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.

Download Full Year

can u become homless if u do drug

-Cori.c, Texas

Hi Cori - unfortunately yes if a person's substance use interferes with their ability to keep their job.

-Michele Rankin

Can u live with hiv

-Iyanna@gentryjr, Texas

hey Iyanna@gentryjr, yes, there are great anti-retroviral treatments that allow people with HIV to live a long life.

-Maureen Boyle

can u please answer this question what is the difference between smoking and vaping

-brady, Nebraska

Dear brady - thank you for joining us today! Smoking involves burning the tobacco in a cigarette or cigar. Instead of actually burning (combusting) the drug, vaping raises its temperature just enough to create a mist-like vapor. It is probably safer for the lungs, which is why people like it. But vaping can be used for marijuana, nicotine, as well as many other substances. Vaping is NOT a "healthy" alternative to smoking cigarettes. We are just beginning to understand vaping but we have much more to learn. Although many of the toxic chemicals from burning cigarettes may not be present in vaping, other dangers may exist! There are many checmicals in the vaping liquid that were never meant to be inhaled. In addition, many of these liquids contain nicotine, which is very addictive.

Stay in control of your health and don't use any tobacco product!

-Heather Kimmel

can u stop doing drugs by doing more drugs like pills?

-kbloom, Texas

Hi kbloom
In a way. There are various treatments for drug addiction that involve taking medications. It's called Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT). But this should be done under medical supervision. check this out: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-dr...

-Dave Thomas

Can underage drinking lead to depression and suicide?

-pizzadoglover49, Illinois

Alcohol definitely contributes to depression and suicide. Whether it can actually cause those things is a tough question.

-Aaron White

can vape harm you like a drug

-nyc.kaylaa, New York

Vaping often includes nicotine, which is an addicitive chemical that comes from tobacco. There are other risk factors too. Check out this article for more info.

-Kevin Conway

can weed harm your lungs the same way cigarettes can?

-stay puft, Texas

We don't know if it causes lung cancer but it does increase the risk of lung infections like bronchitis. Also, increases phlegm production and cough.

-Susan Weiss

Can weed make you deaf?

-pineapple, New York

pineapple - nope

-Maureen Boyle

Can weed take away your brain cells

-Jessie@gentryjr, Texas

it can make your brain cells sick so that they can not communicate properly with one another, making you apathetic, depressed, anxious when you are under its influence

-Nora Volkow

Are there any problems related directly to smoking marijuana only once? Any long term effects?

-MahlonBigHead, Illinois

We are not aware of any probelms associated with smoking marijuana only once unless you were driving and got into an accident

-Nora Volkow

are there certain things that are healthy to be addicted too ?

-vantu, Maryland

Hi Vantu! How about let's find ways to replace addiction with healthy habits? I vote for running. What healthy activity would you vote for? Check out this article: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/jan2012/feature1. Take care North Bethesda neighbors --- Walter Johnson High School!

-Bethany Deeds

Are there dangerous non-addictive drugs?

-thinkermaster, New York

Hi thinkermaster,
Maybe. Hallucinogens like psilocybin (mushrooms) and LSD are not usually considered very addictive -- people who use them, even if they have a good experience, don't necessarily feel compelled to repeat the experience. But they may be harmful for people who are at risk of psychosis or other mental illnesses, for instance, so some people would consider them dangerous.
Good question!

-Eric Wargo

Are there drugs that aren't addictive? If so, which?

-Shakespeare, Pennsylvania

The Bard Lives!
Sometimes people use "drug" to mean only those that cause addiction. However, if you use "drug" to include all medications used to treat illness, the great majority are non-addictive. For example, antibiotics, mild analgesics like aspirin, etc.
When scientists test whether a new medication is likely to be addictive, they look at whether it increases a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine in the part of the brain called the striatum signals the rest of the brain that you just had something good, especially if that good thing turned out better than expected. Dopamine cues the brain to remember what was going on when that good thing happened so that information can be used to get it again. This keeps the person going back to the drug, and eventually changes the brain so that desire for the drug overewhelms everything else.
For more detail, see: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-add...

-Belinda Sims

Are there effective treatments for drug addiction?

-kayla_lanier, Pennsylvania

Hi kayla_lanier
Someone who is addicted can stop using drugs with the help of a trained healthcare professional. Most of the treatments that work for substance abusers involve changing one's behavior through counseling and behavioral and family interventions. Treatment for some addictions, in particular to opioids, may also involve medications.
Here's are a couple of sources of information about treatment:
https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/seeking-drug-abuse-treatment-know...
https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/

-Geetha Subramaniam

are there interactions between antidepressant medications and alcohol?

-apricotjam, Maryland

Their are some known interactions, so we recommend avoiding alcohol when you are taking antidepressants. Also, alcohol can make you feel depressed, and there is some evidence that alcohol use can make it difficult for antidepressants to work.

-Josh Gordon

Are there long term damaging affects on the brain when alcohol is consumed in moderation?

-bluecloud75, New York

We don't think so. If an adult who is otherwise healthy has no more than 1 drink per day (for women) or 2 per day (for men) the risks of harm appear to be low. We don't know of any evidence that moderate drinking damages the brain.

But, for anyone under age 21, even having a few drinks can interfere with normal adolescent brain development and increase your risk of developing an alcohol problem. It can also increase your risk for injuries, sexual assault, and even deaths—including those from car crashes.

