Alcohol is the most frequently used substance in the United States. Nearly 90% of adults report some experience with drinking alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant, which means that it reduces activity of the nervous system. Alcohol can impair judgment, mood, reaction time, physical coordination, and concentration. It can cause slurred speech and unsteady motion. Alcohol use may lower inhibitions or lead to violence. Excessive use of alcohol may cause stupor (a state where the person doesn’t react normally to his or her surroundings) or coma (a state of deep unconsciousness). Moderate alcohol use can have a serious effect on a person’s ability to function normally at home, work, or school. It may also lead to problems with the law. Long term alcohol use can cause major medical problems such as liver disease and memory loss.

Alcohol is the most widely used drug in America. Its consumption leads to the third largest cause of death in the United States, second only to heart disease and cancer. Over 50 percent of all traffic accidents involve the use of drugs or alcohol, with many of these being fatal.

Long Terms Effects of Alcohol Use:

  • Nutritional deficiencies effecting mental abilities
  • Damage to physical organs including the brain, liver, heart, stomach
  • Breakdown of bone and muscle tissue
  • Memory loss or impairment
  • Impaired attention and concentration
  • Inability to get along with others
  • Difficulty coping with school or employment demands

Alcohol withdrawal (symptoms seen when an individual reduces or stops alcohol consumption after prolonged periods of excessive alcohol intake) effects: tremors, excessive perspiration, hallucinations.
A drug is any substance, solid, liquid or gas, that brings about physical and/or psychological changes. The drugs of most concern in the community are those that affect the central nervous system (the part of the nervous system comprising of the brain and spinal cord). They act on the brain and can change the way a person thinks, feels, or behaves. These drugs are known as “psychoactive drugs.”


Depressants are drugs that slow down the functions of the central nervous system. Depressant drugs do not necessarily make a person feel depressed. They include: Alcohol, Cannabis, Barbiturates, Benzodiazepines (tranquilizers), GHB, Opiates and opioids (including heroin, morphine, codeine, methadone and pethidine), and some solvents(include petrol, glue and correction fluid) and inhalants (substances produced from organic chemicals). In large quantities, depressants can cause unconsciousness, vomiting and even death. Depressants affect concentration and coordination. They slow down a person’s ability to respond to unexpected situations, which is why they are so dangerous when used before or while driving.


Stimulants act on the central nervous system to speed up the messages to and from the brain. Stimulants increase heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure. Other effects include reduced appetite, dilated pupils, talkativeness, agitation, and sleep disturbance. They include: Ephedrine, Caffeine, Nicotine in tobacco, Amphetamines (including illegal amphetamines “speed”, “crystal meth”), Cocaine , Ecstasy, Slimming tablets. Large quantities of stimulants can “over-stimulate” the user, causing anxiety, panic, seizures, headaches, stomach cramps, aggression and paranoia. Prolonged use of strong stimulants can mask some of the effects of depressant drugs, such as alcohol, making it difficult for a person to judge their effects.

A particularly dangerous drug is Methamphetamine, also known as “meth” or “crystal”. This is a highly addictive synthetic stimulant that affects the pleasure centers of the brain. It is considered one of the most highly addictive substances known. Methamphetamine abuse leads to devastating medical, psychological, and social consequences. Adverse health effects include memory loss, aggression, psychotic behavior, heart damage, malnutrition, and severe dental problems. Methamphetamine releases high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which stimulates brain cells, enhancing mood and body movement. It also appears to have a neurotoxic effect, damaging brain cells that contain dopamine as well as serotonin, another neurotransmitter. Over time, methamphetamine appears to cause reduced levels of dopamine, which can result in symptoms like those of Parkinson’s disease, a severe movement disorder. The effects of methamphetamine can last from 6 to 24 hours. After the initial “rush,” there is typically a state of high agitation that in some individuals can lead to violent behavior. Users may become addicted quickly, and use it with increasing frequency and in increasing doses.


Hallucinogens affect perception. People who have taken them may believe they see or hear things that aren’t really there, or what they see may be distorted in some way. The effects of hallucinogens vary a great deal, so it is impossible to predict how they will affect a particular person at a particular time. They include: Datura, Ketamine, LSD, Magic mushrooms, Mescaline, PCP , Cannabis is an hallucinogen as well as a depressant, and Ecstasy can also have hallucinogenic qualities. Effects: dilation of pupils, loss of appetite, increased activity, talking or laughing, emotional and psychological euphoria and wellbeing, jaw clenching, sweating, panic, paranoia, loss of contact with reality, irrational or bizarre behavior, stomach cramps and nausea.

Like many prescription drugs, “recreational” drugs come with potentially harmful side effects that can have serious and long-term effects on your health. High doses of many of the drugs, or impure or more dangerous substitutes for these drugs, can cause immediate life-threatening health problems such as heart attack, respiratory failure, and coma. Combining drugs with each other or with alcohol is especially dangerous.

The Foundation for a Drug-Free World is a nonprofit public benefit corporation that empowers youth and adults with factual information about drugs so they can make informed decisions and live drug-free. To learn about how you can promote drug prevention and perform drug prevention activities in your community visit The Foundation for a Drug-Free World Website.

View All Causes