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 any drugs okay in moderation?

-dg,

It is very hard to say for several reasons. First, it depends on your individual body. Everyone is different and we don't know who will become addicted at what level of drug use. We do know that the brain is not fully developed until the mid-20's so any drug use is assumed to have the potential to affect your brain development. In adulthood light and moderate alcohol use is assumed to be harmless, but this again depends on the particular person and their life situation -for example, someone who has a very stressful life and starts out drinking occasionally can move on to higher levels of use as a way to self medicate.

-Liz Robertson

are boys or girls more likely to use drugs?

-jcr180,

Thank you for your question. You might be interested to know that data from the very large National Survey on Drug Use or Health shows that girls and boys in the age group 12-17 are equally likely to have used illicit drugs.Findings from that study also indicate that girls are more likely than boys to be first-time users of marijuana,cigarette, and alcohol, and that girls are more likely than boys to misuse prescription drugs. When it comes to dependence, we are learning the girls and boys may not be equally likely to become dependent. For example, research shows that girls develop symptoms of nicotine dependence much faster than boys. In one study, symptoms of nicotine dependence in boys occurred after 6 months of use, but in girls, symptoms occurred after 3 WEEKS of use. In another study of girls of boys who used cocaine, girls were 3-4 times more likely to become addicted than boys. For more information about females and drug abuse and male-female differences in drug abuse, you may find this site helpful: http://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/organization/offices/office-nida-director-od/women-sexgender-differences-research-program.

-Cora Lee Wetherington

Are certain drugs worse for you than others?

-SmartGirl,

Different drugs can effect the body in different ways so in some ways it depends on what part of your body or brain you are talking about...heroin has different effects than alcohol or cocaine and all can be harmful to the body. For more info, check back at www.drugabuse.gov.

-Nicolette Borek

Are drug addictions all over the world?

-angelgurl_194,

Thanks for your interesting question - and yes,drug addiction is an international problem. I have visited countries all over the world to learn about their problems with drug abuse. Every country has people with drug problems. On the other hand, the rates of drug abuse vary a lot from country to country. Even in the U.S. problems with drug abuse vary in different cities and regions. NIDA has an international program that you may be interested in learning more about: http://international.drugabuse.gov/

-Wilson Compton

Are drugs the leading cause of death?

-dg,

That is a complicated question because not all drug deaths are identified as drug deaths. Intentional misuse of hazardous materials, for example, like sniffing glue, results in a lot of poisoning deaths and they may not be recognized. In general about 17,000 deaths a year are from use of illicit drugs. In addition, 440,000 die from tobacco related illnesses and 50,000 from alcohol every year.

-Wilson Compton

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

-terrica,

That is an excellent and important question and one that research is just beginning to address. We have learned that girls develop symptoms of nicotine dependence much faster than boys. In one study, symptoms of nicotine dependence in boys occurred after 6 months of use, but in girls, symptoms occurred after 3 WEEKS of use. In another study of girls of boys who used cocaine, girls were 3-4 times more likely to become addicted than boys. For more information about females and drug abuse and male-female differences in drug abuse, you may find this site helpful: http://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/organization/offices/office-nida-director-od/women-sexgender-differences-research-program.

-Cora Lee Wetherington

Are some drugs more addicting than others?

-michaelandrew,

yes some are more addicting than others. drugs like methamphetamine are believed to be among the most, but more people are addicted to nicotine than any other drug To learn more, check out "The Science of Addiction" at http://www.nida.nih.gov/scienceofaddiction/

-Nora Volkow

Are some drugs more addicting/harmful than others? If so, which ones are worst? Which ones are least addictive?

-Addie (Is.:.Awesome), North Carolina

Well, many drugs are addictive, and nearly all can be harmful. We do know that nicotine (the drug in cigarettes) is very addictive -- perhaps more so than any other drug. But crack cocaine is also highly addictive. Even marijuana can be addictive. So, it is dangerous to start using drugs of any kind because use could quickly become an addiction.We also know from scientific research that the earlier you start, the more likely you are to become addicted and have other problems, such as in school or with your family. But, if you do, the earlier you stop, the more likely you will be to avoid addiction and the harmful brain changes that lead to it. For more information, see http://www.drugabuse.gov/scienceofaddiction/addiction.html.

