A  A  A   Print
Health Risks of Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Health Risks of Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Many Americans abuse alcohol and illegal drugs without thinking about the possible risk to their health and well-being.

Alcohol

Traffic accidents are the number one cause of death among Americans ages 15 to 20, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nearly one-third of fatal traffic accidents involve an alcohol-impaired driver.

Even small amounts of alcohol, such as one or two standard drinks, which is equivalent to one or two 12-ounce cans of beer, can affect your judgment and coordination. This increases the chance that you will be involved in an accident. Moderate amounts also affect your ability to learn and remember information. High amounts can cause alcohol poisoning, resulting in death.

Women who drink alcohol while pregnant may give birth to infants with birth defects and intellectual disability.

Illegal drugs

Drugs change your perception. They affect how your brain works, including your memory. They cause a variety of potentially serious or fatal physical conditions.

These drugs have specific health risks:

  • Cocaine. Cocaine in any form can cause sudden death from cardiac arrest. Cocaine stimulates the central nervous system, which then raises blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and body temperature. Injecting cocaine by sharing drugs or devices used to prepare the drugs can lead to HIV infection and hepatitis.

  • Marijuana. Marijuana increases heart rate, affects memory and comprehension, and makes it more difficult to perform tasks requiring concentration and coordination, such as driving a car. The drug also affects motivation, which has an impact on school and work, and, like smoking cigarettes, can lead to lung diseases, including cancer.

  • Prescription drug abuse. Over 7 million Americans used prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes in the past month. Commonly abused medications include OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, as well as Ritalin and Adderal. OxyContin, Vicodin, and Percocet¬†abuse can result in a fatal overdose due to low blood pressure and depressed breathing rate. Ritalin or Adderal abuse can cause very high blood pressure, irregular heart rate, and high body temperature.

  • Methamphetamine. This drug can increase heart rate, raise blood pressure, and decrease appetite, which can lead to severe weight loss. High doses can cause tremors, delusions, paranoia, and death.

  • Anabolic steroids, such as testosterone. Steroid users can suffer side effects ranging from acne to liver cancer. In males, use can cause withered testicles, sterility, and impotence. In females, irreversible masculine traits can develop, for example, baldness, increases in body hair growth, including a beard, and voice changes. Psychological effects in both sexes include aggressive behavior and depression. Some side effects, such as heart attack and stroke, may occur years after use.

 
Today's Interactive Tools

The third-party content provided in the Health Library of phoebeputney.com is for informational purposes only and is not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your physician. If you or your child has or suspect you may have a health problem, please consult your primary care physician. If you or your child may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 or other emergency health care provider immediately in the United States or the appropriate health agency of your country. For more information regarding site usage, please visit: Privacy Information, Terms of Use or Disclaimer.

Follow us online:

© 2014 Phoebe Putney Health System  |  417 Third Avenue, Albany, Georgia 31701  |  Telephone 877.312.1167

Phoebe Putney Health System is a network of hospitals, family medicine clinics, rehab facilities, auxiliary services, and medical education training facilities. Founded in 1911,
Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital (the flagship hospital) is one of Georgia's largest comprehensive regional medical centers. From the beginning, Phoebe's mission and vision
has been to bring the finest medical talent and technology to the citizens of Southwest Georgia, and to serve all citizens of the community regardless of ability to pay.