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 still things about drugs that scientists still don't understand?

-123456789, North Carolina

Hi there, of course! While we scientists like to think we know a lot about a lot, there is still so much to learn about drugs and how they work and how to help prevent people from using them or how to quit if they are using. Thanks for the question!

-David Shurtleff

Are toxicology screens beginning to include testing for bath salts and spice?

-sgallagher5, Maryland

I don't know where that testing stands right now. The big problem is that the chemicals that are sold as bath salts and spice are changed by the people who make them when the legal system shows an interest in them.

-Nancy Pilotte

Are you guys screening questions so as to maintain a consistent message?

-thesupersam, Indiana

what is our consistent message? no, we are not.

-Susan Weiss

are you scientists

-My Name Is, Maryland

Yup, most of us here are. Some of us have laboratories Others just help promote good science. And we even do chat day once a year. Pretty fun job.

-Dave Thomas

Aren't some prescription drugs and illegal drugs the same?

-SynGatesA7X7, New Jersey

Great question- yes!! Pain medications such as Vicodin and heroin are similar in that they are both 'opioids'. Prescription pain medications can cause addiction and death, just like heroin, if they are used in ways or amounts not prescribed by a physician. Check out this link for more information about prescription drugs - http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/prescription-drugs and http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/commonly-abused-drugs/commonly-abused-prescription-drugs-chart

-David Shurtleff

Around how many crashes a day are cause by people who drink and drive?

-fun101, Maryland

The CDC reports that in 2010, 10,228 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.

That includes about 1,900 deaths of young people under age 21.

You can learn more statistics like these at:

http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/impaired_driving/impaired-drv_factsheet.html

http://niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/special-populations-co-occurring-disorders/underage-drinking

-Shuly Babitz

At what age do most people start their drug addictions?

-webmd3, Maryland

Hi webmd3, Most people who develop drug problems become addicted in their late teens or early adulthood. Eric

-Eric Wargo

at what age do people get addicted the fastest?

-erodriguez, Texas

Mid-to-late adolescence. This is an age that is behaviorally associated with risk-taking in general, and several research studies show that the earlier in life a person starts to regularly use alcohol or other substances, the more likely it is that the person will lose control of taking the drug in the future. The frontal lobe of the brain, which is responsible for critical thinking and the inhibition of compulsive behaviors, is not fully developed at this age, which also contributes to the vulnerability at this developmental stage.

-Dave White

At what age does your matabalism start to slow down?

-ROCKET, North Carolina

This is a great question, ROCKET! Really, it would depend on a lot of factors. In terms of metabolic rate, once you reach adulthood, it would potentially depend on several diverse factors such as your gender, diet and - most importantly - the level of regular physical activity. A person's resting metabolic rate generally is responsible for accounts for ∼60–75% of daily energy expenditure. Keep up your exercise!

-Kris Bough

At what age is it easiest to get addicted to drugs?

-ck1216, Maryland

Hello there Walter Johnson HS! There is evidence that adolescents may be especially prone to developing substance use disorders and addiction. For example, adolescents may be more sensitive to the reinforcing effects of nicotine in combination with other chemicals found in cigarettes, thus increasing susceptibility to tobacco addiction. There is some evidence that another chemical found in cigarettes called 'acetaldehyde' also increases nicotine’s addictive properties in adolescents, but not adults. A recent study also suggests that specific genes may increase risk for addiction among people who begin smoking during adolescence. You might find this website interesting: www.teens.drugabuse.gov.

-Kris Bough

AWGUIBARG!!! WHAT KIND OF DRUG IS BATHSALTS???!?!?!?!

-BurningChicken, Oklahoma

'Bath salts' actually refer to mixture of drugs, all of which have stimulant-like properties, such as mepehdron and cathinone that make you feel high and energized but can also lead to paranoia. Some of these drugs also have hallucinogenic properties. If you are interested to learn more about so called 'bath salts' and their effects please read on: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/synthetic-cathinones-bath-salts.

-Nora Volkow

are people just so stupid that they will drink dangerous amounts of alchol to just get drunk?!?

