Health Risks of Alcohol and Other Drugs

The health risks involved in using alcohol and drugs include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Alcohol: Excessive alcohol use may lead to loss of muscle control, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, unintentional injuries, violence, and alcohol poisoning (a medical emergency that can cause loss of consciousness, low blood pressure and body temperature, coma, respiratory depression, or death). Long term effects may include neurological, cardiovascular, and psychiatric problems, cancer, liver disease, heart disease, and pancreatitis.
  • Cannabis (Marijuana): Use of cannabis may impair or reduce short-term memory and comprehension, alter sense of time, and reduce ability to perform tasks requiring concentration and coordination, such as driving a car. Marijuana can also produce paranoia and psychosis.
  • Bath Salts: Short-term effects of bath salts include rapid heartbeat and increased blood pressure. High doses can cause significant panic attacks. Frequent use of bath salts can cause sleep-deprivation psychosis. Addiction is also a strong possibility. Mental, emotional and physical effects include headache, tense muscles, increased body temperature, nosebleeds and dilated pupils. Dizziness, confusion and teeth grinding can also occur. More serious effects include fits, hallucinations, aggression, suicidal thoughts or attempts and psychotic delusions. A user can experience liver failure, kidney failure, loss of bowel control and rhabdomyolysis, which is a spontaneous breakdown of muscle fiber that can lead to death. The use of bath salts can lead to self-injurious behaviors or harming others, including murder.
  • Inhalants: (Gases or Volatile Liquids) These are found in common household products. Immediate negative effects may include nausea, sneezing, coughing, nose bleeds, fatigue, lack of coordination, and loss of appetite. Solvents and aerosol sprays may also decrease the heart and respiratory rates and impair judgment. Amyl and butyl nitrite cause rapid pulse, headaches, and involuntary passing of urine and feces. Long term use may result in hepatitis or brain damage.
  • Cocaine: Use causes the immediate effects of dilated pupils, elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, and elevated body temperature. Chronic use can cause ulceration of the mucous membrane in the nose and produce psychological dependency. Crack or freebase rock, a concentrated form of cocaine, produces effects within ten seconds of administration. In addition to the above, additional effects include loss of appetite, tactile hallucinations, paranoia, and seizures. Cocaine in any form may lead to death through disruption of the brain’s control of heart and respiration.
  • Other Stimulants (including khat, ecstasy/MDMA) These include amphetamines and methamphetamines. Users may perspire, experience headache, blurred vision, dizziness, sleeplessness, and anxiety. Extremely high doses can cause physical collapse, very high fever, stroke, or heart failure.
  • Depressants (including GHB, benzodiazepines, rohypnol, barbiturates, methaqualone, and tranquilizers): Effects can cause slurred speech, staggering gait, and altered perception. Very large doses can cause respiratory depression, coma, and death. The combination of depressants and alcohol can be devastating. Babies born to mothers who abuse depressants during pregnancy may be physically dependent on the drugs. Some show birth defects and/or behavioral problems.
  • Hallucinogens (including peyote, mescaline, LSD, PCP, K2/Spice, ketamine and mushrooms): Effects of hallucinogens vary depending upon the type of drug. Chronic users may experience mood disorders, paranoia, violent behavior, hallucinations, panic, confusion, loss of control, and death.
  • Narcotics (including heroin, methadone, morphine, opium, and oxycodone): Overdose may produce slow and shallow breathing, clammy skin, convulsions, coma, and death. Tolerance to narcotics develops rapidly, and dependence is likely. Addiction in pregnant women can lead to premature, stillborn, or addicted infants.
  • Steroids (including anabolic steroids, designer steroids, human growth hormone, androstenedione and erythropoietin): Side effects can include the following for males—prominent breasts, baldness, shrunken testicles, infertility, impotence and prostate gland enlargement. Side effects can include the following for females—deeper voice, enlarged clitoris, increased body hair, baldness and infrequent or absent periods. Both men and women can experience severe acne, increased risk of tendinitis and tendon rupture, liver abnormalities and tumors, increased LDL cholesterol, decreased HDL cholesterol, hypertension, heart problems, aggressive behaviors, rage or violence, psychiatric disorders, drug dependence and infections or diseases such as HIV or hepatitis if drug is injected.
  • Designer Drugs: These drugs have had their molecular structure changed chemically to produce analogs such as synthetic heroin and hallucinogens. These analogs can be hundreds of times stronger than the original drug which they are designed to imitate. One dose can cause uncontrollable tremors, drooling, impaired speech, paralysis, and irreversible brain damage.

 

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