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How does alcohol affect the body?

From the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion:

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant.

  • Alcohol is rapidly absorbed from the stomach and small intestine, passes into the bloodstream, and then travels throughout the body.
  • The effects of alcohol on the body are directly related to the amount consumed.
  • When consumed rapidly and in large amounts, alcohol can cause coma and death.
  • Adverse effects of alcohol include impaired judgment, reduced reaction time, slurred speech, and difficulty walking.
  • Alcohol can interact with a number of prescription and non-prescription medications in ways that can intensify the effect of the alcohol, of the medications themselves, or both.
  • Alcohol use by pregnant women can cause serious damage to the developing fetus.

Excessive drinking has numerous acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) health effects.

  • Acute health consequences of excessive drinking can include motor vehicle injuries and deaths; falls; mood changes and depression; physical and sexual violence; and alcohol poisoning.
  • Chronic health consequences of excessive drinking can include permanent liver, heart, and brain damage; liver cancer; high blood pressure; and alcoholism.
Drugs Trade or Other Names Possible Effects Effects of Overdose Withdrawal Syndrome
Heroin Diamorphine, Horse, Smack, Black tar, Chiva, Negra (black tar) Euphoria, drowsiness, respiratory depression, constricted pupils, nausea Slow and shallow breathing, clammy skin, convulsions, coma, possible death Watery eyes, runny nose, yawning, loss of apetite, irritability, tremors, panic, cramps, nausea, chills and sweating
Morphine MS-Contin, Roxanol, Oramorph SR, MSIR
Hydrocodone Hydrocodone w/Acetominophen, Vicodin, Vicoprofen, Tussionex, Lortab
Hydromorphone Dilaudid
Oxycodone Roxicet, Oxycodone w/Acetominophen, OxyContin, Endocet, Percocet, Percodan
Codeine Acetominophen, Guaifenesin or Promethazine w/Codeine, Fiorinol, Fioricet, or Tylenol w/Codeine
Other Narcotics Fentanyl, Demerol, Methadone, Darvon, Stadol, Talwin, Paregoric, Buprenex
gamma Hydroxybutyric
GHB, Liquid Ecstasy, Liquid X, Sodium Oxybate, Xyrem® Slurred speech, disorientation, drunken behavior without odor of alcohol, impaired memory of events, interacts with alcohol Shallow respiration, clammy skin, dilated pupils, weak and rapid pulse, coma, possible death Anxiety, insomnia, tremors, delirium, convulsions, possible death
Benzodiazepines Valium, Xanax, Halcion, Ativan, Restoril, Rohypnol (Roofies, R-2), Klonopin
Other Depressants Ambien, Sonata, Meprobamate, Chloral Hydrate, Barbiturates, Methaqualone (Quaalude)
Cocaine Coke, Flake, Snow, Crack, Coca, Blanca, Perico, Nieve, Soda Increased alertness, excitation, euphoria, increased pulse rate & blood pressure, insomnia, loss of appetite Agitation, increased body temperature, hallucinations, convulsions, possible death Apathy, long periods of sleep, irritability, depression, disorientation
Crank, Ice, Cristal, Krystal Meth, Speed, Adderall, Dexedrine, Desoxyn
Methylphenidate Ritalin, Concerta, Focalin, Metadate
MDMA and Analogs (Molly, Ecstasy, XTC, Adam), MDA (Love Drug), MDEA (Eve), MBDB, DOM, DOB Heightened senses, teeth grinding and dehydration Increased body temperature, electrolyte imbalance, cardiac arrest Muscle aches, drowsiness, depression, acne
LSD Acid, Microdot, Sunshine, Boomers
Phencyclidine and Analogs PCP, Angel Dust, Hog, Loveboat, Ketamine (Special K), PCE, PCPy, TCP Illusions and hallucinations, altered perception of time and distance (LSD) Longer, more intensed "trip" episodes None
Other Hallucinogens Psilocybe mushrooms, Mescaline, Peyote Cactus, Ayahausca, DMT, Fory, AMT Unable to direct movement, feel pain, or remember Drug seeking behavior *Not regulated
Marijuana Pot, Grass, Sinsemilla, Blunts, Mota, Yerba, Grifa Euphoria, relaxed inhibitions, increased appetite, disorientation Fatigue, paranoia, possible psychosis Occasional reports of insomnia, hyperactivity, decreased appetite
Tetrahydrocannabinol THC, Marinol
Hashish and Hashish Oil Hash, Hash oil
Anabolic Steroids        
Testosterone Depo Testosterone, Sustanon, Sten, Cypt Virilization, edema, testicular atrophy, gynecomastia, acne, aggressive behavior Unknown Possible depression
Other Anabolic Steroids Parabolan, Winstrol, Equipose, Anadrol, Dianabol, Primabolin-Depo, D-Ball
Amyl and Butyl Nitrates Pearls, Poppers, Rush, Locker Room Flushing, hypotension, headache

Impaired memory, slurred speech, drunken behavior, slow onset vitamin deficiency, organ damage

Vomiting, resiratory depression, loss of consciousness, possible death

Trembling, anxiety, insomnia, vityamin deficiency, confusion, hallucinations, convulsions
Nitrous Oxide Laughing gas, balloons, Whippets
Other Inhalants Adhesives, spray paint, hair spray, dry cleaning fluid, spot remover, lighter fluid
Alcohol Beer, wine, liquor      

U.S. Department of Justice
Drug Enforcement Administration

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