Alcohol and Other Drugs
7.1 Drug Use in History
Drug use has been common since ancient times and has been common in almost
• *The legality or illegality of drugs has no logical basis. If the personal harm caused by
a drug determined whether it is legal or not, then it would be logical for marijuana to be
legal and for alcohol or tobacco to be illegal.
Drug Use in US History:
• During the colonial era, tobacco was a major crop in Virginia and alcohol was also
used in great quantities.
• Alcohol was used more during the 1800s than during colonial America because:
• As the nation moved west, many of the explorers were unmarried men or men who
had left their families behind. They drank, gambled, and fought a lot.
• Many Irish immigrants came. They drank a lot.
• Heavy alcohol use contributed greatly to poverty, physical assaults and homicides,
and to domestic violence and other family problems.
• During the 1800s era, opium, cocaine, and marijuana were also popular.
• Common in the decades before and after the Civil War.
• It makes people feel good, is a painkiller, and is a cough suppressant.
• It was used in medicine to cure depression, headaches, menstrual cramps, and
• Many Chinese immigrants who came to build railroads during the 1850s went to opium
• White workers feared the growing number of Chinese immigrants who could take their
jobs. Politicians, labor unions, and other parties began to focus on the Chinese habit
of smoking opium and warned that the Chinese were kidnapping little white children,
taking them to the opium dens, and turning them into "opium ﬁends." This campaign
increased prejudice against the Chinese and increased public concern about opium.
• CA banned opium dens in 1881.
• Started to become popular in the 1880s, thanks in part to claims by Sigmund Freud
and American physicians that cocaine could help relieve asthma, depression, hay
fever, sexual impotence, toothache pain, and more.
• It was used in medicine and in the 1886 beverage Coca-Cola which made people feel
good when they drank the Coke.
• Concern grew about cocaine in the next two decades because of the absurd belief
that African Americans who used cocaine became extra strong, dangerous, and even
invulnerable to bullets.
• Cocaine was heavily taxed by the 1914 Harrison Narcotics Act and later banned. Marijuana:
• Also in medicine.
• After the Mexican Revolution of 1910, Mexicans moved to the US and brought with
them their habit of marijuana use.
Whites again feared the loss of their jobs and began to charge that Mexicans who
used marijuana would become violent and more likely to rape and murder innocent
• Helped lead to the federal Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 that banned its use.
7.2 Drugs and Drug Use Today
• Drug - Any substance other than food that, when taken into the body, affects the
structure and/or functioning of the body.
• Tobacco and alcohol, legal drugs, kill way more people than illegal drugs.
• All drugs can be dangerous and some drugs are much more dangerous than others.
• Ex: Two cups of coffee a day are ﬁne, but drinking many cups can cause anxiety,
insomnia, and headaches.
Types of Drugs:
• Drugs are commonly classiﬁed into categories according to their physiological effects.
• Some drugs are more potent than others so there is much variation in each category.
• They slow down the activity of the central nervous system. They help induce
drowsiness and relaxation and can reduce anxiety and pain.
• Analgesics reduce pain and include over-the-counter products like aspirin and
• Sedatives help people relax and include alcohol, barbiturates, and sleep medicines.
• Large doses of depressants may lead to physical dependence and sometimes death.
• They are mind-altering drugs that cause delusions or hallucinations.
• Ex: ecstasy, LSD, mescaline, and PCP.
• The experiences can range from wonderful to terrifying.
• Long-term effects include hallucinations that occur without any drug use preceding
• Considered to be its own category (along with hashish) because its effects do not ﬁt
neatly into any other category of drug.
• It is by far the most popular illegal drug in the US.
• Its effects include distortion of time and space, euphoria, hunger, increased sensory
perception, and relaxation.
Narcotics: Sometimes classiﬁed under depressants because they slow down the central nervous
system but they are often still considered as their own category.
• They are highly effective at relieving pain and are a common substance in prescription
medicines for severe pain.
All narcotics are derived from opium, either in its natural form or in a synthesized form.
• Ex: codeine, heroin, methadone, and morphine
• Narcotics may also induce drowsiness, euphoria, and relaxation.
• They do not damage bodily organs but are very physically addictive and high doses
can be fatal.
• Have the opposite effect of depressants by speeding up the central nervous system.
• They increase alertness and energy and can produce euphoria or anxiety.
