NIDA for Teens: The Science Behind Drug Abuse
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Are RX drugs worse then illegal drugs if abused?

-clydej, New Mexico

Hey there. Don't know what you mean by 'worse.' Some prescription drugs are as addictive as illegal drugs. For more information see:

-Redonna Chandler

Are some drugs good for you when you are sick?

-buttercup5, New Jersey

Yes, of course. Medications have improved and transformed many people's lives. It's when they're taken in ways or doses or by people they weren't prescribed for that makes them dangerous.

-Jen Katt

are some drugs good for you? i always hear that some type drug is invented and is used in medication. that must mean that some drugs are good for you right?

-dgasker, Texas

Yes, of course. Medications have improved and transformed many people's lives. It's when they're taken in ways or doses or by people they weren't prescribed for that makes them dangerous.

-Jen Katt

Are steriods addictive?

-JWhite, Texas

To answer that question, we first have to understand what addiction is. At NIDA, we think of addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disease. People who are addicted make drugs the most important things in their lives, to the detriment of their families and important relationships, normal activities of daily living, and any other goals they have had. The signs can include intense craving, and trying to get drugs at all costs and not being able to stop using once you've begun. People who become addicted often show what we call 'tolerance,' or needing more and more of a drug to get high, and they often experience Withdrawal - feeling bad when stopping use of drugs suddenly. The symptoms of addiction are well known for drugs that are narcotics, like opiates, the only symptom that has been reported for people who use steroids is withdrawal. They sometimes report feeling depressed when they stop but this goes away with time. So by these criteria, it would be hard to say that steroids are addictive. For more information about steroids, please see this link:

-Nancy Pilotte

Are there any drugs that can help you?

-ab04b, Texas

Yes, of course. Medications have improved and transformed many people's lives. It's when they're taken in ways or doses or by people they weren't prescribed for that makes them dangerous.

-Jen Katt

Are there any marijuana related deaths directly related to it's use?

-tompkins, Texas

Yes. Very few people die from overdosing on marijuana alone, but it sometimes may be a contributor to overdoses involving multiple drugs (such as prescription opioids) and it is frequently a contributor to fatal auto accidents.

-Eric Wargo

can taking crack make you mad and depresses???

-iam awesome, Illinois

Yes. Crack, a form of cocaine, can change your mood in many different ways, including making you very depressed, anxious, obsessive, and paranoid. It does so by changing specific brain chemicals. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek treatment from a healthcare professional by calling 800-662-HELP. Or call 800-273-TALK if you are feeling depressed and need to talk to someone right away.

-Anto Bonci

can tobacco effect someones personality?

-tarbuck, North Carolina

Sure can! Tobacco contains the chemical nicotine, which is very addicting. It's one of the reasons people keep smoking even though most don't want to. And have you ever met someone who is trying to quit? They can be very moody, agitated...not like themselves at all. That is what experts call withdrawal!

-Cindy Miner

Can too much alcohol cause someone to pass out

-fatpanda22, Illinois

Yes, it certainly can. Alcohol poisoning occurs from a single episode of drinking way too much and it can cause you to pass out. Even if you have stopped drinking or pass out, alcohol in the stomach and intestine can continue to enter your blood stream and circulate throughout your body. Make sure you are aware of the critical signs of alcohol poisoning, which can include: Mental confusion Stupor Coma Vomiting Seizures Slow or irregular breathing Hypothermia, or low temperature Bluish skin color Paleness If you think someone you know may be experiencing alcohol poisoning, make sure to get help immediately. You can call 911.

-Shuly Babitz

Can we just simply annihilate illegal drugs?

-VictorP, New Mexico

wouldn't that be nice!

-Joni Rutter

can you drive while high?

-Bubbler doodz, Pennsylvania

Getting high can seriously impact your ability to drive. Drugs and alcohol affect the part of your brain that controls your motor coordination, your ability to make fast and precise movements, and your vision - all necessary for you to drive safely. In addition, alcohol and drugs can impair your judgement, and makes you more likely to take risks like driving through a yellow or red light and driving faster than the posted speed limit. Some drugs, including alcohol, can also make you sleepy and increase the chances of falling asleep while driving. So, the short answer is that you just can't drive safely while high. Please don't try!

-Lori Ducharme

Can drugs and alcohol make you emotionaly unstable?

