This term for psychoactive substances has developed to ensure that alcohol is regarded, accurately, as a drug or a psychoactive substance. This is regarded as helpful in some contexts both in ensuring that alcohol is not regarded as exceptional or different and in ensuring that drugs are not regarded as essentially different from alcohol and other socially acceptable forms of substance use. In this latter sense, the term can help destigmatise drug use or reduce the hierarchy of stigma that is associated with the use of different substances. (see stigma)
The term is also sometimes useful in referring to polysubstance use involving alcohol; especially where there is a possibility an audience may regard alcohol use as normal or a ‘given’ or not significant; for example, in some discussions of drug related deaths the role of alcohol in polysubstance drug overdose sometimes needs to be made clear.