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close this bookWhere Women Have No Doctor - A Health Guide for Women (Hesperian Foundation, 1997, 600 p.)
close this folderChapter 28: Alcohol and Other Drugs
close this folderProblems from alcohol and other drugs
View the documentCommon health problems
View the documentDrugs and alcohol can be worse for women

Common health problems

People who use alcohol and drugs a lot get sick more often and more severely than others. They are more likely to have:

· poor nutrition, which causes more sickness.

· cancer, and problems of the heart, liver, stomach, skin, lungs and urine system - including ones that cause permanent damage.

· brain damage or fits (seizures).

· memory loss - waking up not knowing what happened.

· mental health problems, such as seeing strange things or hearing voices (hallucinations), being suspicious of others, having flashbacks, or feeling severe depression or anxiety.

· death from using too much at one time (overdose).


Using drugs and alcohol can permanently damage your health.

In addition, injuries or death from accidents happen more often to these people (and often to their families). This is because they make bad decisions or take unnecessary risks, or because they can lose control of their bodies while using alcohol or drugs. If they have unprotected sex, share needles used to inject drugs, or trade sex for drugs, they are at risk for hepatitis and sexually transmitted diseases.

¨ People who chew tobacco are at risk for most of the same health problems as those who smoke tobacco.

Drugs that are chewed. Chewing tobacco and betel nut often ruin a person's teeth and gums, and cause sores in the mouth, cancer of the mouth and throat, and other harm throughout the body. Khat can cause stomach problems and constipation. Many chewed drugs can cause dependence.

Sniffing glues and solvents. Many poor people, and particularly children who live on the streets, sniff glue and solvents to forget their hunger. This is very addictive and causes serious health problems, such as problems with seeing, trouble thinking and remembering, violent behavior, loss of judgement and body control, severe weight loss, and even heart failure and sudden death.

Any use of drugs and alcohol is dangerous if a person:

· is driving, using a machine, or dangerous tool.

· is pregnant or breastfeeding.

· is caring for small children.

· is taking medicine, especially medicines for pain, sleep, fits (seizures), or mental health problems.

· has liver or kidney disease.


It can be dangerous to use drugs or medicines together with alcohol.