It’s normal to be curious about new things while growing up – especially if it seems like everyone else, including your best friends, are trying them out too! Cigarettes, drugs, Sheesha or alcohol can all seem like really cool and grown-up things to do.
The Media plays an important role in influencing all of us – just look around and see how most of these are portrayed in movies and ads.
The probability of you smoking, drinking, and using illegal drugs increases sharply if you are stressed, frequently bored or have substantial amounts of spending money.
What starts as a small experiment out of curiosity, or to look hip, soon
becomes a habit. It is important to have as much information as possible to make healthy choices.
Read about Smoking – Drinking – Shisha – Drugs – Energy and Soft Drinks
Till the recent bans imposed on smoking at almost all public places, cigarette advertisements did really make it seem very attractive to smoke. But the fact is smoking kills! It can cause cancer, chronic lung diseases and heart disease.
It can shorten your life span by 14 years, and adversely affect the people who care about you. It costs thousands of rupees a year. It is an addiction and anyone who is addicted to something needs help.
Your body is smart and it goes on the defense when it’s being poisoned, which is why many people find it takes several attempts to get to start smoking. For example, first-time smokers often feel pain or burning in the throat and lungs, and some people feel sick or even throw up the first few times they try it. First time drinkers also feel nauseous and may throw up.
Tobacco companies spend millions of dollars in advertising campaigns geared towards planting stylish images in our heads that smoking is a really cool thing to do. They have a profit to make out of our addiction! So even if you don’t feel influenced by your friends, be careful of these clever advertising campaigns aimed at making you think it’s so cool to try out all these things.
The tobacco in cigarettes contains nicotine. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance like heroin and cocaine. Your body and mind become dependent on it and need it frequently just to make you feel good. There are no physical reasons to start smoking – the body doesn’t need nicotine the way it needs food, water, sleep, and exercise. In fact, chemicals like nicotine and cyanide are actually poisons that can kill if consumed in high doses.
The consequence of this poisoning happens gradually over time. Diseases like cancer, emphysema, organ damage and heart disease will limit a person’s ability to be normally active – and can be fatal. Each time a smoker lights up, that single cigarette takes about 5 to 20 minutes off the person’s life. Smoking also affects a man’s fertility and male smokers can experience a serious impact on their sexual health. Smoking is extremely harmful for women who are trying to conceive or are pregnant. The risk of breast cancer also shoots up for women who smoke.
It could be because of Peer Pressure, or a desire to feel like an adult. Or perhaps someone in the family smoked and you wanted to try and see how it looked and felt.
Most people who start out young never really expect to get addicted, which is why it is so much easier not to start smoking at all.
Some of these problems are bad skin, bad breath, bad-smelling clothes and hair, reduced athletic performance i.e. greater risk of injury and delayed healing time. Smoking affects the body’s ability to produce collagen- so common sports injuries, such as damage to tendons and ligaments, will heal more slowly in smokers than in non-smokers.
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Drinking Alcohol leads to loss of coordination, poor judgment, slowed reflexes, distorted vision, memory lapses and even blackouts.
Alcohol can damage every organ in your body. It is absorbed directly into your bloodstream and can increase your risk for a variety of life threatening diseases, including cancer.
Alcohol depresses your central nervous system, Lowers your inhibitions, and impairs your Judgment. Drinking can lead to risky behaviors, Such as driving when you shouldn’t, or having unprotected sex.
Drinking large amounts of alcohol at one time or very rapidly can cause alcohol poisoning, which can lead to coma or even death. Driving and drinking can also be deadly.
If you’re around people who are drinking, you have an increased risk of being seriously injured, involved in car crashes, or affected by violence. At the very least, you may have to deal with people who are sick, out of control, or unable to take care of themselves.
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Drinking excessive alcohol can create addictions that are likely to ruin relationships, families and individuals. Next time someone offers you a drink, just try saying ‘I’ll pass for now’.
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Sometimes it’s tough to tell. But there are signs you can look for. If your friend has one or more of the following warning signs, he or she may have a problem with alcohol:
Most people think Shisha is quite safe. But the World Health Organization thinks otherwise. In a report the WHO says that it’s a commonly held belief is that shishais harmless because the smoke first passes through water before it is inhaled.Shisha smoking sessions last for 20-80 minutes, during which the smoker may take anywhere between 50 and 200 puffs.
The shisha smoker may therefore inhale as much smoke during one session as a cigarette smoker would inhale consuming 100 or more cigarettes. Even after it has passed through water, the smoke produced by a shisha contains a high level of toxin, including carbon monoxide, heavy metals and other carcinogens. Tobacco used in these water pipes is often sweetened and flavored, making it very appealing to children and teenagers.
