Frequently Asked Questions are available for the following topics:
|Q.||How can I tell if someone is using drugs?|
|A.||Adolescents typically have difficulty compensating for their drug-induced dysfunction. One of the first signs of drug abuse among teens is that they need more money. Behavioral changes may include increased secrecy, extreme mood swings, loss of interest in school accompanied by tardiness and absences, quitting extracurricular activities and acquiring a new circle of friends. Adults also will need more money and may exhibit similar behavioral symptoms. However, they are often better at hiding a drug problem for a longer period.
|Q.||What are the legal consequences surrounding alcohol, tobacco or other drug abuse?|
|A.||Laws, fines and penalties surrounding alcohol, tobacco and other drug use differ from state to state, and are also regulated by the federal government.
The primary tobacco laws in South Carolina regulate youth access to tobacco products and establish taxes and wholesale vending licenses. Although there is currently no law that prohibits minors from purchasing or possessing tobacco products, state, criminal and federal civil penalties exist for anyone who sells or otherwise provides tobacco products to a person under the age of 18 in South Carolina. Any person who sells or supplies cigarettes or other tobacco products to a minor is guilty of a misdemeanor, with fines beginning at $25 for a first offense. Retailers who sell to minors risk federal civil penalties ranging from fines of $250 to up to $10,000 or more.
In South Carolina, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase or possess alcohol. Like tobacco, penalties exist for anyone who sells or otherwise provides alcohol to a person under 21. It is also illegal in South Carolina to drive a car or boat under the influence of alcohol. For both driving under the influence (DUI) and boating while under the influence (BUI), a person is considered to be under the influence if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .10 percent or greater. Both DUI and BUI can result in arrest, fines and loss of a license, as well as cause injury, property damage and death.
The possession of illicit drugs is also illegal, regardless of age, for anyone in South Carolina. Specifically, it is illegal to have, make or intend to distribute any controlled substance in South Carolina. Penalties vary depending on the circumstances and the particular drug, but may include a suspended driver's license for up to one year, fines and imprisonment. If someone in your home is using drugs, you will have to prove the drug is not yours to escape punishment.
|Q.||What can I do as a parent to keep my kids off drugs?|
In general, parents should build trust and establish open lines of communication with their children. Studies show that children whose parents listen, respect them, validate them and foster positive self-images are less likely to develop problems with alcohol or other drugs.
It is also important for parents to be actively involved in their kids' world. Family dinners afford parents the opportunity to hear what is going on at school, who their children's friends are and what activities interest them. If possible, get to know the parents of these other children. By keeping in touch with them, you can exchange ideas about parenting techniques that work and those that don't. Also, you will be able to verify that those parents will be home when your child goes to visit or attends a party there.
Just the Facts
Rather than lecturing your child about the dangers of alcohol and other drugs, look for opportunities to have brief dialogues or "learning moments." Also, provide kids with factual information about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Without using scare tactics, let your children know the consequences of using these substances. Emphasize the effects on the family, on the child and any legal consequences. Effects such as loss of privileges, bad breath and yellow teeth are more tangible to kids than overall health risks.
Finally, parents are encouraged to seek help if needed. Several support groups are available for family members of those who struggle with alcohol and other drug addiction. Many communities have parent education programs. Family physicians are also a valuable resource. For a listing of resources for parents in your area, contact your county alcohol and drug abuse authority .
For more information on this subject, check out The power of parents in a kid's world: A parent's guide to keeping children free from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
|Q.||Is it safe to use alcohol, tobacco or other drugs during pregnancy?|
|A.||No. Many serious health problems and birth defects can occur if a woman uses alcohol, tobacco and other drugs during pregnancy. For this reason, the U.S. Surgeon General and other healthcare professionals encourage women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, as well as those who are breast-feeding, to abstain from all types of alcohol - beer, wine, wine coolers and distilled liquor - during this critical time. It's also best for pregnant and breast-feeding women to avoid the use of tobacco products and illicit drugs and to follow the doctor's orders with regard to other prescription and over-the-counter medications.
|Q.||What should I do if someone I know needs help?|
|A.||Seek help. A variety of services are available in every county of the state for anyone who needs them. Services are tailored to meet the unique needs of each individual and/or family. Services are provided by a statewide system of county alcohol and drug abuse authorities, all of which are nationally accredited. To get a listing of the county authorities in South Carolina call the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services at 1-800-942-DIAL (3425).
|Q.||Where can I get more information about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs?|
|A.||In South Carolina, the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services operates a statewide toll-free telephone line that provides information and assistance on a variety of topics related to alcohol and other drug abuse. The number is 1-800-942-DIAL (3425).
The county alcohol and drug abuse authorities and other public and private service providers offer local information and assistance as well.
