Addictive Substances

Avoid Addictive Substances

Most students could name the obvious substances that are addictive:

  • Alcohol
  • Illegal drugs or legal drugs used illegally
  • Tobacco
  • To a lesser degree, caffeine, and unhealthy foods

All of these substances hurt your body and your brain and prevent you from learning as well as you should.

Problems caused by Alcohol 

The young lady in the picture has obviously been drinking.   It is a reasonable guess that she started out with some young men, thinking she’d have a good time with them.

Someone produced the beer or something stronger believing this is the way to “have a good time.”

We can’t be sure what happened next. Perhaps she just drank too much and came to the bathroom to vomit.

But with the way she has her head in her hands, I wonder if something more occurred. Perhaps she was willing to have sex, especially with her judgment impaired by the alcohol.

Perhaps she was not willing. She may well have been raped, not just once, but by many of her “new friends.”

She could be starting to worry. Did any of the men have sexually transmitted diseases? What if one of them had AIDS? What if she ends up pregnant. Perhaps she’s always been against abortion, but now? What would her parents say? Does this mean an end to her education?

The young men, possibly waiting outside the door, may also be having second thoughts. She might have a disease like AIDS. If she gets pregnant, will they end up having to pay child support for the next twenty years or more? They might have to drop out of college and get a job to support her and the baby. This could be the end of all their dreams.

“But,” you say. “This would never happen to me. I’m careful. I don’t do things like that.”

You may be right. You don’t do things like that when you are sober. But, if you take just one drink…. and then another one couldn’t hurt…. until… you could easily end up like these students.The driver of the car is holding a half empty bottle of alcohol.

There is another problem to consider. One of these students was driving the car. Whichever one it was, he or she is now drunk.

When sober, they would say, “Of course not. I might have a few beers at a party, but I’m not stupid. I would never drive drunk. I’ve seen stories on the news about some drunk killing a child or a whole family. I promise I’ll never do that.”

But today they are all too drunk to think clearly. Someone takes the keys and gets in the driver’s seat. And the others, probably all laughing about it, get into the car. Perhaps that night they’ll make it home safe. Perhaps they won’t. Take a good look at this picture.

Clearly the driver is holding the half-empty bottle.  We don’t know how many people are in the car with him, but there’s a good chance the car is filled with drunk students.

Have you looked at the road ahead. Our driver is clearly on the wrong side of the road. Perhaps he’s just passing a slowly moving truck. Perhaps he doesn’t know he’s on the wrong side.

What is about to happen? Will our happy driver laugh and move back to the right just in time? Will he do that before the driver coming this direction swerves to the other side to avoid him? And then there’s the third car. How many people will be injured. How many will die this day because the students weren’t thinking when they got into the car?

Drinking doesn’t hurt just the driver.

Effects of Alcohol on your Brain

Harper and Kril in an article, “Neuropathology of Alcoholism” studied moderate drinkers. They say shrinkage of the brain “has been confirmed pathologically.” They describe a loss of neurons from the frontal region and motor regions.

Eric Jensen comments on this. “It means that the part of the brain that helps us to think, remember, and make connections is getting smaller.” … Researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism say “even low doses of alcohol can impair learning.” (The Learning Brain, p. 188)

It is well-known that alcohol kills brain cells. Like other drugs it can be highly addictive.  It causes poor judgment, lack of coordination, nausea and  loss of appetite, As a result, drunk drivers cause many accidents. Women who are pregnant or soon get pregnant may cause serious damage to the fetus (fetal alcohol syndrome) leading to serious mental retardation of the child. Alcohol in large quantities can also cause death.

Statistics on problems caused by alcohol

Various Internet sources are waging a battle about the statistics related to the number of college students that die each year as a result of alcohol. The most common figure says “1,825 college students … die from alcohol related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes.” (Hingson et al. 2009)  This statistic came from drinking I tend to trust information coming from a site saying .gov.

David Hanson, a professor of Sociology at  the State University of New York, however, claims there were only 36 deaths a year. On the bottom of his web page, in fine print, it says this only applies to students enrolled in four-year schools. The death “Must have occurred related to the college community, either on campus or relatively near it” or on school trips. It includes students driving from home to school and back again but not students driving to and from a party or to work or other places.

