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 here.

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Are there long term damaging affects on the brain when alcohol is consumed in moderation?

-bluecloud75, New York

We don't think so. If an adult who is otherwise healthy has no more than 1 drink per day (for women) or 2 per day (for men) the risks of harm appear to be low. We don't know of any evidence that moderate drinking damages the brain.

But, for anyone under age 21, even having a few drinks can interfere with normal adolescent brain development and increase your risk of developing an alcohol problem. It can also increase your risk for injuries, sexual assault, and even deaths—including those from car crashes.

-Aaron White

Are there more negative effects of drinking alcohol at a young age as opposed to adulthood? If so, at which age do the consequences become equal?

-loooooogan, New York

Possibly yes. Drinking at a young age increases the likelihood of developing a problem with alcohol. Also, the young brain is still developing and scientists have shown the effects of alcohol at a young age can alter brain development. By age 25 the brain is fully developed but not before. For this reason, it's important to delay alcohol use at least until the legal drinking age of 21.

-George Koob

Are there more teens smoking than adults

-Mgomez, Texas

Hey Mgomez- No! It looks like teens are smarter about not smoking than adults :-). In 2015, 11.6% of people between the ages of 12 and 17 used tobacco products, while 31.1% of people over the age of 18 used tobacco products. For more facts about tobacco products, check out https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes.

-Emily Einstein

Are there more teens smoking than adults?

-Mgomez, Texas

Hi, Mgomez! According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there is a much higher percentage of adults who smoke than teens. Roughly 27% of folks ages 18-25 reported smoking cigarettes in the month prior to the survey, and 20% of adults ages 26 and older, compared to 4% of kids ages 12-17. It is great that kids are making healthy choices about smoking because tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking results in more than 480,000 premature deaths in the United States each year—about 1 in every 5 U.S. deaths—and an additional 16 million people suffer with a serious illness caused by smoking. In fact, for every one person who dies from smoking, about 30 more suffer from at least one serious tobacco-related illness.

-Marsha Lopez

are there some drugs that take effect when you touch them?

-SLC, Other

hey SLC - yes there are some drugs that can enter your system through your skin - such as LSD

-Maureen Boyle

Are there ways to control drug use?

-SVV, Other
Hello SVV! The short answer is yes: Not to Start! The 100% best way is to not experiment or use drugs at all. The best way to control or overcome drug use is to seek help from a treatment professional. A commonly used approach to help with drug addiction is cognitive-behavior therapy or CBT, which helps people understand the reasons why they use drugs and develop healthy strategies and alternative behaviors that do not rely on addiction. I hope this response is helpful and look forward to your questions next year!
-Albert Avila

Are video games more addictive than drugs?

-tyree mcghee, Georgia

Hi Tyree,
This is a great question. We used to think that video games weren't really addictive because they don't directly alter the brain's chemistry, but compulsive video gaming is becoming a problem in some parts of the world such as Asia, and the current manual of psychiatric diagnoses recommends doing further research on the possibility that video gaming addiction is a true addiction. But since it is such a question, to say they are "more" addictive than drugs is probably a stretch.

-Eric Wargo

Are video games more addictive than drugs?

-Jessica, New York

Hi Jessica,
No, they aren't more addictive, but they do stimulate some of the same brain systems that drugs do, such as the brain's reward system.
Great question!

-Eric Wargo

ARE VIDEO GAMES MORE ADDICTIVE THAN DRUGS?

-FLU, Other

Hi FLU! It is really hard to compare, but you are absolutely right, video games can be addictive. Addiction is defined as compulsive use despite harm, and some people play those games for way too much time, just as some people with substance use problems spend most of their time seeking or using drugs.

-Dave Thomas

are weed and pot different in any way?

-wow, steamboat , Colorado

Nope- Weed and pot are just two of the words that people use to refer to marijuana.

-Emily Einstein

Are you more likely to get addicted to drugs if you start at a young age?

-anon, New York

Hi anon,
Great question -- Yes, lots of studies show that the younger you are when you start taking drugs, the more likely you will develop an addiction.

