Note: There is no transcript for CHAT DAY 2018, which was cancelled due to the Government Shutdown initiated on January 20, 2018.

These questions were answered by more than 50 individual scientists and science writers with expertise in addiction. To get as many answered as possible, responses were written quickly based on the personal background and knowledge of each expert. Please note that there was not a secondary review or proofreading of each fact, and if readers have questions or comments about any response, they can ask further questions.

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Are there different kinds of marijuana

-LJordan, New Hampshire

Hi LJordan,
Yes, there are two subspecies of Cannabis sativa: Cannabis sativa sativa and Cannabis sativa indica. Most street marijuana is Cannabis sativa sativa. Within that, there are hundreds of different strains or varieties, bred to have subtly different effects because of different amounts of the active chemicals (THC, CBD, etc.).

-Eric Wargo

are there effective treatments for drug addiction?

-jordanf, Ohio

hi Jordan  thanks for reaching out

Great question! There are some very effective treatments for drug abuse problems. Some of these are medications to reduce craving for drugs or manage the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal fom an addicitive drug. Other  treatments are psychosocial: They involve people interacting with people who help one to stop using drugs. Some proven effective psychosocial tretaments include cognitive-behaviroal therapies, motivational enahncement therapies, contingency management therapies, and mindfulness based therapies.

These all work really well for a lot of people. Unfortunaltely, we dont have enough treamtment opportunities for all the people who need them.

To find out more about treatments, you can visit:

-Harold Perl

Are there things besides drugs people can get addicted to? I've heard of people being addicted to porn/sex, and there's shows where people are addicted to eating strange things. Are those real addictions? Do they affect people the same way as drug addictions do?

-Annika, Maryland

hi annika
absolutely, there are several behaviors, besides psychoactive drug ingestion, that can produce short-term reward and that may engender persistent behaviors despite knowledge of adverse consequences, i.e., diminished control over the behavior. These addiction involve a very similar brain circuitry. we are only beginning to study such behavioral addiction applying some of the lessons we learned from drug addiction.


-Ruben Baler

Are there things like e-hookahs and if so why are they not more common?

-$$$fordayzzz, Minnesota

E-hookah is just a name for electronic cigarette...those are quite common!

-Kevin Walton

Are vape pens bad for you?

-DHSmember#2, Maryland

Hi DHSmember#2,
Great question, and unfortunately the answer is we still don't know, because they are so new. Even though they don't produce tar like cigarettes, they contain other unknown chemicals, and possibly toxic metals. And nicotine itself, which is in most of the fluids, is a highly addictive drug. One of its possible effects is making it easier to become addicted to other substances. It also might lead some people to use regular cigarettes, which are very bad for you.

-Eric Wargo

Are vape pens bad for you? If so how?

-Kearsarge, New Hampshire

The short answer to your question is--if you are not a current smoker, you are better off to never start. There is very little regulation of this industry so they are not required to disclose all of the chemicals that are in these products. We do know that nicotine is addictive and if you use it for nicotine, it can certainly increase risk of addiction. Also, vapor from some e-cigarette products has been found to contain known carcinogens and toxic chemicals including formaldehyde. Until more studies are conducted, there is no way of knowing what the health consequences of repeated exposure to these chemicals may be.

-Roger Little

Are vaporizer pens dangerous?

-kearsarge, New Hampshire

Hi Kearsarge!  Thanks for your question!  'Vape pens', or e-cigarettes, don't produce smoke (like  with traditional cigarettes), but they do contain nicotine, which is addictive.  While many people think they are safe and a safe alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes, we don't currently know.  Luckily, scientists are currently doing research on e-cigarettes to figure out if and how they pose a danger to health.  Some things that we do know about e-cigs is that nicotine can effect the developing brain (and not necessarily in a good way).  It may be best to avoid use of these products until scientists can figure out what is in them, how they really work, any bad by-products they might produce and how they may impact your health!  

-Albert Avila

are vaporizers illegal? And do they make the weed less harmful?

-MarginalTrain, Minnesota

Hi MarginalTrain,
Vaporizers are legal. The only way they might make marijuana less harmful is by not producing as many chemicals that harm the lungs, but the main harms of marijuana are from the THC, which you get from vaping just as much as from smoking or eating.
Good question.

