Programme: Six More Points about Drink, Drugs & Cigarettes

3. What Do These Substances Do to Your Body?

Maybe you have negative reasons for consuming alcohol, drugs and cigarettes (for example, you can't relax without them) or maybe you have positive reasons for consuming them (for example, you enjoy them). This distinction will affect how likely you are to develop an addiction, but it has nothing with how alcohol, drugs and cigarettes affect your body – even if you're using these substances for positive reasons, they're still just as harmful.


The extent to which – and the way in which – cigarettes, drugs and alcohol are damaging to your health depends on a number of factors. First of all, it makes a difference what you're consuming and in what quantities. For example, smoking mainly affects your bodily functions, including your lungs, heart, blood vessels and immune system. Alcohol and drugs also affect your body, but they have further effects on your mental well-being. For example, research shows that taking MDMA on a regular basis can lead to cognitive decline and an increased risk of mental illness – it isn't clear if this is reversible. Heavy drinking is also linked to an increased risk of brain damage.

How These Substances Affect You and Other People
So, the type of drug you're using plays a major role in how your health will be affected. But there are other factors involved: Your gender, your weight and your overall physical and mental health will determine the degree to which a substance is harmful to you. Social factors also have to be taken into consideration: Not only because your environment is partly responsible for how you respond to cigarettes, drugs and alcohol in the first place, but also because your use of these substances affects people around you. For example, think of the carcinogenic smoke that's released from cigarettes or the aggressive, unpredictable behavior displayed by heavy drinkers.


Reflect & connect

1. What physical effects do you notice after using cigarettes, drugs and alcohol?

2. What mental effects do you notice after using these substances? 

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