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Each of the drug charts in the Medications section lists the interactions of alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine with the therapeutic drug in a child's bloodstream. These three drugs are singled out because of their widespread use and abuse. The information is factual, not judgmental.

The many long-term effects of alcohol and tobacco abuse have been well-publicized. Information is provided here as a reminder to your child of the inherent dangers of these drugs.

Drugs of potential abuse include those that are addictive and harmful. They usually produce a temporary, false sense of well-being. The long-term effects, however, are harmful and can be devastating to the body and psyche of the addict. These are the most common drugs of abuse:

WHAT IT DOES TO YOUR CHILD: Tobacco smoke contains noxious and cancer-producing ingredients. They include nicotine, carbon monoxide, ammonia, and a variety of harmful tars. Carcinogens in smoke probably come from the tars. Most are present in chewing tobacco and snuff as well as smoke from cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. Tobacco smoke interferes with the immune mechanisms of the body.

SHORT-TERM EFFECTS OF AVERAGE AMOUNT: Relaxation of mood in a steady smoker. Constriction of blood vessels.

SHORT-TERM EFFECTS OF LARGE AMOUNT INHALED: Headache, loss of appetite, nausea.

LONG-TERM EFFECTS: Greatly enhanced chances of developing lung cancer later in your child's life. Impaired breathing and chronic lung disease (asthma, emphysema, bronchiectasis, lung abscess and others) much more likely. Heart and blood vessel disease more frequent and more severe when they happen later in a child's life. These include myocardial infarction (heart attack), coronary artery disease, heartbeat irregularities, generalized arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries making the brain, heart, and kidney more vulnerable to disease), peripheral vascular disease such as intermittent claudication, Buerger's disease, and others. Tobacco and nicotine lead to an increased incidence of abortion and significantly reduce the birth weight of babies brought to term and delivered of women who smoke during pregnancy. Tobacco smoking causes higher frequency not only of lung cancer, but also increases the likelihood of developing cancer of the throat, larynx, mouth, esophagus, bladder, and pancreas later in a child's life.


  • CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM: It depresses, it does not stimulate, the action of all parts of the central nervous system, including the depression of normal mental activity and normal muscle function. Short-term effects of an average amount: relaxation, breakdown of inhibitions, euphoria, decreased alertness. Short-term effects of large amounts: nausea, stupor, hangover, unconsciousness, even death.

  • GASTROINTESTINAL SYSTEM: It increases stomach acid and poisons liver function. Chronic alcoholism frequently leads to permanent damage to the liver.

  • HEART AND BLOOD VESSELS: It decreases normal function, leading to heart diseases such as cardiomyopathy and disorders of the blood vessels and kidney such as high blood pressure later in a child's life. Bleeding from the esophagus and stomach frequently accompany chronic alcoholism.

  • UNBORN FETUS (TERATOGENICITY): Alcoholism in the mother carrying a fetus causes fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which includes the production of mental deficiency, facial abnormalities, slow growth, and other major and minor malformations in the newborn.


  • EARLY SIGNS: Prominent smell of alcohol on the child's breath, behavior changes (aggressiveness; passivity; acting out sexually; using poor judgment; outbursts of uncontrolled emotion, such as rage or tearfulness).

  • INTOXICATION SIGNS: Unsteady gait, slurred speech, poor performance of any brain or muscle function, stupor or coma in severe alcoholic intoxication with slow, noisy breathing, cold and clammy skin, heartbeat faster than usual.


  • ADDICTION: Compulsive use of alcohol. Persons addicted to alcohol have severe withdrawal symptoms when alcohol is unavailable. Even with successful treatment, addiction to alcohol (and other drugs that cause addiction) has a high tendency to relapse. (Memory of euphoric feelings plus family, social, emotional, psychological, and genetic factors probably are all important factors in producing the addiction.)

  • LIVER DISEASE: Usually cirrhosis later in a child's life; also, deleterious effects on the unborn child of an alcoholic mother.

  • LOSS OF SEXUAL FUNCTION: Impotence, erectile dysfunction, loss of libido.

  • INCREASED INCIDENCE OF CANCER: Mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, and lung later in a child's life.

  • CHANGES IN BLOOD: Makes it less likely for blood to clot efficiently.

  • HEART DISEASE: Decreased normal function leading to possible damage and disease later in a child's life.

  • STOMACH AND INTESTINAL PROBLEMS: Increased production of stomach acid.

  • INTERFERENCE WITH EXPECTED OR NORMAL ACTIONS OF MANY MEDICATIONS: Detailed on every chart in this book, drugs such as sedatives, pain killers, narcotics, antihistamines, anticonvulsants, anticoagulants, and others.

    WHAT THEY DO TO YOUR CHILD: Heighten perception, cause mood swings, relax mind and body.

    SIGNS OF USE: Red eyes, lethargy, uncoordinated body movements.

    LONG-TERM EFFECTS: Decreased motivation. Possible brain, heart, lung, and reproductive system damage.

    WHAT THEY DO TO YOUR CHILD: Speed up physical and mental processes to cause a false sense of energy and excitement. The moods are temporary and unreal.

    SIGNS OF USE: Dilated pupils, insomnia, trembling.

    LONG-TERM EFFECTS: Violent behavior, paranoia, possible death from overdose.

    WHAT THEY DO TO YOUR CHILD: Produce drowsiness and lethargy.

    SIGNS OF USE: Confused speech, lack of coordination and balance.

    LONG-TERM EFFECTS: Disrupts normal sleep pattern. Possible death from overdose, especially in combination with alcohol.

    WHAT IT DOES TO YOUR CHILD: Stimulates the nervous system, heightens sensations and may produce hallucinations.

    SIGNS OF USE: Trembling, intoxication, dilated pupils, constant sniffling.

    LONG-TERM EFFECTS: Ulceration of nasal passages where sniffed. Itching all over the body, sometimes with open sores. Possible brain damage. Possible death from overdose.

    WHAT THEY DO TO YOUR CHILD: Relieve pain, create temporary and false sense of well-being.

    SIGNS OF USE: Constricted pupils, mood swings, slurred speech, sore eyes, lethargy, weight loss, sweating.

    LONG-TERM EFFECTS: Malnutrition, extreme susceptibility to infection, the need to increase drug amount to produce the same effects. Possible death from overdose.

    WHAT THEY DO TO YOUR CHILD: Produce hallucinations, either pleasant or frightening.

    SIGNS OF USE: Dilated pupils, sweating, trembling, fever, chills.

    LONG-TERM EFFECTS: Lack of motivation, unpredictable behavior, narcissism, recurrent hallucinations without drug use ("flashbacks"). Possible death from overdose.

    WHAT THEY DO TO YOUR CHILD: Produce hallucinations, temporary, false sense of well-being, and possible unconsciousness.

    SIGNS OF USE: Dilated pupils, flushed face, confusion.

    LONG-TERM EFFECTS: Permanent brain, liver, kidney damage. Possible death from overdose.

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