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 you more likely to become an achoholic if it's in your family history?

-jspina13, New York

Yes, unfortunately the odds are about double if you have a family history. But it also depends on how old you are when you start drinking. Research shows people who have their first serving of alcohol at 15 have a 50% chance of becoming an alcoholic if they have alcoholism in their family or a 30% chance if they don't have a family history of alcoholism. People who wait until they are 21 have less than a 20% chance. Also, the brain is not done developing until after the teenage years and there's a chance that alcohol can interfere with how the brain grows and changes during the teen years. That's why it's best not to drink at all during the teen years. 

-Aaron White

aren't drugs good for you

-aquinonez214, Texas

Medications that are taken as prescribed are indeed drugs that are good for you. Unfortunately, these and other kinds of drugs can be abused leading to serious health effects. check out for more info.

-Jack Stein

Aren't nicotine patches drugs themselves? Do they have any negative side effects?

-Gambit, Maryland
Good point Gambit!   
The patches contain nicotine, and nicotine is a drug.  However, nicotine alone is less dangerous than nicotine and cigarette smoking together.  Cigarettes contain lots of things besides nicotine - most of them bad for you.  Plus, with the patch, the nicotine is given slowly over time.   This slow release of the drug helps people quit smoking in some cases. They do not crave nicotine as much, because they already have a low dose in their blood.   So it is easier to quit.
-Dave Thomas

As a teacher, what can I say to parents when their drinking and or smoking is affecting their student?

-Eileen Marshall, Iowa
Dear Ms. Marshall---your students are lucky to have such a caring teacher. We recommend you encourage the parents to check out the NIDA Web site, which discusses the dangers of second hand smoke around the house (it can actually cause lung cancer in non smokers.)  The parents should also know that their child is at higher risk for addiction because of their own behavior---tell the student that he/she has the power to avoid trying any drug. For more information on alcohol, the parents can go to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism Web site at:
Most importantly, we wanted to make you aware of two helplines if the student is in a crisis:  

he/she can call the government’s crisis Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) anytime 24/7. People call this line for help with substance abuse, relationship and family problems, illness, abuse, depression, mental and physical illness, sexual orientation issues, and even loneliness or thoughts of suicide. He/she will be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area. If abuse is an issue, you or the student can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline:  1-800-799-7233/ -Susan Weiss

at 21 most people arent responsible, so why dont they raise the drinking age

-thebigD, New York

Good question! The US created the 1984 law raising the minimum legal drinking age to 21 because too many young people were getting hurt by drinking alcohol. Raising it to 21 helped to significantly reduce the number of young people killed in alcohol-related car crashes. By contrast, kids drink more heavily in places like Europe and Australia, where the drinking age is lower than 21. So, raising the drinking age was a good thing. If it were raised more, it just might save more lives. But the age 21 law is working pretty well at the moment. 

-Aaron White

At what BAL are people considered "leagally drunk"?

-amanda_foo, New York
People aged 21 and older are considered legally drunk at a BAC of 0.08%, which happens after 4-5 drinks for most adults. Because it's illegal for people under 21 to drink, there isn't a legal definition of underage drunkenness. For instance, for people under 21, it is illegal to drive a car with any alcohol in the body whatsoever. 
-Aaron White

At what point in history did they find out smoking was bad for you

-Ceila Phantom, New York

The tobacco companies knew that smoking was bad in the 50's, but the first surgeon general report came out in the 60s stating that smoking was harmful--which has had a dramatic effect in this country--finally reversing a growing trend.

-Nora Volkow

at what point is it necessary for a drug user to go to rehab?

-chomer, New York

If they can not stop on their own and their drug use is messing up their life.

-Nora Volkow

Besides your brain and nervous system what other parts of your body does drugs effect?

-HMS-SADD, Pennsylvania
That's a good question, and the answer depends completely on the drug, because all drugs affect the body differently. Stimulants like cocaine or meth or prescription ADHD drugs (if you abuse them) can raise your heart rate and blood pressure. Marijuana can raise your heart rate a lot too, as well as cause lung problems. Opioids like heroin and prescription painkillers (if you abuse them) can slow your breathing a lot, and is often fatal (it's the reason people die from overdosing on those drugs--they just stop breathing!). So it really depends! 
-Eric Wargo

Are hugs better than drugs?

-spongebob, New York

Hugs and kisses, yo.  XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO  Have a good day, spongebob.  

-Joni Rutter

Are magic mushrooms safe

-pizza, New York
Hey pizza. "Magic mushrooms" generally mean the kind that contain the chemical psilocybin.  The effects of psilocybin are unpredictable, and some people get really paranoid and fearful when high on this drug.  I've seen patients admitted to the emergency room because of a bad reaction to "magic mushrooms," so they definitely are not safe.  
-Wilson Compton

are mostly teenager doing drugs or is adults doing drugs

-Mary, California
Hi, Mary. Thanks for participating in Chat Day!  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 adults, which 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:

And try this brand new “e-poster”---“Drugs and the Body: It Isn’t Pretty” -Marsha Lopez

are mushrooms harmefull

-yungcheifkeef, Maryland

Some mushrooms can be safely eaten - My favorite fungi are oyster mushrooms.  They are a good source of vitamin D.  But the psychedelic mushrooms are definitely harmful.  The active ingredient is psilocybin and it's a hallucinogen.  It can cause nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, drowsiness and lack of coordination.  You can check out what kind of effects hallucinogens have on the body on the NIDA website's Drug Facts page:  Remember, choose smart and healthy, not gross and impaired! 

-Joni Rutter

Are nose shots harmful?

-hashtagmadswag, New York

Yes!! Very much so. The mucus membranes of the body, such as in the nose, are very sensitive to strong irritants like alcohol. Avoid at all costs. 

-Aaron White

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