Tobacco, Drugs & Alcohol

 "Always show good behavior." - Cup'ik Value

 

Keep reading to learn more about the dangers and risks of drinking, doing drugs and smoking.

It seems to be everywhere – in movies, in songs, in our lives, people partying, drinking, and “having a good time”. We understand there are pressures for people to fit in and those pressures are usually involved with drinking, smoking and drugs. But smoking, drinking, and doing drugs can really effect peoples’ lives, especially young peoples’ lives, because your bodies are still growing and developing.

Did you know a person’s brain stops growing at age 18? Those years up to 18 are important!

Learning to have a good time can be done without alcohol, smoking and doing drugs. If you make the choice to be above the influence, you can show others how to make smart choices. So read on and learn what alcohol, smoking and drugs do to your body and your life. Find out what you can do to make the best choice for you!

Alcohol

So, we all know the legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21 right? So why are so many young people, underage drinking? There may be a lot of reasons - for the excitement, peer pressure, it seems like "having a good time".

 Did you know? In 2011, 39% of high school students drank some kind of alcohol in the last 30 days and 22% binge drankº.

 

Alcohol can be any kind of beer, liquor, shots or wine. Alcohol is a depressant drug, some people call these “downers”. Alcohol has the same side effects as other depressants. Because it is so easy to find, it can be much more deadly.

 

 The immediate effects of alcohol include but are not limited to:

  • excessive sweating and flushed skin
  • increased urination
  • diarrhea
  • dehydration
  • loss of balance
  • slurred speech
  • decreased or lack of inhibitions (meaning not thinking clearly)
  • increased sexual arousal but decreased ability to "perform"
  • double/blurred vision and decreased peripheral vision
  • increased aggression
  • mood swings
  • memory loss

Drink responsibly. Now that's a phrase that's heard a lot. What does that mean though?

First, it means abiding the law - the Age 21 MLDA laws. In the United Sates, the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) is 21 years old. Underage drinking is alcohol use by persons under 21; it is not only illegal but can lead to some serious, life-long problems.

  

Did you know? Youth who begin drinking before the age of 15 are 5 times more likely to become dependent or abuse alcohol later in life compared to people who begin drinking at or after the age of 21.

 

 

Excessive or too much drinking can lead to bad outcomes physically, mentally, and socially. So why not have a few drinks? Because being under the influence of alcohol (or drugs) can make it hard to keep your personal rules or you may find yourself in a situation that you may not want to be in. Drinking alcohol causes you to become impaired which leads to making the right choices more difficult - like not having sex or always using a condom during sex. You may end up having unwanted, unplanned, or unprotected sex.

Underage drinking is a serious problem and can lead toº:

  • school problems like poor grades, failing, and absences
  • Dropping out of school
  • Unable to play sports and participate in youth activities
  • Staying up too late
  • Lack of good sleep and rest, plus the dreaded hangover that can include headache, nausea, vomiting, sweating, and delayed reactions
  • Legal problems like Criminal Justice Involvement for alcohol related charges for assault or M.C.A. (Minor Consuming Alcohol)
  • Legal problems of driving a vehicle (car, boat, four-wheeler, or snow machine) while drunk (DUI/DWI - Driving Under the Influence or Driving While Intoxicated)
  • Difficulty finding a job or employment
  • Family problems like losing the trust of parents and adults, losing respect from family and friends
  • Increased risk of alcohol related injuries like vehicle crashes or unintentional injuries of burns, falls, and drowning
  • Arguments, fighting, and violence
  • Physical and sexual assault
  • Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity
  • Changes in normal growth and sexual development
  • Depression
  • Higher risk for homicide and suicide
  • Abuse of other drugs
  • Death from alcohol poisoning
Long term effects of alcohol can include but are not limited to:
  • brain damage (difficulty concentrating, difficulty learning, memory loss)
  • liver, stomach, kidney, and intestinal damage and/or cancer
  • ulcers
  • reduced immune system leading to increased illness and infectious disease
  • female facial hair growth and disrupted menstruation
  • infertility problems
  • changes in personality 
  • changes in brain development with life-long effects

 

Watch this video on the great things other Alaskans are working on in their communities to prevent underage drinking!

Underage Drinking Prevention in Alaska from AlaskaDHSS on Vimeo.

How to say "no"

 When everyone seems to be drinking, remember you don't have to drink to have fun or feel comfortable at a party. Saying "no" when other people are drinking is hard, but people will respect you when you stand up for what you think is right. So, what can you say if someone offers you alcohol?

