NIDA for Teens: The Science Behind Drug Abuse
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Are household products really in Meth?

-casa grande, Arizona

Yes. It's really disgusting. In addition to chemicals from over-the-counter cold medicines, anhydrous ammonia (an agricultural fertilizer and industrial refrigerant), red phosphorus (used in matches), rubbing alcohol, paint thinner, gasoline, brake cleaner, acetone, among a lot of other harmful chemicals are used to make meth in small clandestine labs.

-Gaya Dowling

are people more likely to do drugs if they have to much stress in their lives?


Yes, but its not a good idea--it won't really lessen the stress, and its likely to lead to more problems in the long run. In fact, stress is one of the factors that makes someone vulnerable to becoming addicted, especially if they are using drugs to cope. Plus some drugs, like alcohol, can initially make you feel better, but then later make you depressed--its how they work in the brain. And stimulants, which can make you feel high temporarily, also lead to a big come down and depression when the effects wear off.

-Susan Weiss

Are steroids considered an illegal drug?

-billy, Pennsylvania

Hi there!Well, first of all, we have to define a few things. First, a steroid is a representative of a class of hormones that your own body makes. Steroids you may recognize include cholesterol, estrogen, testosterone, vitamin D, and corticosteroids. Second, each of these kinds of steroids has a special function in your body and is present in very, very small amounts. Misuse of anabolic steroids (which are used to build muscle mass) can result in serious adverse health consequences. Altogether, there are hundreds of anabolic steroids, including many that are manufactured (and not found in nature), and some that are metabolic by-products of androgens. They vary in potency and in side effects. Anabolic steroids are classified by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) as Schedule III drugs and it is illegal to obtain or use them for the purposes of performance enhancement. So, if you want to get 'pumped up', do it the natural way - through exercise! For more information on anabolic steroids, check them out at

-Nancy Pilotte

Are there any drugs that can kill you?

-lilmiach, Ohio

Just about any drug taken in a way or amount that is not as prescribed can kill you. Even when the drug is taken correctly, it is possible to have an allergic reaction and get very sick. The bottom line is drugs/medications are safe if taken as prescribed, but when abused any thing can happen including overdose/death.

-Richard Denisco

Are there people who have tried a drug a few times and they were so repelled that they couldn't get addicted?

-jessie, Massachusetts

The initial response to drugs and alcohol varies a lot. Some people really like drugs when they first use them and others do not. While this may relate to why people first use drugs and continue at the start, even people who don't like drugs at first, sometimes keep taking them and become addicted anyway. The only safe approach is to avoid drugs completely. For more info go to

-Wilson Compton

Are weed brownies as bad as smoking weed?

-muffinslice, New York

Good question. The active component in marijuana is THC. THC gets into the blood differently when MJ is ingested as a brownie or when it is smoked. Brownies are eaten and therefore THC gets into the blood stream (through the stomach and intestinal lining) much more slowly compared to smoking, where the THC is taken up in the lungs and gets into the bloodstream much more quickly. Once the THC gets into the blood, it has its effects in the brain. Both ways gets THC into the brain but at different rates.For more information, see:

-Joe Frascella

can the drugs cause a person to become mentally ill

-casa grande, Arizona

Great question! Drug abuse and mental illness commonly co-occur (this is referred to as comorbidity). High rates of comorbidity between drug use disorders and other mental illnesses does not mean that one caused the other, even if it appeared first. In fact, establishing this is difficult for several reasons. Some symptoms of a mental disorder may not be recognized until the illness has substantially progressed, and imperfect recollections of when drug use/abuse started can also present timing issues. Still, three scenarios deserve consideration:

Drugs of abuse can cause abusers to experience one or more symptoms of another mental illness. The increased risk of psychosis in some marijuana abusers has been offered as evidence for this possibility. Mental illnesses can lead to drug abuse. Individuals with overt, mild, or even subclinical mental disorders may abuse drugs as a form of self-medication. For example, the use of tobacco products by patients with schizophrenia is believed to lessen the symptoms of the disease and improve cognition ('Smoking and Schizophrenia: Self-Medication or Shared Brain Circuitry?'). Both drug use disorders and other mental illnesses are caused by overlapping factors such as underlying brain deficits, genetic vulnerabilities, and/or early exposure to stress or trauma.