-walawaladingdon, North Carolina


-Jen Katt

Can drugs give you energy but have a harmful effect on your body?

-syousaf, Texas

Yes drugs can give you energy but they also cause many more harmful side effects such as dangerously high blood pressure and stroke. It's not worth the risk! Learn more about the dangers of stimulants here:

-Nancy Pilotte

can marijuana be a prescription drug

-sparky, Maryland

Some states have legalized medical marijuana, and doctors in those states can qualify patients to get marijuana, although this is not the same as what normally happens in prescribing a medication. Prescriptions mean that you get a specific amount of a medicine, at a specific dosage, with clear instructions on how to take it and what to watch out for. Also, note that marijuana is not considered medicine by the Federal government since it has not gone through the formal approval process by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which evaluates the results of carefully controlled studies that measure the safety and effectiveness of a medication and decides if its benefits outweigh its risks.

-Susan Weiss

Can marijuana only be a depressant, or can it also be a stimulant?

-thebestaround, Maryland

Marijuana is actually a hallucinogen (mind-altering), and is neither a depressant nor a stimulant (in terms of what does to respiration and alertness, etc.)

-Dave White

can memory loss be a result of marijuana

-enelson, Texas

Yes, memory impairment is one effect of using marijuana. Recent research has show that the receptors in the brain for THC, the active chemical in marijuana, are involved in normal memory formation. So marijuana use can alter the normal memory processes in the brain. But since it still not clear how long impairments in memory persist once one quits using marijuana, do you really want to take the risk? Find out more at:

-Steve Grant

are boys more likely to get addicted to drugs than girls?

-purple2016, North Carolina

Yes. Males are more likely than females to abuse and become addicted to drugs. According to the current National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NSDUH)-an annual survey of more than 25,000 respondents, over 10% of males and about 6% of females age 12 or older were classified with substance abuse or dependence (illicit drugs or alcohol).

-Bethany Deeds

A lot of musicians smoke and do drugs. When listening to their music, I notice how raspy their voices sound. Is this a result of doing drugs? If so, how does doing drugs affect your vocal chords?

-88l8chai, Maryland

It is is really unlikely that the drugs affect the vocal chords directly, but how people take them has a huge effect. Passing smoke over the vocal chords on the way to the lungs, whether it comes from tobacco or other smoked drugs like marijuana or cocaine, is never a good idea because these contain a lot of other contaminants, which can lead to the raspiness. We just don't know what all of them are yet. The best thing to do is to avoid smoking--the smart decision.

-Nancy Pilotte

A lot of people say when you drink alcohol, you come addicted to it. I don't think thats nessecaryly true. It does cause effect(s) and can really hurt people. But if people know what alcohol does to you, why do you think they keep doing it?

-Redneck lover<3, North Carolina

It's hard to say exactly why people do things they know are bad for them. First of all, alcohol can be addicting. It affects a part of the brain called 'the reward system.' All drugs, alcohol included, turn this part of the brain on and make people feel good for a little while. Some people keep going back to alcohol to get that feeling. Over time, their brains lose the ability to feel good without alcohol and they become addicted to it, meaning they just can't stop thinking about it or using it.Also, the earlier in life you try alcohol, the more likely you are to become addicted. That is why it is sooo important to find healthy things to turn on the reward system on and make you feel good. For some people, this can be sports, laughing with friends, or even playing an instrument. Even when people know that drinking too much can have bad consequences, they may still do it. Some people may get messages from movies, TV, and our general culture that drinking can make you feel 'cool.' Others may feel that they can escape problems in their life by drinking. But they cannot - drinking only makes any problems you already have much worse. And there's nothing cool about throwing up in a garbage can or wrecking a car.

-Shuly Babitz

According to a recent report, A-rod was found guilty of using another banned substance by the MLB. Why do athletes feel a need to use performance enhancers?

