Tobacco contains a very powerful drug known as nicotine, which is as addictive as heroin or cocaine. When tobacco is smoked, nicotine is absorbed by the lungs and quickly moves into the blood stream, where it is circulated throughout the brain. Nicotine reaches the brain within 8 seconds after someone inhales tobacco smoke. Nicotine can also enter the bloodstream through the mucus membranes that line the mouth (if tobacco is chewed) or nose (if snuff is used) and even through the skin.
Nicotine affects the whole body. It acts directly on the heart rate and blood pressure. It also acts on the nerves that control respiration to change breathing patterns. It acts in the brain where it can stimulate feelings of pleasure.
The effects of smoking on the body (biological effects) are:
- Tobacco makes your teeth yellow and gives bad breath;
- Smoking can cause hair loss and the skin to wrinkle;
- Nicotine narrows blood vessels, this raises blood pressure as the heart has to work harder;
- May cause blindness or other eye problems;
- May increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, bronchitis and emphysema;
- Nicotine may make you feel good when you are smoking, but it may make you nervous, anxious, depressed and moody between cigarettes.
Seventeen (17) types of cancers are associated with cigarette smoking. Smoking increases the risk of all cancers types. Quitting smoking can reverse the damage to your body.
Alcohol is a legal drug that is as addictive as many illegal drugs. One can become an alcoholic by just drinking beer.
- Beer = 4 – 6% alcohol
- Wine = 7 – 16% alcohol
- Champagne = 8 – 14% alcohol
- Distilled Spirits = 40 – 95% alcohol (rum, gin, vodka, whisky)
When a person drinks an alcoholic beverage, about 20% of the alcohol is absorbed in the stomach, and 80% in the small intestines. The greater the concentration of alcohol in the beverage, the faster the absorption. Carbonated drinks tend to speed up the absorption of alcohol, and food slows down the absorption.
Biological effects of alcohol abuse include:
- Drop in blood pressure;
- Impaired voluntary muscle movements (jerky movements, uncoordinated muscle movements, loss of balance);
- Irritated lining of the stomach and intestine leading to vomiting, bleeding and ulcers;
- Increased liver activity causes cell death and hardening of the tissue (cirrhosis of the liver);
- Can cause unconsciousness;
- In females: Possible infertility, miscarriages, still-births and fetal alcohol syndrome;
- In males: Possible low sperm count, damaged sperm, shrinking testicles, impotence.
Psychological effects of alcohol abuse include:
- Impairs thought processing;
- Impairs judgement;
- Increases sexual behavior; decreases sexual performance;
- May cause anxiety and depression;
- May cause domestic violence;
- Exaggerates states of emotion (anger, withdrawal, aggressiveness, memory loss).
Negative social impact of cigarette and alcohol use include:
- Strained relationships within the family;
- Monetary loss;
- May cause job loss;
- May cause homelessness;
- May exacerbate mental health issues.
Substance use involves consuming alcohol or drugs. Drugs can be either legal or illegal. Reasons people use substances include:
- To feel relaxed;
- To aid with sleep;
- Low self-esteem / low sense of self –worth;
- Peer pressure;
- Being a victim of bullying;
- Sudden change /transitions in the home;
- Cultural norms.
Instead of abusing alcohol and drugs, make better choice. Benefits of making better choices include:
- More opportunities;
- Maintain healthier, fitter bodies with a youthful appearance;
- Avoid risky situations;
- Clear mind to make better choices;
- Live longer.
Help is available for you, get help now:
NADAPP- National Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Programme
Substance Abuse Prevention Treatment Center, Caura Hospital
Alcoholics Anonymous/ Narcotics Anonymous Groups