NIDA for Teens: The Science Behind Drug Abuse
Find NIDA for Teens on: NIDAnews on Twitter NIDANIH on YouTube Facebook NIDA-NIH on Flickr Sara Bellum Blog RSS

Transcript from Chat Day 2009

If you used a screenname that looked like a real name, it has been removed and replaced with either initials or first name and last initial.

joints New Egypt High School, New Jersey:

why do people do drugs

Nancy Pilotte

That is a complicated question. Some people try them because their friends are using them. Some think they will alleviate stress or depression, so some people may be trying to self-medicate.Some people use them to feel good, or better. And some people use them compulsively, in spite of negative consequences. We call these people addicts. But the good news is: Teens are taking better care of themselves: illicit drug use declined by 24% from 2001 to 2008.

Did you know that every year researchers at the University of Michigan supported by NIDA ask 8th, 10th and 12th graders around the country about their attitudes towards - and use of - drugs? It's the Monitoring the Future Survey, and you can look at the results on the NIDA Web site at

tborland2 Junction City High School, Oregon:

when heroin was first made was it for a medical use

Nancy Pilotte

No one really knows the answer to that question! Heroin is one of the oldest drugs we now, having been cultivated in Asia for hundreds of years. It may have been smoked (opium) well before its medicinal properties were discovered. But we do know it (and its close relative, morphine, and their derivataives) are extremely addicting. Did you know that in 2008, nearly one in ten high school seniors reported the non-medical use of the prescription pain reliever Vicodin, and one in 20 abused OxyContin. Abuse of these drugs can be associated with overdose and death, especially when they are taken at high doses, in non-prescribed routes (e.g., snorting or injecting), or in combination with alcohol or other drugs.

silly goose Casa Grande Union High School, Arizona:

what are the effects of acid? My cousin died form it on his try. why?

Nancy Pilotte

I'm sorry that your cousin died from ingesting what he took as LSD. LSD is usually concocted in someone's home laboratory and can have a host of contaminants in it that can be lethal.

Hallucinogens, such as LSD, can cause unpredictable psychological effects including delusions and visual hallucinations. Physical effects can include dangerously increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. People taking acid can also experience sleeplessness, and rapid, intense emotional swings. This experience, as you can expect, can be extremely confusing and frightening to the person taking acid. For more information on acid and other hallucinogens, please click on and Please take care!

annarules Kingswood Middle School, New Hampshire:

some people say that u can get high off of scented markers is that true?

Nancy Pilotte

Markers contain volatile organic compounds that can affect your lungs (decreasing the amount of oxygen you can use), your liver, and your brain (both lipid-intense organs that are damaged by these compounds). Some of the components of markers are also chemicals that are abused as 'inhalants' because you breathe them in. Markers dry pretty quickly when they are exposed to air, but if you have enough, it is possible to abuse them.You will also find facts, trends, statistics, graphics and reports on specific drugs on NIDA's Web site:

Atowers14 Valley Vista High School, Arizona:

How does smoking and other drugs effect a womans pregnancy? and her child?

Cora Lee Wetherington

Thank you for asking that very important question. It is an important question for every teenage female smoker. In the United States, it is estimated that about 16 percent of pregnant women smoke during their pregnancies. Carbon monoxide and nicotine from tobacco smoke may interfere with the oxygen supply to the fetus. Nicotine also readily crosses the placenta, and concentrations in the fetus can be as much as 15 percent higher than maternal levels. Nicotine concentrates in fetal blood, amniotic fluid, and breast milk. Combined, these factors can have severe consequences for the fetuses and infants of smoking mothers. Smoking during pregnancy caused an estimated 910 infant deaths annually from 1997 through 2001, and neonatal care costs related to smoking are estimated to be more than $350 million per year. The adverse effects of smoking during pregnancy can include fetal growth retardation and decreased birthweight. The decreased birth weights seen in infants of mothers who smoke reflect a dose-dependent relationship - the more the woman smokes during pregnancy, the greater the reduction of infant birthweight. These newborns also display signs of stress and drug withdrawal consistent with what has been reported in infants exposed to other drugs. In some cases, smoking during pregnancy may be associated with spontaneous abortions and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), as well as learning and behavioral problems and an increased risk of obesity in children. In addition, smoking more than one pack a day during pregnancy nearly doubles the risk that the affected child will become addicted to tobacco if that child starts smoking.

casa grande mb Casa Grande Union High School, Arizona:

is it possible for someone to get in trouble if they just want to have fun?????????????

Nancy Pilotte depends on the type of fun you want to have. Be safe!

casa grande Casa Grande Union High School, Arizona:

how is chocolate considered a drug?

Nancy Pilotte

Como estas Casa Grande!Some people say they are addicted to chocolate as a way of affirming that they like it very much. But they are probably exaggerating a bit! The definition of drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. Now some of those consequences may be weight gain, or dental issues, but those are usually not thought of in the same way as negative consequences that occur through use of addictive drugs. That said, chocolate is a plant product that has a very complex makeup, and it has some of compounds in it like theobromine that are similar to caffeine.

lilman Spring Woods High School, Texas:

do i have a risk of getting addicted to alcohol if my dad has drinking problems?

