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 really dangerous drugs that a lot of people don't know about, but still kills a lot of people?

-Dale Cooper, Maryland

Hi, Dale, that's a good but challenging question! All drugs affect the brain but in differently, and the effects of a drug can be so different for different people that what's harmless for one could be extremely dangerous for another. Having said that, some drugs, like meth, heroin and many synthetics (which come laced with toxic chemicals) are notoriously harmful to your health. Bottom line- all drugs are potentially dangerous especially to a developing brain.

PS: our brains are developing until our mid 20s! So choose to live a healthy, drug-free life for your own health's sake. 

-Marsha Lopez

Are there any statistics or studies which show that marijuana is harmful when used casually?

-lackofagoodname, Maryland

There are a few recent brain imaging studies that suggested occasional use can alter the volumes of different brain structures.  But these data are still preliminary  (very small numbers of subjects)  Most of the research showing effects are in  people who use the drug regularly and started as teens.  This is a very important question that we hope to study in the near future.

-Susan Weiss

Are there any studies or research that point to possible long-term negative side effects of using ADD/ADHD meds in children (i.e. prescribed)?

-BarrieUSDean, Maryland

hi--this is a great question!  The research is somewhat mixed, but in general, we know that effective treatment for ADHD can help, not just with symptoms, but also with daily functioning, including social functioning with friends and families, and functioning at school.  So if a kid gets good treatment, they are more likely to get along with family and friends and do better at school, and later, more likely to succeed with college or jobs.  So for many people, the long-term benefit outweighs the negative side effects.  When people are treated with medication for ADHD, it's important to work closely with the doctor to discuss the balance of positives and side effects. Sometimes when there are side effects, adjusting medications or changing medications can help. 

-Joel Sherrill

Are there certain drugs that enhance sexual performance or pleasure? (Other than viagra and female-viagra)

-Lanthirey, Maryland

Hi Lanthirey,
A type of inhalants called amyl nitrites can enhance sexual pleasure--they were popular in the sexually liberated 1970s. Alcohol often increases sex drive but decreases performance. Stimulant drugs sometimes increase sex drive, but some like meth often have the opposite effect. 

-Eric Wargo

Are there different kinds of marijuana

-LJordan, New Hampshire

Hi LJordan,
Yes, there are two subspecies of Cannabis sativa: Cannabis sativa sativa and Cannabis sativa indica. Most street marijuana is Cannabis sativa sativa. Within that, there are hundreds of different strains or varieties, bred to have subtly different effects because of different amounts of the active chemicals (THC, CBD, etc.).

-Eric Wargo

are there effective treatments for drug addiction?

-jordanf, Ohio

hi Jordan  thanks for reaching out

Great question! There are some very effective treatments for drug abuse problems. Some of these are medications to reduce craving for drugs or manage the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal fom an addicitive drug. Other  treatments are psychosocial: They involve people interacting with people who help one to stop using drugs. Some proven effective psychosocial tretaments include cognitive-behaviroal therapies, motivational enahncement therapies, contingency management therapies, and mindfulness based therapies.

These all work really well for a lot of people. Unfortunaltely, we dont have enough treamtment opportunities for all the people who need them.

To find out more about treatments, you can visit:

-Harold Perl

Are there things besides drugs people can get addicted to? I've heard of people being addicted to porn/sex, and there's shows where people are addicted to eating strange things. Are those real addictions? Do they affect people the same way as drug addictions do?

-Annika, Maryland

hi annika
absolutely, there are several behaviors, besides psychoactive drug ingestion, that can produce short-term reward and that may engender persistent behaviors despite knowledge of adverse consequences, i.e., diminished control over the behavior. These addiction involve a very similar brain circuitry. we are only beginning to study such behavioral addiction applying some of the lessons we learned from drug addiction.


-Ruben Baler

Are there things like e-hookahs and if so why are they not more common?

-$$$fordayzzz, Minnesota

E-hookah is just a name for electronic cigarette...those are quite common!

-Kevin Walton

Are vape pens bad for you?

-DHSmember#2, Maryland

Hi DHSmember#2,
Great question, and unfortunately the answer is we still don't know, because they are so new. Even though they don't produce tar like cigarettes, they contain other unknown chemicals, and possibly toxic metals. And nicotine itself, which is in most of the fluids, is a highly addictive drug. One of its possible effects is making it easier to become addicted to other substances. It also might lead some people to use regular cigarettes, which are very bad for you.

