Why should you not use alcohol, tobacco or drugs? What are the effects of alcohol, tobacco or drugs.
Probably you know people who use alcohol and tobacco and yet are seemingly not harmed by them. The damage that they cause is usually inside the body, where it often develops slowly. Scientists have investigated the effects of both alcohol and tobacco on the body. Their findings show that most of the effects are harmful, especially to young people. That is why the sale of either alcohol or tobacco to boys and girls is against the law nearly everywhere in our country. Both alcohol and tobacco affect the digestive and circulatory systems. The respiratory system is also affected by tobacco and the nervous system by alcohol. Certain drugs affect the nervous system, too. Because the effects may be either harmful or helpful, the drugs cannot be safely used except as directed by a doctor. So the sale of these drugs to anyone without a doctor’s prescription is prohibited by law throughout our country. Alcoholic drinks include beer, wine, whiskey, gin, rum, brandy, and other less common ones. Some people feel that a drink or two before a meal improves their appetite. Alcohol seems to satisfy hunger for a time, but it has no real value as a food. Instead, it is likely to keep a person from eating enough of the foods that his body really needs. Also, alcohol is often irritating to the linings of the stomach and intestines. Though alcohol is commonly thought to be a stimulant, it actually has a depressing effect. The happiness and high spirits felt soon after taking a few drinks are usually followed by a longer period of low spirits ad gloom.
Besides causing a feeling of false security, alcohol lowers the body’s resistance to cold and dampness. Reddening of the skin is a very noticeable result of drinking. Alcohol affects the nerves that control the blood vessels in the skin. More hlood flows into the skin as these nerves let the blood vessels stretch. Blood near the surface of the body is cooled very rapidly. So the body must oxidize more food to make up for the loss of heat. Partly because of this cooling and partly for other reasons, a person who has been drinking is far more likely to be injured by exposure to cold and dampness.
From the effect of alcohol on the blood vessels in the skin, you might think that a few drinks would help a person keep cool in hot weather. However, drinking actually increases the danger of heatstroke or sunstroke. Alcohol also weakens the body’s resistance to disease. A change occurs in the blood that makes the white corpuscles less able to fight germs. So the germs can attack the body more easily and cause a serious or even fatal disease. There seems to be 110 doubt that the use of alcohol shortens a person’s life.
The most important effect of alcohol is the change that it causes in the action of the nervous system. Drinking affects a person’s quickness, accuracy, judgment, and self-control. The time that a person takes to act in response to a stimulus is called his reaction time. You can easily understand why quick action is often needed to avoid an accident. A person who has driven an automobile for some time does not have to think about what he does to control the car. If another car or person suddenly looms up in front of him, he automatically puts on the brakes to slow down or stop.
Of course, it takes him an instant to act after he sees the other car or person. This reaction time varies for different people, but for an experienced driver it is usually about 3/4 of a second. Meanwhile, the car keeps on going. If a person has had a drink, his reaction time is somewhat slower. So a bad accident may occur because the car moves just a few feet farther before the driver can put on the brakes. In a great many traffic accidents in which someone is killed, either the driver or a pedestrian has been drinking. Alcohol is one of the main causes of automobile accidents at night.
Many experiments have been carried out to discover what effect alcohol has on a person’s work, One experiment with a group of typesetters showed that even 1 ounce of alcohol a day was enough to reduce the amount of work done by 10 per cent. Another experiment showed the effect of alcohol on accuracy and judgment, which are very important in many kinds of work. The person to be tested was seated at a table with each hand on a push button. If a white light appeared, he pressed one push button. But if a red light appeared, he pressed the other one. The experiment showed that if a person drinks a small amount of alcohol, at first he will press the push buttons faster than if no alcohol is taken. However, he will press the wrong push button much more often. Quick and thoughtless judgments caused by drinking make his work inaccurate.
Through hundreds of years, our standards of behavior and ideas of right and wrong have gradually been built up. People have also developed self-control, which they must have to get along peacefully with each other. Yet one of the first effects of alcohol is to dull the upper part of the brain that controls behavior. As a result, a person who is under the influence of alcohol may do and say things that he would not otherwise do and say. In a person who drinks only now and then, the dulling of self-control does not last for long. But there is always the danger that the use of alcohol will become a habit. Then the breakdown of standards of behavior is likely to be followed by the loss of health, home life, and ability to earn a living. The excessive and habitual use of alcohol is actually a disease, and doctors are now treating it as such.
Though by no means so harmful as alcohol, tobacco has no beneficial effects when used in the body. Students in high school and college who smoke do not do so well in their work as those who do not smoke. High schools and colleges do not allow the members of athletic teams to use tobacco, because it interferes with their performance. The use of tobacco weakens the cells and keeps them from getting enough of the proper foods. Smoking dulls the sense of smell and leaves a bad taste in the mouth, often causing a loss of appetite.
Tobacco contains nicotine, which by itself is a dangerous poison. Nicotine speeds up the heart and gives it little time to rest between beats. Very soon after a person starts to smoke, the blood vessels in his skin contract. The skin becomes cooler, the heart beats faster, and the blood pressure rises. Such changes are especially dangerous to people with diseases of the heart and blood vessels. Irritation of the throat, voice box, and lungs is very common among people who have smoked for a long time. Smokers usually have more colds than non-smokers, and the colds last longer. A careful study of thousands of people showed that those who use tobacco do not ordinarily live so long as those who do not use it.
Drugs called narcotics have helpful effects that doctors have long known and used. Among these effects are a lessening of pain and a tendency toward sleepiness. These are the narcotic effects that give the drugs their name. However, most of the narcotic drugs have another effect that is extremely harmful. That is, they are habit-forming. People who have felt the relief that these drugs give from pain and trouble want another dose and still another. But to give the same relief, the following doses must be larger. Before long, a person who does not realize the danger has the drug habit. Then he will give or do anything to get the drug that he craves. Without it, he may act almost like an insane person. We say that he has become a drug addict. Habit-forming drugs not only destroy the health and character of their victims but often lead to crime. Once the drug habit has been formed, prolonged treatment is needed to cure it.
***This article is for informational purposes only. It is not a doctor warning or recommendation.