-Kevin Conway

Can babys get addicted to drugs while a parent is addicted, and when in birth

-Dokurai,

yes for some drugs they can. in particular heroin can produce severe dependence in the newborn baby that if not attended to can lead to drug withdrawal

-Nora Volkow

Can pot make you write better music??

-ZeppelinLover2.0,

I don't write music. However, pot slows down your thinking and motor co-ordination and impairs your memory, so I don't think it's likely to help.

-Steve Grant

can smoking casually still have bad effects on your body?

-Marie,

We would need to define the word "casually" first, but regardless, nicotine is so addictive that it is like playing russian roulette with your body. Nobody can predict whether he or she will remain a casual smoker forever, and those addicted to tobacco were usually casual smokers at some point. To learn more about smoking and nicotine addiction please visit http://www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/Nicotine.html

-Barry Hoffer

can smoking causually still have really bad effects on your body?

-Marie,

What is casual? Everyone who smokes started out as a casual smoker. Nicotine is highly addictive, and no one who starts can be sure of being able to continue to control his or her smoking forever. In fact,not many do. To learn more about smoking and nicotine addiction please visit http://www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/Nicotine.html

-Barry Hoffer

can u die from weed

-dkzjfghjrtr,

That's a really great question. It is not very likely marijuana (weed) use will kill you directly , but its use can affect your decision-making ability which can lead to harm to yourself and others. For example,marijuana makes your reaction time to stimuli longer (it seems like you have a lot more time than you do to do something) . This can lead you to make a poor decision, like driving while under its influence. These two things together may prevent you from responding appropriately while driving and can lead to a traffic accident. You, or someone else, may die as a result of the accident, but not directly from the pharmacological activity of the drug. For more information about marijuana, go to https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/marijuana

-Nancy Pilotte

can u get easily addicted if u smoke weed once?

-Bl4CkJ4cK70,

It is not likely, yet it is important for you to know that we really don't enough yet about individual vulnerabilities to different drugs. That is, some drugs can be so reinforcing to some people after a single use that they are "driven" to go back and use again. So - scientifically, the jury is still out. But when we look at people who abuse illegal drugs, they tend to have also used marijuana and nicotine and alcohol. Still, it is not true that most marijuana users go on to use other drugs. In and of itself, though, marijuana can pose significant health risks, including the risk of addiction. If you are interested in more information about marijuana, go to https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/marijuana

-Joe Frascella

Can you be addictive to over the counter drugs like advil?

-Maria,

there is no evidence that you can become addicted to advil

-Nora Volkow

can over taking prescriptions kill you?

-crackhead11,

Yes, it can. in fact anything at a given dose can kill you, even water!! For more information on prescription drugs, http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugpages/prescription.html

-Joni Rutter

can people get mental problems from doing drugs?

-mclovin:-)342,

This is an excellent and complicated question. Drug abuse in general is associated with higher rates of many mental illnesses, like depression, schizophrenia and manic depressive illness. However, one can look at this from either direction:persons with mental illness may use more drugs than other people and early drug use may lead to later mental illness. The reasons why addiction and other mental disorders coincide so frequently are not fully understood. Children and adolescents with psychiatric conditions (conduct disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and learning disabilities) are at higher risk of abusing drugs than other youth. Also, you might find it interesting to know that there is evidence that drug abuse early in life may increase the risk of psychiatric disorders or accelerate their course. NIDA-supported investigators are using neuroimaging, genotyping, statistical modeling, and other tools to parse the interplay of risk factors in the development of such disorders. For further information see: http://www.drugabuse.gov/NIDA_notes/NNvol21N2/DirRepVol21N2.html

-Wilson Compton

can i smoke meth once and not be addicted

-james_R,

You can smoke meth once and not be addicted, but smoking meth even once greatly increases the likelihood that you will take meth again and again and again until you do become addicted. You can find out more about that at: http://www.drugabuse.gov/

-Steve Grant

Can marijuana stunt growth?

-zac,

We have no evidence of that

-Barry Hoffer

Can marijuana stunt growth?

