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Drugs of Abuse

Drug Type: Alcohol (a Depressant)

Other Names: Liquor, booze, cocktails, wine coolers, malt liquor, spirits, brew

What it looks like: Liquid-varies in color

How it is used: Consumed

Effect of the drug: Effects can occur within several minutes of ingestion, however the effects of alcohol are influenced by multiple factors relative to the user, including the user’s weight, gender, tolerance level, whether food was consumed, and how quickly the alcohol was ingested:

  • Feelings of relaxation or euphoria
  • Reduced anxiety and/or reduced inhibitions

Negative Effects/Overdose Effects: Drinking alcohol to excess, drinking alcohol out in the hot sun, mixing different kinds of alcoholic beverages, or mixing alcohol with medications or illicit drugs accelerates the effects of alcohol on the body and can easily lead to an overdose. What is excessive to one drinker may not have much effect on another drinker and this is why drinkers must take responsibility for knowing their "limit". However, a drinker rarely realizes he or she has become intoxicated until it is too late.

Excessive consumption of alcohol causes:

  • Loss of motor skills and lack of coordination
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dehydration
  • Muddled thinking
  • Aggressiveness (in some users)
  • Sedation ("passing out")
  • Blood poisoning
  • Coma
  • Death
  • There have been many cases where a drinker falls asleep, lapses into a coma and dies. Many times, the drinker is surrounded by friends, but help is not summoned because they are unaware of the severity of the drinker’s condition. Binge drinking, where drinkers consume excessive amounts of alcohol in a very short period of time so as to become heavily intoxicated, is a practice gaining notoriety for its occurrence on college campuses. It is extremely dangerous. Remember that an experienced drinker may have a lethal blood alcohol level and still be functioning. An extremely disoriented or non-responsive drinker who cannot be awakened should receive immediate medical attention.

What to look for:

  • A distinct odor. (During the digestive process where a large amount of alcohol has been consumed, the body emits the odor alcohol through the pores of the skin)
  • Dilated pupils and bloodshot eyes
  • An inability of the person to concentrate
  • Slurred speech
  • Distorted sensory perception, impaired or slowed reflexes and/or a lack of physical coordination

Paraphernalia Associated with Drug Use:

  • Coolers, insulated bags, flasks or any other item that can be used for concealing alcohol.
  • Look for liquor bottles or cans discarded near the drinker, or in the drinker’s home or vehicle.
  • Fake driver’s licenses. (The legal drinking age in the United States is 21.)

Potential for Abuse: Considering the low cost of alcohol, its accessibility, desirable disinhibiting effect, and the fact that its use is socially acceptable, usually encouraged and often glamorized, the potential for abuse of alcohol is extremely high. Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug in the United States and the most widely used drug among teenagers. The body easily builds up a tolerance to alcohol through repeated use, requiring that the user continually ingest larger quantities for the desired effects. This process so frequently leads to addiction that the National Institute of Health estimates that one in four children is exposed to family alcohol abuse or alcoholism. The economic costs of alcohol and drug abuse in the United States, taking into account injuries and deaths caused by drunk drivers, medical treatment for alcoholism and injuries or deaths due in part to alcohol-induced accidents or intentional acts of violence, is estimated at $245 billion.
(National Institute of Health Press Releases, 5/13/98; 12/30/99)

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