|Many legalization advocates are fond of comparing the use of
alcohol with the use of drugs, yet draw faulty conclusions from the comparison.
||The first thing that should be pointed out is that the DEA
doesn't think that alcohol is a drug -- although it clearly is.
|People often consume small amounts of wine or beer as a
beverage and do not necessarily drink to the point of mental impairment. This is not true
of drug use, where the whole point of use is intoxication.
||The point of use of alcohol is intoxication, just as it is
for the illegal drugs. Even small amounts of alcohol will relax a person or change their
mood. This is intoxication, it is just a mild intoxication. If you don't want the
intoxication, there is very little reason to drink alcoholic wine or beer instead of their
Most users of most drugs want a relatively mild intoxication
from their drug of choice. That is one of the main reasons that wine and beer outsell the
harder beverages, and why most illegal drug use is the use of marijuana.
This argument is a distortion in itself because it lumps all illicit drugs together, as
if they had the same capacity to addict. Clearly, there are major differences between
drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and marijuana, and Dr. Rosenthal is irresponsible not to
point them out.
Dr. Rosenthal's figures could not possibly be true, based on the DEA's own evidence
shown above in their chart showing the supposed drop in drug use. The DEA's own figures
shows the number of regular drug users is far higher than the number of addicts and always
has been. By the DEA's own figures at least 85 percent are not addicted, and at least 70
percent are gainfully employed.
|A more accurate analogy would be to compare drug use to
||Again, the DEA apparently doesn't think alcohol is a drug.
DEA clearly distorts the issue when they attempt to compare moderate use of one drug with
extreme use of another. This is a common theme in the arguments for prohibition. See Themes in Chemical Prohibition, Theme #4
|Yet even that analogy is weak, because drugs are far more addictive than
alcohol, and have no cultural or social value.
||Dr. Jack E. Henningfield of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Dr.
Neal L. Benowitz of the University of California at San Francisco ranked six psychoactive
substances on five criteria.
- Withdrawal -- The severity of withdrawal symptoms produced by stopping the use of the
- Reinforcement -- The drug's tendency to induce users to take it again and again.
- Tolerance -- The user's need to have ever-increasing doses to get the same effect.
- Dependence -- The difficulty in quitting, or staying off the drug, the number of users
who eventually become dependent
- Intoxication -- The degree of intoxication produced by the drug in typical use.
Their ratings are shown below:
Substance Withdrawal Reinforcement Tolerance Dependence Intoxication
Nicotine 3 4 2 1 5
Heroin 2 2 1 2 2
Cocaine 4 1 4 3 3
Alcohol 1 3 3 4 1
Caffeine 5 6 5 5 6
Marijuana 6 5 6 6 4
Substance Withdrawal Reinforcement Tolerance Dependence Intoxication
Nicotine 3* 4 4 1 6
Heroin 2 2 2 2 2
Cocaine 3* 1 1 3 3
Alcohol 1 3 4 4 1
Caffeine 4 5 3 5 5
Marijuana 5 6 5 6 4
|Yet even that analogy is weak, because drugs are far more addictive than alcohol, and
have no cultural or social value.
||Most of the drugs have some social or cultural value, just like alcohol. See, for
example, the many references under the Psychedelic
Library and the Historical References.
|Dr. Mitchell Rosenthal points out, for example, that only 10
percent of drinkers become alcoholics, while up to 75 percent of regular illicit drug
users become addicted.
||Dr. Rosenthal's figures could not possibly be true, based on
the DEA's own evidence shown above in their chart showing the supposed drop in drug use.
The DEA's own figures shows the number of regular drug users is far higher than the number
of addicts and always has been. By the DEA's own figures at least 85 percent are not
addicted, and at least 70 percent are gainfully employed.
|Proponents of legalization note--correctly--that alcohol
kills many more Americans than do illegal drugs and currently exact social and financial
costs that are higher as well.
||By any standard of measurement, the toll exacted by alcohol
is perhaps twenty times the toll from illegal drugs. Even the DEA does not contend that
legalization would increase drug abuse by a factor of twenty.
|Advocates point out that many people do not use alcohol, and
argue that many Americans may also choose to forego drugs.
||They choose to forego drugs right now. There is no reason to
believe that large numbers of people would suddenly want to spend their lives stoned if
drugs were suddenly made legal. Most people just don't like to live their lives that way,
any more than they want to spend all day drunk.
|Like treatment programs available for alcohol addicted
people, treatment for drug addicts should be more widely available, they say.
||This is obviously true.
|The experts assembled at the Anti-Legalization Forum pointed
to already overburdened health care and social systems that are unable to address all the
problems associated with alcohol use. Legalized drugs would compound these problems, the
group said, adding immeasurably to the burdens on the criminal, health and social service
||They don't provide any research to back up their opinions.
