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 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

All my friends are stoners/crackheads which is pretty cool but drugs are bad, say no to drugs like me stay fresh They don't listen what do I do?

-seranzaldo20, California

Hola seranzaldo20 from Los Molinos High School! It sounds like you are not only super fresh, but are a super positive influence in your peer group. Just knowing the facts and that drugs are harmful might not prevent people from using drugs. For more information, click on: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/brain-and-addiction.

Also, if you haven't already prepared a plan before heading out into a pressurized situation with your friends. Develop talking points in your head about what you are going to say and do. For some suggestions, visit: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/6-tactful-tips-resisting-peer-pressure-to-use-drugs-and-alcohol. Also be aware that your brain works differently in groups than when you are alone. For more information, check out: http://headsup.scholastic.com/students/the-science-of-decision-making-and-peer-pressure.

-Bethany Deeds

all my old relatives did LSD when they were hippies but they're fine. why would it harm me?

-gayginger, Maryland

Hi gayginger,
Great question -- it wouldn't necessarily harm you -- not all drugs harm everyone -- but you never know how drugs will affect you, because every person is different. Drugs can have worse and more lasting effects if you take them when you are young.
Also, these days especially, you can never be sure what is actually in the drugs you take. A dealer may call it LSD, but it could be anything. Today there are some very very dangerous (deadly) synthetic hallucinogens on the streets that might be sold as "LSD" but send people to the hospital or the morgue.
Stay safe.

-Eric Wargo

Although marijuana does have its problems, why is it put in the same classification as meth as a schedule 1 drug? Also 0 people die from marijuana overdose each year and its illegal while thousands die from prescription opioids and they are considered safer, why is that?

-RedneckRandy246, Pennsylvania

hey RedneckRandy246, schedule I includes any drug with abuse potential that is not approved by the FDA as a medication. Schedules II-V include drugs approved by the FDA ranked by the abuse potential such that the most addictive drugs are in Schedule II.

-Maureen Boyle

approximately how often, and how extremely does someone have to use "gateway drugs" like marijuana and alcohol for it to irreparably impact the frontal lobe.

-Summit11701, New Jersey

Dear Summit11701,

This is a great question, and the answer is different for every person. For reasons we are still trying to understand, different people may not have the same risk for becoming addicted to different drugs. One person might get addicted very quickly to cocaine but be able to drink alcohol socially without becoming addicted to it. We do know that illicit drugs such as opioids and cocaine are potentially very harmful and very addictive, which is why these are illegal, or for opioids, highly regulated. The safest thing is to never try them. There is more information at http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/commonly-abused-drugs/health-effects#marijuana.

-Roger Little

Are alcohol or drugs more addictive? Or does it depend on what kinds?

-Jade, Minnesota

Hi Jade,

Both are very addictive. There are many things that can influence how addictive any drug can be, including the frequency with which the drug is taken as well as the amount. Having another mental disorder, such as depression, can also make drugs more addictive. And taking more than one drug (e.g., cannabis and alcohol) also makes each of them more addictive. It is like fighting several ennemies at that same time!

-Carlos Blanco

Are alcoholism and drug addiction genetically inherited?

-Amanda R., Texas

Dear Amanda R.,

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

Are alcoholism and drug addiction genetically inherited?

-Molly Look, Colorado

People can inherit a susceptibility to become addicted to alcohol and drugs. But, inheriting that susceptibility doesn't mean that they automatically will become addicted. Having said that, if alcohol and drug addiction, including nicotine addiction, seems to run in someone's family, they would be wise to stay away from those drugs. Nobody can become addicted to a drug they don't ever use. Better to be safe than sorry, as many who have become addicted can tell you.

-Cora Lee Wetherington

Are alcoholism and drug addiction genetically inherited?

-4-H, Colorado

hey 4-H, yes genetic factors do play a role in addiction to drugs and alcohol. It is estimated that about half the risk is genetic and half environmental (social support, access to drugs, stress, etc.)

-Maureen Boyle

are all drugs bad

-dgarza, Texas

Hi dgarza! Drugs is a broad term that include both medicines as well as illegal drugs. Medicines are generally safe when used by the person for whom they were prescribed in the dose the doctor recommened. But medicines can also be abused. When this happens, they can become harmful. Illegal drugs are known to cause lots of health problems and even death. When a drug is illegal, that means it isn't safe to use either recreationally or as a medicine. For more info, see: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/

-Will Aklin

Are all drugs dangerous

-Jamiah, Texas

Different drugs can be dangerous in different ways. Some drugs, like tobacco, can damage you slowly – for example long term tobacco use can cause cancer and is the leading cause of preventable death. Many drugs, and alcohol, can impair your coordination and lead to devastating accidents (like drunk driving). Other drugs, like meth, can be especially toxic to your brain. And taking drugs, like heroin or cocaine, or misusing prescription drugs, has the potential to cause overdose and death even the first time you use them. They can also result in addiction.

Medications can be life-saving and beneficial, but any drug that is misused, even over the counter medications that are not used the way they are intended, can be dangerous. Please protect your brain and your health, you need them! Check out the overdose death statistics for various drugs: https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates.

-Emily Einstein

Are all illegal drugs deadly?

-Summit11344, New Jersey

hmmm, good question. All of the drugs we look at can cause either overdose or result in behavior that one way or another might result in serious harm or death - like impaired driving. So my answer is yes, they can be.

-Dave Thomas

Are anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication addictive/dangerous

-val, New York

Dear Val,

Most antidepressants are not addictive. However, the body and brain do adapt to the presence of these medications, so that stopping them right away can cause some uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, most doctors will tell patients to slowly lower the dose of an antidepressant before stopping the medication altogether.

Some anti-anxiety drugs can be addictive, particularly drugs like valium that belong to a class of medicines called "benzodiazepines." They can be used safely, but I always recommend to my patients that we try to use them for short periods of time and at as low a dose as is effective. As with many antidepressants, I also recommend that patients slowly lower the dose when they're ready to stop.

In terms of dangerousness, all medicines should be taken as recommended, because high doses can be dangerous.

Josh

-Josh Gordon

are certain cigarettes stronger than others?

-ApPlEsLiCe, Texas

Dear ApPlEsLiCe - that's a great question! Different cigarettes brands can contain different amounts of nicotine, the addictive substance present in tobacco products. Although flavored cigarettes are illegal in the US, some cigarettes contain menthol, which provides a cooling sensation while using the cigarette. In addition, the filters in cigarettes remove much of the tar (but not other chemicals), which can alter the perceived strength of the cigarette.

-Heather Kimmel

Are chicken nuggets a drug because i think i am addicted?

-Jacksun, Maryland

You and me both Jacksun!

-Maureen Boyle

Are cigars more addictive than cigarettes?

-Shane@Gentry, Texas

Hi Shane,

Cigars tend to have greater amounts of nicotine than cigarettes. However, what really counts is how much nicotine you are exposed to. So, if you smoke one pack of cigarettes a day versus one cigar per year, the cigarettes will play a bigger role in your addiction.

-Carlos Blanco

Are cigars worse than cigarrettes and if they are, by how much?

-Elevatior music, Illinois

Good question! Both are bad for your health. Cigarette smoking remains one of the leading causes of death in this country -- nearly 500,000 people die each year because of smoking cigarettes. Although fewer people smoke cigars, cigars are dangerous because they involve burning tobacco, which maximizes the harm of the chemicals in tobacco. This is true of any kind of cigar, including big (traditional) cigars, little cigars, and cigarillos. It's best to avoid tobacco altogether for a healthy life!

-Kevin Conway