-zac,

We have no evidence of that

-Barry Hoffer

can you get addicted to marijuana

-5423352433helo,

This question is hard to answer precisely, especially since there is a lot we still don't know about who becomes addicted, why, and after how much drug exposure. We do know that each person is different with different vulnerabilities to drugs, so it'shard to predict a drug's effects on an individual.You might find it interesting to know that marijuana use has been associated with a number of mental conditions, including schizophrenia, depression and anxiety and in some people, marijuana use can make these symptoms worse. Research also shows greater rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thinking in people who smoke a lot. For more, see http://www.drugabuse.gov/MarijBroch/parents/. I hope you find this information helpful.

-Joe Frascella

can drugs make you do bad on a test?

-MENDIZZY,

yes drugs that impair your memory such as marihuana will make you not remember if you are intoxicated; alcohol decreases the function of your thinking brain if you are intoxicated; cocaine speeds you up too much so that you can no longer concentrate properly

-Nora Volkow

Can drugs make you go crazy?

-Kartkid03,

Many drugs can make you "go crazy." Heavy doses or chronic use of many drugs can cause violent behavior, suicidal thoughts, extreme mood swings, and even psychosis.To learn more about the effects of specific drugs,go to http://www.drugabuse.gov/consequences/.

-Kevin Conway

Can drugs used once kill you?

-afireinside,

That is an interesting question. Did you know that abuse of illicit drugs and alcohol contributes to the death of more than 100,000 Americans every year? People can die from their first use of Illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin because they affect parts of your brain that control your ability to breathe and maintain your beating heart. Here's NIDA's Website for teens with information on the science behind drug abuse, facts on drugs, questions and answers, real stories and interactive activities. http://www.teens.drugabuse.gov/

-Nancy Pilotte

can drus cause stds

-jwphealth,

when you are intoxicated with drugs you are much more likely to have unprotected sex and thus increase your risk for a sexually transmitted disease including HIV. You can find information for young people, parents and teachers about the link between drug abuse and HIV infection, with links to the latest research findings and news updates at https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/hivaids.

-Nora Volkow

Can having sex with someone who is a heroine addict increase your chance of getting HIV

-Druggie,

It could, particularly if you are engaging in sex without a condom. Many people who are addicted to heroin may have shared needles when injecting the drug. Sharing needles is one of the primary ways to give or get HIV. Also, people who addicted to heroin are more likely to have unprotected sex and to have multiple partners. Since you can get or give HIV by having sex with someone, you could be at serious risk if your partner is infected. It's important to remember that unprotected sex with anyone can put you at risk for HIV, but unprotected sex with someone that is living a high-risk lifestyle is even more dangerous.

-Aria Crump

can i do heroin and not get addicted?

-rae,

Not everyone who uses heroin becomes addicted. However, a single use can and sometimes does result in a fatal overdose. I had a friend who used heroin one time and OD'ed.

-Frank Vocci

can i get addicted to steroids?

-asdfasdf,

Every user has different feelings and experiences when using steroids and coming off the drug. When someone stops using, they can experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms linked to addiction. Symptoms can include mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, loss of appetite, insomnia,the desire to take more steroids, and depression. Evidence for steroid addiction is certainly not as strong as it is for other drugs like cocaine or heroin. Still,it is clear that people develop a tolerance and dependence on steroids and willingly experience negative consequences when using steroids,both of which are signs for drug dependence. 

-Kevin Conway

can you get addicted to prescripotion drugs or no

-kgaudreau,

Yes, you can. One of the common prescription drugs that is abused is oxycodone.

-Joni Rutter

Can you get high off of secondhand smoking?

-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa,

Good question. You can have effects due to secondhand smoking. It has been reported that secondhand smoke exposure causes disease and premature death in children and adults who do not smoke. Secondhand smoke contains hundreds of chemicals known to be toxic or carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and can irritate and damage the lining of the airways. Even brief exposure can result in upper airway changes in healthy persons and can lead to more frequent and more asthma attacks in children who already have asthma. You can find more information about secondhand smoke at: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/reports/tobaccosmoke/factsheet.html

-Ivan Montoya