Bookmark and Share

Smoking, Alcohol & Other Substance Consumption: Effects On Health

Tobacco and alcohol use are very common in our society and are associated with significant morbidity and mortality.

Alcohol consumption has immediate effects that can increase risk for motor vehicle accidents, poor academic or work performance, violence, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Acute alcohol intoxication can result in seizures, coma, and death. Chronic abuse of alcohol can result in attention disorders, memory lapse, and blackouts. Persons aged 12 to 20 years drink almost 20% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. Over 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinking.

Some consequences of underage drinking include: higher risk for suicide and homicide; unintentional injuries; abuse of other drugs; changes in brain development that may have life-long effects; and disruption of normal growth and sexual development.

Although smoking rates have declined over the last several years, more than 1 in 5 Americans smoke. Each year, an estimated 438,000 Americans die as a result of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. The estimated costs of smoking-related medical expenses and loss of productivity exceed $167 billion annually (CDC Data Highlights 2006). Nicotine is a poison; tars are chemicals that stay in the lungs; and carbon monoxide is a poison found in tobacco smoke. Nicotine is more addictive than cocaine or heroin!

Another concern is the growing prescription drug use and abuse. Most people who take prescription medications take them responsibly; however, the non-medical use or abuse of prescription drugs remains a serious public health concern. Certain prescription drugs (central nervous system depressants and stimulants) when abused can alter the brain's activity and lead to dependency and possibly addiction.

Drug addiction is a brain disease which affects human behavior. Once addicted, an individual's ability to make voluntary decisions is altered and leads to compulsive drug craving, seeking and use. The impact of addiction can be far reaching. Cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and lung disease can all be affected by drug abuse. Prescription drug misuse involves a myriad factors, including the power of addiction, misperceptions about drug abuse, and the difficulty in discussing the topic with healthcare providers.