Kevin Conway

Great question! Kids with alcoholic or drug-abusing parents are much more likely to try alcohol/drugs and develop alcoholism/drug addiction. This occurs for several interrelated reasons. First, children of alcoholics/addicts have an increased risk for childhood behavioral problems, which in turn increases the the risk of trying alcohol/drugs. Second, children of alcoholics/addicts are exposed to more opportunities to try alcohol/drugs. Third, children of alcoholics/alcoholics may inherit a genetic liability for alcoholism/addiction (from their alcoholic/addicted parent(s)) which places them at increased risk of developing alcoholism/addiction. Of course, most children of alcoholics/addicts do not develop alcoholism/addiction themselves, so neither genetics nor environment is 'destiny'. So, the short answer is .... there is an increased risk of developing drug and alcohol problems, but this can be avoided entirely by choosing not to use drugs or alcohol. And if drugs or alcohol have already been tried, then don't use either again.

When someone has a drug problem, it's not always easy to know what to do. If someone you know is using drugs, encourage him or her to talk to a parent, school guidance counselor, or other trusted adult. There are also anonymous resources, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) and the Treatment Referral Helpline (1-800-662-HELP).

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) is a crisis hotline that can help with a lot of issues, not just suicide. For example, anyone who feels sad, hopeless, or suicidal; family and friends who are concerned about a loved one; or anyone interested in mental health treatment referrals can call this Lifeline. Callers are connected with a professional nearby who will talk with them about what they're feeling or concerns for other family and friends.

In addition, the Treatment Referral Helpline (1-800-662-HELP) - offered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Center for Substance Abuse Treatment - refers callers to treatment facilities, support groups, and other local organizations that can provide help for their specific need. You can also locate treatment centers in your state by going to

I do not belong Junction City High School, Oregon:

can you not get addicted to marijuana and meth if u only do it one timeand what are the side affects on a persion that is only 5' 1" tall and weighs about 99 pounds?

Steve Grant

If you only take a drug one time and one time only, then you will not be addicted. The problem is that there is a lot we still don't know about who becomes addicted and why, and after how much drug exposure. We do know that each person is different, so it's a little like playing 'Russian Roulette' if you choose to use drugs. But, if you do, the earlier you stop, the more likely you will be to avoid addiction and the harmful brain changes that lead to it. However, just because you don't get addicted doesn't mean you won't have bad side effects, especially for someone your size and weight.

SCLions085 State College Area High School, Pennsylvania:

Quick Question Here: Why do people try drugs when they know they are bad for you?

Kevin Conway

That's a really great question! Knowing that drugs are harmful doesn't prevent people from using drugs. Prevention is more complicated than simply providing people with 'just the facts'. How many people do you know that, for example, smoke cigarettes even though they know how harmful they are? There are lots of reasons that someone might use drugs even though they know they are bad for you. For example, adolescents may use drugs in response to peer pressure. Thanks for the question!

whereswaldo Dixie High School, Utah:

what in ciggarettes causes cancer?

Nancy Pilotte

Thanks for the question!Cigarettes are very complex products and cancers are very complex diseases. It is not possible to zero in all the carcinogens in cigarettes and to explain how each them interacts with the body to cause cancer. You might check the website of the National Cancer Institute at; they have an extensive website and lots of information. Good luck!

elshydelcj Spring Woods High School, Texas:

If you mix cocaine with wine and weed at the same time could that kill you?

Nancy Pilotte

Hi Spring Wood,Whether you die or not depends on how much of the drugs you used. Using multiple drugs at once (called polydrug use) can be quite dangerous. I would suggest that you not play roulette with your health or life. For more information on how to live above the influence of drugs and alcohol, visit and

heyy123 Lakeview Middle School, Michigan:

i have a friend when she is mad she says she wants to kill herself or run away i know she is not on drugs or drinking because i am with hr 24/7 what can i do t ostop her from saying that because it concerns me that she might do it one day

Richard Denisco

If your friend talks about suicide the best to do is encourage her to talk to a school counselor, trusted adult, or parent. You can also try asking her to call 1-800-662-HELP, where you can find private and confidential help 24/7.

striker37 Junction City High School, Oregon:

please answer hurry if you have adhd can you still get a high from riddlin

Gaya Dowling

That's a great question. As you know ADHD is often treated with stimulant medications like Ritalin. If they're taken as prescribed, they are safe and effective and won't get you high. But they can be abused if taken in ways other than how they are prescribed. Some people have also been concerned that giving stimulant medications to kids or teens may make them more vulnerable to substance abuse down the road. Currently, the research suggests that stimulant medications do not increase the risk of substance abuse in children with ADHD, and may even be protective.

jugelett hottie:


Lisa Onken

Have your friend visit this website: luck!