Drugs and Alcohol 101: The Facts You Need to Know

Through the years, Americans’ view of alcohol and drugs has changed. While alcohol was once prohibited, it’s now an accepted part of culture. Marijuana is making a similar transition. Regardless of how you feel about each, alcohol and drug use pose a substantial problem. 

“Most people don’t read the fine print,” says Mashal Khan, M.D., psychiatrist, associate professor of Clinical Psychiatry and associate program director of Addiction Psychology Fellowship at Weill Cornell Medicine. “I wish everyone was informed, but few fully understand the substances they put into their bodies.” 

Before you use alcohol or drugs, here’s what you should know about each. 

Drugs Evolve Over Time 

Though the name of drugs stay the same, their potency changes. Marijuana is a clear example.  

THC is the substance in marijuana that gives you a high. In recent decades, the amount of THC in marijuana has increased exponentially. According to an article published in Missouri Medicine, marijuana had less than 2% THC before 1990. Some strains in California are now as high as 45%. As a result, Dr. Khan says today’s marijuana, “...tends to knock the socks off most people trying it for the first time.” 

Modern drugs aren’t just more potent. They’re also more addictive. If laced with other substances, they can be dangerous and even deadly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 150 deaths occur every day due to fentanyl and other opioids. 

How Much Alcohol Should You Drink? 

Dr. Khan says the big problem with alcohol is knowing when to stop. If you choose to drink, adhere to the following recommendations: 

  • Men should drink no more than two drinks per day 
  • Women should drink no more than one drink per day 

Drink more, and you may damage your liver or other organs. You also increase your risk of developing a use disorder. Start drinking alcohol at an early age, and your risk level rises. 

“The earlier people drink,” Dr. Khan says, “the more likely they are to develop an unhealthy relationship or alcohol use disorder.” 

Identifying and Acting on Addiction 

Whether you use alcohol or drugs, early signs that you’re heading toward or experiencing addiction include: 

  • Difficulty functioning socially or professionally 
  • Having loved ones tell you your habit has had negative impacts on your own or their lives 
  • Inability to stop using substance when intended 
  • Needing alcohol or drugs to socialize, unwind or cope with stress 

Fortunately, the stigma of addiction has lessened, to an extent, in recent decades as more people learn about them. Use disorders are now considered diseases and treated as such. Counseling and other services help you overcome addiction, both in-person and online.  

“If you’re struggling to cut back on your use of alcohol or drugs and it’s affecting you in any way, please seek help,” Dr. Khan says. “Talk to your primary care provider and loved ones. There are countless resources that can help you move toward better health.” 

Are you living with alcohol or drug use disorder? Don’t face it on your own. Find a doctor at Weill Cornell Medicine to discuss your concerns with. 

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