A similar risk posed to other people who are not directly using shisha is passive smoking. A survey done on youngsters of school-going age in Karachi recently showed that almost 70 per cent had tried shisha in the past six months, and this included children as young as seven.
Many of the commercially available packets which are used for shisha smoking have misleading labels such as 0.5 per cent nicotine and zero tar. The sharing ofshisha between people poses an additional risk of Tuberculosis and Hepatitis transmission.
Drugs (Cocaine, Crack, Ecstasy, GHB, Heroin, Inhalants, LSD, Marijuana, Hash, Methamphetamines) can damage the brain, heart, and other important organs. Cocaine, for instance, can cause a heart attack. Hence they carry a range of physical and mental health risks, and the only way to eliminate these is not to use any drugs at all!
While using drugs, a person is also less able to do well in school, sports, work and other activities. It’s often harder to think clearly and make good decisions. People can do dangerous things that could hurt themselves – or other people – when they use drugs.
All drugs will affect the user’s judgment and probably reduce their inhibitions, increasing the likelihood of finding themselves in situations they would normally avoid and which may be unsafe. Harmful sexual situations may be more likely to occur when drugs are involved. It may be harder to remember the importance of practicing safe sex when using drugs, thus increasing the risks of unplanned pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (including HIV).
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Sometimes people try drugs to fit in with a group of friends. Or they might be curious or just bored. A person may use illegal drugs for many reasons, but often because they help the person escape from reality for a while. If a person is sad or upset, a drug can – temporarily – make the person feel better or forget about problems.
But this escape lasts only until the drug wears off. After the drug wears off the person experiences an acute depression or ‘downer’ that makes them want to use drugs again – this therefore becomes a vicious cycle.
Drugs don’t solve problems, of course. And using drugs often causes other problems on top of the problems the person had in the first place. A person who uses drugs can become dependent on them, or addicted. This means that the person’s body becomes so accustomed to having this drug that he or she can’t function well without it.
Once a person is addicted, it’s very hard to stop taking drugs. Stopping can cause withdrawal symptoms, such as vomiting (throwing up), sweating, and tremors (shaking). These sick feelings continue until the person’s body gets adjusted to being drug free again.
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Energy drinks are designed to increase stamina and improve physical performance. Some energy drinks are designed especially for professional athletes, but most are produced and marketed for the general public. Some new drinks on the market also contain opium poppy seed extract or ephedrine.
Taurine is an amino acid (they help to build proteins) that occurs naturally in the body. In times of stress and high physical activity, the body can lose small amounts of this amino acid. Some people use energy drinks to try to replace or build up their body’s level of taurine.
Glucuronolactone also occurs naturally in the body. It is a natural metabolite and carbohydrate, formed when glucose breaks down, and is believed to be helpful in ridding the body of harmful substances and providing an instant energy boost.
Caffeine is a stimulant, which acts on the central nervous system so that the person feels more aware and active.
Caffeine content of some popular energy drinks and soft drinks (per 250 ml).
Caffeine, taurine and glucuronolactone occur naturally in the body, but the fact that they are present in much higher doses in energy drinks may be a cause for concern. Scientists think that caffeine can have an effect on the growing brain and that it may cause a decline in the body’s immune system.
Children under 10 should generally avoid energy drinks as they contain high amounts of caffeine and sugar. Pregnant women are advised to avoid energy drinks because of their high caffeine content. High amounts of caffeine have been shown to increase the risk of miscarriage and delivery of low-weight babies.
People who drink alcohol are advised not to mix alcohol and energy drinks as it has been reported that it can have potentially serious effects and could even be fatal.
Soft drinks usually contain phosphoric acid, caffeine, sugar or aspartame or saccharin, caramel coloring, carbon dioxide, and aluminum. Upon ingesting a soft drink we feel good. There is compelling evidence, however, that regular consumption of soft drinks leads to various medical problems such as increased rates of bone fracture, obesity, and increased risk for Type II Diabetes, kidney stones and dental problems.
A can of soft drinks contains approximately 6 teaspoonful of sugar (~130 Calories). Sugar combines with bacteria in your mouth to form acid, which attacks the teeth. These ongoing acid attacks weaken tooth structures and can cause cavities.
With so many health issues, it is best to limit your intake of soft drinks and consume them in moderation. Soft drinks too have amazing advertisements that associate the drink with a cool image, energy, adventure, fun or brrrrrr. This is also a way of making a profit out of an addiction that may not be as harmful as smoking but not beneficial to us in anyway.
Some companies have in a very clever manner associated corporate social responsibility with their sales. For instance with each coke bought a certain percentage will go towards a scholarship for a deserving student (a campaign in the United States). While these are commendable initiatives we should not be gullible and respect our own interest first.
Note: It is best to avoid soft drinks in pregnancy because of the high content of caffeine.