-Aaron White

Are there more negative effects of drinking alcohol at a young age as opposed to adulthood? If so, at which age do the consequences become equal?

-loooooogan, New York

Possibly yes. Drinking at a young age increases the likelihood of developing a problem with alcohol. Also, the young brain is still developing and scientists have shown the effects of alcohol at a young age can alter brain development. By age 25 the brain is fully developed but not before. For this reason, it's important to delay alcohol use at least until the legal drinking age of 21.

-George Koob

Are there more teens smoking than adults

-Mgomez, Texas

Hey Mgomez- No! It looks like teens are smarter about not smoking than adults :-). In 2015, 11.6% of people between the ages of 12 and 17 used tobacco products, while 31.1% of people over the age of 18 used tobacco products. For more facts about tobacco products, check out https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes.

-Emily Einstein

Are there more teens smoking than adults?

-Mgomez, Texas

Hi, Mgomez! According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there is a much higher percentage of adults who smoke than teens. Roughly 27% of folks ages 18-25 reported smoking cigarettes in the month prior to the survey, and 20% of adults ages 26 and older, compared to 4% of kids ages 12-17. It is great that kids are making healthy choices about smoking because tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking results in more than 480,000 premature deaths in the United States each year—about 1 in every 5 U.S. deaths—and an additional 16 million people suffer with a serious illness caused by smoking. In fact, for every one person who dies from smoking, about 30 more suffer from at least one serious tobacco-related illness.

-Marsha Lopez

are there some drugs that take effect when you touch them?

-SLC, Other

hey SLC - yes there are some drugs that can enter your system through your skin - such as LSD

-Maureen Boyle

Are there ways to control drug use?

-SVV, Other
Hello SVV! The short answer is yes: Not to Start! The 100% best way is to not experiment or use drugs at all. The best way to control or overcome drug use is to seek help from a treatment professional. A commonly used approach to help with drug addiction is cognitive-behavior therapy or CBT, which helps people understand the reasons why they use drugs and develop healthy strategies and alternative behaviors that do not rely on addiction. I hope this response is helpful and look forward to your questions next year!
-Albert Avila

Are video games more addictive than drugs?

-tyree mcghee, Georgia

Hi Tyree,
This is a great question. We used to think that video games weren't really addictive because they don't directly alter the brain's chemistry, but compulsive video gaming is becoming a problem in some parts of the world such as Asia, and the current manual of psychiatric diagnoses recommends doing further research on the possibility that video gaming addiction is a true addiction. But since it is such a question, to say they are "more" addictive than drugs is probably a stretch.

-Eric Wargo

Are video games more addictive than drugs?

-Jessica, New York

Hi Jessica,
No, they aren't more addictive, but they do stimulate some of the same brain systems that drugs do, such as the brain's reward system.
Great question!

-Eric Wargo

ARE VIDEO GAMES MORE ADDICTIVE THAN DRUGS?

-FLU, Other

Hi FLU! It is really hard to compare, but you are absolutely right, video games can be addictive. Addiction is defined as compulsive use despite harm, and some people play those games for way too much time, just as some people with substance use problems spend most of their time seeking or using drugs.

-Dave Thomas

are weed and pot different in any way?

-wow, steamboat , Colorado

Nope- Weed and pot are just two of the words that people use to refer to marijuana.

-Emily Einstein

Are you more likely to get addicted to drugs if you start at a young age?

-anon, New York

Hi anon,
Great question -- Yes, lots of studies show that the younger you are when you start taking drugs, the more likely you will develop an addiction.

-Eric Wargo

are you most likely to do drugs if you have a family member doing them

-ajstarr02, Texas

Dear ajstarr02,

This is a great question. We know that genetics do affect people's risk for addiction. People who have a family history of drug or alcohol addiction are at greater risk. Environment is also very important--stress and other negative environmental factors can increase addiction risk, but having good friendships and family support can protect people who are at risk. Also having a stimulating environment, like having lots of hobbies and interests, can reduce your risk. The safest thing is to never try drugs. https://easyread.drugabuse.gov/, https://easyread.drugabuse.gov/content/does-addiction-run-families

-Roger Little

Aren´t we technically addicted to oxygen

-khall, Illinois

Hi khall,
Great question! The answer is no, even if it seems like it would be yes. Addiction is different from simply needing something to live, like air or water or food. It means specifically that a substance has caused changes in the person's brain, including circuits controlling pleasure, learning, and self-control, which distort how a person feels and sees the world, and makes it difficult or impossible to control their drug use.

-Eric Wargo

Aside from harming your body and others, what effects do drugs have (legal, social, etc)?

-thinkermaster, New York

Excellet question...Abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs is costly to our Nation, exacting more than $700 billion annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity and health care. There are estimates that most peope in jail or prison could benefit from therapy and drug-related treatment.

-Carol Krause

at what age do most people start drugs?

-JacobB, Pennsylvania

Hi JacobB - that's a really great question. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health surveys people 12 and older, and in 2015 the average age of starting drinking was 18. However, if we look at just underage drinkers, meaning kids who started drinking before the age of 21, the average age is around 16. To look at the percentage of alcohol drinkers by age group check out page 18 of their report. The average age of marijuana initiation (meaning that's when they start), is16 if we look at just people who started using marijuana before age 21. However if you look at everyone over the age of 12, the average is around 19 years old. This means many people are starting to use marijuana as teens or as college students/young adults.

-Marsha Lopez