-Eric Wargo

Are vape pens bad for you? If so how?

-Kearsarge, New Hampshire

The short answer to your question is--if you are not a current smoker, you are better off to never start. There is very little regulation of this industry so they are not required to disclose all of the chemicals that are in these products. We do know that nicotine is addictive and if you use it for nicotine, it can certainly increase risk of addiction. Also, vapor from some e-cigarette products has been found to contain known carcinogens and toxic chemicals including formaldehyde. Until more studies are conducted, there is no way of knowing what the health consequences of repeated exposure to these chemicals may be.

-Roger Little

Are vaporizer pens dangerous?

-kearsarge, New Hampshire

Hi Kearsarge!  Thanks for your question!  'Vape pens', or e-cigarettes, don't produce smoke (like  with traditional cigarettes), but they do contain nicotine, which is addictive.  While many people think they are safe and a safe alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes, we don't currently know.  Luckily, scientists are currently doing research on e-cigarettes to figure out if and how they pose a danger to health.  Some things that we do know about e-cigs is that nicotine can effect the developing brain (and not necessarily in a good way).  It may be best to avoid use of these products until scientists can figure out what is in them, how they really work, any bad by-products they might produce and how they may impact your health!  

-Albert Avila

are vaporizers illegal? And do they make the weed less harmful?

-MarginalTrain, Minnesota

Hi MarginalTrain,
Vaporizers are legal. The only way they might make marijuana less harmful is by not producing as many chemicals that harm the lungs, but the main harms of marijuana are from the THC, which you get from vaping just as much as from smoking or eating.
Good question.

-Eric Wargo

Are whipped cream bottles classified as inhalants?

-becky, Florida

Becky,  You are correct.  In addition to being a yummy topping for ice cream sundays, whipped cream bottles are classified as inhalants.  For more information about inhalants and other drugs see:

-Redonna Chandler

Always adults spoiling society rotten and blaming it on the fact that its just the new generation...How many lives could be changed if cigarettes were abolished? It might cause a riot in these days, but if it wasn't started in the first place, imaging how many people would be better off without them?

-Vlindanna, Maryland

Hi Vlindanna,
i know it will be next to impossible to convince you, but we do have your best interest at heart when we try to help you make the right decisions about drugs. Your brain is developing very rapidly right now and it can ill afford to have to deal with the toxic effects of any drug of abuse. you'll be smart to believe me.
best of luck to you.\


-Ruben Baler

Am I more likely to get addicted to drugs if I start using them when I am a teenager?

-StrongMS EDGE, Connecticut

Yes, research suggests that the earlier someone starts using drugs the more likely they are to develop an addiction.

-Gaya Dowling

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

-MaNii, Michigan

hi manii, good to hear from you
This is a good question and one we get A LOT. the terms soft and hard drugs are not really scientific terms. So, put this way, this is one of those questions we can't really answer. You see, the effects of a drug are so different for different people that what's benign for one could be extremely dangerous for another. Having said that, some drugs, like meth, heroin and many synthetics which come laced with toxic chemicals are notoriously harmful to your health.
hope this helps.

-Ruben Baler

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

-vsvsvsvs, Maryland

In general they are but the problem is that there are some people that are more sensitive to harmful effects of the so called "soft drugs" leading them to have adverse reactions.  Also soft drugs trigger addiction and this is more common in young people who use them regularly believing them to be less harmful.  

-Nora Volkow

Are "Hooka Pipes" dangerous to the health and welfare of the human body?

-Authement/Scate, Texas

Hello there- There is a common misconception that smoking hookah isn't bad for you but it is really just another way of smoking tobacco and we all know that is bad for you.  Research suggests that smoking hookah is associated with all sorts of the same health problems associated with smoking cigarettes such as cancers, respiratory illnesses, and addiction.  In fact, early results of current research being conducted is revealing that one session of hookah smoking is like smoking multiple cigarettes!  So yes, it is absolutely bad to use.  Take a look at more info on hookah by clicking on this link

-Albert Avila

are all drugs adictive

-chance, Illinois

all drugs are POTENTIALLY addictive. Some are more so than others but it depends on a bunch of factors in addition to the drug. Since each person's makeup and environment differ, addiction risk varies. 

-Gaya Dowling

Are all drugs bad?