All three scenarios probably contribute, in varying degrees, to how and whether specific comorbidities manifest themselves.Thanks for the question!

-Kevin Conway

can u get high from the can of spray that u use to get rid of dust

-manman, Michigan

The cans of spray used to clean dust and other household products if used to get high are called inhalants. These products are not intended to be sniffed and there are lots of warnings on those cans, with good reason. Sniffing these toxic chemicals can lead to problems with walking, talking, and thinking.Regular abuse of inhalants can cause serious harm to vital organs besides the brain, like the heart, kidneys, and liver. And if all that isn't enough-inhalants can be addictive.You can learn more about inhalants including their effects at NIDA's website

-Marsha Lopez

can u get high off of a sharpy

-supperstar, Pennsylvania

Yes, there are some volatile substances in the Sharpie pens that some people sniff to get high. Inhalants can be extremely dangerous and can cause very serious damage to brain cells.For some excellent information on inhalants, check out: for the question.

-Joe Frascella

can u get high off sharpiess

-lswimmer617, Michigan

Some markers may give off chemicals that can damage the brain and liver if inhaled. There's a question about sharpies that a teen asked last year, and we posted it on the sara bellum blog--take a look:

-Dave McCann

Can using drugs cause depression?

-mathlete_14, Virginia

Great question. Drug abuse and mental illness are related in complex ways. Drugs can make the mood much worse (especially when they wear off) but also being depressed can lead to people taking drugs to feel better. In general, drugs and depression make each other worse. So people with depression have trouble quitting drugs and people who use drugs frequently get really depressed.

-Wilson Compton

Can you get addicted to a drog after on try?

-Tisa, Maryland

Another excellent question. You hear people say that they were addicted after just one use, that the effects of that drug was so powerful, they felt they were immediately hooked. What we find from research is that there are vast individuals differences which is influenced by an individuals genetic makeup. Some people are particularly vulnerable to becoming addicted quickly, others don't seem to be as vulnerable, and may not become addicted right away...but if you keep taking drugs chronically, its highly likely you will eventually become addicted.

-Cindy Miner

can you get addicted to a drug just by bein around it a lot even if your not doin it?

-heylo, Pennsylvania

Interesting question. Keep in mind that if you are around people who are using drugs, you can get into trouble with the law even if you are not using them yourself. If you are driving a car and somone in the car with you has drugs, you can get into a lot of trouble, just by being there. It is best to avoid drugs and to avoid people who are using them!!! Go to our website for teens to get more of your questions answered, to read 'real stories' of people's experiences, and to check out our blog. Leave a comment!

-Dave McCann

can drugs deprss you

-skyler13, Michigan

Yes. Sometimes the drugs themselves can make you depressed--alcohol sometimes does this; and sometimes its the aftereffects of using drugs that can make you depressed. This can also happen with alcohol, ecstasy, stimulants (like cocaine) and others. If you are depressed, there are treatments that can help, and it's important to take this seriously and talk to an appropriate medical professional or a trusted adult. Depression often begins in adolescence -- whether it is drug induced, drug related, or something else.

-Susan Weiss

can people grow tired of a drug after using it for years?

-poptart, Texas

Yes. Some people who use drugs for a long time can get tired of them and stop using them. They probaly realize that drugs cause so many medical and psychological problems that it's not worth it anymore. But many negative effects can occur in the meantime--better not to start! Check out our teen website for lots more:

-Ivan Montoya

Are children of smokers more likely to have diseases or problems?

