By Sparky

The Impact of Alcohol and other Drugs

When you have finished this session, you will be able to describe the following things about:

1. The impact of alcohol and other drugs on the physical, emotional, and interpersonal skills.

2. The legal implications of using, possessing, and distributing alcohol and other drugs.

“Smoking dope and smoking coke, you are rendered defenseless. The only way out of that hopeless state is intervention.”

Actor Robert Downey Jr 

Physical effects: 

The things that happen to our bodies if we use alcohol and other drugs.

Emotional effects: 

The impact of using alcohol and other drugs have on our thoughts, feelings and decision making.

Interpersonal effects: 

The impact of using alcohol and other drugs and the way we relate to other people.

All of these effects can be short term and long term.

Short Term: 

The things that happen at the time of the usage and within the next few hours, days and weeks.

Long Term: 

Things that happen over a longer period of time, months or years.

Substance use issues include abuse and dependence.

Some of the symptoms of dependence are listed below:

  • Tolerance for the substance, using increasing amounts over time or the substance gets less effective with repeated use.
  • Withdrawal problems, experiencing unpleasant symptoms when the substance is reducing in the body or using the substance to relieve the symptoms of withdrawal.
  • Time and money spent getting the substance.
  • Withdrawal from social, work or recreational activities.
  • Continued usage despite knowing that it is causing physical or psychological problems.
  • If drugs are bought illegally, we do not know what is in them or the quality of the drug, they may contain toxic fillers.
Short term problems:

Physical: Intoxication with alcohol or other substance can lead to poor motor skills and poor speech, resulting in staggering or falling causing injury to the body and slurred speech, making the words difficult to understand.

People are more likely to engage in ‘risky behaviour’ which can lead to injury, hospital admission or death. Increased sexual risk taking, not practicing safe sex, multiple partners. Which can lead to unwanted sexual contact, unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Emotional: Intoxication has an effect on the person’s mood. Such as intensifying feelings of happiness, anxiety, depression or anger. Substances reduce inhibitions and the ability to use more effective coping strategies. When a person is intoxicated they are more likely to act on suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm. Excessive worry and anxiety about what they are doing and where they will get their next ‘fix’ from.

Interpersonal Effects: Alcohol and substances can change the way in which people interact with others. It can have a huge effect on families, friends, and work colleagues. People can become aggressive and there is a higher risk of committing crimes. Users can find themselves becoming socially isolated due to their own behaviour.

Long term problems:

Physical Health: With the heavy usage of alcohol and/or drugs there can be damage to the body and internal organs, such as liver disease, heart problems, cancers, brain damage, diabetes, ulcers, internal bleeding, muscle weakness, nerve damage, weight gain and risks to unborn babies.

Emotional: Heavy usage of either substance increases the risk of depression and anxiety. If a person has suicidal feelings, they are more likely to attempt it whilst under the influence of a substance.

Interpersonal Effects: Alcohol and drugs may cause conflict within the family/whanau and friends, social isolation, unemployment, dropping out of school, alienation from their community and legal problems. 

Other disorders: People who regularly and heavily drink alcohol, have an increased risk of developing an alcohol use disorder, especially if they started drinking at an early age.

People who use alcohol are more likely to be introduced to other drugs.

Alcohol and Pregnancy: It is advised by health professionals that if planning a pregnancy or already pregnant to completely avoid drinking alcohol as it could seriously damage the health of the foetus, such as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD). FASD is an all-inclusive term describing the range of physical, learning, behavioural, and neurodevelopmental disabilities that can result from alcohol exposure during pregnancy.

There is no typical FASD description, however, common issues may include intellectual and developmental disabilities, attention deficits, poor social understanding, hyperactivity and learning disabilities.

There is no NZ data on the percentage of FASD, but international studies suggest that around 3% of births may be affected. This implies that about 30,000 children and young people in NZ may have an FASD, with around 1800 more born each year.

We know that issues for people with FASD and their families tend to increase as the child ages. People born with FASD are at an increased risk of child abuse and neglect, poor educational outcomes, developing mental health and substance abuse issues, coming into contact with the justice system, benefit dependence and premature death – including through suicide.

FASD and their consequences are preventable. If we can reduce the number of babies exposed to alcohol in the womb, we can reduce the number of people affected.


Can you think of a time that any of these issues have affected yourself or others? Write down your thoughts on a separate piece of paper and keep it to help you complete the assessment.

Legal Implications:

Alcohol is the only legal recreational drug in New Zealand. However, there are legal implications of possessing, distributing, and using alcohol and other drugs.

Possessing: This means to have or hold as property, to own or control. This will apply to a person who has been found to have alcohol or drugs on them, in their pockets or in a bag they may be holding, this also applies to property, when it is found in the persons car or home, (if it can be proven that it belongs to them).

Using: When the person is drinking alcohol or using drugs personally, i.e., smoking cannabis etc.

Distributing: Providing or selling the alcohol or drugs to other people for them or others to use.

The legal implications relate to:

- The sale of alcohol

- Alcohol and driving

- Where alcohol is being consumed

- The age of the person

Legal Implications: If the law is not followed regarding alcohol and/or drugs, this may result in fines, community service being imposed or imprisonment, on the law breaker.

-Legal: When the law states that something is allowed.

-Illegal: When the law states that something is not allowed. When a person is found to be doing something illegal. This may result in being charged by the police, going to court, and receiving a punishment if found guilty and a criminal record. Such punishments may include fines, community service and/or imprisonment.

Possession: Under 18yrs old
It is illegal for a person under 18yrs old to possess or consume alcohol in a public place (unless they are with their parent or legal guardian).

Business: There are two main types of business that are permitted to sell alcohol in New Zealand.

Licensed premises (who, by law need to have a registered license holder). Such as bars, pubs, cafes, social clubs, RSA’s, licensed sports, and licensed entertainment events like concerts and theater.


Off-Licenses, such as liquor stores, supermarkets, and dairies that have a permit to sell alcohol. 


Can you think of a time when the illegal implications may have affected others you know? Write down your thoughts on a separate piece of paper and keep it to help you complete the assessment.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}