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 there any positive effects for smoking weed?

-anonymous, California

Great question. Its one that's being debated everywhere. Some states have legalized its use for medical purposed but the FDA has not approved it as medicine. More research is needed though we suspect that some of theTh chemical components of the cannabis plant will be what's most therapeutic. Thanks!

-Jack Stein

Are there any proven negative effects of the coca plant?

-walterjohnson, Maryland

Hey WJ, good question. The answer is yes. Many drugs come from chemicals that exist naturally in plants. Cocaine is derived from coca leaves.  We know that cocaine can produce several short-term adverse effects such as dilated pupils, vasoconstriction, elevated body temperature and increased heart rate. It can even, in rare instances, lead to death.  Find out more about the effects of cocaine and other drugs of abuse at

-Kris Bough

are there any safe drugs that can give you a high

-jd, New York

No safe drugs that we know of, but there are activities you can do that increase dopamine and make you feel good, like going out with friends, exercising, listening to music.  

-Nora Volkow

Are there any substances that people use daily, but don't know they actually contain drugs?

-sandy20, New York

Hi Sandy - this is difficult to answer without knowing the specific substance you are talking about.  However, several possible examples are various herbal products that are available online.  We do not know what many, or most, of these products actually contain.  There are also products out there like bath salts and spice which have drugs sprayed onto them. If you have any doubts or questions the best thing to do is to avoid taking them.  

-Steve Gust

Are there certain drugs that target only certain parts of the brain? For example, cocaine affects dopamine and the limbic system.

-UNIV NorthTexas, Texas

Great question!  The fact that drugs only work on certain parts of the brain (or other parts of the body) is a cornerstone of pharmacology (the study of drugs).   Whether a drugs affects the nerve cells in a certain part of the brain depends on whether the cell contains a protein called a receptor that the drug can attach to.  Receptors have a specific shape and drugs have to have the same shape to fit into the receptor.  Once a drug attaches to a receptor, a sequence of biochemical events are triggered than change the function or even the structure of the nerve cell, and even other nerve cells connected to the initial nerve cell.  So in principle all drug target only certain parts of the brain that contain the proper receptors.  Which parts of brain have those receptors is partly a function of genetics and partly a function of the brain's development and adaptation to events in the environment. Hope this helps.  You can find out more about drugs and receptors at

-Steve Grant

Are there drugs that people take to become less stressed?

-annie, Hawaii

annie: Hello there! Thanks for your question - and the short answer is 'yes.' However, the best answer is to ask you about the source of your stress - school, home, friends. Ideally you want to find solutions to deal with the stress without considering medications. Stress is a normal reaction and sometimes can be beneficial in certain situations. This way, you can solve your way out of many problems on your own, and you might come up with some amazing, creative solutions. If you really think you might benefit from taking medications during a tough time, talk with your parent(s) or a school counselor, who might be able to help link you up with a doctor, who will help you. 

-Denny Pintello

are they going to legalize marijuana

-jackh8, New York
Hey, Jackh8, that's a very complicated question you're asking. Drug laws in the United States--like most laws in our country--can come from different places. There are local, state, and federal laws, and sometimes they're in conflict with each other. Some places--Washington State and Colorado--have made recreational marijuana legal, even though it's still illegal under federal law. There are 20 states and the District of Columbia with medical marijuana laws on the books. Some of these laws were what we call ballot initiatives, where the citizens vote in an election for an issue, and some of them were passed by the state legislatures. Colorado's new marijuana law was passed by the legislature, while Washington's was a ballot initiative.
But the only way for marijuana to become legal in the entire United States is for the US Congress to pass legislation making it so. And they don't currently have any plans to do that.
-Marsha Lopez

Are you guys biased against weed?

-Swankdaddy, California

Maybe--but that's because we understand its harms--especially for young people.

-Susan Weiss

alcohol shouldnt be illegal for highschoolers considering many people do it anyway. why is this?

-skylerisdope, New York
You bring up an interesting problem. 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. And while too many kids in high school drink, many do not. Avoiding alcohol will help keep you safe.
-Aaron White

Also what about mariquana with hi cbd and low thc content.

