Health Risks of Alcohol and Other Drugs

Alcohol

Alcohol consumption causes a number of impairments including changes in behavior and normal body function.  Even low doses significantly impairs judgment, coordination and mental function, thus increasing the risks of accidents and injuries.  Moderate to high doses of alcohol cause marked impairments in higher mental functions, severely altering a person’s ability to learn and remember information.  Very high doses taken acutely can cause respiratory depression and even death.  Statistics show that alcohol use is involved in a majority of violent behaviors on college campuses, including acquaintance rape, vandalism, and fights.  Additional consequences include DUI arrests and serious or fatal car crashes.  Continued abuse may lead to dependency, which can cause permanent damage to vital organs and deterioration of a healthy lifestyle.

Amphetamines

Amphetamines can cause a rapid or irregular heartbeat, tremors, convulsions, loss of coordination, collapse and death.  Heavy users are prone to irrational acts.

Cannabis (Marijuana, Hashish)

The use of marijuana may impair or reduce short-term memory and comprehension, alter sense of time, and reduce coordination and energy level.  Users often have a lowered immune system and an increased risk of lung cancer.  Users also often lack motivation and general ambition to achieve goals.  Marijuana use has also been linked to lower IQ scores, anxiety, and depression.

Club Drugs

Club drugs are drugs such as MDMA (Ecstasy), Rohypnol, GHB, LSD and methamphetamine and others, which are used at all-night parties, dance clubs and bars.  These drugs, especially when mixed with alcohol, can cause serious health problems, injuries or even death.

Cocaine/Crack

Cocaine users often have a stuffy, runny nose and may have a perforated nasal septum.  The immediate effects of cocaine use include dilated pupils and elevated blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate and body temperature, followed by depression.  Crack, or freebase rock cocaine, is extremely addictive and can cause delirium, hallucinations, blurred vision, severe chest pain, muscle spasms, convulsions and even death.

Heroin

Heroin is an opiate drug that causes the body to have diminished pain reactions.  Overdoses of this highly addictive drug can result in coma or death due to respiratory failure or cardiovascular collapse.

Methamphetamines

Meth can cause rapid or irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure and body temperature.  Possible side effects with long-term use include mood disturbances, violent behavior, anxiety, confusion, and insomnia.  All users risk becoming infected with diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

Prescription Drug Abuse

Taking a prescription medication that is not prescribed for you, or taking it for reasons or in dosages other than as prescribed, is prescription drug abuse.  Commonly abused classes of prescription medications include opioids, central nervous system (CNS) depressants and stimulants.  Long-term use of opioids or CNS depressants can lead to physical dependence and addiction.  Opioids and CNS depressants may cause the user to experience drowsiness, slowing of brain function, as well as decreased heart and respiration rates.  Stimulants can cause anxiety, paranoia, severely high body temperatures or seizures if taken repeatedly or in high doses.

Synthetic Drugs (Spice, Bath Salts, etc.)

“Spice” refers to a wide variety of herbal mixtures that produce experiences similar to marijuana (cannabis) and that are marketed as “safe”, legal alternatives to that drug.  The term “bath salts” refers to an emerging family of drugs containing one or more synthetic chemicals related to cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant found naturally in the Khat plant.  Though research on synthetic substances is still limited, they have been found to be potentially more dangerous than marijuana, cocaine, or other substances of abuse, as they are addictive and can be highly dangerous.

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