-jdonovan, New Hampshire

Any abused drugs can produce addiction (continuing to take the drug despite harmful health effects, damage to relationships, or legal consequences).  For example, regular marijuana use by teens decreases IQ into the adult years, and research continues to find out how marijuana and other drugs may impact the developing teen brain. And at lower doses, drugs affect people in many different ways. Research shows some stimulant drugs like cocaine 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 produce lung damage, cancer, depression, anxiety, memory loss, and so on. At high doses some drugs can kill you, even after a single exposure. Find out more at

-Antonello Bonci

Are all drugs necessarily bad? Bad drugs can be good to certain people., Pennsylvania

That's a very good point--there are medicines that can be life saving for people with be certain illnesses, but devastating if taken by those for whom they are not prescribed.  Opiate painkillers are a perfect example--they can be very useful for someone following surgery, for example--but can also be highly addictive and even deadly when abused.  Also, people have varying responses to drugs and some are more vulnerable to the bad effects than others--not everyone who drinks alcohol get liver disease.  

-Susan Weiss

Are all over the counter drugs dangerous?

-Vronny, Maryland

Hi Vronny- All over-the-counter drugs carry the risk of hazardous side effects, especially the drugs that fall under any of these categories: painkillers and anti-inflammatories, heartburn and indigestion medication, cough and cold medication. Remember to always follow the instructions on the bottle of over the counter medications when you take them.  Stay safe and have a fantastic day, Vronny!

-Albert Avila

Are all substances with hallucination effects considered illicit drugs?

-X, Maryland

No- not all. There are some medical uses for ketamine, a drug which is also abused when used for non-medidcal purposes.  

-Nancy Pilotte

Are bath salts becoming more popular?

-lauren, North Carolina

Hi, Lauren. Nope! Actually quite the opposite! This family of drugs that contains synthetic chemicals related to cathinone, an amphetamine-like stumulant, have shown declines over the past few years, and the 2014 Monitoring the Future survey reports than 1 percent of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders using them.  Do you want to read more about new drug fads that concern scientists?  See

-Marsha Lopez

Are children born to alcoholic parents more likely to become an alcoholic in the future?

-kearsarge, New Hampshire

Yes, unfortunately.  The odds of being an alcoholic are much higher if you have alcoholism in your family. For instance, if someone has their first drink of alcohol at age 14-15 and has a family history of alcoholism, their odds of becoming an alcoholic are about 1 in 2, while for those without a family history the odds are about 1 in 3.  

-Aaron White

are dabs bad for you?

-hayballentine, Michigan

Hi hayballentine,
Yes, it's a much more concentrated form of marijuana, so you could have an extreme reaction, which can include vomiting, paranoia, and possibly even hallucinations. Over the long term, it can have the same bad effects, if you use it a lot, that other marijuana can have--like affecting your intelligence.
Thanks for the question!

-Eric Wargo

are dabs or oil concentrates worse for your health than smoking normal weed??

-Willem Sheetz, Maryland

Hey Willem Sheetz - Dabs and oils concentrate the drug into a more potent form. Either method isn't good, but getting high concentrations of a drug into your system is the equivalent of your brain hitting a wall and can be much more dangerous.  

-Joni Rutter

are dabs or oil concentrates worse than regular weed

-Willem Sheetz, Maryland

Dear Willem, 
Oil concentrates of marijuana (hash oil) are more concentrated, resinous forms of the drug. with much higher concentrations of THC (the main mind-altering chemical in marijuana). H
ash oil concentrate THC content has been reported to get close to 80 or even 90 percent THC, a huge amount. This high level of THC is very worrisome in terms of addiction potential and the risk of mental illness.
best of luck to you.

-Ruben Baler

Are drugs allowed in any states?

-smohan, New Hampshire

Hello Smohan from Kingswood Regional Middle School! Thanks for your questions. Yes, drugs are allowed--in fact our country has the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. This is the federal U.S. drug policy under which the manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of certain narcotics, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, anabolic steroids and other chemicals are regulated. There are 5 Schedules (classifications), of substances. Check them out here:

-Bethany Deeds

are drugs bad for you

-password, Ohio

Hi password! All drugs are bad for you and most have similar long-term effects. All drugs interfere with the brain's normal processing and can eventually lead to changes in how well it works. Over time, drug use can lead to addiction, a devastating brain disease in which people can’t stop using drugs even when they really want to and even after it causes terrible consequences to their health and other parts of their lives.  There is a lot of information about the health effects of drugs on NIDA’s teen site here:

-Ish Amarreh