Do you remember? There was a song and a film. These three things are stereotypically connected, and one cannot be separated from the others as the general idea is that the lives of rock stars are made up of those three things: having sex, using drugs (often illegal ones) and performing rock and roll!
This time we will talk about drugs.
What is a drug?
A drug is any substance that, when absorbed into the body, causes temporary physiological and often psychological changes in the body.
Under drugs, medication or medicine are drugs taken to cure or ameliorate any symptoms of an illness or medical condition, or as preventive medicine to avoid future diseases.
Psychoactive drugs are chemical substances that affect the function of the central nervous system, altering perception, mood or consciousness.
The three most widely consumed psychoactive drugs worldwide are alcohol, nicotine and caffeine.
Alcohol is a depressant, although in small quantities it starts by acting as a stimulant. Nicotine and caffeine are pure stimulants. These three are also considered recreational drugs since they are used for pleasure rather than medicinal purposes.
Other recreational drugs include hallucinogens, opiates and amphetamines.
All drugs can have side effects. In medicine, a side effect, whether therapeutic or adverse, is an effect that is secondary to the one intended. The term is mostly employed to describe adverse effects, but it can also apply to beneficial, although unintended, consequences of the use of a drug.
In medicine, an adverse effect is an undesired harmful effect resulting from a medication or other intervention such as surgery.
Adverse effects are sometimes referred to as “iatrogenic” when they result from an unsuitable or incorrect dosage/administration or procedure.
Some drugs can cause addiction and excessive use of stimulants can promote stimulant psychosis. Many recreational drugs are illicit and there are international treaties for their control/prohibition.
Some religions, particularly ethnic, are based completely on the use of certain drugs, known as entheogens, which are mostly hallucinogens.
Cannabis, marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms, commonly called “magic mushrooms”, have also long been used as entheogens.
The commonly called “legal highs” are legal intoxicants that are used recreationally and are as dangerous socially as many other non-legal drugs.
The most widely used of these is alcohol. Discovery of late Stone Age jugs suggests that intentionally fermented drinks existed at least as early as the Neolithic period (10,000 BC).
Even if alcohol is a dangerous drug, drinking alcohol is socially accepted and even plays an important social role in most cultures.
The truth about what alcohol does to the body
When someone starts out drinking, he or she feels relaxed, confident, happy, sociable … The pleasurable effects of alcohol are undeniable. It makes it easy to forget about the negative effects: slowed reflexes, reduced coordination, warped thinking, poor judgement, impaired memory, impaired motor functions, and plenty more impairments.
These negative effects occur every single time one drinks, even a single beer, and the more one drinks the stronger these negative effects are. Those pleasurable effects will begin to fade quickly. Over time, the body becomes damaged from drinking, more damaged than most people probably know, or are ready to accept.
In fact, alcohol can cause several types of cancer.
Alcohol use has been linked to depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, violent behaviour, increase in unprotected sex, increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, suicide, injury, domestic violence and even drowning.
Virtually every part of the body is affected negatively from excessive drinking.
When alcohol is consumed, around 33% of it gets absorbed immediately into the blood, through the stomach lining. The remaining alcohol is absorbed more slowly into the blood, through the small intestine. Once in the bloodstream, alcohol diffuses into almost every biological tissue in the body, because cell membranes are highly permeable.
Alcohol is not friendly to the body. The mind may find its effects fun, but the body does not. Hangovers are still not completely understood by science, but there is an undeniable consensus – it is not a good thing and very often it is a threat even to life itself. Blackouts are extremely common and bouts of amnesia as well.
Alcohol poisoning is rampant, and more than 10 types of cancer can be caused by excessive drinking.
Alcohol is a legal and socially accepted, very dangerous drug. It affects the body right from the first sip.
But it is not seen like this … it is even considered “must-behaviour” socially. When someone does not drink alcohol at a party, it is generally considered “strange”.
Most things in life must be sensibly used and looked at objectively and rationally. Drugs considered broadly are a very relevant but difficult subject.
Sorry, I ran out of words and space, and I just realised that I will have to leave another socially accepted drug – tobacco – for the next article.
But a word of advice: cigarette smokers will not be happy.
Best health wishes,
Dr. Maria Alice
By Dr Maria Alice
Dr Maria Alice is a consultant in General and Family Medicine. General Manager/Medical Director – Luzdoc International Medical Service / Medilagos. Medical Director – Grupo Hospital Particular do Algarve