438 Alcohol and Other Drugs
Using drugs and alcohol
damage your health.
➤ People who chew
tobacco are at risk
for most of the same
health problems as
those who smoke
Common health problems
People who use alcohol and drugs a lot get sick more often
and more severely than others. They are more likely to have:
• poor nutrition, which causes more sickness.
• cancer, and problems of the heart, liver, stomach, skin, lungs
and urine system, and sometimes permanent damage.
• brain damage or seizures (“fits”).
• illnesses develop more quickly from HIV infection.
• memory loss—waking up not knowing what happened.
• mental health problems, such as severe depression
or anxiety, or seeing strange things or hearing voices
(hallucinations), being suspicious of others, or having
• death from using too much at one time (overdose).
In addition, injuries or death from accidents happen more
often to these people (and often to their families). This is
because they make bad decisions or take unnecessary risks,
or because they can lose control of their bodies while using
alcohol or drugs. If they have unprotected sex, share needles
used to inject drugs, or trade sex for drugs, they are at risk for
hepatitis, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
Drugs that are chewed. Chewing tobacco and betel nut often
ruin a person’s teeth and gums, and cause sores in the mouth,
cancer of the mouth and throat, and other harm throughout
the body. Khat can cause stomach problems and constipation.
Many chewed drugs can cause dependence.
Sniffing glues and solvents. Many poor people, and
particularly children who live on the streets, sniff glue and
solvents to forget their hunger. This is very addictive and
causes serious health problems, such as problems with seeing,
trouble thinking and remembering, violent behavior, loss of
judgement and body control, severe weight loss, and even
heart failure and sudden death.
Any use of drugs and alcohol is dangerous if a person:
• is driving, using a machine, or dangerous tool.
• is pregnant or breastfeeding.
• is caring for small children.
• is taking medicine, especially medicines for pain, sleep,
fits (seizures), or mental health problems.
• has liver or kidney disease.
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012
It can be dangerous to
use drugs or medicines
together with alcohol.