Many people wonder if alcohol is considered a drug, especially since it is used so commonly. The answer is yes: alcohol is a drug.

By one definition, a drug is any substance other than food that affects the function of the body. Alcohol has a depressant effect in humans and affects how the body functions with short-term and long-term use, so it can be classified as a drug. The World Health Organization states that alcohol is a psychoactive substance which can cause diseases and other health-related conditions.

Why Do People Drink Alcohol?

People drink alcohol for many reasons, including to socialize, relax, celebrate, self-medicate mental or physical pain and to enjoy the taste. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and causes people to feel and act differently than they usually do like many other drugs can.

How Many People Drink Alcohol?

Alcohol consumption is common in America. In 2015, almost 87 percent of Americans aged 18 or older reported using alcohol during their lifetimes. Additionally, 26.9 percent of adults reported binge drinking within the month before being surveyed, and seven percent reported heavy alcohol use, defined as binge drinking on five or more days in the past month.

What Is Considered a Standard Drink?

The size of a standard drink in the U.S. contains 14 grams of pure alcohol. The specific amount of alcohol in a drink varies depending on the type of alcohol.

In general, 14 grams of pure alcohol can be found in the following:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer (about 5% alcohol content)
  • 8 to 9 ounces of malt liquor (about 7% alcohol content)
  • 5 ounces of wine (about 12% alcohol content)
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (about 40% alcohol content)

Risks Associated With Alcohol Use

Alcohol consumption carries many risks. About 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year in America, which makes alcohol use the third leading preventable cause of death in the country, only behind tobacco use and poor diet exercise habits.

In 2016, a study determined that alcohol use is strongly linked to seven different types of cancer, including cancer of the oropharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum and breast. Alcohol-related cancer in these body sites is estimated to make up almost six percent of cancer deaths observed worldwide. About 3 million deaths occur every year from alcohol use worldwide, and alcohol is considered to be a major factor in over 200 diseases or injuries.

Although alcohol is a legal drug, it is still dangerous to a person’s health and can lead to alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorder is a disease in which a person is unable to stop using alcohol despite negative life consequences. People who struggle with alcohol use disorder typically need alcohol detox, followed by inpatient treatment.

Why Alcohol Isn’t on the DEA’s List

Alcohol has a long history of use in society and has been regulated and deregulated in various cultures over the years. In America, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) maintains a list of all drugs regulated by any federal law in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The CSA classifies various drugs into five categories based on properties such as legitimate medical use, abuse potential, and safety.

Alcohol and tobacco are not part of the CSA even though they are certainly drugs and can cause physical harm. There are many complicated laws associated with alcohol and tobacco in America. Specifically, the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed in 1933, which repealed alcohol prohibition and essentially gave each state the ability to regulate alcohol laws and policies instead of the federal government.

Alcohol is not on the DEA’s controlled substance list because it falls under individual state authority and not federal authority.

Key Points: Alcohol Is A Drug

Some points to remember about alcohol include:

  • Alcohol is definitely a drug since it is a substance other than food that affects the body
  • Alcohol use is very common and can lower inhibitions and cause people to feel and act differently
  • Alcohol use is associated with 88,000 deaths per year in the U.S.
  • Alcohol is linked to seven different types of cancer
  • Alcohol is not classified on the DEA’s controlled substance list because of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, which allows states to regulate alcohol policies rather than the federal government
  • Although the federal government doesn’t regulate alcohol laws, alcohol is still a drug which can cause physical and mental problems, especially in people who use alcohol heavily and for a long time

If you or a loved one might be facing an alcohol problem, The Recovery Village can help. We offer comprehensive alcohol addiction treatment programs with mental health counseling in each program. Call The Recovery Village today to speak with a representative who can answer your questions about rehab.

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