreatment Center

Happy couple walking in a sunny city.

Intervention and addiction treatment are the keys to helping anyone who suffers from alcoholism or any type of addiction for that matter. If the addict is not willing to get help, an intervention is the appropriate course of action to convince the addict that help is exactly what they need. And once the person is willing to seek help, the next step is to help them get into an inpatient drug and alcohol addiction treatment center and recovery program.

Alcoholism is a hard habit to kick, both from a physical perspective and from a psychological or emotional perspective. This is why a person’s only chance for full and reliable freedom from alcohol addiction comes from their efforts and activities in a drug and alcohol rehab center. People cannot kick an alcohol addiction habit on their own. It is simply too powerful and tempting of a habit. And alcohol is simply too available and too heavily pushed in our society to make coming down off of it on their own a workable prospect. With awareness of the problem, intervention if necessary, and addiction treatment of an inpatient nature, however, anyone can overcome alcohol addiction.


Clinical Review by Claire Pinelli, LADC, CCS, ICAADC, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.