Portraits of Addiction

Photo: George Goss/NYCity News Service

Manuel Watson, 51

Watson's dependency on alcohol began at an early age, but only worsened when he was diagnosed with AIDS in 1992.

Listen to Watson share his struggle with alcohol below.

I tried to destroy myself completely.


Street Price
$6.99 - $12.99
Addictiveness Potential

Usage Rates

Very common and socially acceptable ---

Abuse rates hover around one in five. More than 1,700 New Yorkers die from alcohol related causes each year. One in ten hospitalizations in New York City is alcohol-related. (NYC DOHMH)


From around 6000-4000 BCE, people began using grapes to make wine in what is not modern Armenia. Later between 3000-2000 BCE, beer production from grains began in Mesopotamia. Beer and wine spread around the Mid-East and Near East, making their way to Europe. Grain alcohol production began in Europe in the Middle Ages.

Highs & Lows



  • Pain killer


  • Relaxation
  • Mood lift
  • Happiness
  • Increased sociability
  • Lowers inhibitions/social anxiety



  • Decreased coordination
  • Nausea, vomitting
  • Slurring speech
  • Drowsiness, sleepiness
  • Nystagumus (twitching eyes)
  • Frequent urination
  • Erectile dysfuntion
  • Blackouts
  • Brain and liver damage
  • Coma and death at extreme dosages
  • Hangover
  • Fetal damage


  • Emotional volatility
  • Decreased ability to reconize own impairment
  • Confusion

Addictiveness Potential

  1. David Nutt, a British psychiatrist and pharmacologist has spent a career specializing in how drugs affect the brain. In 2007 he developed and published in the journal "Lancet," a scale of addiction potential by measuring a drug's pleasure, psychological dependence, and physical dependence. The ratings are measured on a scale of "0" (being least addictive) to "3" (highest level of addiction). It stands alone as one of the only efforts to empirically quantify illicit drug's potential for harm.