-Eric Wargo

Are whipped cream bottles classified as inhalants?

-becky, Florida

Becky,  You are correct.  In addition to being a yummy topping for ice cream sundays, whipped cream bottles are classified as inhalants.  For more information about inhalants and other drugs see:

-Redonna Chandler

Are you happy about how many questions are being asked today?

-eechase17, Minnesota

Yes, we're thrilled to be getting so many questions! Hope you're having fun and learning a lot!

-Maureen Boyle

Are you seeing a nationwide increase in heroin use? If so is this related to any particular age group?

-jmetcalf, Iowa

Hi, jmetcalf, although heroin use has increased since the early 2000s, despite recent media attention heroin we are not seeing a nationwide increase in use.  According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about one tenth of a percent (0.1%) ages 12 or older were current heroin users in 2013 which is similar to those in 2008 to 2012. 

-Marsha Lopez

Around what age do kids start using cocaine?

-p.g.goalie, Maryland

Thanks for writing p.g.goalie!  According to a national survey, the mean age of initiation among teens who started using drugs prior to the age of 18 was about 16 years old. You can find more information at

-Mary Kautz

At what age do people start drinking illegally?

-heyncms, Maryland

Well, drinking under the age of 21 is illegal in the US. On average, the typical person in the US has their first drink at age 17.

-Aaron White

at what age do people usley start smoking

-cassidyb, Texas

Hi, cassidyb, I'll give you a couple of numbers to answer this one.  According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among kids who initiated before they were 18 years old, the average age of starting to use illicit drugs was around 15 years old.  Among those who initiated between ages 12 and older, the average age was 20 years old.

-Marsha Lopez

at what age is the most common age for someone to start drugs?

-MeganS, Texas

Hi, MeganS, According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among kids who initiated before they were 18 years old, the average age of starting to use illicit drugs was around 15 years old.  Among those who initiated between ages 12 and older, the average age was 20 years old.

-Marsha Lopez

At what level of alcohol intake would you get alcohol poisoning?

-curious Lion, Kansas

It's tricky to know how many drinks a particular person would have to consume to suffer from alcohol poisoning because it depends on how much a person weighs, whether they are male or female, whether they ate food before drinking alcohol, and other factors. For example, college students who died from alcohol poisoning had blood alcohol levels around 0.35% as compared to the legal limit of 0.08%. For a 155 lbs person, it would take approximately 12 drinks in an hour or two to produce a blood alcohol concetration of 0.35%. It's quite possible someone could die from alcohol poisoning even below this level. If you think someone you know may be experiencing alcohol poisoning, make sure to get help immediately. You can call 911. You can learn more about alcohol poisoning and overdoses at:

-Aaron White

At what point does drugs affect us ? Is it a rate away thing or a later affect?

-Kearsarge, New Hampshire

Hello Sarge--

All drugs of abuse have an immediate and long-term effects.  Usually people use drugs to get the immediate effect and feel the "high." Then, depending on the drug, people get habituated and then they can become addicted. Some drugs like nicotine and heroin and pain killers are highly addictive. Some people say that they just took a few doses of prescription painkillers and they became addicted very quickly. So, the best thing to do is to avoid trying drugs because you never know if you have the predisposition of getting addicted. 

-Ivan Montoya

Be honest, how many people have asked a question relating to breaking bad? (the show aint even that good)

-HrantJamgochian, Maryland

A lot!

-Maureen Boyle

Are nicotine and caffeine similar?

-NateDoGG, Ohio

Hi NateDoGG (see how I kept the correct capitalization?? It's the details that count).  Nicotine and caffeine are both stimulant drugs, so they both increase heart rate, jitteriness, etc.  In the brain, they act through different mechanisms, but they both end up affecting the dopamine system, so there is a convergence.  Both can cause addiction.  Both are legal (although nicotine is only legal for adults).  Both can adversely affect the developing brain, so think before downing those three Red Bulls or smoking cigarettes!

-Cindy Miner

Are painkillers as addictive as drugs like cocaine?

-a, Maryland

Morning! Pain killers can be very useful in the treatment of pain, but if misused or abused, they indeed can be vary addictive, as is cocaine.

