Why the abuse of drugs like Morphine and Heroin condemned by the society but consumption of alcohol considered acceptable? Don’t both the type of substances act the same way on the Nervous System?


Why the abuse of drugs like Morphine and Heroin condemned by the society but consumption of alcohol considered acceptable? Don’t both the type of substances act the same way on the Nervous System?

In: Biology

Society deems alcohol acceptable partially because it’s fine in moderation, and has been a component of human society for thousands of years.

There really isn’t any safe amount of heroin, and there’s no social or health benefit to doing it. Morphine (from which heroin is derived) is only useful as a painkiller under medical supervision.

The most compelling theory I’ve heard is ancient commerce created a social favoritism towards alcohol.

Go back 1000+ years. Alcohol doesn’t spoil, making trade highly lucrative, especially over seas. Wanna ban it and there was money to stop the ban. Plant based drugs like opium, cannabis, peyote, … were difficult enough to transport that the merchants seldom had power to fight prohibition movements.

Opiates are pharmacological distinct from alcohol. The closest analog to alcohol would be benzodiazepines (xanax, etc)

Because you’re comparing the *abuse* of opiates to the *consumption* of alcohol.

We have a word for the *abuse* of alcohol – drunk – and a word for people who regularly *abuse* alcohol – alcoholics. Society at large doesn’t consider people who are drunk to be any better than people who are high, nor does society at large consider being an alcoholic any more acceptable than being a heroin addict.

Alcohol, as a drug, is somewhat unique in the sense that most people who consume it don’t do so to a level where they become intoxicated. There’s nothing saying that you couldn’t do the same with heroin (or other drugs). For example, society doesn’t look down on people who take small amounts of prescription opiates to treat the pain caused by legitimate medical conditions. But in the context of heroin, nobody is taking heroin in small quantities to treat a legitimate medical condition, they’re taking heroin because they want to get high.

Money and greed. Both the government and other rich people have made tobacco and alcohol controllable (they get to stay in control) and profitable. They haven’t been able to do that with heroin mushrooms etc.

They work on the nervous system differently, but this is not the reason they are viewed differently.

A) Alcohol has a long history of human consumption, including the entirety of the history of most modern countries (ie USA). Alcoholic drinks have also long been used as a source of calories and fluid where clean drinking water was not available.

B) Morphine/heroin have a long history of human use, but they provide zero nutritional value (and as such are only classified as medicine or recreational instead of food).

C) Morphine and Heroin addicts tend to live a very sad life. The constant need to feed their addiction, coupled with the resulting long periods of sleep and excruciating withdrawals, leads to addicts doing little more than obtaining/ingesting their drug and sleeping it off.

D) Extreme alcoholism is equally sad and pathetic, but there are plenty of people who would be considered “functional alcoholics” that hold down a job, support families, and generally contribute to society. Other than celebrities (esp musicians and actors) who can afford to hire people to handle everything else in their life, there are very few “functional” heroin or morphine addicts.

E) Alcohol can be done in moderation for long periods of time without experiencing withdrawal or needing to regularly increase your dosage (the factory worker that has a few beers every day after work for 30 years). Morphine/heroin requires constantly increasing your dosage because it is typically done 24hr a day and your body adjusts to it.

Both have a purpose and can be beneficial, and both can lead a person to very dark and terrible places, but alcohol is more familiar to most (Western) people and doesn’t lead to those dark places as often as morphine/heroin does. I think that is the reason for the difference in reputation.

Chemically they are somewhat different, but socially they represent the same problem: addiction.

I think the most important thing to remember is a drug’s prime use: alcohol is a drink that can be enjoyed responsibly, accepted in many societies in different forms; morphine is still used in medical applications; but heroin arguably has fallen out of its original use as medication due to many factors, primarily its side effects.

When you say “condemned”, what are you saying specifically? Because the nuances behind the condemnation matters. For example, I think society in general condemns any use of heroin, non-medical use of morphine, and the over-use of alcohol as a social substance i.e. to drink it for social purposes. They’re all condemned, but to different degrees and purposes. To condemn alcohol like one condemns heroin is inaccurate because they are taken in different contexts, and alcohol’s primary function is that it is a drink to be enjoyed, not as a drug.

Similarly, car fatalities in many countries represent the largest source of mortalities, but why is car riding not condemned as, say, war or drug use? Because a car has a primary function that isn’t killing people.

This is the information I learned directly from a toxicologist as part of my job:

First, Heroin and alcohol do not affect the body in the same way. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. Heroin is an opioid which activates opioid receptors in the brain. What makes Heroin so dangerous is how it affects the brain. The opioid receptors flood the brain with more dopamine than your brain is ever capable of producing naturally. Dopamine is the chemical in your brain that causes you to feel pleasure. This absolutely massive dump of Dopamine is what produces the high. In order to reach that same level of pleasure, the user must take progressively more and more Heroin during each session, which can lead to overdose. This is because the receptors get used to Heroin, or develop a tolerance for the drug.

Heroin use leads to terrible side effects. The user feels terrible side effects (withdrawal) from lack of use because their brain is incapable of replicating the dopamine drop without the drug. It ravages the body, often producing a skeletal appearance from malnutrition, as a result of not eating correctly or exercising. It tends to produce long periods without sleep and then sleep for days at a time. These side effects, combined with the physiological need for the person to use, make it incredibly difficult for an addict to function within society.

Alcohol is far, far less dangerous. It is a central nervous depressant, as I mentioned earlier. It slows down brain functioning and neural activity. It is psychoactive so it also produces a euphoric feeling. However, unlike Heroin, your brain is vastly better at regulating its effects, and it doesn’t affect opioid receptors. Further, for most people, consuming small amounts of alcohol has no negative effects and can cause them to relax. Many people choose to drink more alcohol, “get drunk, ” to experience its psychoactive effect of euphoria. For alcohol to be dangerous to the average person in a single drinking session, a very large quantity must be consumed very quickly.

Obviously, alcohol too is capable of causing both physical and psychological addiction and is linked to many socially destructive behaviors such as child and spousal abuse. So, it is absolutely capable of harm. But generally speaking, alcohol addiction takes a lot of time to take hold, at least in comparison to Heroin, and the side effects of use (hangovers) are significantly more manageable.

Alcohol is viewed differently from Heroin because its the oldest recreational drug in the world and has been a part of human culture for millenia. As many people have mentioned, at various points in human history, it was safer to drink than water.

Heroin was first synthesized in the 19th century as a way to treat pain, it is literally just recreational morphine. Its medical use is very limited, it is impossible to use, recreationally, in moderation and it is very deadly. A person can use Heroin one time and be addicted, though it tends to take an additional use or two for the addiction to take hold. It can take the brain upwards of ten years to readjust to equalibrium from the dopamine dump from a single Heroin use. People may get drunk hundreds of times in their lives, but not become addicted to alcohol.

With heroin, you start to use a needle. And it’s common to have a huge daily habit. I’ve been at $150 a day before.
I think alcohol is worse personally.
And heroin is converted into morphine within the body after using

We tried to ban alcohol. It worked as well as the war on drugs.

Moonshining, smuggling, organised crime…

At one point we figured that controlling is better than forbidding. Sadly many years later those lessons were lost and we banned a whole bunch of substances. And yes that worked out just as bad.