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Drugs and Alcohol

Why do people start using drugs and drinking alcohol? It’s often because of social pressures, the effect they have on the brain or body, or a combination of these reasons. It’s often hard to get away from the situations that may lead to their use. Consider tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, and recreational drugs. Their use is common in our society. People smoke cigarettes to reduce stress, consume caffeine for energy, and take acetaminophen to relieve pain.

What does this mean for you, particularly during this transitional time in your life?

Many social gatherings, especially as you get older, involve alcoholic beverages. You may also find yourself in an environment where recreational drugs are being used. So, before you have to make a decision on the spot, it’ll help you to go over a few things and be prepared with your personal response to the will I or won’t I? question.

How Drugs and Alcohol Affect the Body

Drugs and alcohol affect the body in a variety of ways. If you have a bleeding disorder, you have an additional element to consider. You are becoming responsible for your own behavior, both good and bad. Think things through, make your choices wisely, and consider the following:

  • Drinking even small amounts of alcohol can affect blood clotting.
  • Drinking alcohol is similar to taking aspirin—it acts like a blood thinner. If you have a bleeding disorder, drinking alcohol worsens your clotting issues.
  • Drinking alcohol and some viral infections don’t mix.
  • If you have a virus, such as hepatitis C or HIV, drinking alcohol further damages your liver. If you are taking antiretroviral drugs, drinking alcohol further increases the risk of serious liver damage.
  • Drugs and alcohol don’t mix with bleeding disorder medications.
  • Interactions between drugs, including bleeding disorder medications, may be unknown and could cause greater harm than good, including death.
  • Alcohol is a depressant drug.
  • Drinking alcohol can increase feelings of depression and suicide.
  • The benefits of drinking small amounts of alcohol are unproven.
  • Any benefits may be for older adults who are at risk for heart disease and have no health issues that would make drinking alcohol problematic.
  • Most recreational drugs and alcohol can be addictive.
  • Addiction can ruin your life. Using illicit drugs and alcohol is usually not a onetime occurrence. Kicking any habit is hard, and by adding an addiction to that habit, quitting becomes very difficult. If you find yourself addicted and are ready to stop, there are numerous programs to help you.
  • Using excessive amounts of drugs and alcohol is dangerous.
  • It can lead to injury, either from loss of balance or consciousness. This so-called liquid courage impairs judgment and causes you to act or behave in a way that your wouldn’t normally. This can lead to risky behaviors, like fighting, having unprotected sex, and trying dangerous stunts.
  • Drugs, tobacco, and alcohol are irritants.
  • Certain drugs, including tobacco and alcohol, can irritate the esophagus, lungs, and stomach lining causing cancer and other illnesses.
  • There are laws regarding using drugs and alcohol.
  • There are minimum age laws regarding when alcohol and tobacco use can begin. While some states have medical marijuana laws, the use of recreational drugs, such as marijuana, barbiturates, amphetamines, etc., is illegal and can result in serious legal consequences.

Taking Responsibility

So you’ve done your research, you’ve weighed the pros and cons, and you may chose to participate in some of these activities.

Here’s some advice on how to do so responsibly:

  • Limit your intake.
    • With alcohol you can do this by skipping a drink (drink some water between drinks), drinking slowly (no chugging contests), and eating while you drink (if you have a slice of pizza in your hand, you won’t have a drink in it!).
  • Don’t give in to peer pressure.
    • If you don’t want to drink, smoke, or do drugs, don’t.
    • Don’t pressure others to either! Everyone has a right to make his or her own decision.
  • Make sure you or your friends don’t drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
    • Designate a driver to avoid using drugs or alcohol and get everyone home safely.
  • Be aware of the dangers of combining drugs and alcohol.
    • Prescription, over-the-counter (OTC), and, of course, illicit drugs, can interact, making a dangerous, if not deadly, combination. Adding alcohol to the mix increases the risk. Ask your bleeding disorder health care team or pharmacist for information on drug interactions.