-El Diablo, Pennsylvania

Dear El Diablo (great name) Athletes sometimes take drugs because they think it will improve their performance (steroids, for example). And in fact they can improve some types of performance -- in the short run, but at a big cost. Not only is it cheating--as I'm sure you've heard a lot about lately, especially since Lance Armstrong confessed to using performance enhancers throughout his cycling career--but there are also serious health risks associated with taking these drugs. With steroids, they have to be taken at very high doses, which can put people at risk for heart disease, cancer, and other health problems. Also, because steroids are similar to the male sex hormone testosterone, they can wreak havoc on your body's sexual characteristics. In females, steroids can lower their voice, cause hair growth in places you wouldn't want it, and produce severe acne. In males, they can actually be feminizing; and in all youth it can't stunt your growth. And that's just the short list. Liz

-Lis Robertson

According to my mom, my dad is a drug addict and that's part of the reason they broke up. Should I feel ashamed? People say I should but for some reason I don't

-MangoAndGrape, Illinois

Dear MangoAndGrape, I agree with you - you should not feel ashamed about your dad's drug addiction. You are not responsible for your father's behavior or his condition. Good luck.

-Michelle Leff

are all drugs addictive?

-brookep, Oklahoma

No, but most of them are. LSD and PCP are not addictive.

-Nora Volkow

can you get addicted to Viagra or any other sex drug?

-Zach H, Maryland

not Viagra per se, but some people can be addicted to sex and have sexual urges, behaviors, or thoughts that appear extreme in frequency or feel out of one's control— which may require treatment. Some drugs such as alcohol can increase the likelihood of engaging in risky behavior such as unprotected sex, which can lead to a lot of serous unintended consequences. Most drugs impair your good judgement and you are more likely to engage in unsafe or dangerous sex while you are under the influence.

-David Shurtleff

Can you get aids from drugs or alcohol?

-pound cake, North Carolina

Not directly. But people who are drunk or high increase their risk of making poor decisions, because their judgment is altered by drugs. Bad decisions can include engaging in risky sex, which could lead to HIV infection or other sexually transmitted diseases.

-Jen Katt

Can you get cancer from tobacco and other drugs?

-HShagoury, New Hampshire

yes, but tobacco is the number one

-Nora Volkow

can you get drunk off of beer

-jadams, Texas

Yes, you sure can.

-Shuly Babitz

Can a bottle of alcohol destroy brain cells?

-ltenorio, Texas

Alcohol is very damaging to the brain, especially the teenage brain. The teenage years are a very important time for development of the brain. The thinking parts, memory parts, and feeling parts are all changing when we are teenagers. Alcohol can interfere with these important changes and actually shrink the thinking and memory parts.

Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years can make an area of the brain called the frontal lobes smaller. The frontal lobes help us make decisions, think about things, and pay attention. Teenagers who drink a lot have problems with these things. Alcohol also can shrink the hippocampus, the area of the brain area that helps us learn and remember. Teenagers who drink a lot also have trouble with learning. We do not know yet whether these problems go away if the teenager stops drinking.

For weeks and months after a teenager stops drinking heavily, these parts of the brain still struggle to work correctly. It's not clear whether the brain ever fully heals itself. In addition, drinking at a young age makes it more likely to become an alcoholic later in life. So, drinking when we are young could have lots of negative effects on the brain!

-Shuly Babitz

Can pharmicutical drugs effect your physical appearance?

-parisp, New Mexico

Hmmm, that depends. I guess if they become addicted--that is the drug 'takes over' their life--so that they compulsively seek and use the drug despite the consequences, they could easily let their appearance go. Also, some prescription drugs can cause weight loss and other physical changes.

-Jen Katt

Can some depressants make you more depressed?

-lhub3, Illinois

Hi Ihub3, good question. Just as there are many signs and symptoms of depression, and not everyone will have all of the same symptoms, there are also many different side effects with medications, and not every person has the same reactions. If you are taking a medication to treat depression and you are still feeling depressed or feeling even worse, it is very important to talk to the doctor who provided the medication. It could be that the depression is actually worse, or it could be that the medication has some side effects. In either case, you don't wan't to make changes to your medication without talking to your doctor first. So talk it through with your doctor as soon as possible!

-Joel Sherrill

can steroids affect your appearence

-jwilliams, Texas

You bet, and it doesn't necessarily mean you will be transformed from an UGLY ducking to a beautiful swan. Steroid use can cause major physical harm including liver damage, jaundice, fluid retention, high blood pressure and increases in 'bad' cholesterol. Also, males risk shrinking of the testicles, baldness, breast development, and infertility. Females risk growth of facial hair, menstrual changes, male-pattern baldness, and deepened voice. Teens risk permanently stunted height, accelerated puberty changes, and severe acne. Check this site out for more info:

-Redonna Chandler