Tuesday 7th April 2020

Don’t worry – we’re not here to tell you that drugs, cigarettes and alcohol are bad for you. That’s not exactly a secret. But it is important you know that all of those things can have an impact on your cancer treatment. And by not drinking, smoking or getting high now, you can give your body the best chance of dealing with cancer. 

Why drugs, alcohol and cancer treatment don’t mix

Cancer and cancer treatments mess with your body. They can hit your energy levels and make you more likely to get infections. Drugs and alcohol only make matters worse – just think how you felt if you’ve ever had a hangover or a comedown and you’ll know what we mean. 

Drugs and alcohol can: 

  • Interfere with treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy  
  • Make side effects worse  
  • Increase your chance of getting breathing problems and chest infections  
  • Increase your risk of other side effects, like liver problems 
  • Increase your chances of getting other infections, especially if you’re sharing needles  
  • Mess with your head, making it more difficult to cope 

Be honest 

Your doctors and nurses might ask if you’re taking anything now or have done in the past. They’re only interested in your health, so everything you say is confidential and you won’t get in any trouble. 

Long story short: if you’ve used legal or illegal drugs – from alcohol and cigarettes to weed, coke, ecstasy, ketamine or whatever – don’t pretend you haven’t. It’s better if the people looking after you know, and you can talk to your medical team in private, without your parents being there.  

Time to quit? 

Maybe you’ve tried to give up drinking, smoking or taking drugs in the past, but haven’t quite managed it. Hopefully you’ll agree it’s worth another go now. But before trying, it’s best to discuss this with your care team. 

We’re not telling you to stop forever – although it’ll be better for your health in the long term if you do. We just want you to know that it can make a difference to your treatment. Ask your care team for information about organisations you can contact for support to give up cigarettes, alcohol and drugs.