-Dave Thomas

Are painkillers bad for you??

-tplace, New Hampshire

Hi Tplace! Well, painkillers serve a useful medical purpose--to relieve pain and suffering in our bodies, but prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are, after marijuana (and alcohol), the most commonly abused substances by Americans 14 and older.

-Bethany Deeds

Are painkllers bad for you?? what do they do to you

-tplace, New Hampshire

They are very bad to abuse.  About 17,000 people overdose and die from them each year in America.  However, when used in moderation and as directed by a clinician, they can help people who are suffering from pain.  You can get more info at:


-Dave Thomas

Are self made drugs more dangerous than other "more professional" kinds?, Pennsylvania

Yes! Synthetic drugs have no regulation in terms of purity (may be toxic chemicals present) or potency, one batch may be highly potent while another is much less. This increases the risk of over-dosing. Below are a couple of links with info about synthetic stimulants and synthetic marijuana.

-Roger Little

Are sharpies, the permanent marker, considered an inhaler?

-bubblegumrocks, Illinois

Hey Bubbles,
Just a passing sniff of a sharpie is likely no big deal.  But there are solvents in the sharpies and constant sniffing is dangerous.  Read more about inhalants here and thanks for the question:


-Dave Thomas

Are shrooms addictive?

-ckoger, Michigan

Sure.   They are hallucinogens and are addictive.  Here is a NIDA webpage which can give you some more information.

-Dave Thomas

are shrooms as bad as lsd?

-TheLlamaQueen, Maryland

Hi TheLlamaQueen (love the name)! Psychedelic compounds in some mushrooms include Psilocybin, which is very similar chemically to LSD.  All effects of Psilocybin and LSD depend on dose and potency, so they can be. Check out to read about Psilocybin and LSD.

-Nancy Pilotte

Are some personalities more addicted than others?

-SAP Program, Vermont

Hey there SAP Program - thanks for reaching out.
A very intreresting question!  This is one that many scientists spend their lives trying to answer. There are personality traits, such as impulsivity, that make people more likely or less likely to become addicted. There are also important brain and bodily differences that make some people more likely to than others become addicted. These may inlcude the way that a person's metabolism processes drugs (or alcohol) or the effects the drug has on brain chemistry.

You'll find a summary overview of what we know  about how drugs cause addiction here:

-Harold Perl

Are steriods addictive? And what are the poor side effects of steroids?

-Zeus23, Minnesota

hi zeus
Even though anabolic steroids do not cause the same high as other drugs, steroids are reinforcing and can lead to addiction. Studies have shown that animals will self-administer steroids when given the opportunity, just as they do with other addictive drugs. People may persist in abusing steroids despite physical problems and nega-tive effects on social relationships, reflecting these drugs’ addictive potential. Also, steroid abusers typically spend large amounts of time and money obtaining the drug—another indication of addiction. other effects in my video here
good luck

-Ruben Baler

Are steroids addictive? Because professional players, some stack up around 5 charges. So, you would think they would stop.

-mmorelli, Pennsylvania

Hi Morelli
Even though anabolic steroids do not cause the same high as other drugs, steroids are reinforcing and can lead to addiction. Studies have shown that animals will self-administer steroids when given the opportunity, just as they do with other addictive drugs. People may persist in abusing steroids despite physical problems and nega-tive effects on social relationships, reflecting these drugs’ addictive potential. Also, steroid abusers typically spend large amounts of time and money obtaining the drug—another indication of addiction.
good luck

-Ruben Baler

are steroids bad for u

-jacob, Massachusetts

Hi Jacob and Cyrus Pierce Middle School! Steroids can have a lot of effects, but first you must know that your own body produces all the steroids it needs...and it needs them to regulate your growth, and are critical for reproductive function.  People who use large quantities of steroids (often to help build muscle or control weight) risk heart disease, liver damage (even in young people), and may stop growing tall earlier than you should.  It also can cause aggression and male-pattern baaldness (who needs that?), and if you are a female who is using anabolic (androgenic) steroids, your voice may deepen permanently, grow facial hair, and develop male-pattern baldness. Oh, and by the way, exercise has been shown to build muscle better than steroids...

-Nancy Pilotte