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 kid/teens more likey to become addicted to drugs if they try it at an early age?

-sadams, New York

Good morning skaneateles High! That's a great question! We know from scientific research that the earlier you start using drugs, the more likely you are to become addicted and suffer serious social and medical consequences. The reasons for this are complex--first, drugs affect the brain, and the brain is still developing until early adulthood. So, it's possible for drugs to alter the normal developmental pattern--research is still ongoing to help us figure this out. Second, people who use drugs when they are very young often have other problems that led to their drug use in the first place. For example, they may have difficult family situations or problems with depression or anxiety, etc. and attempt to use drugs to help them cope. Unfortunately, drug abuse just makes things worse in the long run, and doesn't address the problems that led to its use. Third, using drugs can interfere with success in school, in sports, and in relationships with friends and family, further creating problems down the road.

So the bottom line is that early drug use can lead to later drug addiction and other problems, and the best advice is to never start. But, if you have started using already, you should know that the earlier you stop, the more likely you will be to avoid addiction and the other harmful consequences associated with it.

For more information, see http://www.drugabuse.gov/scienceofaddiction/addiction.html.

-Steve Gust

can an alcoholic actually recover?

-rose, Pennsylvania

Hi. Thanks for your question -- this is something that many people wonder about. Many people believe that someone addicted to alcohol cannot ever recover. However, many people with alcohol problems, including alcoholism, can stop drinking, or reduce their drinking to less harmful levels. You can get more information on alcohol at the website of our sister agency, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) at: www.niaaa.nih.gov. They also have a special site for teens at www.thecoolspot.gov and another site with tips and strategies for stopping at http://www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/. Thanks again for your great question and keep 'em coming!

-Harold Perl

Can anti depressents become addictive?

-volleyball girl, Utah

No. Antidepressants do not appear to produce addiction. Learn more about the science of addiction at http://www.drugabuse.gov/ScienceofAddiction/

-Ivan Montoya

Can anyone get addicted to drugs?

-asia1533, Pennsylvania

Good question!! Yes! Anyone can get addicted to drugs. Some people get addicted more quickly than others but anyone can get addicted. All drugs are potentially harmful and may lead to addiction or have other life-threatening consequences--one person may use a drug one or many times and not have bad effects; another person may be particularly vulnerable and develop addiction...others may overdose with first use. There is no way of knowing in advance how someone may react. Read more about it: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/brain-and-addiction

-Dave McCann

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: http://www.drugabuse.gov/infofacts/inhalants.html 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

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 http://www.abovetheinfluence.com/ or http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_stim1.phpHope this helps.

-Joe Frascella

ANSWER MY QUESTIONS NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-hrosales, Maryland

Patience, we are getting lots of good questions, we are answering as quickly as we can

-Cindy Miner

Approximately how many questions do you receive during the course of this chat?

-NHGRI, Maryland

Last year we had 11,000 questions. So far today we have over 3600, so we might get even more this year

-Cindy Miner

Are all drugs addictive after excessive use--even 'over the counter's addictive?

-Squishy Camel, New York

Thanks for your question! The list of addictive drugs is long. Even some medications available in pharmacies are abused and can be addictive. The key is that addictive substances are reinforcing (give a 'buzz') and lead to repeated use. Every year researchers at the University of Michigan supported by NIDA ask 8th, 10th and 12th graders around the country about their attitudes towards - and use of - drugs. It's the Monitoring the Future Survey, and they show a lot of information about what drugs are abused. You can look at the results on the NIDA Web site at http://www.drugabuse.gov/Drugpages/MTF.html

-Wilson Compton

Are any drugs okay in moderation

-casa grande, Arizona

Some drugs that can lead to addiction are OK to take under a doctor's supervision. For example, opioids like Oxycontin or Vicodin are powerful pain relievers, and are highly beneficial for people who are in severe pain, such as after an injury or surgery. But it is critical that a person follows the doctor's instructions when taking the drug to avoid the risk of drug abuse and addiction. In 2008, nearly one in ten high school seniors reported the non-medical use of the prescription pain reliever Vicodin, and one in 20 abused OxyContin. Abuse of these drugs can be associated with overdose and death, especially when they are taken at high doses, in non-prescribed routes (e.g., snorting or injecting), or in combination with alcohol or other drugs.