  • "No. I'd get kicked off the team if I was caught sipping that."
  • "Nah. None for me. I'm driving and don't want to ruin my car."
  • "No, thanks. I'm not into that stuff."
  • "No way. I've seen too many people throw up or get messed up. I'll pass."
  • "Nope. You know, I'm not drinking anymore. It'd be great if you'd help me out."

Or don't go to places where there is drinking. See if your friends want to watch a movie, play some hoops, go hunting, fishing or berry picking, playing video games, helping family members or friends with an activity or chores. So much to do! Remember you and your friends can do separate things and still stay close. If your friends seem to drink a lot, maybe look for other friends who share the same interests as you - other than drinking.

Alcohol Poisoning:

It occurs when the body cannot filter out alcohol in the bloodstream. Alcohol poisoning is deadly and usually occurs during binge drinking. Playing drinking games, taking multiple shots, chugging or funneling are all considered binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as a male drinking 5 or more alcoholic beverages over 2 hours and females drinking 4 or more alcoholic beverages over 2 hours. Less alcohol consumption may lead to alcohol poisoning, though. So you need to be ready to identify the signs of alcohol poisoning so you can get the person immediate help. 

Signs of alcohol poisoning:
  • extreme confusion
  • unconsciousness
  • vomiting
  • seizures
  • slow or irregular breathing
  • blue tinged or pale skin
  • low body temperature

If you think someone has alcohol poisoning:
  1. Try to wake the person
  2. Put the person on their side
  3. Check their breathing, skin color, and temperature
  4. Stay with the person
  5. Call 911 for help

Do you know someone struggling with an addiction?

Check here to learn more and find resources for dealing with an alcohol addiction/dependence.

ºCDC - Fact Sheets: Underage Drinking; http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/underage-drinking.htm

Drugs

There tends to a lot of hype about drugs. Popularity of illicit drugs, like marijuana, are increasing.

Did you know? In 2011, 7.2 percent of 8th graders, 17.6 percent of 10th graders, and 22.6 percent of 12th graders used marijuana in the past 30 daysº.

People may turn to drugs for many reasons. Some people because of peer pressure, others because of the excitement, and some because drugs seem to offer an escape to life and the struggles that come along. Being healthy means finding other ways to stay balanced and happy, without illegal drugs or misuse of prescription drugs. The temporary feelings drugs provide will go away, but the long-term effects of drug use can be damaging.

Drugs can be categorized into two kinds: stimulants and depressants. 

Examples of stimulants are cocaine, Ritalin, Adderall, nicotine, ecstasy, and methamphetamines.

Stimulants elevate mood, heart rate, energy levels, and alertness. While the effects are particular to each drug, stimulants can cause long term effects to your health and body like:

  • heart damage
  • increased blood pressure
  • increased body temperature
  • nausea
  • blurred vision
  • confusion
  • paranoia
  • addiction
  • depression
  • anorexia
  • brain damage
  • delusions
  • dental damage
  • death

Examples of depressants are alcohol, marijuana, some inhalants (like huffing gas or other things), rohypnol/“roofies”, sleeping pills, GHB, pain killers, and (ironically) many anti-depressants. Prescription drugs are only legal when prescribed to you by a healthcare provider. It is illegal to use prescription drugs, like painkillers, antidepressants, and stimulants, if they are prescribed for someone else.

Depressants slow down the central nervous system (your brain), slow both heart and breathing rates, cause drowsiness, slurred speech, impaired judgment, impaired coordination, liver damage, chronic respiratory and sleep problems, and death.

Similarly to alcohol, illegal drug use is a serious problem and can lead toº:

  • school problems like poor grades, failing, and absences
  • Dropping out of school
  • Unable to play sports and participate in youth activities
  • Staying up too late
  • Lack of good sleep and rest
  • Legal problems like Criminal Justice Involvement for drug related charges
  • Legal problems of driving a vehicle (car, boat, four-wheeler, or snow machine) while under the influence
  • Difficulty finding a job or employment
  • Family problems like losing the trust of parents and adults, losing respect from family and friends   
  • Increased risk of alcohol related injuries like vehicle crashes or unintentional injuries of burns, falls, and drowning
  • Arguments, fighting, and violence
  • Physical and sexual assault
  • Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity
  • Changes in normal growth and sexual development
  • Depression
  • Higher risk for homicide and suicide
  • Abuse of other drugs
  • Death from alcohol poisoning
Long term effects of drug use can include but are not limited to:
  • brain damage (difficulty concentrating, difficulty learning, memory loss)
  • liver, stomach, kidney, and intestinal damage and/or cancer
  • ulcers
  • reduced immune system leading to increased illness and infectious disease
  • female facial hair growth and disrupted menstruation
  • infertility problems
  • changes in personality 
  • changes in brain development with life-long effects

 How to say "no"

 When everyone seems to be doing drugs, remember you don't have to use drugs to have fun or feel comfortable. Saying "no" when other people are doing drugs is hard, but people will respect you when you stand up for what you think is right. So, what can you say if someone offers you drugs?

