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Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Mood-Altering Drugs
Reducing the Risks
No level of smoking is considered safe, and the symptoms of addiction can appear within weeks of beginning even occasional smoking.17 It is also important to avoid being around others who smoke.
Drinking Guidelines for Women
The U.S. guideline for moderate drinking by women is to have no more than one drink a day. Canadian guidelines are similar, recommending no more than nine drinks a week for women.18 It is not wise to drink in these situations:
- If you are pregnant or breast-feeding
- Before you drive or perform tasks that pose a risk to the safety of yourself or others
- If you are taking medication that reacts negatively with alcohol
- If you have medical problems that are likely to get worse if you drink alcohol
- If you have problems with addiction.19
Ways to Reduce Harm from Alcohol and Other Drug Use
Here are some ways to reduce the risks of drug use:
- Know the drug(s) you are taking. Be aware of the potential short- and long-term effects of any drug you take.
- Don’t take drugs at parties or clubs. If you choose to drink (even water), know where your cup is at all times; you don’t want any drugs added to it.
- Don’t mix drugs. Mixing can dangerously multiply the effects. It’s particularly dangerous to mix alcohol with other depressants, such as tranquilizers, opiates, and narcotics (pain medicine).
- Know your body’s limits and reactions. Don’t try to gauge the amount you take by what others take, or even by what you were able to consume on other occasions.
- NEVER share needles or other injection equipment. Using unclean equipment can spread many diseases, including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
- Be aware of how your choices may influence other key areas of your life. Ask yourself whether your use of alcohol or other drugs is affecting your finances, your relationships and family life, and your work; ask yourself whether you could get into legal trouble because of the drugs you use.
- Find other ways to reduce stress, cope with life, heal, and have fun.
Excerpted from the 2005 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves, © 2005, Boston Women's Health Book Collective.
17. M. A. Russell, The Nicotine Addiction Trap: A 40-Year Sentence for Four Cigarettes, British Journal of Addiction 85, no. 2, (February 1990): 293-300.
18. M. Sanchez-Craig, A Therapist's Manual: Secondary Prevention of Alcohol Problems (Toronto, ON: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 1996).
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