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Health Hazards Associated with Alcohol and Other Drug Use

The following list describes some of the health hazards that are associated with alcohol and other drug use. This listing, which was adapted from the University of Idaho's Substance Abuse Policy paper, includes substances, both legal and illegal, that are most commonly found on college campuses.


  • Amphetamines (Benzedrine, Dexedrine, methadrine, diet pills, MDMA)
    • Immediate effects: euphoria, increased alertness, talkativeness, stimulated heart, increased adrenaline, insomnia, restlessness.
    • Common complications: nervousness, paranoia, hallucinations, dizziness, tremors, decreased mental abilities, sexual impotence, seizures. Death from OD. Potential for dependence: psychological, physical.
  • Cocaine (cocaine powder, crack, free-based coke)
    • Immediate effects: brief euphoria, increased energy and sense of power, restlessness, surface anesthesia, suppressed appetite.
    • Common complications: tremors, nasal bleeding, inflammation and perforation, toxic psychosis, seizures, depression (particularly afterward), confusion. Death from OD (heart or respiratory failure) or impure supply. Potential for dependence: psychological.


  • Alcohol (beer, wine, liquor, some medications for coughs, colds and congestion)
    • Immediate effects: Muscle relaxation, intoxication, depression, impaired motor control, impaired memory and judgment.
    • Common complications: Dehydration, hangover, long-term heart, brain and liver damage. Overdose or mixing with other depressants can cause respiratory failure. Potential for dependence: psychological, physical.
  • Tranquilizers (Valium, Librium, Equanil, Miltown)
    • Immediate effects: relief of tension and anxiety, drowsiness.
    • Common complications: hangover, menstrual irregularities, increase or decrease in effect of other drugs. Mixing with alcohol or other depressants can be fatal. Potential for dependence: psychological, physical.
  • Narcotics (heroin, morphine, opium, codeine, methadone, Demerol)
    • Immediate effects: euphoria, drowsiness, pain killer.
    • Common complications: respiratory and circulatory depression, dizziness, vomiting, sweating, dry mouth, lowered libido, complications from injection. Potential for dependence: psychological, physical.
  • Cannabis (marijuana, hashish, tetrahydrocannabinol/THC)
    • Immediate effects: relaxation, altered sense of hearing, time, vision; euphoria, increased heart rate and appetite; dilated pupils, memory impairment.
    • Common complications: impaired driving ability, possible lung damage, reduced sperm count and sperm mobility. May affect ovulation cycles. Damage from impure doses. Potential for dependence: psychological.
  • Hallucinogens (LSD, psilocybin, MDA, mescaline (peyote), DMT, SIP)
    • Immediate effects: hallucinations, altered sense of time, space and visual perception, nausea, disorientation, panic.
    • Common complications: depression, paranoia, physical exhaustion after use, psychosis (freaking out); exaggerated body distortion; fear of death, flashbacks, adverse drug reactions. Potential for dependence: psychological.

Prescription or Over-The-Counter Drugs

The abuse and misuse of prescription or over-the-counter drugs is a serious threat to health and wellbeing. Abuse or misuse occurs whenever a prescription or over-the-counter drug is used for anything other than it's intended purpose, used by someone who it was not prescribed for, or in a dosage that was not specified. In addition, mixing prescription medications with alcohol or other drugs can have many unintended side effects, including possible death. The following list is of categories of medications that are most often used illicitly:

  • Stimulants (Adderall, Stratera, Ritalin, Concerta)
    Stimulant drugs are often prescribed for attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADD and ADHD) and sleep disorders. Abuse of stimulant drugs can result in irregular heartbeat, circulation problems, severe depression, sleep disturbances, appetite suppression, weight loss and mood swings-including agitation and increased aggression. If snorted, these drugs can cause the erosion of lung, nasal and sinus tissue. Extended continuous abuse may also lead to a decrease in brain activity. There is a high potential for addiction.
  • Opioids (Vicodin, Percocet, Codein, Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Morphine, Methadone)
    Prescribed for pain management, opioids are a synthetic version or derivative of opium, which is where heroin comes from. Abuse of opioids can lead to addiction. These drugs can cause drowsiness, slurred speech, slowed reaction time and impaired memory. Overdose can cause respiratory depression, hypotension, circulatory failure, convulsions, coma and death.
  • Central Nervous System Depressants (Valium, Xanax, Klonipin, Ativan, Librium)
    Referred to as Benzodiazepines, these drugs are used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Abusive use can also result in addiction, with overdose often resulting in death. Withdrawal is difficult and painful, including a risk of seizures and should be medically supervised. Can impair driving ability, cause shaking, nervousness, insomnia, stomach upset, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, sweating, light and noise sensitivity and hallucinations.
  • Over-The-Counter Medications (Dextromethorphan in Robitussin DM, Drixoral or Coricidin cough syrups, Sudafed, Diet Pills, Vitamin supplements, Herbal Remedies, Caffeine Pills)
    Abuse can cause heart palpitations, dizziness, insomnia, blackouts, delusions, seizures and even death. Extended continuous use can lead to stomach problems, liver, pancreas, kidney, lung and brain damage. Addiction is also possible.


  • Steroids
    • Immediate effects: not usually taken for mood modification. Taken by athletes for muscle mass increase.
    • Common complications: blood disorders, liver problems, cancers, aggressive behavior, possible psychosis.