-Steve Grant

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 http://www.drugabuse.gov/consequences/prenatal/.

-Joni Rutter

Are cigars addictive?

-ballason, Maryland

Good morning Rockville High!Smoking any form of tobacco, including cigars (even if you don't inhale), can cause disease. Did you know that tobacco is linked to an estimated 440,000 deaths per year? Check out http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/tobacco and http://www.drugabuse.gov/Infofacts/tobacco.html for more information on tobacco, cigars and smoking!

-Steve Gust

Are cigars worse than cigarettes?

-jed110540, Pennsylvania

Thanks for your question! All tobacco products (cigars, cigarettes, pipes, chew) can be addictive and cause cancer making them unsafe. If you'd like more infocheck out http://teens.drugabuse.gov/mom/mom_nic1.php

-Wilson Compton

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

-Squishy Camel, New York

Pretty much.

-Ruben Baler

can chewing hurt your body

-2DIRKOLTIN2, New York

Good morning! If you are referring to chewing tobacco, yes, chewing tobacco can harm your body. Remember, that chewing tobacco contains the addictive drug http://www.nida.nih.gov/infofacts/tobacco.html for more information on tobacco and tobacco products.

-Steve Gust

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

Can cocain make you get brain lost?

-casa grande, Arizona

Cocaine is a strong central nervous system stimulant that increases levels of dopamine, a brain chemical (or neurotransmitter) associated with pleasure and movement, in the brain's reward circuit. With repeated use, cocaine can cause long-term changes in the brain's reward system and in other brain systems as well, which may eventually lead to addiction. Also, with repeated use, tolerance to the cocaine high often develops. Many cocaine abusers say that they try but fail to achieve as much pleasure as they did from their first use. Some users will increase their dose in an attempt to intensify and prolong the euphoria, but this can also increase the risk of adverse psychological or physiological effects.

-Stephanie Older

Can cough medicine get you high?

-Straight_Edge, Maryland

DXM or dextromethorphan is an ingredient in cough medicine, which when taken at very high doses, can produce a 'dissociative state'--a disconnect with yourself and the real world. It can also cause motor impairments, e.g., slurred speech, incoordination, numbness; nausea/vomiting, and sometimes increased heart rate and blood pressure. On rare occasions, brain damage - caused by severe respiratory depression and a lack of oxygen to the brain - can result. This may be due to the combination of DXM with other ingredients (decongestants) also found in cough medicines.

-Susan Weiss

can depression cause death?

-lonelyXdreamer, New York

Good question. is related to death in many ways--by making medical conditions worse or by making someone suicidal. Drugs and alcohol can make this worse and contribute to suicides.

-Wilson Compton

Can dogs become addicted to drugs?

-bloomgirl7, Pennsylvania

I love that question, I have two dogs myself, but I would never give them drugs. Addiction is defined as the compulsive use of drugs despite their negative consequences. So in many ways addiction is unique to people. But if you give any animal a drug repeatedly, they can become dependent upon them, and some animals will seek to repeatedly take addictive drugs, so it does look an awful lot like the addiction you see in people.

-Cindy Miner

Can doing so many drugs turn you mentally unstanble?

-aeiou24, Pennsylvania

Good question. The relationship of drugs and mental illness are complicated. Many mental illnesses are associated with higher rates of drug abuse and using drugs is associated with the development of mental illness, too. We aren't completely sure why depressed people are more likely to have a drug abuse problem. But here's my take on it. Everyone has had the so-called 'mood swings.' If someone feels really bad, they may want to 'ease their mind' with drugs. Unfortunately, that can lead to a second disease - addiction to drugs - and then they feel even worse than they did before. That's what's really bad about comorbid diseases: they can make each other worse! If someone is depressed, it's harder to be motivated to quit using drugs. And if someone is using drugs, it can interfere with their treatment for depression.

-Wilson Compton

Can drinking and taking prescription medicine kill you?

-MLL2, Pennsylvania

Yes. It depends on the drug of course and the amount, but some prescription drugs are 'depressants' (e.g. xanax, valium) or pain relievers, which can slow or stop your breathing. And particularly when combined with alcohol or other prescription meds, they can be very dangerous. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 35,000 unintentional poisonings in the past year--most of these are thought to be due to overdose with prescription pain killers (opiates).

