You may have relatives and older friends who drink alcohol (a few beers in the pub, a glass of wine with dinner) and smoke (maybe someone who smokes when they go out or who smokes 40 a day), or you may know of people who take illegal drugs. Whatever your exposure is to people drinking, smoking or taking drugs, and whatever you feel about doing these things yourself, you need to know the effects they have on your body and how they can harm your health. You also need to know about age limits and what you are legally allowed to do and how much is safe.
People generally drink, smoke or take drugs to make themselves feel good but the good feelings do not last long and there can be serious health consequences. Sometimes people drink alcohol and take drugs to mask underlying mental distress.
Alcohol can affect
- the brain – blurry vision, loss of balance, loss of coordination, memory loss, slower reflexes and making poor decisions
- the heart – raised blood pressure and increased heart rate
- the stomach – alcohol is poison, so drinking it can make you vomit, long-term it can cause ulcers and cancer
- the liver – long-term drinking can lead to cirrhosis (a serious liver disease), hepatitis and cancer
- periods – heavy drinking can make periods heavier or irregular.
Cigarettes can affect
- the brain – nicotine (the chemical in tobacco cigarettes) gets into the brain. It makes you feel good when you smoking but anxious, moody and down afterwards. It makes cigarettes addictive
- the mouth – bad breath, yellow teeth, numbs tastebuds
- the heart – can increase your blood pressure and heart rate
- the lungs – coughing, lung damage and cancer; smoking does kill
- skin – makes your skin smell and causes dry, yellow skin and wrinkles.
There are many types of illegal drugs of varying strengths, taken in various ways with many different harmful effects on the body. Illegal drugs are illegal for a reason – they are poisons; they cause great harm and can even kill you. For information about the specific effects of different drugs and the dangers of using them, see this useful information on the NHS website.
This excellent US website also has lots of clear, helpful information for teenage girls about drinking, smoking and taking drugs.
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