Hanson complains that the larger number, created by a former board member of MADD was greatly inflated. I think Hanson’s number of 36 deaths is greatly deflated and wonder why he wants people to believe alcohol is not a serious problem among college students.

There are no actual government statistics collected on the subject, but they apparently believe the larger number is realistic. Further statistics related to alcohol and college students include the following annual results:

Unintentional injuries of students under the influence of alcohol:          599,000
Students assaulted by another student who has been drinking:               696,000
Students having unprotected sex while intoxicated                                    400,000
Students victims of sexual assault or date rape due to alcohol                    97,000
Students with health problems or attempted suicides due to alcohol      150,000
Students with academic problems due to alcohol problems                              25%
Students driving under influence of alcohol                                              3,360,000

The numbers continue with  property damage, police involvement, etc. And, I notice it only includes the students who die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries. What about the people in the other car, the people hit while crossing the street? There are also students who are perfectly sober who are, themselves, hit and killed by a drunk driver.  I would say the alcohol-related deaths and injuries involving college students is actually much higher.

The Effects of Drugs on Learning

If you have ever met someone addicted to meth or even seen them on television, you know how terrible the effects can be. Both illegal drugs and legal drugs used illegally, are highly addictive. Drinking a few beers or even getting drunk a few times are not likely to make you an alcoholic. But a few experiences with certain drugs – sometimes only one experience – can make you an addict.

The information here is summarized from  a helpful website,

Ecstasy reduces the ability of the brain to transport serotonin. The results include poor learning, a long-term loss of memory, poor sleep, poor appetite, and loss of self-control.

Cocaine causes poor judgment, paranoia, violent behavior, and cardiac arrest. Sometime a person dies the first time they take cocaine.

Heroin causes nausea, loss of appetite, tremors, panic, chills, sweating, cramps, and insomnia. It is closely tied to the spread of HIV/AIDS because addicts share needles. It can also raise blood pressure and temperature leading to death.

Crystal Meth causes blurred vision, heart palpitations, poor judgment, poor coordination, poor reflexes (leading to automobile accidents. Permanent damage is found to the liver, lungs and the brain.

Inhalants such as glue, gas, or nitrous oxide can cause permanent damage to the liver, lungs, nerves and brain. At least 60 people die each year from using inhalants.

Steroids can cause serious mood swings and violent behavior as well as health problems.

LSD can cause hallucinations and panic as well as terrible flashbacks that continue for years.

PCP (Angel dust) can cause anger, rage, a drop in blood pressure and pulse rate and symptoms similar to schizophrenia.

Oxycontin or Vicodin can cause constipation, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, headaches, sweating, mood changes, and loss of appetite. They can be quickly addictive. It is also dangerous to go cold turkey. Stopping suddenly can cause seizures, convulsions and death.,

Tobacco causes rapid addiction. Researchers believe that 90-95% of smokers are addicted. It can cause many different kinds of cancer. It also causes heart disease and lung problems. Another problem is the damage it does to others who breathe your smoke.

Marijuana causes about five times the damage caused by cigarettes. It causes poor perception of distance and time, poor coordination, slow reaction time, and poor attention span (and thus poor driving). It  causes poor memory and other learning problems. It also causes damage to the brain and nervous system.

Students and others die every day from overdoses. More die from accidents due to the influence of the addictive substances.

Addictive substances and addictive behaviors can all cause poor personal relationships, legal problems, loss of a job, financial difficulties, and health problems. We should ask ourselves why any rational person would pay for something that will destroy his health, his happiness and his chance for a good education.

If you are already using any of these substances and you care about your education and your body, you should make an effort to stop using the substance. If your addiction is serious, you need to GET HELP from a doctor or other medical professional.

If you are not using any of these substances, reject all suggestions that you try them just once. When you choose friends, people you will spend your free time with, choose people who do not use alcohol or drugs. Doing this gives you a far greater chance of staying healthy and alive, completing college, and reaching your other goals.

For further help with addictions including alcohol, drug, tobacco, and others go to You can also find information and help on many related topics.

Other links in Prepare Physically for Learning: You may have read all of these.

Healthy Eating         Drink Water              Enough Sleep             Regular Exercise

Next, you might check out      Positive Attitudes                  Avoid Addictive Behaviors

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