-Ilovemi, Maryland

Thanks for your question Einstein! Scientific research has found that if a mom smokes while she is pregnant, her child may be more likely to use tobacco when they become teenagers, and more likely to become addicted. Smoking during pregnancy is associated with several other adverse outcomes for babies developing during pregnancy, including increased risk for stillbirth, infant mortality, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), preterm birth, low birth weight, and respiratory problems. Also be aware that during and following smoking, nicotine concentrates in fetal blood, amniotic fluid, and breast milk, exposing both fetuses and infants to toxic effects. Smoking during pregnancy can also affect cognition and is associated with behavioral problems in children. Even second-hand exposure to cigarette smoke can cause problems. For example, strong associations have been found between second-hand smoke and low birth weight, premature birth, and a number of other physical health outcomes, including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, respiratory illnesses (asthma, respiratory infections, and bronchitis), ear infections and cavities, and increased medical visits and hospitalizations. Need more information on the consequences of prenatal drug exposure? Visit

-Joni Rutter

Are drugs always a bad thing? Is medical use the only excuse?

-Squishy Camel, New York

Pretty much.

-Ruben Baler

Are drugs more common in college or high school?

-BlackRavenWings, New York

Some are. Unfortunately the abuse of stimulants (like ritalin) and other prescription drugs are more common in college. In high school we are still dealing with a high prevalence of marijuana, alcohol and tobacco use.

-Ruben Baler

are flavored cigars as bad as regular cigars?

-casa grande, Arizona

Yes. They are equally bad. Check out our blog post:

-Ivan Montoya

about how many people die from drinking?

-cochina, New York

About 85,000 people a year.

-Anna Staton

alright im a crack addict and i want to know how long till i will get the bad side effects

-yupimbored, New York

Good question! Hard to know when you will see 'bad side effects'. What we know is that all drugs have effects on the brain. It depends on the particular drug and the particular individual the extent of damage to the brain, but we do know that all drugs of affect the brain's dopamine system. This brain system is involved with reward and pleasure. Repeated use of drugs can start to change this system, causing a person to no longer be able to control their drug use. The person becomes 'driven' to take the drug, even when he/she realizes that he/she isn't able to do well in school, isn't able to enjoy the things that used to make him/her happy, and is hurting his/her relationship with friends and family. Bottom line: drugs affect the brain and brain processes (and other systems such as cardiovascular), which in turn, affects behavior. We still don't know or understand 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 someone chooses to use drugs. The longer someone takes drugs, the more likely that he/she will become addicted and suffer long-term, harmful brain changes. So to be honest, there is no real straightforward answer regarding when you might see some negative effects. We also know that the earlier one starts, the greater the likelihood of addiction and problems.For general information about drugs, check out or this helps.

-Joe Frascella

Can you get addicted to steroids?

-sangrey84, Pennsylvania

The short answer is yes. But, the mechanism of androgenic anabolic steroid (AAS) addiction is different from the mechanisms that cause people to become addicted to other drugs of abuse. That is, the main effects of AAS do not work through the pleasure neurotransmitter dopamine as with other drugs.However, Animal studies have shown that AAS are reinforcing - that is, animals will self-administer AAS when given the opportunity, just as they do with other addictive drugs. This is more difficult to demonstrate in humans, but the potential for AAS abusers to become addicted is consistent with their continued abuse despite physical problems and negative effects on social relations. Also, steroid abusers typically spend large amounts of time and money obtaining the drug: this is another indication of addiction. Individuals who abuse steroids can experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking AAS - these include mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, loss of appetite, insomnia, reduced sex drive, and steroid cravings, all of which may contribute to continued abuse. One of the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms is depression - when persistent, it can sometimes lead to suicide attempts. Importantly, research also indicates that some users might turn to other drugs to alleviate some of the negative effects of AAS.

-Ruben Baler

Can you get an overdose when taking ecstasy?

-karim09bait, Maryland

Yes- ecstasy (also known as MDMA) is often taken during periods of physical activity. This can lead to a marked rise in body temperature (hyperthermia). Treatment of hyperthermia requires prompt medical attention, as it can rapidly lead to muscle breakdown, which can in turn result in kidney failure. In addition, dehydration, hypertension, and heart failure may occur in susceptible individuals. MDMA can also reduce the pumping efficiency of the heart, which is of particular concern during periods of increased physical activity.For more information about ecstacy, check out

-David Shurtleff

can you get high from caffine

-MonsterRules, Michigan

Well I'm certainly buzzed from the 2 cups I have had this morning! But 'high'-nah, not in the commonly used sense. Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world and its popularity is probably due to effects, such as enhanced alertness and stimulation. Yet there are large differences in how individuals respond to caffeine, with some people experiencing increased stimulation and others much less desirable effects such as anxiety.

