National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week is an annual, week-long observance (January 25th-31st, 2016) that brings together students with scientists and other experts to counteract the myths about drugs and alcohol that teens get from the internet, TV, movies, music, or from friends. It was launched in 2010 by scientists at the national Institute on Drug abuse (NIDA) to stimulate educational events in communities so teens can learn what science has taught us about drug abuse and addiction and how specifically, alcohol and drugs affect the brain, body, and behavior. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism became a partner starting in 2016, and alcohol has been added as a topic area for the week.
Approximately one third of high school seniors report using an illicit drug sometime in the past year; about 5 percent of seniors report non-medical use of potentially addictive prescription pain relievers; and more than 20 percent report smoking marijuana in the past month. Many teens are not aware of the risks to their health, to their success in school and the dangers while driving under the influence. When teens are given the scientific facts about drugs, they can be better prepared to make good decisions for themselves and they can share this information with others.
Director of The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Michael Boticelli states, “we are not powerless when it comes to drug and alcohol use among young people. We know that preventing substance use before it begins is the most cost-effective approach to reduce substance use and its consequences. By raising awareness and educating young people and their families, we can help reduce drug use and the number of people affected by substance use disorders.”
Impact on the Liver
There are ten major organ systems in the human body, and not surprisingly, drug and alcohol abuse affects each of them negatively. One of the largest organs impacted is the liver. The liver is responsible for over 500 different functions, including filtering out waste and harmful substances from the blood. Alcoholic liver disease is one of the most serious medical consequences of chronic alcohol use. Moreover, chronic excessive alcohol use is the single most important cause of illness and death from liver disease (alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis) in the United States.
Of course, many drugs may affect the liver adversely in more than one way, including over-the counter and prescription medications. However, today we’re focusing on the more common substances teens and young adults experiment with. Chronic use of some these drugs may lead to significant damage to the liver. These drugs include:
- Heroin – regardless of how this drug is ingested, chronic heroin users experience a variety of medical complications including insomnia, constipation, bacterial infections, infection of heart lining and valves, arthritis and other rheumatologic problems, as well as liver and kidney disease.
- Inhalants – highly concentrated chemicals in solvents or aerosol sprays can induce irregular and rapid heart rhythms and lead to fatal heart failure within minutes of a session of prolonged sniffing. This syndrome, known as “sudden sniffing death,” can result from a single session of inhalant use by an otherwise healthy young person. Sudden sniffing death is associated particularly with the abuse of butane, propane, and chemicals in aerosols.
- Steroids – anabolic steroid abuse has been associated with a wide range of adverse side effects ranging from some that are physically unattractive, such as acne and breast development in men, to others that are life threatening, such as heart attacks and liver cancer.
For more information on National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week, visit the website: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/national-drug-facts-week.