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 nose shots, eye shots, and butt-chugging, potentially more dangerous ways of consuming alcohol?

-joeyAbagahuh, New York

Yes, those routes are SO dangerous. Alcohol is a powerful irritant. Imagine pouring rubbing alcohol onto a cut. It would burn so bad! The mouth, esophagus and stomach are made to withstand, at least for awhile, irritants like alcohol. The delicate membranes of the body in the other areas you mentioned (e.g., eyeball, nose) are super sensitive and not well protected from irritants like alcohol. So, for one, putting alcohol in the body that way can cause pain and inflammation. In addition, alcohol can get into the body a lot faster through some non-stomach routes. That means alcohol can flood the bloodstream and hit the brain even harder than normal. It's simply a very, very, very bad idea to try to get alcohol into the body any other way that through the digestive system and only after you've reached the legal age of 21. 

-Aaron White

Are other drugs beside heroin shot in your arms?

-Rinee3236, Massachusetts
Hi Renee,
Yup, all sorts of drugs can be injected.  All drugs can be administered in different ways.  But no matter which way they are taken, all drugs affect the brain and the body.  Some routes, like smoking and injecting, get the drug to the brain quicker, which can increase the likelihood of addiction. Learn more about the effects of drugs on the brain and body and see questions from other teens like yourself at:
-Dave Thomas

Are over-the-counter medicines okay to take during pregnancy?

-yoemen113, Texas

Hi yoemen - some are and some are not.  Be sure to carefully read the label on the medications for information on whether or not it is safe for pregnant women.

-Steve Gust

Are pain killers harmful in the long run?

-Aditya Arun, Maryland
Hey Aditya,
They're harmful if you keep taking them longer than prescribed--yes. But if you just take them for the length of time your doctor prescribed, you should be okay.
-Eric Wargo

Are people able to get addicted to cigaretes that dont contain nicatine.

-atkinsj.19, New York
Good question atkins!!!
You can, but it is less likely. Addiction is defined as "compulsive use despite harm."   If someone smokes these cigarettes a lot, they will produce harm. And although nicotine is the main addictive ingredient, people still might smoke them a lot without nicotine.    
-Dave Thomas

Are people more influenced by family who do drugs or friends who do drugs?

-BlackHeart333, Maryland
Oh Black Heart333! How are you? Awesome and complex question --just like your on-line name ;)
There are a lot of influences that can have have an effect on people to use drugs. Peer pressure, taking drugs for pain/surgery/medical treatment, experimentation, etc. Throughout your life you will be bombarded with so many opinions and voices --it is ultimately up to you to create a positive environment for yourself (by cultivating an awesome support network of family and friends). In the end though, it is always a person's decision to stay above the influence. Stay strong and encourage other to follow your lead!
-Bethany Deeds

Are people that are "high" as alert as as people that are not?

-You Are Fake, New Mexico

Great question- drugs affect the brain which, in turn, affects how they think, feel, and act. Its pretty difficult to be alert while on drugs due to how they impact the brain. 

-Jack Stein

are people who use drugs at a higher risk of cancer

-Derpysquid101, New York
Hi Derpy.. - thanks for the question.  Certainly people who smoke cigarettes or use any form of tobacco are greatly increasing their risk of cancer - and tobacco is a drug.  Also, alcohol has been linked to cancers of the mouth and digestive tract.  As for other drugs, we don't know a lot about their direct cancer causing effects.  There is a lot of information on the heath effects of drugs at  
-Steve Gust

Are pills a good way to fight against depression or anxiety? - Ginger

-#hella, California

hi Ginger-- the answer is similar for depression and anxiety.  Specific medications that are used to treat depression have also been shown to be useful for treating anxiety among adults and children.  And specific counseling or talk therapies have also been shown to work for depression and anxiety.  Not all treatments are a good match for all people (some people prefer medication or counseling and different treatments work differently for different people).  It is important to talk to a mental health professional (a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed social worker) to work with them to find a good match and see if you need to make adjustments. If you think you might need some help, a good first step is to talk to a trusted adult (parent, relative, counselor) so they can help you connect with help. Here's more on anxiety treatments:

-Joel Sherrill

Are prescribtions drugs like aderol just as dangerous as street drugs?

-George W. Bush, New York
Hey "W"
Good question. They can be, if you don't take them as prescribed, or if you aren't the person they were prescribed for. Adderall can have similar effects to illegal amphetamines or meth, even, if it is abused. 
-Eric Wargo

are prescription drugs bad?

-christopher123, New York
Hi christopher123,
Prescription drugs can be very bad when they are used in a way that was not intended by the prescribing doctor or by someone other than the person for whom it was intended. The specific health problems you can experience by abusing prescription drugs depends on the type of drug. Learn more about the dangers of prescription drug abuse by type of drug here:
-Ruben Baler

Are steroids the only drugs that enhance athletic abilities?