-lhub3, Illinois

That's a good question - there are lots of reasons people drink. 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

are prescription drugs more addicting then normal drugs?

-odempsey, New Hampshire

That is a really difficult question! Each drug impacts people in very significant ways. Many drugs, including prescription drugs, make you high by activating chemicals in your brain such as opioids, dopamine, serotonin, and many others. Here is some information on most of them: http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse Taking prescription drugs that weren't prescribed for you or taking your own prescription medication in ways or amounts not intended can cause lots of unpleasant health effects over the long term, including addiction. Prescription drugs contain ingredients that can cause serious health problems if abused. For example, prescription painkillers like OxyContin can depress breathing; and prescription stimulants like Adderall, if abused, can cause strokes. See http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-over-counter-medications for more information on prescription drugs.

-Richard Denisco

Are psilocybin mushrooms dangerous?

-mjk, Pennsylvania

Psilocybin is a hallucinogen. That means that after taking these mushrooms, you may have altered perceptions of your environment. These deranged perceptions may make you take inappropriate actions that can hurt you. So, like any other hallucinogen, these mushrooms can be dangerous. You can learn more about hallucinogens here: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/educators/curricula-and-lesson-plans/mind-over-matter/hallucinogens

-Nancy Pilotte

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: http://www.teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/prescription-drugs.

-Redonna Chandler

Are some drugs good for you

-Tyshawn, Georgia

Hi Randolph Clay, Keep in mind that there are legal and illegal drugs. I wouldn't consider any illegal drugs as 'good for you', but legal medications, if taken as prescribed by a doctor, can be used safely.

-David Shurtleff

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: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/anabolic-steroids

-Nancy Pilotte

are steroids bad for you long term

-Cat boy, Illinois

There is a downside when steroids are used for such non-medical purposes, because they disrupt the normal production and balance of hormones in the body, and can lead to a long list of alterations, such as reduced sperm production, shrinking of the testicles, male-pattern baldness and breast development in men. In the female body, anabolic steroids abuse can cause masculinization. This means that females may experience decreases in body fat, coarsening of the skin, and deepening of the voice. Women may also experience excessive growth of body hair (chest, chin, back, etc.) and lose the hair on their head. Examples of other effects are increased risk of blood clots and damage to heart muscle. Most important, with continued steroid use, some of these effects can become irreversible.

-Dave White

Are steroids just for show or are they actually for strength and does your area get smaller than usual or is it just your downer part of your body?

-jadams, Texas

I think you are asking about what are called anabolic steroids. Your own body actually produces all the steroids you will need to help you develop from a child to an adult. The anabolic steroids are special because they important in making muscles grow (anabolic means 'to build up') and they include testosterone and similar steriods. These are used by people who want to get stronger or appear bigger or to lose weight. Although your own body produces steroids, people who abuse them are usually taken in far greater doses than those that are prescribed by doctors to treat medical conditions. But there is a down side when steroids are used for such non-medical purposes, because they disrupt the normal production and balance of hormones in the body, and can lead to a long list of problems, such as reduced sperm production, shrinking of the testicles, male-pattern baldness and breast development in men. In the female body, anabolic steroid abuse can cause masculinization. This means that females may experience decreases in body fat, coarsening of the skin, and deepening of the voice. Women may also experience excessive growth of body hair (chest, chin, back, etc.) and lose the hair on their head. Examples of other effects are increased risk of blood clots and damage to heart muscle. Most important, with continued steroid use, some of these effects can become irreversible. Our teen site has more information on steroids:http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_ster1.phpOther steroids like estrogens, progesterones, and cortisol are not anabolic and have other uses, ranging from contraception to immune suppression (such as asthma inhalers). These do not build muscle (like the anabolic steroids) and in fact, break muscle down. Your body produces all these steroids in very small amounts at times when they are needed, and they help maintain a healthy body.

-Nancy Pilotte

are street drugs worse than pirscirtion

-chicken, Iowa

Not necessarily, it depends on how they're taken. Since prescription drugs act on the same receptors in the brain as illicit street drugs, people who abuse prescription drugs can experience similar effects, even overdose.

