Why is Alcohol NOT Considered a Drug?

The DEA says no, but by its own definition, it should be.

Photo by Maria Orlova from Pexels

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”
― Wayne W. Dyer

It always somewhat amazes me when I hear the terms drugs and alcohol as if alcohol is not a drug.

Even when you hear the term, I’m sure you don’t think twice about it if makes sense or not, but if you heard someone say sweet corn and candy or soda and beverages, you would probably think that’s a weird way to say that since they are all the same thing.

However, with the term alcohol and drugs, we have gotten so used to saying it that it doesn’t seem weird to us. It makes us naturally disassociate alcohol with all the bad drugs that we know are out there in the ether and instead think of it as a separate entity altogether.

This has been accomplished by a masterful job of marketing by the alcohol industry to separate itself from the negative connotation of what most people think of as drugs, in that they are bad in all forms and should be avoided at all costs.

They want you to believe there is little to no danger to alcohol like there are to other drugs. This is not surprising in that it’s the alcohol industry’s job to make sure their product is shown in the best light possible.

What is a bit surprising, however, is that you would think that you could go to the established government drug organization to give you a straight answer about this, as this is their job right to protect the members of society…but you would be wrong.

Alcohol’s classification (or lack thereof) according to the DEA

The marketing and lobbying agency of the alcohol industry has been so successful in their ability to separate themselves from other drugs that even the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) does not recognize alcohol as a drug on its five schedule system.

This is system details the different classes of drugs by their strength in addiction and propensity to be abused by the user. And while some will point out that the DEA’s job is to enforce things that are illegal, it has to be noted that Adderall, Ambien, and even Robitussin AC are included in the list below, so this can’t be the decision-making criteria about what is or isn’t included on the list.

Each level raises some very interesting questions and commentary when one recognizes that alcohol is not listed at all.

Schedule I (most addictive) — drugs, substances, or chemicals with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples are heroin, LSD, ecstasy, and marijuana.

Question: So are they saying that marijuana is more addictive than alcohol or there is a more acceptable medical use for alcohol than cannabis?

Schedule II — drugs, substances, or chemicals with high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. Examples of this are Vicodin, cocaine, oxycodone, and Adderall.

Question: How is it possible for alcohol to NOT fall into this category, and how is Adderall considered more dangerous?

Schedule III — drugs, substances, or chemicals with low potential for physical or psychological dependence but still can be abused and one can become addicted if not careful. Examples include Tylenol with codeine, ketamine, anabolic steroids, and testosterone.

Commentary: So a version of a Tylenol painkiller is considered a drug before alcohol?

Scheduled IV — drugs, substances, or chemicals with low potential of abuse and low risk of depending. Examples are Xanax, Valium, and Ambien.

Commentary: Many of these drugs have been used to treat some of the same symptoms that some abuse alcohol for, anxiety and inability to sleep, so why wouldn’t alcohol fall into this same category?

Schedule V (least addictive) — drugs, substances, or chemicals with the lowest potential for abuse and consist of preparations containing limited quantities of certain narcotics. Examples are Robitussin AC, Lomotil, and Lyrica.

Commentary: So Robitussin is considered a drug, but alcohol is not?

Reading all of this only makes one think that there must be some heavy lobbying taking place behind the scenes because as you break this down logically by alcohol’s effects on individuals and society, how could it not be considered to fall into one of these categories.

Alcohol classification according to Wikipedia and addiction rates

Simply put, Wikipedia defines drugs as “any substance that causes a change in an organism physiology or psychology when consumed.” Anyone who has seen their mild-mannered friend go from quiet and shy to the life of the party can attest to this in spades.

This definition in itself seems to easily allow alcohol to fall into this category, but when we couple this definition with the DEA’s classification of the potential for the substance to be addictive, then it’s almost impossible to understand why alcohol is not considered as such.

When looking at some of the higher schedule drugs such as marijuana and cocaine (schedule I and II respectively), cannabis has an addiction rate of about 1 percent, while cocaine only has an abuse rate of about 0.2 percent of the population.

Contrast this to alcohol in which 12.7 percent of the population is currently believed to suffer from alcohol abuse disorder, and one can only come to the conclusion that the DEA’s view of alcohol is not based on the reality in which we live but rather on the reality that the alcohol industry paints for them.