-RrRrRayG, Maryland
Hey RRRRRay,
Anabolic steroids are not the only chemicals used to enhance performance.  For example, testosterone, stimulants, pain killers, diuretics, blood boosters and other drugs are used.  As a sports fan, I think it is a real shame, for the athletes and the sports.   
-Dave Thomas

Are students starting to get more creative with things they ingest?

-gem, New Jersey

i don't know if students are getting more creative--but drug makers are.  they are coming up with new and dangerous chemicals (like bath salts and spice) to make money, without concern about the consequences.

-Susan Weiss

Are teenagers more likely to do drugs than adults?

-kerstin, Massachusetts
Hi, Kerstin, thanks for your question!  According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there are more than two times as many 18-25 year olds using drugs than 12-17 year olds (21% vs. 9.5%). So I would definitely say young adults are more likely to do drugs. While that's not good at all, it is better than the other way around because science has shown that the earlier a person starts using drugs the more likely s/he is to get addicted and suffer major social and medical problems. 
To learn more about the health effects of drugs, visit NIDA’s teen site here:
-Marsha Lopez

Are testosterone pills and certain performance supplemants just as dangerous as drugs such as tabacco, cocaine, etc.

-joeyAbagahuh, New York

Testosterone and other supplements used in doping can really affect your normal development. Testosterone is a hormone and important to your normal development. It can really mess up your normal growth and maturation. You realize that this is such an important time in your life- why let any drug mess that up. Of course tobacco and cocaine and other illegal drugs have important affects on your body and your health too, but they are different than those caused by testosterone. All are harmful to you but in different ways. This is why many of the major sports organizations are imposing bans on these substances.

-Marilyn Huestis

Are Texans more likely to Drink & Drive compared to any other state?

-Lime, Texas

Texas is Ranked #11 in the United States for rates of drunk driving. Be careful out there!

-Aaron White

are the affects for drinking alcohol different for youths and adults?

-puppylover123, Maryland

Teens who drink face many of the same risks as adults who drink - but teens face additional risks including negative effects on brain development and an increased risk of developing alcohol problems later in life. Risks facing anyone who drinks too much include: 

  1. Legal trouble
  2. Car crashes and other accidents
  3. Making bad choices and engaging in risky behavior

Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years can make the area of the brain called the frontal lobes smaller. The frontal lobes help us make decisions, think about things and pay attention. Teenagers who drink a lot have problems with these things. Alcohol also can shrink the hippocampus, the area of the brain area that helps us learn and remember things. Teenagers who drink a lot also have trouble with learning. We do not know yet whether these problems go away if the teenager stops drinking.

Drinking at a young age makes it much more likely a person will develop alcoholism later in life. It's really important to wait as long as possible to drink alcohol, or to avoid it altogether. Check out:

-Aaron White

Are the drugs that are advertised on TV for medication purposes safe with all the side effect possibilities?

-ryan_thorpe, New York
Hey Ryan, one general fact is that all drugs and medications have side effects.  When taken as they are prescribed, the possibilities for harm and side effects are minimized.  If you want more information about the health effects of drugs of abuse, check out
Thanks for writing in! 
-Joe Frascella

Are the effects of drugs different for teens than for adults?

-Meg7, Massachusetts
Hello meg7
what a great question.
the short answer is a resounding yes!!!
the brain is like a computer. During adolescence your computer is being actively programmed, so when you use drugs they introduce glitches in the program that can persist and affect the program (behaviors) long into the future. In contrast, when an adult uses a drug it affects a program that has already been written long ago, so the glitches are mostly temporary.
Hope this helps. Stay strong and healthy.
-Ruben Baler

Are the effects of marijuana different on men and wome?

-Rinee3236, Massachusetts

We are still learning about that, but its a very interesting question because we know that marijuana acts on the endocrine (or hormonal) systems.  It can have effects on fertility, sperm count, and has been linked in at least one study with a severe form of testicular cancer.  But, its effects on the brain have not yet been distinguished between men and women.  In general, males are heavier users and thus more likely to get addicted, but that may change as societal norms change.   

-Susan Weiss

Are drugs bad for animals?

-HappyCows42, Massachusetts
Hi again HappyCows42.  Drugs can definitely affect animals.  In fact, a lot of the research we support uses animals to examine the effects of drugs because animal brains are a good model for human brains.

You should also check out this great blog by our very own Dr. Joe Frascella on drugs being "discovered" first by animals!

-Joni Rutter

Are drugs bad for you?

