The Effects of Smoking & Alcohol

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Smoking and alcohol abuse can cause a plethora of negative mental and physical effects. Some effects common to both substances include increased cancer and heart disease risk, as well as addiction and chronic organ damage.

Effects of Tobacco on the Brain

Tobacco causes physiological changes in the brain. According to DrugAbuse.gov, nicotine increases levels of dopamine—the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure and reward—and attaches to brain receptors in place of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which affects things like mood, memory and other states of being. Nicotine reaches the brain within eight seconds of tobacco inhalation, making the effects intense and instantaneous.

Smokers often experience appetite suppression, weight loss and feelings of energy and well-being from tobacco. Other mental effects of tobacco include restlessness, stimulation and agitation as the drug wears off.

Physical Consequences of Smoking

Despite the seriousness of the mental effects of smoking, the physical effects are even more dangerous. Smoking of tobacco can cause lung disease, such as emphysema, COPD, lung cancer and chronic bronchitis.

Unfortunately, tobacco use affects more than just the lungs. It also increases the risk of cardiovascular problems including heart attack and stroke, as well as raising blood pressure and causing poor circulation through vasoconstriction. In addition to lung cancer, smokers face an increased risk of developing cancer of the pancreas, esophagus, mouth and other organs. According to Cancer.org, tobacco is responsible for at least 30 percent of all cancer deaths and has been linked to 15 different kinds of cancer.

Psychological Effects of Alcohol

Despite its wide use and legal status, alcohol is a drug with the potential for abuse and addiction. It’s a member of the depressant family, which also includes drugs like benzodiazepines, barbiturates and sedative medications.

The mental effects of alcohol are complex and may include different symptoms in the same person each time it is ingested. For example, it may cause pleasant inebriation one time and dysphoria and irritability the next. Those who abuse alcohol often experience unprovoked crying spells, mood swings, violent outbursts and other negative emotional effects.

Alcohol's Effects on the Body

Alcohol is capable of causing chronic organ damage. Its main target is the liver, an organ responsible for the filtering of various hormones and toxins. Alcohol abuse can lead to cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, which increases the risk of developing liver cancer. Chronic alcohol abuse also increases the risk of pancreatic, breast, esophageal and rectal cancers, as well as kidney and heart disease.

Addiction

Both tobacco and alcohol carry a significant risk of physical and psychological addiction. According to NYTimes.com, tobacco is harder to quit than heroin. Its addictive effects can be attributed largely to nicotine, the stimulant compound present in all tobacco products.

Alcohol is less physically addictive than tobacco, but still carries a significant risk of habituation. What’s more, withdrawal from alcohol can be harmful or deadly if done incorrectly. Severe withdrawal symptoms may include seizures, hallucinations, convulsions and death.

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