People from all walks of life end up relying on alcohol or drugs for a whole range of reasons. It might be to ‘escape’ from a depressing living environment. Perhaps it’s a reliance on drugs to help to cope with a challenging fast-paced job, an abusive relationship, or perhaps to deal with a bereavement of a loved one, to ‘keep up’ with friends or even family, or simply just boredom. The list is literally endless.
But there are good reasons why drugs are illegal, and why there are both government guidelines on drinking as well as a plethora of websites warning about the dangers of overindulgence.
The alcohol found in drinks is ethanol, the only alcohol that can be drunk without causing serious damage. Ethanol is a depressant, meaning it slows down activity in the brain, and while a small amount of alcohol may appear to make you happy, too much can cause sadness and depression.
‘Binge drinking’ is defined as five or more drinks on the same occasion within two hours for a man, and four drinks for a woman.
The first step in recovery is often recognising the problem, and being honest with oneself about the negative impact it is having on one’s health, relationships, or wellbeing.
Myth: Drugs are more of a problem than alcohol
All illicit drugs are harmful, but alcohol is more harmful than all other drugs combined. Also bear in mind that everyone reacts differently to alcohol, depending on many factors such as body weight, metabolism, gender and tolerance level. Nutritionally, alcohol contains nothing but calories, which means heavy drinkers often gain a significant amount of weight.
Alcohol use is also a significant factor for dementia.
Myth: Alcohol is not a drug
Alcohol is often thought of as not being a drug because it is legal, but alcohol slows down the central nervous system and is second only to tobacco as the cause of hospital visits. Alcohol belongs to a class of drugs called depressants.
Fizzy alcoholic drinks affect people more rapidly because carbonated drinks cause the valve between the stomach and the small intestine to open, which allows alcohol to enter the bloodstream more rapidly.
Myth: Alcohol helps me relax
It’s true that alcohol can help us relax and be more sociable, but it is a ‘downer’, and the danger is that the drinker becomes reliant on alcohol to wind down and that it becomes a habit. And when the amount of alcohol increases, the drinker is likely to become aggressive and more withdrawn.
Also, when someone is relying on drinking every night in order to relax, the likelihood is that their tolerance will increase, which could lead to very serious problems in future, not to mention disrupted sleep and nasty hangovers every morning.
Myth: Mixing drinks makes me more drunk
Another common misconception. Intoxication is not down to what you drink, but the volume of alcohol you ingest – be that in the form of liquor or beer, it’s the concentration of alcohol in the blood that dictates the level of intoxication.
Myth: It is safe to drive after smoking a joint
False. Using cannabis increases the likelihood of having a crash by 300%. Marijuana slows down thinking, reflexes, and reduces concentration and co-ordination.
Myth: The only downside of drinking is the hangover
Heavy alcohol use can cause depression, it puts you and those around you at risk of serious injury, and in certain cases suppress the nervous system to the extent that it could lead to coma or death. This is not to mention long-term damage to organs including the liver and kidneys, and an increased risk of cancer to the mouth, throat, and stomach amongst other organs.
People often think that increased tolerance to drinking large amounts of alcohol is a good thing, but it’s quite the opposite. A diminished effect from drinking the same amount of alcohol usually leads to drinking more, increasing the risk of the diseases mentioned above, and indicating a more serious problem with alcohol.
Myth: Methamphetamine is made in a controlled laboratory environment.
Meth is not made in safe laboratory environments, it is made in underground labs and mixed with various forms of amphetamines and other chemicals to cut costs and boost its potency.
Myth: Marijuana is not addictive
Myth. Around 1 in 11 people who use marijuana could become addicted.
Myth: Drinking helps to relieve chronic pain
This indicates you would probably benefit from a trip to your GP, because the amount of alcohol required to relieve chronic pain is likely to be harmful in itself, and mixing alcohol with any form of painkiller can lead to fatal consequences.
Myth: A strong coffee / shower / breath of fresh air sobers me up
Wrong. Any of the above may help you feel refreshed, but the fact is you will still have the same concentration of alcohol in your blood. The body takes around two hours to eliminate the alcohol from just one drink, which is why having a strong coffee after a heavy drinking session will have absolutely no effect on breathalyzer or blood test results if you get behind the wheel. You are very likely to face an instant ban.
Myth: Alcohol tolerance increases with age
We’ve already discussed why increased tolerance is not a good thing, but many people think that simply growing older increases tolerance, and is, therefore, a ‘licence’ to drink more.
But evidence shows that alcohol tolerance actually decreases as we grow older. The blood alcohol concentration tends to be higher in older drinkers, giving them increased sensitivity to alcohol, with women being more sensitive than men.
Myth: Alcohol helps me sleep
Having a drink before bed may help you fall asleep quicker, but alcohol interferes with deep sleep – important for body to repair itself, and alcohol can cause drinkers to wake up many times during the night or earlier in the morning. It also a diuretic, so can disrupt a night’s sleep withmany trips to the loo during the night.
Myth: No-one has ever died on LSD
Not true. Hallucinogens cause confusion, hallucinations and disorientation which greatly increase the risk of injury or accidental death. People who are having a ‘bad trip’ can become aggressive without any provocation.
Myth: Legal Highs are safe because they are legal
False. Just because something is sold in a shop or online does not mean it is safe. Legal highs are now illegal in the UK, and although they can still be bought in some countries, no-one knows the long-term effects of the constituent chemicals used in their manufacture.
Myth: The logo on a pill is a good indicator of its safety, strength and quality
A logo on an ecstasy pill means nothing. Many of the ecstasy deaths in the UK have been caused by pills bearing logos of various descriptions, and a pill bearing the same logo as one which has proved to be ‘safe’ may be from a completely different source.
Myth: ‘I’m only a teenager – I’m too young to get addicted’
Not so. Age makes absolutely no difference in whether someone develops an addiction. Even unborn babies are born with an addiction if their mother was ingesting drugs during their pregnancy.
Myth: I can drink and still be in control
Drinking impairs judgement, which means you are likely to do something you later regret. People can cause harm to themselves or the people around them, and may not be aware of potential dangers. Critical decision making is severely diminished, even if you feel as if you’re in complete control.