-xmen515, Maryland
Hi again xmen515,
You're asking good questions today--bravo!
Yes, some parents are giving hi-CBD (cannabidiol) marijuana to their children with a terrible form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. CBD is another cannabinoid chemical related to THC but doesn't produce a high and has probably a lot of beneficial health effects. But the best way to deliver CBD to Dravet patients and others would be through actual medications made from CBD, with none of the other harmful chemicals in marijuana. A CBD drug is already being tested in children with Dravet Syndrome, and if it works, there will be no need to breed marijuana strains or give children marijuana to treat their disease.
-Eric Wargo

Am i secondhand smoking is I can smell the smoke?

-jdizzle813, Maryland

If u can smell the smoke its likely that some nicotine will get into your brain but the questions is how much.  Just smelling smoke when u come close to someone who is a smoker is unlikely to deliver much nicotine into your brain but if you are in a room where people are smoking and stay there for several minutes then you will get sufficient nicotine into your brain to affect it.    

-Nora Volkow

apparently recent studies have shown that the most dangerous drug is alcohol... is that true?

-lalala, New York

You are right that some studies suggest that alcohol is more dangerous than many, if not most, other drugs. However, it really depends on how you define "dangerous". In terms of the number of years of life lost due to drugs, the number of deaths due to drug overdoses, the number of fatalities caused by injuries sustained while under the influence of drugs, alcohol ranks #1. But part of the reason is because there are so many people in the world who drink alcohol. Way more people drink alcohol than do other drugs. This makes it hard to compare the consequences of various drugs. 

-Aaron White

are 'soft' drugs less harmful than 'hard' drugs?

-lalala, New York

Not exactly sure which drugs you are considering soft vs. hard.  Some drugs are definitely more addictive than others (e.g., methamphetamine) and  people can be more sensitive to some drugs than others because of their genetics.  Alcohol and tobacco are among the most damaging--because they are so widely used--are they hard or soft?

-Susan Weiss

are alcohol and smoking bad combinations?

-devondonahue, New York

Both alcohol and nicotine can produce nausea and some people get really sick from the combination. If you meant smoking marijuana, both can impair balance, coordination, reaction times, decision making and attention, making the odds of being injured or making back choices higher if you combine the two drugs. 

-Aaron White

are all drugs addicting

-whiteman03, Maryland

Yes, most drugs of abuse can be addicting.  Research shows that brain development continues well into a person’s twenties. Alcohol and drugs can affect this development, and contribute to a wide range of problems. There is a lot of information about the health effects of drugs on NIDA’s teen site here:

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

-Joe Frascella

Are all drugs fatal or cause damage to your body if used on a daily basis?

-Soto2016, Texas
Depends on the drugs and the doses used.
For example, one glass of wine a day in an adult would not be fatal but 5 glasses a day will be harmful and even higher alcohol intake can result in death from overdose, accidents or liver damage.  
-Nora Volkow

are any drugs good for you

-drugs, New York

Hey drugs.  Is this a trick question?  It's a good one.  There are drugs that can be good for you--they are the ones that your physician prescribes.  Your physician knows which drugs at what dose will help you with an illness or health condition.  They are usually safe for you when used properly!  But used improperly, they can become very dangerous.  You might take a peek at this Prescription Drugs Fact page for more info:

-Joni Rutter

are bath salts the same as bath salts? what are bath salts, they sound like inhalants

-AG, New York

HI AG - good question.  And the answer is no.  There are bath salts that are meant to be used in an actual bath, and these tend to be things that smell nice or make your skin smooth.  There are also 'bath salts' that are drugs meant to be taken by mouth and not used in baths at all.  The 'bath salts' term is just used to get around the illegality of selling these substances for human consumption.  It is important to know and remember that these 'bath salts' are very different from each other and that they can contain any of a number of chemicals, many of which we do not know much about.  For more information check out

-Steve Gust

are celebrities allowed to have drugs?

-Blackgurl, Maryland


-Jack Stein

Are certain drugs better for you than others?

-Lemons1018, Pennsylvania

None of the drugs are better for you, but its rather that some are worse for you than others. Which drugs are worse depends on your genteic vulnerability.

-Nora Volkow

Are dissociation drugs are the worst or harder drugs like crack? - Rory

-Aveson, California
Hi Rory,
Good question, and it's a hard one to answer. Comparing different types of drugs is like comparing apples and oranges--they have different effects, and different people react differently to the same drug. Dissociatives cause more perceptual effects (distorted perceptions and feelings) while crack might be more energizing, but it's hard to say which is worse.
Check out our fact sheets on these drugs:
-Eric Wargo

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