-Susan Weiss

Both of My Parents are alcoholics, does that make it more likely that I will drink when i'm older

-Casa Grande, Arizona

Good news, because your parents used alcohol, that doesn't mean that you will automatically become addicted, although drug abuse and alcoholism have strong heriditary components (meaning it 'runs in families'). Scientists estimate that genetic factors account for about 50 percent of a person's risk of becoming addicted.Many other factors, such as stress levels and family environment also contribute heavily. We even have identified particular gene variants that are linked to higher risk of alcoholism, but even if you have the high risk form of these genes,alcoholism can be entirely avoided if alcohol is not used. 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 Here's more good news! Doing things like going to school, hanging out with friends who don't drink, and being active (like playing sports) can help protect you from alcoholism and other drugs--even if you have other risk factors. You have total control over whether or not you become addicted to alcohol. I hope you stay sober!!

-Joni Rutter

can a baby die from drugs while there in ur tummy and ur using them?

-hbishop, Michigan

Your question is very important. It is known that drugs of abuse can cross the placenta and reach the fetus. So, drugs used by the mother definitely can affect the baby's health and can even produce long-term harm many years later. That is why doctors recommend that pregnant mothers should not smoke or use alcohol or other illicit drugs.

-Ivan Montoya

can a baby get high if it sees the person getting high and smells it?

-dixie smurf123, Utah

This is a really good question and a really tough one to answer - primarily because we don't yet have enough information about environmental exposures to many drugs. If the person getting high is getting high on a drug that's being smoked, and is therefore in the air around the baby, then it probably is possible that the baby could get high. We know most about second-hand tobacco smoke exposure. Approximately 38,000 deaths per year can be attributed to secondhand smoke and children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and more severe asthma.

-Larry Stanford

can a gurl use steroid?

-cguhs, Arizona

She sure can, but she definitely shouldn't. In addition to the well known and major effects of steroid abuse (like liver damage; jaundice; fluid retention; high blood pressure; and increases in 'bad' cholesterol) females risk growth of facial hair, menstrual changes, male-pattern baldness, and deepened voice. Teens in general risk permanently stunted height, accelerated puberty changes, and severe acne. All users, but particularly those who inject the drug, risk infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

-Ruben Baler

Can addictiveness to tobacco become hereditary? For example can a pregnant woman addicted to tobacco pass it on to her child?

-kevin, Maryland

Hi Einstein,Good question. We do know that tobacco addiction has a genetic cause-- in fact, any form of drug abuse has a strong heriditary component (meaning it 'runs in families'). Scientists estimate that genetic factors account for about 50 percent of a person's risk of becoming addicted. Scientists have even identified variations in particular certain genes that are linked to an individual having a higher risk of developing drug addiction. But that doesn't mean that your child is doomed to a life of bad breath, a smoker's cough and yellow nails and teeth! Even if an individual has these 'risk genes', addiction can be entirely avoided if drugs are not used. The other 50 percent of the risk is due to the environment--for example, if you smoke while you are pregnant, the chemicals in the smoke may have non-genetic effects that can increase the risk of the child to become addicted to drugs, or even worse health conseqeunces. But, once the child is born, other environmental factors, like if your child grows up and takes good care of themselves, go to school, hang out with friends who don't drink or use drugs, and are active (like playing sports) can increase their chances of having a good, healthy and long, life--drug free. For additional information on cigarettes, see: http://www.drugabuse.gov/infofacts/tobacco.html. You can also check out NIDA's Website for teens. It contains information on the science behind drug abuse, facts on drugs, questions and answers, real stories and interactive activities. http://www.teens.drugabuse.gov

-Joni Rutter

can roid rage be avoided?

-iNK9, New York

Of course, just stay away from anabolic steroiods! Now, if your rage is not related to steroid abuse I suggest you take up yoga.

-Ruben Baler

can second hand smoke affect you in the long run?

-Fireroy900, Maryland

yes, it can for example affect your pulmonary function. it may also make you more vulnerable to become addicted to nicotine. It may also increase your risk for lung cancer.

-Nora Volkow

Can smoking affect athletics such as football?

-BUZZZ, Arizona

yes smoking affects pulmonary function which you need in order to have physical endurance

-Nora Volkow