Nationally, numerous other organizations provide information and assistance, many of which are included in the Online Resources section of this site.
|Q.||How can I tell if I have a drinking problem?|
|A.||Any of the following can be signs of dependence on alcohol (i.e., alcoholism):
|Q.||How much alcohol is in one drink?|
|A.||Many people think that there is less alcohol in beer and wine than in distilled spirits. However, the same amount of alcohol, six-tenths of one ounce, is contained in the following: a five-ounce glass of table wine (12 percent alcohol by volume); a 12-ounce beer (5 percent alcohol by volume); one and one-half ounces (one "shot") of 80 proof liquor (40 percent alcohol by volume); and one 12-ounce wine cooler (5 percent alcohol by volume).
Even though the beverages differ, the alcohol's effect on the body by volume is the same.
|Q.||How many drinks will impair my ability to drive?|
|A.||Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels as low as .03 percent - approximately one drink for a woman and two drinks for a man - can impair driving ability. In South Carolina, individuals are presumed to be driving under the influence (DUI) if they have a BAC of .10 percent or greater. DUI can result in arrest, fines and loss of a driver's license. It also can result in injury, property damage and death.
|Q.||Are there "safe" levels of alcohol consumption?|
|A.|| The Nation's Dietary Guidelines offer the following recommendations for low-risk alcohol consumption. First, the guidelines recognize abstinence as an acceptable choice. Second, for adults (ages 21 and older) who choose to drink and do not fall into any of the high-risk categories identified below, the guidelines recommend limiting consumption to no more than one drink a day for a woman or no more than two drinks a day for a man, consumed on no more than five days per week, at a rate no faster than one drink per hour. Alcohol consumption that exceeds these limits is considered to be high risk because it is associated with adverse health consequences and/or risk of dependence. High-risk use can be dangerous and is discouraged in all situations.
Finally, the Council on Alcohol Policy of the National Association for Public Health Policy has established guidelines that identify people who are at high risk of experiencing problems related to the use of alcohol. For these individuals, there is no "safe" level of consumption. Specifically, the following individuals are considered to be at high risk and are encouraged to abstain from drinking altogether:
|Q.||Is it really that bad for teens to try tobacco?|
|A.||Absolutely. If we can prevent our young people from ever starting a tobacco habit, we will see a tremendous reduction in the number of adults who are hooked. The vast majority of current adult smokers began smoking before the age of 20. The decision to smoke or chew tobacco is almost always made during the teen years, and more than half of these teens will be addicted as adults.
|Q.||Why is tobacco dangerous?|
|A.|| Tobacco contains thousands of chemicals and byproducts that can make it harmful. The three most dangerous byproducts of tobacco are nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide.
Nicotine is the pharmacologically active agent in tobacco that acts on the brain primarily as a stimulant, but which also has sedative effects. Nicotine is largely concentrated at the base of the tobacco leaf stem. In this form, it is a deadly poison that has been used for centuries as a lethal pesticide.
The nicotine "kick" that most smokers get causes a rush of adrenaline that stimulates increased blood pressure, respiration and heart rate. It directly causes a release of brain chemical called dopamine in the region of the brain that controls pleasure and motivation. Nicotine's effect on the brain's "pleasure center" is what creates a craving and reaction similar to that seen with other drugs of abuse, such as cocaine and heroin.
Tar is the gummy substance that is left behind when tobacco is smoked or chewed. It is the primary carcinogenic (cancer-causing) agent in tobacco. Over time, tar builds up inside the cells of the lungs and causes severe damage.
Carbon monoxide, a deadly, poisonous gas, is readily released with each puff of smoke. The most toxic agent found in tobacco smoke, carbon monoxide lowers or displaces the level of oxygen in the bloodstream, thereby increasing heart rate, blood pressure and respiration.
While nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide are clearly the three most dangerous byproducts of tobacco, approximately 4,000 other known chemicals are released as byproducts of both cigarette smoke and smokeless tobacco. Forty-three of these chemicals increase the risk of cancer, while hundreds more are toxic and lethal. Some of the more common chemicals found in tobacco smoke include: acetone (solvent thinner); ammonia (household cleaner); formaldehyde (embalming fluid and preservative); hydrogen cyanide (poison); methane (flammable gas and fuel); naphthalene (dry-cleaning fluid); nickel and cadmium (metals); and vinyl chloride (plastic). The average pack-a-day smoker inhales about 150,000 doses of these chemicals in one year, with up to 90 percent remaining trapped in the lungs.
|Q.||What risks are associated with secondhand smoke for nonsmokers?|
|A.||Secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), has been declared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a "Class A carcinogen" - meaning that it is a major cause of cancer and other serious public health problems. The health of nonsmokers is adversely affected by secondhand smoke as seen in more than 3,000 cases of lung cancer and 40,000 heart attack deaths of nonsmokers each year who have been exposed regularly to ETS. Babies and young children, however, suffer the greatest risk from exposure to the toxic chemicals in smoke. Between 150,000 and 300,000 children who have been exposed to tobacco smoke in the environment are diagnosed each year with lower respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis. These same children also suffer from a higher number of middle-ear infections, asthma attacks, and chronic coughing and wheezing. More recent studies have linked Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or "crib death" to infants whose mothers smoked during pregnancy or around them after birth.
|Q.||I've been smoking for 20 years. What good will it do me to quit now?|
|A.||There are plenty of reasons to quit smoking - improved health, savings in money, a cleaner environment and an improved personal appearance - regardless of your age.
