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Because alcohol is so commonly used, readily available -and legal- we sometimes forget that it is itself a drug. Researchers call alcohol a "gateway drug," since alcohol abuse can lead to the use of other drugs which are not legal. In fact, among young people who have used illicit drugs, 80% are heavy drinkers.

What's the reason? Maybe because as a person drinks more alcohol, its effects become more familiar and less exciting, leading the drinker to try other drugs in search of a better buzz, a higher high.

Studies show that regardless of age, gender or race among young people, there's a definite pattern of progression from alcohol to marijuana, then to the use of other illicit drugs, some of which - such as cocaine and heroin - are severely addictive and dangerous to both lifestyle and life. The danger rises dramatically when these substances are used in conjunction with alcohol.

And if you drink, you probably smoke too. Studies show increased use of cigarettes and over-the-counter drugs among young people who consume alcohol. Some of the ill effects of tobacco include:

  • Double the risk of heart attack;
  • Lung, throat, mouth and bladder cancers;
  • Emphysema, which destroys lung tissue and makes breathing difficult;
  • Higher risks of stroke and high blood pressure;
  • Higher risk of miscarriage and low birth-weight babies.