-Azreal Garcia, California
Hey Azreal,
Good question.  Drugs include illegal drugs, like heroin or cocaine as well as drugs that a doctor might prescribe for you.  Abusing any drug is bad for you but using a drug that your doctor has prescribed in the way it was prescribed can be very good for you.  Those drugs are called "medicine".    
-Dave Thomas

Are drugs good for you?

-JcPuebla, Texas
Hey JC! The term "drugs" is so broad that it's impossible to give a simple yes-or-no answer to your question.
Usually when we think of "drugs" we think of illegal substances like heroin, cocaine, etc.  These "street drugs" have no known medicinal benefits and that's why they're illegal.  But the term "drugs" also includes prescription medications.  Prescription meds do have benefit and are safe (they're approved by the FDA to be sure) -- but they're only safe if used EXACTLY as prescribed, by the person to whom they are prescribed, for the reason they're prescribed.
The same is true with over-the-counter meds (like cold medicine or cough syrup) that you can get in a drugstore. Virtually any prescription or over-the-counter drug can be misused or abused, and in that case they're definitely not good for you.  Thanks for your question!
-Lori Ducharme

are drugs like viruses and attack cells

-ra, New York
Dear ra, that is a great analogy. Drugs do act like viruses that impact the brain in a very significant way. Drugs have strong behavioral, chemical and emotional effects of drugs. For example, drugs contain chemicals that take over the communication system in the brain, and therefore, interrupts the way in which nerve cells send, receive and process this information. Drugs, in other words, imitates the brain's natural chemical signals, and also intensifies the 'reward' circuit of the brain. Drug addiction actually changes the brain and compulsive drug seeking is part of it, this is why addiction is such a devastating disease. 
Stay healthy! 
-Will Aklin

Are E-Cigarettes safer to use than normal cigarettes, and if they are, why?

-kmussett, Pennsylvania

Hey Kmussett,  Great hearing from a middle school student.  Electronic cigarettes are new to the scene and we don't have a lot of scientific data on their safety or effects yet.  While they may be advertised as "safer" than cigarettes, there is a lot we don't know about the health consequences of e-cigarettes.  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 don't know what you are getting in these products or their health consequences. Best to wait until we get more information---and it could take a few years before we see good research studies on e-cigs.  For more information see:

-Cindy Miner

Are E-cigs a safe alternative to cigarettes? I've been told they are but I don't know.

-5w1m5w4g420, New York
Is your name a chemical formula or something???   
We are not sure of the safety of E-cigs at this point. But a lot of people are starting to use them.  We are just starting to do research on their safety, and we may look at if they can be used to help people stop smoking real cigarettes.  
-Dave Thomas

are electronic cerets worse then real cigars

-Allen12, Maryland
Hi Allen12,
Good question! We actually don't know the answer to this yet. E-cigs don't have the cancer-causing tar that cigarettes and cigars have, but they do have other possibly harmful chemicals, and they still have nicotine, which is very addictive. Scientists are studying this, and hopefully we'll know more soon!
-Eric Wargo

are electronic cigarettes a safe alternative to smoking

-jd, New York
Hey JD,
Great question.  E-cigarettes are an unregulated product, so there aren't a lot of studies out there on what's even in them, much less whether they are safe (or safer to use), or if they are effective as a smoking cessation product.  Many people think there are less toxic or cancer-causing chemicals in e-cigs.  In some instances that may be true, but in others, it is fact, some e-cigs contain even more cancer-causing chemicals than a regular tobacco cigarette.  One thing is for sure, a lot of people are starting to use the, so the research is going to have to catch up!  If you want more information of them, check out:
-Dave Thomas

are electronic cigarettes still bad for you?

-ashlin5702, Maryland
Good question, ashlin5702!  
Although they do not produce tobacco smoke, e-cigarettes still contain nicotine and other potentially harmful chemicals. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug, and recent research suggests nicotine exposure may also prime the brain to become addicted to other substances. Also, testing of some e-cigarette products found the vapor to contain known carcinogens and toxic chemicals (such as diethylene glycol and nitrosamines), as well as potentially toxic metal nanoparticles from the vaporizing mechanism. The health consequences of repeated exposure to these chemicals are not yet clear.
Stay tuned for when more research comes in to address this very question! Learn more about electronic cigarettes at -
-Joni Rutter

Are hookah pens without nicotine bad for you?

-big bird yellow, New York
Ahhhh, good question big yellow bird (are you the real Big Bird?)
You are talking about electronic cigarettes, and they are becoming quite popular.   They may not be dangerous at all if nicotine or other drugs are not put in them.  However, we are not positive at this point. They just started becoming popular and there is not much research on safety.  We are starting work on that, and will hopefully have your answer soon....
-Dave Thomas