• Some are legal and others are illegal.
• Ex: caffeine, cocaine, methamphetamine, nicotine (tobacco) and Ritalin
• Can be physically addictive and nicotine is thought to be more addictive than heroin
• Only slightly more than 1/4 of the public uses tobacco
• Most people 12 and older have tried alcohol and over 1/2 the public drinks currently
(deﬁned as one drink in the last month)
• Moderate alcohol use (more than 1 drink per day for an adult female and two drinks
for an adult male) is relatively safe for most people and may have health beneﬁts.
• Binge drinking - 5 or more drinks on the same occasion within 2 hours of each other
on at least one day in the past month
• Heavy drinking - binge drinking on at least ﬁve days in the past month
The Drinking Culture and the Alcohol Industry:
• The 18th Amendment to the US Constitution in January 1919 banned the
manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol; the ban took effect a year later. It
was deemed a failure and the 21st amendment in 1933 repealed the 18th.
• Alcohol companies go online to lure young drinkers. Close to 5,000 people under age
21 die of alcohol overuse each year.
Consequences of Alcohol Abuse:
• Heavy alcohol use can destroy the liver, increase blood pressure, weaken the heart
and immune system, and cause sexual dysfunction.
• It raises the risk of incurring several kinds of cancer.
• Alcohol abuse can cause problems for families, including domestic violence, divorce,
and the stress of having to deal with someone's alcoholism on a daily basis.
Children and Our Future: Children of Alcoholics Whether because alcoholism is partly inherited or because children tend to use their
parents as role models, children of alcoholics are 4 times more likely than children of
nonalcoholics to become alcoholics themselves by the time they reach adulthood.
• Compared to other children, they are more likely to be neglected/abused by their
parents, miss school, have lower grades, and engage in disruptive behavior.
• They are at great risk for eating disorders and substance abuse other than alcohol
• The stress they experience can also harm their neurological development and immune
system and put them at greater risk for different kinds of illness and disease.
• At greater risk for psychological and emotional problems such as:
• Guilt - because they may blame themselves for their parents drinking
• Anxiety - because they worry about their parents health and may see their parents
arguing and ﬁghting
• Embarrassment - that leads them not to invite friends over to visit nor to ask
another adult for help
• Lack of trust - in other people, because they learned not to trust their alcoholic
• Anger, confusion, and depression
• One special problem is that they are forced into adulthood. They take care of younger
siblings and even for their alcoholic parent.
• Mental health professionals strongly advise that children of alcoholics receive
counseling and other kinds of support to help them deal with their family experiences
• Alateen services teenagers who want help dealing with an alcoholic friend.
• An important message they learn from Alateen is that they are in no way responsible
for the alcoholism of their parent, relative, or friend.
• Full time college students ages 18-22 drink more often and more heavily than their
peers who are not in college.
• Binge drinkers are much more likely than other students to miss class, get poor
grades, be injured, have unprotected sex, and to drive after drinking.
• 30,000 college students need medical attention annually to treat alcohol overdosing.
• 700,000 students are assaulted annually by a student who has been drinking, and
three hundred students die from these assaults.
Tobacco and Nicotine:
• Nicotine is the major drug in tobacco and is legal but very dangerous.
• Its use kills 4 times as many people every year as those killed by alcohol use.
• If it were not already a legal drug used by millions, and a company had just
manufactured cigarettes for the ﬁrst time, the FDA would never approve this product.
• Unlike alcohol and other drugs, nicotine does not distort perception. Someone
smoking can safely drive a car, operate machinery, and so forth, and someone under
the inﬂuence of tobacco does not become violent.
• It was a drug culture but began to abate in the 1970s after evidence of deaths and
health effects caused by tobacco use and the dangers of second-hand smoke. About 1/2 of all cigarette smokers will one day die from a premature death caused by
a smoking-related illness.
• Nicotine is a slow poison.
• Smoking causes 80-90% of all lung cancers and it greatly increases the risk of
emphysema and other lung disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke.
• It also causes bladder cancer, cervical cancer, esophageal cancer, stomach cancer,
and throat cancer.
• Women who smoke are at greater risk for lower bone density and hip fracture when
they get older.
• Cigarette smoking is estimated to cost almost $200 billion annually in medical
expenses and lost economic productivity.
