Substance abuse is indeed a nationwide problem that reaches far beyond your grades. Substance abuse costs Americans billions in lost revenue, not to mention the countless alcohol and drug-related personal tragedies we read about every day in newspapers and magazines.
We believe that part of the solution is to provide you with timely and accurate information about drugs and alcohol so that you can make informed decisions.
We want you to be aware of the health risks associated with substance abuse. We also want you to know that there are programs available locally if you need help with a drug or alcohol problem. It's also important that you know the legal consequences of substance abuse.
The use of alcohol is a common social custom in many cultures and many people experience no ill-effects from an occasional social drink. Unfortunately, studies indicate that one in every 10 people who drink will find it difficult to control consumption. They are at risk of becoming alcoholics.
Women are even more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol than men. According to research conducted at the University School of Medicine in Trieste, Italy, women have significantly lower amounts of a stomach enzyme that breaks down some of the intoxicant in alcohol before it circulates through the body. Alcohol use also can have a detrimental affect on a women and her fetus during pregnancy. Research indicates that children of alcoholic parents are at greater risk than other youngsters of becoming alcoholics.
- Alcohol affects all systems in the body.
- Skeletal system: Skeletal muscular coordination decreases.
- Muscular system: Normal muscular coordination decrease.
- Circulatory system: The pulse rate increases and blood vessels dilate, causing increased heat loss from the body.
- Respiratory system: Small doses initially stimulate the respiratory rate, but increased doses cause a dramatic decrease.
- Nervous system: An initial relaxation at low doses is followed by mental confusion and uncontrolled mood swings at higher doses.
- Digestive system: Secretions increase, causing irritation of the stomach and a greater accumulation of fat deposits in the liver.
- Excretory system: Depression of small and larger intestinal functions can cause constipation and diarrhea. Urine production and urination increase.
- Hormone system: Increased secretions of various hormones can increase urination, raise and lower blood sugar levels, dilate pupils and raise blood pressure.
- Reproductive system: Using too much alcohol during pregnancy causes miscarriages, infant deaths, smaller, weaker newborns, and more problem pregnancies. Alcohol can have a toxic effect, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, on a developing fetus.
Although many of us don't think of tobacco as a drug, the nicotine in tobacco smoke is a highly addictive substance. Fewer than 20 percent of all smokers succeed in stopping on the first attempt. In addition to its addictive nature, nicotine has been implicated in the onset of heart attacks and cancer.
But nicotine is not the only dangerous substance in tobacco smoke. Cigarette smoke contains approximately 4,000 chemicals, several of which are known to cause cancer. Eye, nose and throat irritations have been linked to toxins and irritants found in cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide, which combines with hemoglobin in the blood stream to form carboxyhemoglobin, a substance that interferes with the body's ability to obtain and use oxygen.
Pregnant women who smoke are increasing the risk of spontaneous abortion, preterm birth, and low birth weight. Medical research also indicates that infant deaths are more likely to occur when the mother is a smoker.
Both men and women who smoke are more likely than non-smokers to contract heart disease. Approximately 170,000 people die each year from smoking-related coronary heart disease. Smokers are at greater risk of contracting lung, larynx, esophageal, bladder, pancreatic and kidney cancers. Chronic obstructive lung diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis are 10 times more likely to occur among smokers than non-smokers.
Marijuana produced today is five to 20 times stronger than that available as recently as 10 years ago. Research has shown that severe psychological damage, including paranoia and psychosis, can occur when marijuana contains 2 percent THC, its major psychoactive ingredient. Since the early 1980s, most marijuana has contained from 4 to 6 percent THC.
Commonly observed physical affects of cannabis include a substantial increase in heart rate, bloodshot eyes, a dry mouth and throat, and increased appetite.
Use of cannabis can impair or reduce short-term memory and comprehension, alter sense of time, and reduce the ability to perform tasks that require concentration and coordination, such as driving a car. Research also indicates that students do not retain knowledge when they are using marijuana.
As with tobacco, smoking marijuana is damaging to the lungs and pulmonary system. Marijuana smoke also contains more cancer-causing agents than tobacco smoke.
Although there is no evidence that marijuana is physically addictive, there is evidence that long-term use is psychologically addictive.
Cocaine, which can be inhaled through the nose, injected or smoked, stimulates the central nervous system. Its effects include dilated pupils, elevated blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate and body temperature. But that's only the beginning. Occasional "snorting" cocaine can cause a stuffy or runny nose. Chronic use can ulcerate the mucous membrane in the nose.
Crack is one of the most popular and most addictive forms of cocaine. Smoked in a pipe, the effects of crack cocaine can be felt within 10 seconds. Repeated use can lead to addiction within a few days. Continued use can produce violent behavior and psychotic states similar to schizophrenia. Crack also has been linked to sudden deaths from cardiac arrest or respiratory failure. Crack addicted mothers have passed their additions on to their babies, many of which are born with severe health problems.
Injecting cocaine poses a whole new set of heath risks in addition to the ones already mentioned. The use of contaminated needles and other "shooting" equipment can result in the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and other diseases.
No matter what form you choose, cocaine is an extremely dangerous substance. All forms of cocaine can produce psychological and physical dependency in a relatively short amount of time. Furthermore, it takes greater and greater amounts to produce the same "high."
Stimulants produce many of the same effects as cocaine; increased heart and respiratory rates, elevated blood pressure, dilated pupils and decreased appetite. Users of various amphetamines also may experience sweating, headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, sleeplessness, and anxiety. Long term use of high doses can cause hallucinations, delusions and paranoia.
Smaller doses of depressants cause effects similar to alcohol, including calmness, relaxed muscles, slurred speech, poor physical coordination, and altered perception. Larger doses can cause respiratory depression, coma and death. The combination of depressants and alcohol is extremely dangerous because it multiplies the effects of both drugs.
Like many other drugs, the use of depressants can become psychologically and physically addictive. Regular users also develop tolerances and require larger and larger doses. Withdrawal symptoms range from restlessness, insomnia and anxiety to convulsions and death.
These drugs, the most common of which are PCP and LSD, have extremely unpredictable effects on users. They have been known to cause violent mood swings, anxiety attacks, confusion, disorientation, panic, severe paranoia, and hallucinations.
Use of narcotics such as heroin initially produce a feeling of euphoria, followed by drowsiness, nausea and sometimes vomiting. An overdose may produce slow and shallow breathing, clammy skin, convulsions, coma and even death.
Tolerance to heroin and other narcotics develops rapidly. These drugs also are highly addictive. Injecting heroin with contaminated equipment can spread HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Addition in pregnant women can lead to stillborn babies, or addicted infants who experience severe withdrawal symptoms.
Developed in the 1930s, steroids have enjoyed an unfortunate resurgence among today's athletes. But the short term gains in muscle bulk and performance are far outweighed by the serious physical and psychological risks associated with steroid use.
Side affects range from acne to liver cancer. In males, steroid use can result in withered testicles, sterility and impotence. Female users can experience breast reduction and sterility. Heart attacks and strokes are health risks facing both male and female steroid users. Psychological effects in both sexes include aggressive behavior known as "roid rage" and depression