-Jen Katt

Are the new electric cigarettes harmful to your health?

-mrg, Oklahoma

They can be. There have been a few reports of e-cigs exploding in peoples faces when they use them....Electronic cigarettes are so new to the scene that we don't have a lot of scientific data on their effects yet and we don't even know that much about what's in all of them. The ones that have been tested contain varying amounts of nicotine (in fact some e-cigs say they have nicotine but don't). The nicotine is dissolved in another chemical so that it can be heated usually by a small battery in the e-cig. The bottom line....you don't know what you are getting in these products...so don't believe the hype, hype usually means they want your money.

-Cindy Miner

are drugs bad

-My Name Is, Maryland

Drugs are bad in many different ways. It really depends on the drug taken. For example, some drugs like cocaine or stimulants can produce a blood flow reduction and stroke, while other drugs can shrink the number of brain cells by activating brain chemicals that cause brain cell death. Others can damage your liver, lungs, or cause coma and death - even with a single dose. The one thing that abused drugs have in common is that they can produce addiction. This is continuing to take the drug despite harmful health effects, damage to relationships, or legal consequences. You can find more information on the health effects of various drugs here: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts.

-Anto Bonci

Are drugs painful?

-IMolina, Texas

Don't know what you mean by painful but drugs have a powerful impact on your body and brain. Over time drug users may become addicted. Prolonged drug abuse can cause medical problems -- lung cancer, heart disease, liver disease, and addiction. Drug use can also cause personal problems, poor school performance, and even arrest. See http://www.drugabuse.gov/consequences/ for more information related to the medical consequences of drug use. Sometimes people don't realize how serious their drug use is and deny the negative impact.

-Redonna Chandler

are drugs really addicted ?????

-aruiz, Texas

Drugs are addictive. Addiction means that people can't stop using them even though they know the drug is harming their life.

-Dave Thomas

Are electronic cigarrettes harmful?

-superstar7, Iowa

Electronic cigarettes are so new to the scene that we don't have a lot of scientific data on their effects yet and we don't even know that much about what's in all of them. The ones that have been tested contain varying amounts of nicotine (in fact some e-cigs say they have nicotine but don't). The nicotine is dissolved in another chemical so that it can be heated usually by a small battery in the e-cig. There have been a few reports of e-cigarettes exploding when people use them causing some serious injuries to their hands and faces. The bottom line....you don't know what you are getting in these products...so don't believe the hype, hype usually means they want your money. Personally, I want to keep my money to spend on fun things, like treats for my dogs...or going to a University of Maryland basketball game!

-Cindy Miner

are energy drinks bad for you?

-*DN*, North Carolina

hi DN, We are still investigating this question. It appears, so far that, in moderation, the dangers might be modest, but we are nevertheless concerned about the high caffeine content in some drinks that could cause serious damage to some people that may be at higher risk for dangerous health effects, particularly if they have, for example, some cardiovascular vulnerability. Another problem of energy drinks is that the manufacturers don't even have to list all the ingredients in the drinks. hope this helps thanks for the question. ruben

-Ruben Baler

are hallucinegens kind of like texturepacks for real life?

-oh_mah_gerd, Maryland

Hi oh_man_gerd, Interesting question. I suppose you could partly think of hallucinogens that way, but they do much more than alter the way things look -- they can change or distort all aspects of perception but also cause hallucinations and other distortions of reality. (And unlike with a game, you can't just turn them off when you are done.) Eric

-Eric Wargo

are kids our age most likely to use drugs ?

-huribe, Texas

Hi huribe, thanks for your question! According to the University of Michigan's 2012 Monitoring the Future Survey the majority of kids are not using drugs. About 13% of 8th graders, 30% of 10th graders, and 40% of 12th graders say they have used a drug at least once in the past year. You can look at all sorts of information on youth drug use at their website, and even look at breakdowns of individual drug types - check it out! http://monitoringthefuture.org/ http://monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/mtf-overview2012.pdf

-Marsha Lopez