• Government data indicate that every 10% increase in the price of cigarettes reduces
cigarette consumption among young people by 4%.
• The tobacco industry campaigns a lot and advertises their product like alcohol
• The major illegal drug is marijuana.
• 1/3 of people ages 18-20 have used marijuana in the past year
• Marijuana distorts perception, impairs coordination, and can cause short-term memory
loss, and people who are high from marijuana may be unable to safely drive a motor
vehicle or operate machinery.
• Regular pot smokers are at risk for respiratory problems, though not lung cancer.
• Marijuana has probably never killed anyone and its use has not been associated with
any cancers. It is almost certainly the most benign illegal drug in terms of health and
• Alcohol use is a risk factor for violent behavior, but marijuana use is a risk factor for
• Despite popular beliefs, marijuana is generally not physiologically addictive, it does not
reduce ambition and motivation, and it does not act as a "gateway drug" that leads to
the use of more dangerous drugs.
• Marijuana use in the nation declined sharply in the 1980s, the ﬁrst decade after
decriminalization (treat possession as a minor offense similar to a trafﬁc violation and
punish it with only a small ﬁne).
• Produces a high that is considered more pleasurable than that for any other drug.
• It increases energy, alertness, and a sense of self-conﬁdence.
• It is not physiologically addictive but it is considered psychologically addictive.
• Made from coca plants grown in South America.
• Most often appears in a powdered form that is sniffed (snorted). The high takes some
time to come but may last up to 30 minutes. Crack cocaine is a more potent form and is made by heating a mixture of powdered
cocaine, baking soda, and water. The user then heats the remaining mixture and
breathes in the vapors. This produces an immediate high.
• Remains a problem in urban areas. It is not used as much as other drugs in terms of
percentage but that percentage, about 4.5 million users in the past year, is still a large
group of people.
• More dangerous than marijuana. Dangerous to the cardiovascular system.
• It can disrupt the heart's normal rhythm and cause ventricular ﬁbrillations and it can
speed up the heart and raise blood pressure.
• Long-term use produces an increased risk of stroke, seizure, and heart disease.
• Cocaine also constricts blood vessels in the brain and long-term use raises the risk of
attention deﬁcit, memory loss, and other cognitive problems. Also can cause panic
attacks, paranoia, and even psychosis.
• Derived from opium and is the most notorious opiate.
• First marketed as a painkiller and cough suppressant.
• Heroin users are concentrated in the nation's large cities, like crack, and is a special
problem for those areas.
• Produces feeling of euphoria after its injected into a vein
• Until recently, disapproval of any level of heroin use was greater than for any other
drug and heroin addicts were the most stigmatized of all drug users. Heroin is the
epitome of the illicit street drug. Its association in the public mind with street crime is
probably stronger than for any other drug. The stereotype of the junkie is that he is by
nature a lowlife, outcast, deviant, untrustworthy character to be avoided at any cost.
• Many heroin addicts share their needles, a practice that increases their risk of
contracting HIV and hepatitis.
• Like other opiates, it is extremely physiologically addictive, but not so much as
• Heroin does not damage body organs
• The emaciated look we often associate with heroin users stems not from the drug
itself but from the low-caliber lifestyles that heroin addicts tend to live and their
decisions to spend the little money they have on heroin rather than on food and a
• One reason heroin overdoses occur is that heroin users cannot know for sure the
purity of the heroin they buy illegally and thus may inject an unsafe dose to get high.
Prescription Drug Abuse:
• About 1/5 of Americans have used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes which
is illegal. It constitutes the most widespread illegal drug use other than marijuana use
and has grown in recent years, especially among adolescents.
• The most often abused drugs contain narcotics, tranquilizers, and stimulants.
OxyContin and Vicodin are the two most common brands.
• Because prescription drugs are beneﬁcial for so many people even if they are abused,
our nation faces a special difﬁculty in dealing with the abuse of these drugs. They must be legal and illegal, encouraged yet discouraged, tightly regulated yet easily
• Some are obtained for actual medical conditions and then abused and others are
obtained by feigning a medical condition.
Experts fault physicians for overprescribing painkillers and other prescription drugs.
• Reasons we think prescription drug abuse is growing:
• Physicians prescriptions for painkillers and other drugs continue to rise, creating a
greater supply of prescription drugs that can be abused.