  • "No. I'd get kicked off the team if I was caught doing that."
  • "Nah. None for me. I've heard that stuff really makes things messed up."
  • "No, thanks. I'm not into that stuff."
  • "No way. I've seen too many people throw up or get messed up. I'll pass."
  • "Nope. You know, I'm not doing drugs anymore. It'd be great if you'd help me out."

Or don't go to places where there is partying. See if your friends want to watch a movie, play some hoops, go hunting, fishing or berry picking, playing video games, helping family members or friends with an activity or chores. So much to do! Remember you and your friends can do separate things and still stay close. If your friends seem to do drugs a lot, maybe look for other friends who share the same interests as you - other using drugs.

 

Do you know someone struggling with an addiction?

 Check here to learn more and find resources for dealing with a drug addiction/dependence.

 

 

ºNational Institute of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse, High School and Youth Trends, http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/high-school-youth-trends.

Tobacco

We've heard so many times the bad things cigarettes, tobacco, and chew can do to our bodies. There are no safe alternatives with tobacco. Using tobacco in any form: smoking cigarettes, cigars, snuff, chewing tobacco, iqmik, hookah, or secondhand smoke is bad for your health. Today, we know more about the truth of how tobacco is dangerous. We hear about cancer, lung disease (emphysema and COPD), gum and oral disease, diabetes, addiction, and death from tobacco use.

 

 Plus, cigarettes have more than 4,000 chemicals and a lot of them can cause cancer. One of the chemicals in cigarettes and chewing tobacco is nicotine, which is what makes smoking and chewing so addictive. Using tobacco is one tough habit to break! People who have been smoking for a long time, feel like their mind and body need the nicotine just to feel normal. Using tobacco can lead to serious problems that change your life in big ways! Around 587 people in Alaska (2009) died from smoking†. The best choice you can make is to avoid using tobacco.

Did you know? More than 2,500 youths and young adults become regular smokers each day. Although smoking is decreasing among youth, seven percent of middle-school students and 23 percent of high school students used some form of tobacco last year‡.

So many times we've heard about the bad things cigarettes, cigars, Hookah, tobacco, iqmik and chew can do to our bodies.

Tobacco use leads to:

  • yellowed teeth and fingers
  • gum and teeth problems like receding gums, decay, and early tooth loss
  • wounds like cold sores and cuts in the mouth
  • wear and tear on tooth enamel - there's sand and grit in chew!
  • leathery, white patches called leukoplakia inside the cheeks or on gums where chew is held
  • bad breath
  • bad smelling hair, clothes, cars and homes
  • premature wrinkling and skin damage

In a time of your life when appearance is what everyone is talking about, why add on the stress of smoking or tobacco use? We understand though, it’s more than looks. Now, we’ve seen what tobacco does to you on the outside,more importantly let’s see what tobacco does to your insides.

The effects of smoking and smoke-less tobacco "iqmik" or "chew" can cause are:

  • "smoker's lung" - where the lungs turn black because of tar and chemical build up
  • coughing
  • more phlegm production - the thick, sticky, brown mucus
  • asthma
  • emphysema
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • oral cancer
  • hairy tongue
  • lung cancer
  • high blood pressure
  • increased risk for developing heart disease and heart attack

 

Have you ever tried running around while breathing only through a straw? It's nearly impossible! You'll feel like your gasping for air. That's how many people who are smokers feel when they run or are active. Smoking affects sports and athletic performance.

The cost of tobacco use is big - to your health, to your body, to your life, and to your pockets. Whether, cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, Hookahs and e-cigarettes, the dollars add up! If someone buys a pack/can of tobacco every day. at an average of $9.14 in Alaska, that adds up to $3,340! What else could you buy? Maybe a new Honda!?

Do you know someone struggling with an addiction?

Hard to stop, once you start! Check here to find resources on addiction and ways to quit! If you or someone you know is wanting to find ways to stop smoking or chewing tobacco, visit the ANTHC Tobacco Program website for more resources and how to quit, https://anthc.org/what-we-do/wellness/tobacco/.

†Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics; Alaska BRFSS; ‡CDC, Office for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support.

Information on this page was compiled with resources from the ANTHC Tobacco Prevention and Control Program.