-Marsha Lopez

can you go insane from taking drugs??

-drugsR4squares, Massachusetts

Psychosis (schizophrenia and other dementias) can occur in some people who repeatedly use certain drugs of abuse such as PCP, methamphetamine, and cocaine. Did you know you can send us questions about drugs anytime of the day on our Teen Web site? It might take a few days, because our scientists are pretty busy - but real questions will get real answers!

-David Shurtleff


-vvhs, Arizona

There are a lot of things that happen because of using marijuana and many of them are related to short-term memory loss or making poor decisions. However, marijuana has not been reported to cause flashbacks. You can find out more about marijuana at

-Nancy Pilotte

As a school who has drug testing, do you know how many schools in PA or nationally have drug testing and are there any statistics to support positive outcomes?

-Mrs. Y, Pennsylvania

Hmm, well i found found one stat from 2007 that says 'Since 2003, the Department of Education has awarded more than $36.1 million dollars in multi-year grants to over 80 school districts to support random student drug-testing programs in more than 400 schools.' Some schools have adopted a random student drug testing policy hoping it will: (1) serve as a deterrent and give students a reason to resist peer pressure to take drugs; (2) identify adolescents who have started using drugs so that parents and counselors can intervene early; and (3) identify adolescents who already have drug problems, so they can be referred for treatment. It is not intended to be punitive, but rather to prevent drug use or promote early intervention. The Supreme Court has ruled drug testing as legal for any students participating in extracurricular activities. Currently, there is insufficient research in this area to show whether random drug testing is an effective approach.

-Anna Staton

Can being around gas/smoke fumes of a fire or car be as dangerous a drug?

-Millennium2009, Ohio

Hi again Lima Central!Gases from things like fumes from a car can definitely be dangerous. These are considered inhalants--and more information on inhalants can be found here: The effects of inhalants are similar to those of alcohol, including slurred speech, lack of coordination, euphoria, and dizziness. Inhalant abusers may also experience lightheadedness, hallucinations, and delusions. With repeated inhalations, many users feel less inhibited and less in control. Some may feel drowsy for several hours and experience a lingering headache. Chemicals found in different types of inhaled products may produce a variety of additional effects, such as confusion, nausea, or vomiting. By displacing air in the lungs, inhalants deprive the body of oxygen, a condition known as hypoxia. Hypoxia can damage cells throughout the body, but the cells of the brain are especially sensitive to it-- and people can die from lack of oxygen to the brain. The symptoms of brain hypoxia vary according to which regions of the brain are affected: for example, the hippocampus helps control memory, so someone who repeatedly uses inhalants may lose the ability to learn new things or may have a hard time carrying on simple conversations.

Long-term inhalant abuse can also break down myelin, a fatty tissue that surrounds and protects some nerve fibers. Myelin helps nerve fibers carry their messages quickly and efficiently, and when damaged, can lead to muscle spasms and tremors or even permanent difficulty with basic actions such as walking, bending, and talking.

-Joni Rutter

can chocolate become as addicting as a caffeinated soda?

-smurf, Utah

Chocolate is not really addictive but can be very desirable to consume just like a caffeinated soda. I love it, in fact.

-Nora Volkow

how can i tell is some is an alcoholic?

-pancakesssss, Pennsylvania

Good question. When someone is really intoxicated, it may be pretty obvious they are using. They may smell of alcohol, have blood-shot eyes or have really slurred speech. But sometimes it is really hard to tell if someone is using drugs or alcohol. They may have mood changes (such as becoming irritable and angry for no reason). One way to find out is to ask them.

-Wilson Compton