Consumption

Alcohol

Alcohol consumption causes a number of marked changes in behavior. Even low doses of alcohol significantly impair the judgment and coordination required to drive a car safely, increasing the likelihood that the driver will be involved in an accident. The use of small amounts of alcohol by a pregnant woman can damage the fetus. Low to moderate doses of alcohol also increase the incidence of a variety of aggressive acts.

Moderate to high doses of alcohol cause marked impairment in higher mental functions, severely altering a person's ability to learn and remember information.

Heavy use may result in chronic depression and suicide and also may be associated with the abuse of other drugs. Very high doses can cause respiratory depression and death. If combined with other depressants of the central nervous system, much lower doses of alcohol will produce the effects described.

Even occasional heavy drinking may be associated with the harmful effects described above. Binge drinking, which occurs over an extended period of time, involves repeated use of alcohol to the point of intoxication. A person may give up usual activities and responsibilities during this time in order to use the alcohol, and serious impairment in all areas of functioning may occur.

Long-term heavy alcohol use can cause digestive disorders, cirrhosis of the liver, circulatory system disorders, and impairment of the central nervous system-all of which may lead to early death. Repeated use of alcohol can lead to dependence, and at least 15 to 20 percent of heavy users eventually will become problem drinkers or alcoholics if they continue drinking. Sudden cessation of alcohol intake is likely to produce withdrawal symptoms, including severe anxiety, tremors, hallucinations, and convulsions, which can be life threatening.

Drug Usage

The use of illegal drugs and the misuse of prescription and other drugs also pose a serious threat to health. The use of marijuana (cannabis) may cause impairment of short-term memory, comprehension, and ability to perform tasks requiring concentration. The use of marijuana also may cause lung damage, paranoia, and possible psychosis.

The use of narcotics, depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogens may cause nervous system disorders and possible death as the result of an overdose. Illicit inhalants can cause liver damage.

Other Risks

There are significant risks associated with the use of alcohol and drugs. These risks include impaired academic or work performance; lost potential; financial problems; poor concentration; blackouts; conflicts with friends and others; vandalism, theft, and murder; sexual assault and other unplanned sexual relationships; spouse and child abuse; sexually transmitted diseases; HIV/AIDS; and unusual or inappropriate risk taking which may result in physical or emotional injury or death.