The major calamities that they are predicting didn't happen even when drugs were
completely unregulated. See, for example, 19th
Century America - A Dope Fiend's Paradise, and the first dozen chapters of the Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit
They admit that alcohol creates more problems than illegal drugs. They also
admit that prohibiting alcohol would not be the best approach to the alcohol problem.
|Alcohol use in this country has taken a tremendous physical
toll on Americans, not to mention the social problems that have resulted from its use.
||There is no doubt about that. The problems of alcohol are
many times larger than the problems of the illegal drugs, and always have been. If the DEA
really thought that prohibition would solve these problems then they should support
|Legalization proponents would have us multiply our problems by creating a new class of
||We already have a class of drug-addicted Americans. Proponents of reform want to deal
with those problems in a more effective manner.
|Again, how much are we willing to tolerate?
||How many people are we going to throw in prison?
|To pay for?
||We are going to pay for the problems of drug use, one way or another. The question is
whether we want to follow a policy that is tremendously expensive, or a policy that is
|Look at the problems that alcohol abuse has wrought. In the
1920s those advocating the repeal of Prohibition argued that crime and other social ills
would be alleviated if alcohol were legal. Has that happened?
||Many social ills were alleviated with the repeal of
Prohibition. Most Americans agree that we are better off without alcohol Prohibition. Even
the DEA does not suggest that we should bring it back.
We think the evidence is pretty
conclusive that we are better off without alcohol prohibition. For one thing, it is
the only occasion in history in which Americans have repealed an amendment to the
constitution. For additional information see:
|We now have approximately 11 million alcoholics or problem
drinkers in this country whose behavior has contributed to lost productivity in the
workplace, fetal defects, traffic fatalities, domestic violence and other crime. If drugs
were made legal, the numbers and the problems would swell.
||If people want to abuse drugs, they can do it now. Most
people do not abuse drugs simply because they don't want to live with the problems of drug
abuse. That won't change.
|The simple fact is that if drugs are made legal, more people
will use drugs. There will be higher health and social costs; there will be more crime.
||There is no evidence of this, and the DEA didn't present any
|Some facts which help to confirm the observations of the
forum participants may be used in debates:
- In a May, 1993 report titled "Survey of State Prison Inmates," the Bureau of
Justice Statistics states that 32% of inmates committed their offense under the influence
of alcohol. Slightly more than two-fifths of inmates convicted of homicide or assault
committed their current offense under the influence of alcohol or of alcohol with drugs.
|This is a good argument against alcohol. It doesn't say much
about the illegal drugs. Alcohol is the drug with the biggest relationship to crime
problems, and always has been.
- According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, about 11 million Americans
were heavy drinkers in 1993 (drinking five or more drinks per occasion on five or more
days in the past 30 days). Heavy alcohol use has changed little since 1985, when there
were 12 million heavy drinkers.
|This is another good argument against alcohol, but doesn't
say anything about the illegal drugs.
- The same report indicates that "of the 11 million heavy drinkers in 1993, 26
percent (3 million) were also current illicit drug users." The report goes on to say
that "Current smokers are more likely to be heavy drinkers and illicit drug users.
Among smokers in 1993, 11 percent were heavy drinkers and 12 percent were illicit drug
|This isn't surprising at all. It is just a reflection of the
fact that people who abuse one drug are likely to abuse other drugs.
- In a 1993 report by Brandeis University, it was estimated that the United States spent
$10.5 billion on health care related to alcohol use.
|This is another good argument against alcohol, but says
nothing about illegal drugs.
- Alcohol is blamed for between $140 and $210 billion per year in lost productivity.
|The DEA provides no source for this data. Despite this
statistic, the DEA is not recommending that we bring back alcohol Prohibition to solve the
- 17,461 people were killed in alcohol-related traffic incidents in 1993.
|Despite this statistic, the DEA is not recommending that we
bring back alcohol Prohibition to solve the problem.
- Michigan's Director of the Office of Drug Control Policy, Robert Peterson, states that
"It is estimated that alcohol abuse costs the nation $100 billion per year and over
300 lives per day, an amount that the $18 billion in state and federal excise tax revenue
does not begin to cover."
|Then why doesn't he recommend that we bring back alcohol
Prohibition as a way of solving that problem?