NIDA for Teens: The Science Behind Drug Abuse
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Transcript from Chat Day 2013

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.

blapolla Kingswood Regional Middle School, New Hampshire:

Why do people take drugs when it against the law ?

Susan Weiss

People don't always think about the risks of what they are doing when the do it--some people drive over the speed limit; some take drugs. Whether or not you will be the one to get caught or to have a bad reaction to a drug, for example, is hard to predict--but it is a risk.

carly m Walter Johnson High School, Maryland:

What should you do if your friend wants to try drugs?

Dave Thomas

Hi Carly, good morning. My first question of the day! It's good you are concerned as a friend. I think talking to your friend, as a friend, would be a good start. Here is a link with some drug facts. You and your friend might find it useful for your discussions., a Website for teens with information on the science behind drug abuse, facts on drugs, questions and answers, real stories and interactive activities.

gtremblay Kingswood Regional Middle School, New Hampshire:

How many diferent types of drugs are there?

Joni Rutter

There are hundreds of illegal drugs out there and that number is growing. Wikipedia defines illegal drugs asdrugs which have controls on them by a government and are illegal in certain situations (a person is not allowed to have them). A drug is any chemical designed to affect the human body. A psychoactive drug is a drug that affects the brain. Some controlled drugs are allowed if you have permission (called a 'prescription') from a doctor. Other drugs are illegal - meaning you are never allowed to have them.

Alcohol, caffeine (coffee), nicotine, tobacco), aspirin and acetaminophen/paracetamol (Tylenol) are all drugs, too.

For more specific information about certain drugs, check out our website: NIDA drug facts How many types could you find searching the site?

carly m Walter Johnson High School, Maryland:

What criteria does a material have to meet for it to be considered a drug of any group?

Kris Bough

Good morning Carly! Great question ... a drug is a substance which may have medicinal, intoxicating, performance enhancing or other effects when taken or put into a human body or the body of another animal and is not considered a food or exclusively a food. In terms of drugs of abuse, all drugs of abuse can have long-lasting effects on the body and brain. The damage done to the body or brain depends on the drug of abuse and how long and/or frequently a person may have taken that drug. You might want to know that drugs can affect brain signaling and change the way the brain receives messages. A person that is dependent on cocaine for example can have abnormal brain function for several months before the brain can slowly recover. You may want to check out our Science of Addiction pub ( Also - for cocaine, there is evidence that long-term use/abuse can result in impaired heart function ( I hope this helps answer your question!

Pitan Walter Johnson High School, Maryland:

Why do some people get addicted to drugs and others don't?

Ruben Baler

Hello Pitan, this is a great question. It helps to think about this as you'd think about any other disease really. For example, why do some people get the flu on any given season and some don't? The answer is that your chances of getting the flu depend on the coming together (confluence) of many different factors. For the flu it would first be getting exposed to the virus but then it is important to know what virus and how much (dose) did you get. Then you need to consider the state of your immune system, which will influence whether that viral exposure will make you sick or not. and these are just a few of the contributing factors . A similar thing goes on in addiction: if you are exposed to drugs we'll want to know, what drug? how much? with what frequency? at what age did you start? did you find the experience pleasurable or you hated it? how quickly does your body destroy the drug once it's in your system, etc, etc, etc. hope this helps.

Billy D Walter Johnson High School, Maryland:

do you think the electronic cigarette help fight addiction effectivly?

Cindy Miner

Electronic cigarettes are so new to the scene that we don't have a lot of scientific data on their effects yet and we don't even know that much about what's in all of them. The ones that have been tested contain varying amounts of nicotine (in fact some e-cigs say they have nicotine but don't). The nicotine is dissolved in another chemical so that it can be heated usually by a small battery in the e-cig. There have been a few reports of e-cigarettes exploding when people use them causing some serious injuries to their hands and faces. The bottom don't know what you are getting in these don't believe the hype, hype usually means they want your money. Personally, I want to keep my money to spend on fun things, like treats for my dogs...or going to a University of Maryland basketball game!

Tswizzle Walter Johnson High School, Maryland:

Where do teenagers get drugs?

Dave Thomas

All sorts of places. Dealers, friends, family... It really varies.

paintballs Walter Johnson High School, Maryland:

is it true that if you use acid more than 3 times you are legally insane?

