Alcohol and drug facts: Health risks

Alcohol

Alcohol consumption causes a number of changes in behavior and physiology. Even low does significantly impair judgment, coordination and abstract mental functioning. Statistics shows that alcohol use is involved in a majority of violent behaviors on university campuses, including acquaintance rape, vandalism, fights, and incidents of drinking and driving. Continued abuse may lead to dependency, which often causes permanent damage to vital organs and deterioration of a healthy lifestyle.

Other effects can include:

  • decreased interest in classes and extracurricular activities
  • drastic change in grades or academic performance
  • shifts in sleeping patterns or fluctuations in weight
  • time spent in new social circles, especially among those who have a reputation of abuse
  • withdrawing from friends or acting secretive
  • unexplained changes in behavior or personality
  • uncharacteristic mood swings, depression or irritability

Blood Alcohol Concentration

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) refers to the amount of alcohol in an individual's bloodstream. A person's size, gender, weight, fat content and amount of food in the stomach will effect the absorption of alcohol in the bloodstream. The predominant factor in absorption is the metabolism of alcohol by the liver. When alcohol enters the bloodstream, 95% is metabolized by the liver and 5% is excreted in breath, sweat and urine. The liver takes about one hour per drink to clear the body of alcohol. Remember just one drink can impair your skills and judgment. It is risky to operate any machinery or engage in any activity that requires concentration and alertness after drinking any amount of alcohol. In the following chart, one drink is defined as 1 1/2 oz. of 80 proof liquor, 12 oz. of beer, or 4 oz. of wine.

Alcohol poisoning

Visit the official Minnesota Prevention Resource Center website for some useful resources and data regarding alcohol poisoning.

Amphetamines

Amphetamines can cause a rapid or irregular heartbeat, headaches, depression, damage to the brain and lungs, tremors, loss of coordination, collapse and death. Heavy users are prone to irrational acts.

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, paranoia and depression. Cocaine is extremely addictive and can cause delirium, hallucinations, blurred vision, severe chest pain, muscle spasms, psychosis, convulsions, stroke and even death.

Hallucinogens

Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) causes illusions and hallucinations. The user may experience panic, confusion, suspicion, anxiety and loss of control. Delayed effects, or flashbacks, can occur even when use has ceased. Phencyclidine (PCP) affects the sections of the brain that control intellect and keep instincts in check. Hallucinogens can cause liver damage, convulsion, coma and even death.

Marijuana

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 experience interference with psychological maturation and temporary loss of fertility. The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, is stored in the fatty tissues of the brain and reproductive system for a minimum of 28 to 30 days.

Methamphetamine

Methamphetamines, known as speed, meth, ice, glass, etc., have a high potential for abuse and dependence. Taking even small amounts may produce irritability, insomnia, confusion, tremors, convulsions, anxiety, paranoia and aggressiveness. Over time, methamphetamine users may experience symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease, a severe movement disorder.

Narcotics

Narcotics such as codeine, heroin or other opiate drugs cause the body to have diminished pain reactions. The use of heroin can result in coma or death due to a reduction in heart rate.

Prescription Drug Abuse

Learn more about prescription drug abuse at the official Minnesota Prevention Resource Center website.

Steroids

Steroid users experience a sudden increase in muscle and weight and an increase in aggression and combativeness. Steroids can cause high blood pressure, liver and kidney damage, heart disease, sterility and prostate cancer. Additional information can be found on the official National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) website.