Health Consequences of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

When people consume alcohol in moderation, it generally does not create serious consequences or health issues. Over 87 percent of people over the age of 18 reported drinking alcohol at some time during their lives, according to 2012 statistics reported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse. When prescribed by a physician, many kinds of medication can be effective for pain relief and for resolving undesired physical ailments or symptoms. However, using prescribed drugs incorrectly or using illegal drugs can result in dangerous addictions, which can be life-threatening. To recover drug or alcohol abuse and addiction, a person may require treatment..

Alcohol Dangers

Excessive consumption and abuse of alcohol is a common problem for people of all ages. With habitual consumption and abuse of alcohol, the body develops a higher tolerance for it. A person may drink increasing amounts of alcohol more frequently in response to the increasing desire and need for it. This progressive consumption may result in negative health consequence, both physical and emotional, and may strain personal relationships. An addicted person may displace healthy relationships and activities with alcohol consumption.

Drinking large amounts of alcohol, known as binge drinking, can have serious repercussions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define binge drinking as consuming alcohol to the point where blood alcohol concentration reaches a level of 0.08 grams percent or more. For men, this typically involves drinking five or more drinks in about two hours. For women, binge drinking could involve consuming four or more drinks in two hours.

Overview of Drugs

Drug abuse can involve either prescribed medications such as oxycodone or fentanyl or illicit and illegal drugs such as marijuana or methamphetamine. Drugs may be administered orally, by smoking, by inhaling, or by injection. For example, heroin may be smoked, inhaled, or injected. Injecting or smoking methamphetamine delivers it into the user’s system in the fastest way. Users typically smoke marijuana in rolled cigarettes or in pipes. Club drugs include a variety of different synthetic stimulants or hallucinogens, typically taken orally by teenagers and young adults at parties or bars.

Initially, use of drugs is a voluntary decision. However, with continued use of drugs, the user often becomes physically addicted to the substances, finding it increasingly difficult to resist using them. Some people may be more likely to become addicted to drugs, based on factors such as genes, environment, and early use during crucial years of development. When under the influence of drugs, the brain stops processing, receiving, and sending messages properly to the rest of the body. When the brain receives abnormal and counterfeit messages from drugs, it may respond by releasing large amounts of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, which can produce feelings of euphoria.

Short-Term Side Effects of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

In the short term, abusing drugs and alcohol can result in some negative consequences. Consuming enough alcohol to alter blood alcohol concentration can result in slurred speech, difficulty with motor functions and coordination, drowsiness, impaired judgment, gastric upset, breathing difficulties, and headaches. Impaired judgment may lead a person under the influence of alcohol to make questionable decisions about conduct, such as driving while under the influence or spending money. The short-term effects of drugs can involve sleep disruptions, fatigue, memory loss, gastric upset, and constipation.

Long-Term Side Effects of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Using drugs and alcohol excessively and over a long period can result in serious health issues. Alcohol abuse over a period of years may result in liver damage, cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression, high blood pressure, nerve damage, pancreatitis, and some infectious diseases such as tuberculosis or pneumonia due to a suppressed immune system. Long-term alcohol abuse also tends to result in relationship issues with family and friends and even legal problems because of conduct such as driving while under the influence of alcohol. Drug abuse over a long period of time can result in significant and permanent changes to the brain. Brain function and activity often decreases, which means that the brain stops functioning at the higher levels that it once did before drug abuse began. With treatment for addiction, the brain may recover some level of function, but a full recovery may not be possible.


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