Nancy Pilotte

That would not be true. Acid, or LSD, is a very powerful drug with profound effects on your perceptions, but it does not make you 'insane.' It's not very smart to use it. In fact, mental health is a complex condition, with diseases and syndromes that are quite varied. We have learned a lot about mental health disorders, especially in the realm of treatment. Check for more information about LSD. For information about mental health and the teen brain, go to: Also check out, a Website for teens with information on the science behind drug abuse, facts on drugs, questions and answers, real stories and interactive activities.

MorganG Walter Johnson High School, Maryland:

What are some long-term effects of smoking weed on your body?

Joe Frascella

Thanks for your question! Our research has found that marijuana (weed) can contribute to memory problems, decreased reaction time, altered perceptions, lack of motivation, sleep problems, and more. You also might be interested in knowing that studies have shown that chronic use can result in the an overall lack of career success as well as an addiction to marijuana. Marijuana binds to specific proteins in the brain, called 'cannabinoid receptors'. These receptors are found in the hippocampus--crucial for memory formation; the cerebellum--important for coordinating movements; the cortex--involved in thinking and judgment; and reward areas--important for motivation. There also have been some studies to show that marijuana can effect fertility. Studies have shown that marijuana can lower sperm count as well as motility of sperm. Another study has shown that a woman smoking marijuana can make the sperm of her partner less fertile. We have lots of useful information on our website; for more info, please visit:

blapolla Kingswood Regional Middle School, New Hampshire:

When you are having a baby why do some people take drug when having a baby?

Eric Wargo

It's a really bad idea to take drugs when pregnant -- besides the effects on the mother, drugs can also affect the baby, and lead to long-term problems. An expecting mother might take drugs if she doesn't know about these risks. Even if she does know the risks, she might not be able to stop taking drugs because of an addiction. But it's possible to be treated for an addiction even when pregnant.

sb97 Walter Johnson High School, Maryland:

If marijuana is suposedly so dangerous, why has it been legalized in Colorado and Washington State?

Nancy Pilotte

Marijuana has been legalized through a political process, and reflects the votes of the people of those states, but the political process does not consider the potential health consequences. Other legal drugs, like nicotine in cigarettes, and alchohol, also have significant health risks, and these contribute significantly to our national health bill. It seems that people would be far smarter to avoid drugs like these that are known to make people sick. For information about marijuana, check out this page from our teen site:

jmillz Walter Johnson High School, Maryland:

Is marijuana more dangerous if it is grown hydroponically or naturally?

Ruben Baler

Hi jmillz I doubt it: the dangers of marijuana are in direct proportion to the amount of the addictive ingredient (THC) that is present in the plant, we call this its THC content. Now, there are things that growers can do to increase the THC content of the marijuana plant. These manipulations usually involve stressing the plant a little bit. But growing a plant hydroponically or naturally doesn't necessarily tell you how much stress the plants are enduring. hope this makes sense. this was a good question ruben

sb97 Walter Johnson High School, Maryland:

Should you report someone who is using/selling drugs, even if it's none of your business?

Joe Frascella

Thanks for your question. Of course, using and selling are both illegal, not to mention drug using can be harmful to health. You might want to talk to a counselor for advice. Please see for further information about drug abuse and addiction.

betterthanyou Walter Johnson High School, Maryland:

where do drugs usually come from?

David Shurtleff

Good question!! And the short answer is that it depends. Some drugs are made from plants. For example, marijuana is a plant, cocaine comes from the coca plant and heroin (which is processed from morphine) is extracted from the poppy plant. Other drugs were initially made (or synthesized) in the laboratory (initially for medical purposes). A couple of examples of these ‘synthesized’ drugs are MDMA (ecstasy), LSD and PCP. Get more information on the origins and effects of different drugs by clicking on: and Keep the questions coming!!!

jmillz Walter Johnson High School, Maryland:

What type of Opiods are there?

Kris Bough

Great question! In general, opioids are psychoactive chemical that works by binding to opioid receptors in the body. These receptors are are found principally in the central and peripheral nervous system as well as the gastrointestinal tract and can produce both the good and bad effects of opioid use. There are several types of opioids. There are: Natural opiates: alkaloids contained in the resin of the opium poppy - primarily morphine, codeine, and thebaine. Semi-synthetic opioids: created from either the natural opiates such as hydromorphone, hydrocodone, oxycodone, Fully synthetic opioids: such as fentanyl, pethidine, levorphanol, methadone, tramadol and dextropropoxyphene; And, there are endogenous opioid peptides - or peptides that are produced naturally in the body - such as endorphins, enkephalins, dynorphins, and endomorphins. Morphine, and some other opioids, which are produced in small amounts in the body, are included in this category. I hope this info is helpful.