Effects of Substance Use
There are many substances that can be consumed by people. Cocaine and Marijuana come to mind for many people, and then there are Benzodiazepines, Central Nervous System Stimulants, and Opioids, however the focus here will be alcohol, because it is so common. Alcohol is just one of these many substances, and it happens to be one of the oldest, and very popular and available worldwide, on almost any day of the week. Alcohol is consumed either by drinking it, which is the most popular way of consumption, or added to solid foods or candy such as desserts or gummy bears, and inhalation of vaporized alcohol. The most popular and easiest way to consume alcohol, however, is by drinking it. It is estimated that 80-90% of adults have consumed alcohol in the past, and 70% have consumed it in the past year. Some people only drink socially (1-2 drinks daily). Other people consume alcohol in attempt to get through daily life with less stress, or go on alcohol binges (this is popular on college campuses and parties), which can have deadly results. (Doweiko, 2015).
Alcohol intoxication can have major physical affects on people. Alcohol is an anxiolytic and is also mood-enhancing. It is also a sedative, and it slows down reaction time, reduces motor coordination, causes impairment of judgement (which is why it is dangerous to drive while intoxicated by alcohol). Excessive consumption of alcohol can also cause one to lose consciousness, or “pass out” (which is an anesthetic property). It can also cause what people call a “hangover”, which can include nausea, vomiting, headache, vertigo, and sensitivity to sound and light. (Doweiko, 2015). It is also hard on the liver, which can cause liver damage (Schieber et al., 2015) and heart disease. Alcohol is dangerous to consume in cold weather, because it lowers body temperature, yet gives the impression or feeling of heating the body up (Oscar et al., 1997). This can be dangerous for those who live outside or in inadequately heated living quarters. It should be noted that moderate alcohol consumption can be beneficial, such as red wine having a positive effect on the cardiovascular system. For this reason, many people consume only 1-2 glasses of red wine on a daily basis with meals.
Because alcohol molecules are very small, they are very easily absorbed primarily by the intestines (and in smaller amounts, the mouth), and then it is distributed through the entire body. When a person consumes alcohol on an empty stomach (no food eaten), peak blood alcohol levels are reached in 30 to 60 minutes. Because of the way alcohol interacts with body chemistry, intoxication can cause confusion, slurred speech, and loss of memory. (Doweiko, 2015).
In conclusion, alcohol in large amounts can be very harmful to people of all ages. It has negative affects on the human body when binge drinking, and can cause loss of coordination, reaction time, slurred speech, and memory loss (while intoxicated). On the other end of the spectrum, moderate alcohol consumption can have positive effects on the body, such as lowered risk of cardiovascular problems and heart disease. Alcohol can be beneficial, however caution should be taken when drinking, and anyone who is dependent on alcohol could benefit from intervention for the betterment and health of their body and mind.
Doweiko, H. E. (2015). Concepts of Chemical Dependency (9th ed.). LaCrosse, WI: Cengage.
Oscar-Berman, M., Shagrin, B., Evert, D., & Epstein, C. (1997). Impairments of brain and behavior: the neurological effects of alcohol. Alcohol Health & Research World, 21(1), 65-96.
Schieber, K., Lindner, M., Sowa, J., Gerken, G., Scherbaum, N., Kahraman, A., & ... Erim, Y. (2015). Self-reports on symptoms of alcohol abuse: liver transplant patients versus rehabilitation therapy patients. Progress In Transplantation, 25(3), 203-209. doi:10.7182/pit2015618