Health Risks Of Controlled Substances And Alcohol


The illegal use of controlled substances and alcohol and the abuse of alcohol and prescription drugs may lead to permanent health conditions including, but not limited to, disorders of the central nervous system, reproductive functioning, cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, and endocrine functioning. In addition, there may be both short-term and long-term effects on cognition, memory, retention, information processing, coordination, athletic performance, academic performance, and the exercise of judgment.

Controlled Substances. All drugs, whether illegal or prescribed, alter the chemical balance of the body. The misuse of drugs may lead to addiction and even death. Drug addiction and abuse can cause serious damage to the brain, stomach, lungs, liver, kidneys, heart, and the immune and reproductive systems. The sharing of needles is a significant factor in the spread of HIV.

Alcohol. Inappropriate use and abuse of alcohol is often associated with lower academic performance and failures, sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies, vandalism, aggressive behaviors including sexual assault and rape, injuries, death, and prosecution for crimes related to the consumption of alcohol. Even small amounts of alcohol may impair the ability to concentrate, as well as the judgment and coordination required to drive a car safely thus increasing the likelihood that the driver will be involved in an accident. Small to moderate amounts of alcohol may also increase the incidence of a variety of aggressive acts, including spousal and child abuse. Moderate to high doses of alcohol can cause marked impairments in higher mental functions, severely altering a person’s ability to learn and remember information. Very high doses may result in respiratory depression and even death. When used in conjunction with other depressants of the nervous system, even a small amount of alcohol can result in these effects.

Repeated use of alcohol may lead to dependence or addiction. The sudden cessation of alcohol consumption produces withdrawal symptoms such as severe anxiety, tremors, hallucinations and convulsions, and can be life threatening. Long-term consumption of large quantities of alcohol, particularly when combined with poor nutrition, may also lead to permanent damage to vital organs such as the brain and liver.

Women who drink alcohol during pregnancy may give birth to infants with fetal alcohol syndrome. Infants with fetal alcohol syndrome have irreversible physical abnormalities and mental retardation. Further, research shows that children of alcoholic parents are at greater risk than other children of becoming alcoholics themselves.

The possible effects of various controlled substances and alcohol, including the effects of an overdose and withdrawal, are identified in Appendix A. (See Appendix A – U. S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Drugs of Abuse Publication 2005 Edition, Uses and Effects Chart Updated June 2004. Located at http://www.justice.gov/dea/pubs/abuse/chart.htm or http://www.justice.gov/dea/pubs/abuse/doa-p.pdf at page 81.)