-Eric Wargo

are you most likely to do drugs if you have a family member doing them

-ajstarr02, Texas

Dear ajstarr02,

This is a great question. We know that genetics do affect people's risk for addiction. People who have a family history of drug or alcohol addiction are at greater risk. Environment is also very important--stress and other negative environmental factors can increase addiction risk, but having good friendships and family support can protect people who are at risk. Also having a stimulating environment, like having lots of hobbies and interests, can reduce your risk. The safest thing is to never try drugs. https://easyread.drugabuse.gov/, https://easyread.drugabuse.gov/content/does-addiction-run-families

-Roger Little

Aren´t we technically addicted to oxygen

-khall, Illinois

Hi khall,
Great question! The answer is no, even if it seems like it would be yes. Addiction is different from simply needing something to live, like air or water or food. It means specifically that a substance has caused changes in the person's brain, including circuits controlling pleasure, learning, and self-control, which distort how a person feels and sees the world, and makes it difficult or impossible to control their drug use.

-Eric Wargo

Aside from harming your body and others, what effects do drugs have (legal, social, etc)?

-thinkermaster, New York

Excellet question...Abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs is costly to our Nation, exacting more than $700 billion annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity and health care. There are estimates that most peope in jail or prison could benefit from therapy and drug-related treatment.

-Carol Krause

at what age do most people start drugs?

-JacobB, Pennsylvania

Hi JacobB - that's a really great question. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health surveys people 12 and older, and in 2015 the average age of starting drinking was 18. However, if we look at just underage drinkers, meaning kids who started drinking before the age of 21, the average age is around 16. To look at the percentage of alcohol drinkers by age group check out page 18 of their report. The average age of marijuana initiation (meaning that's when they start), is16 if we look at just people who started using marijuana before age 21. However if you look at everyone over the age of 12, the average is around 19 years old. This means many people are starting to use marijuana as teens or as college students/young adults.

-Marsha Lopez

at what age is good to start drinking a little of alcohol?

-ACGP, Other

21!

-Aaron White

baby that have mothers that used drugs while they were in the mothers stomach, can they get addicted to drugs when their born

-D.yemane, Texas

Hey D.yemane, we typically say that the babies are born 'dependent' on the drugs. Addiction involves compulsively seeking out drugs even though you know they are harming your health and your life. A baby can't seek them our or even understand what they are experiencing.

-Maureen Boyle

because your parents smoke does that mean you you smoke

-erice, Texas

Dear erice - thank you for asking such an important question. No, just because your parents smoke, that doesn't mean that you will automatically smoke. However, children that are exposed to smokers, particularly within their own households, are more likely to start smoking themselvves. Even if they don't smoke, they will be exposed to secondhand smoke, which has negative consequesnces on the child's health.

Research shows that drug addiction is about 50% heritable. BUT.....while genes play a big role, they are only part of the picture. Other factors, like having friends who don't use drugs, or being involved in sports and other recreational activities, also affect your risk of trying drugs and of becoming addicted.
http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/real-teens-ask-addiction-hereditary/
-Heather Kimmel

are over the counter drugs addictive if you use them the wrong way?

-Ryleigh D., Pennsylvania

Hey Ryleigh- even over the counter drugs can be dangerous if they're not used properly, so you should always follow the instructions on the package. Most over the counter drugs do not have a high risk of addiction, however, with the exception of nicotine-containing products.

-Emily Einstein

are painkillers damaging to the nervous system?

-Juliagelston, Maine

Opioids do not directly cause brain damage. Some people, though, suffer nonfatal overdoses and then suffer from hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain), which if prolonged can cause substantial brain damage.

-Dave Thomas

Are people taking drugs more today than in the 1900s?

-awalker, New Hampshire

Good morning awalker, Good question! Well, in fact overall drug use among youth has been decreasing over the past 40 years. This is really good news! Check out NIDA's Monitoring the Future Survey for more information.

-Jacqueline Lloyd

Are problems with alcohol hereditary?

-maggie, New York

Yes. People with a family history of alcoholism are more likely to develop a problem with alcohol themselves.
Having alcoholism in your family greatly increases the chances you'll develop a problem, too.

