Teens and Diabetes: Alcohol, Tobacco, & Drugs
Some teens are tempted to try alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. You already know that none of these substances are safe. You may not know that they pose even more danger to people with diabetes.
Of course, you know about the dangers of drinking too much and of drinking and driving. For people with diabetes, though, even a little alcohol can be dangerous. Alcohol on its own can lower your blood glucose. The sugary mixers in some drinks can raise your blood glucose. In addition, it's difficult to recognize the signs of hypoglycemia when you're drinking. You may think that you're feeling the effects of alcohol, when in fact your blood glucose is taking a nose-dive. Others may attribute any strange behavior to your being drunk, even if they know you have diabetes.
Don't forget that drinking is illegal until you're 21. Despite all of this, however, some teens do drink. If you decide to drink, keep it to a minimum. Stick to one or two drinks only, and avoid drinks with sugary mixers. Don't drink on an empty stomach -- the danger of hypoglycemia is too great. On the other hand, don't let yourself pig out when you drink. Then you'll face the opposite problem. Also, learn the alcohol and carbohydrate content of various drinks. Choose the ones with lower alcohol and sugar. And always wear your medical ID, especially if you drink -- just in case.
Smoking is a factor in thousands of lung-cancer and heart-disease deaths every year. It can also cause or worsen asthma, sinus infections, allergies, and other health problems. Smoking is double trouble for people with diabetes, because diabetes already increases the risk of heart disease and kidney problems. No matter how old you are. And that's before you start using tobacco.
Some people think that chewing tobacco is safer than smoking. In fact, the opposite is true: your body absorbs even more nicotine from chewing tobacco than it does from cigarettes. Chewing tobacco and snuff are also linked to mouth and nose cancer.
If you already smoke or chew, quitting can protect you from further damage from tobacco. It can be very difficult to quit, however. Talk to your doctor about ways to make quitting easier.
The dangers of illegal drugs are similar to those of alcohol. Some drugs lower blood glucose, and others raise it. The symptoms of hypoglycemia can be masked by the effect of the drug. Illegal drugs are also highly addictive, dangerous, bad for your health in other ways, and, of course, illegal. We can't say strongly enough that you should steer clear of all illegal drugs. Always. That said, we know that despite what you read here, and what you know in your head and heart, some teens are going to try drugs. If you do decide to use drugs, take some precautions ahead of time. Set a limit in advance. Ask a friend who's not on drugs to watch you for signs of hypoglycemia. Check your blood glucose often. And always wear your medical ID.
Reprinted with the permission of the American Diabetes Association.
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