Almost 70 percent of smokers say they want to quit, but they don't want to face the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that occur, such as headaches, dizziness, anxiety, irritability, coughing, dry throat and hunger. Unfortunately, the addicted body craves nicotine and it needs a "fix" for the withdrawal symptoms to go away. The good news is these symptoms are not life threatening and they will go away.
The American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that immediately upon quitting smoking, the body begins a series of changes and improvements that continue for years. All benefits are lost, however, by smoking just one cigarette per day. After smoking that last cigarette, health benefits are gained within:
|Q.||How can I quit smoking?|
|A.||Help is available if you or someone you know wants to quit. Talk to your physician or other healthcare provider about how quitting would benefit you and whether any of the prescribed medical treatments that are currently available would be appropriate for you. You can also contact national and community organizations that offer smoking cessation programs, support groups, information and advice to help smokers quit for good. For information and assistance to help you quit smoking, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345; the American Heart Association at 1-800-AHA-USA1; and/or the American Lung Association at 1-800-LUNG-USA.|
|Q.||What are inhalants?|
|A.||Inhalants are breathable chemicals that produce mind-altering effects in people who inhale them. Terms associated with the use of inhalants include "huffing" and "sniffing." Slang terms often used to identify the products themselves include "bolt," "bullet," "climax," "laughing gas," "locker room," nitrous oxide," "poppers," "rush," "snappers," "solvents," "Texas shoe shine" and "whippets."
|Q.||Can inhalants be found in my home and, if so, what should I do to protect my child?|
|A.||Yes. More than 1,000 common household products are misused as inhalants including adhesives, household cleaning products and paint products. Keep them away from children by placing a lock on where you keep them, or by storing them in a place that a child can't reach.
|Q.||Can inhalant use cause medical problems?|
|A.||Yes. Use of inhalants can cause serious medical problems, including death, even the first time they're used, as they literally starve the user's body of oxygen. Inhalants are very dangerous substances because once inhaled they enter the brain very quickly and absorb into the lungs causing blood levels to rise rapidly. Short-term medical problems associated with inhalant use include seizures, nosebleeds, nausea, loss of appetite, decreased heart rate, decreased respiratory rate, headaches and abdominal pain.
Long-term medical problems associated with frequent inhalant use include pallor; weight loss; sores on the nose and mouth; bone marrow damage; impaired liver function including cirrhosis; impaired kidney function; decreased motor coordination; fatigue; decreased sense of smell; lung damage; hearing loss; and impaired immune function.
|Q.||What are club drugs?|
|A.||"Club drugs" is the term used to describe various dangerous drugs that are being used by young adults at dance clubs, bars and all-night dance parties known as "raves" or "trances." Often used in combination with alcohol, these drugs can be extremely dangerous, causing serious health problems and even death. MDMA (Ecstasy), gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), flunitrazepam (Rohypnol or Roofies) and ketamine (Special K or Vitamin K) are all considered to belong to this newly emerging category. Other drugs sometimes categorized as club drugs include alcohol, amphetamines and methamphetamines.
|Q.||What effects will smoking marijuana have on me?|
|A.||Marijuana users may experience many problems, even when taking the drug in low doses. Problems include headaches and dizziness; disturbances with short-term memory and learning; distorted perception of sight, sound, time and touch; trouble with thinking and problem solving; loss of coordination; and paranoia and anxiety or panic attacks. Furthermore, people who eat marijuana may experience nausea and vomiting.
Medical problems associated with heavy marijuana use include cancer, respiratory disorders, reproductive problems and immune-system deficiencies.
|Q.||Is there a link between HIV/AIDS and alcohol and other drug abuse?|
|A.||Substance abuse and HIV/AIDS have been described as linked epidemics. Behavior associated with drug abuse is the largest factor in the spread of HIV in the United States. Injection drug use and unsafe sexual practices with multiple partners or with known injection drug users resulting from alcohol and other drug use are leading causes of HIV infection. Evidence also suggests that alcohol and other drug use may suppress the immune system, making people who use these substances more prone to HIV infection.
|Q.||What should I do if I think I have been exposed to HIV?|
|A.||The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) offers free and confidential HIV testing for anyone who requests it. Pre- and post-test counseling is available for everyone who takes the test, regardless of HIV status. If the test is negative, post-test counseling can help individuals learn how to prevent future infection. If the test is positive, post-test counseling can help them deal with the medical and psychological issues associated with knowledge of HIV infection.
Regardless of whether the test is positive or negative, it is important to engage in safe sexual practices and abstain from drug use to avoid future infection and to protect others from infection. In South Carolina, it is a crime for an individual who knows he is HIV positive to engage in sex or share needles with another person without first informing that person of his HIV status.
For more information, call DHEC's HIV/AIDS hotline at 1-800-322-AIDS.