Researchers believe a person's risk increases if he or she is in a family with the following difficulties:

  • an alcoholic parent is depressed or has other psychological problems;

  • both parents abuse alcohol and other drugs;

  • the parents' alcohol abuse is severe; and

  • conflicts lead to aggression and violence in the family.

    You can learn more about the genetics of alcoholism here:
    https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/FamilyHistory/famhist.htm

-Aaron White

are some drugs legal in some states

-trase A, Texas

Hello to you trase A from Lake Olympia Middle School. Depends which drugs you are talking about. Some substances (like the ones we use for medicine) can be legal in the U.S. This is a link to the controlled substances schedule that lists all the drugs that doctors can legally prescribe in the U.S:http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/schedules/index.htmlutm_source=Pharmaceutical+Tips+%7C+Storage+%7C+Disposal+%7C+Abuse+Prevention&utm_campaign=Pharmaceutical+Tips&utm_medium=email For marijuana--28 states and Washington, DC have passed laws allowing smoked marijuana to be used for a variety of medical conditions. In addition, voters in 8 states and Washington, DC also passed initiatives legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and older under state law. However, there are things teens should know about marijuana's effect on the developing brain. Marijuana: Facts for Teens booklet: www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-facts-teens/letter-to-teens

-Bethany Deeds

Are steroids addictive?

-Jonathan R, Pennsylvania

An undetermined percentage of steroid abusers may become addicted to the drugs, as evidenced by 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 drugs, which is another indication that they may be addicted. Individuals who abuse steroids can experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking steroids, such as mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, loss of appetite, insomnia, reduced sex drive, and steroid cravings. The most dangerous of the withdrawal symptoms is depression, because it sometimes leads to suicide attempts. If left untreated, some depressive symptoms associated with anabolic steroid withdrawal have been known to persist for a year or more after the abuser stops taking the drugs.

-Ruben Baler

Are steroids good for you?

-AGUA, Iowa

If you mean anabolic steroids, then the abuse of anabolic steroids, that are widely used by athletes and non-atheletes, is associated with significant and serious adverse health consequences. See a recent article by Pope, Khalsa and Bhasin in JAMA (http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2592911) for more.

-Jag Khalsa

are students allowed to buy energy drinks that consist of alcohol

-nharrison , Texas

As far as we know, there aren't any energy drinks with alcohol currently for sale in the United States.

When alcoholic beverages are mixed with energy drinks, a popular practice among young people, the caffeine in these drinks can mask the depressant effects of alcohol. At the same time, caffeine has no effect on the metabolism of alcohol by the liver and thus does not reduce breath alcohol concentrations or reduce the risk of alcohol-attributable harms. Drinkers who consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks are 3 times more likely to binge drink (based on breath alcohol levels) than drinkers who do not report mixing alcohol with energy drinks.

-Aaron White

Are teenagers at greater risk for drug addiction?

-sv42, New York

Hi sv42,
Yes, teens are at greater risk because their brains are still developing. Brain development isn't complete until the early to mid-20s. Most people who develop an addiction started using drugs (including alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs) during their teens years.

-Maureen Boyle

Are teens more likely to do drugs if their parents are smokers?

-Anthony G, New York

Hi Anthony - there are many complicated factors that can increase a person's risk for addiction like a person's genes, current health conditions, and what you mentioned here - their environment. For some people, being in environment where other people use substances does increase the likelihood that they will use drugs, but not for everyone. You can learn more about risk factors for addiction here: https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/addiction-science

-Michele Rankin

Are the effects worse when smoking cannabis oil from a weed pen?

-pineapple, New York

HI Pineapplte - by "worse effects" I'm assuming you mean harmful. It's hard to say because how harmful a substance is depends on how much of the substance you ingest and how you ingest it and many other factors including your own individual health conditions, etc. Also, it's hard to know the concentration of the substances in various forms.

-Michele Rankin

are drugs bad?

-anon, New York

Drugs can cause significant health problems including addiction!

-Jack Stein