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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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Does drinking alcohol decrease your growth rate?

-jaxgreat8, Maryland

Prenatal alcohol exposure definitely decreases growth and causes many other harmful effects. One would hope that young people were never drinking enough alcohol to slow growth. Given that the legal age is 21, drinking after 21 can cause weight gain but there would likely not be any growth after 21.

-George Koob

does drinking alcohol effect you're brain?

-44332, Illinois

Question: can alchohol cause brain damage or survere brain damage? Answer: Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years can make an area of the brain called the frontal lobes smaller. The frontal lobes help us make decisions, think about things, and pay attention. Teenagers who drink a lot have problems with these things. Alcohol also can shrink the hippocampus, the area of the brain area that helps us learn and remember. Teenagers who drink a lot also have trouble with learning. We do not know yet whether these problems go away if the teenager stops drinking.

-George Koob

Does fentanyl have positive effects?

-Dev, Maryland

Hi Dev,
Sure, fentanyl is used a lot when a person has surgery for pain. It is powerful, and its effects are short lasting. But the fentanyl from the streets is resulting in more overdose deaths than any other drug. It's a REAL problem!!!

-Shwe Gyaw

Does Fortnite have the same addiction power as drugs do?

-Ms. Bartlett, New Hampshire

Great question, Ms. Barlett! We used to think that video games weren't really addictive because they don't directly alter the brain's chemistry and don't cause painful physical withdrawals when you stop, for example. But video games do act on some of the same systems in the brain as addictive drugs. For instance, they produce bursts of the reward neurotransmitter dopamine.

Some people think that using video games a lot might cause problems similar to drug use. Drug addiction causes people to be unable to get satisfaction from other things in life and to continue to use drugs even when it causes them harm. If you experience these kinds of effects related to playing Fortnite, you should talk to someone.

-Shwe Gyaw

Does LSD have positive affects on your brain?

-RD, Illinois

Hello RD

There are no known positive effects of LSD on the brain. Because LSD is made in labs, it can also be mixed with toxic (poisonous) chemicals that cause additional harm to your brain and body. There's more information here: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/hallucinogens-di...

Thanks,
Roger

-Roger Little

does marihuana really affect your brain?

-remiso76,

Hi remiso76! Yes, marijuana does impact your brain, in many ways. Marijuana especially impacts the teen brain since your brain is not finished with development until you are in your mid-twenties. Plus, 17% of people who start marijuana use at a young age become addicted. More info on marijuana is available here: Marijuana: Facts for Teens booklet: www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-facts-teens/letter-to-teens

-Emily Jones

Does marihuana really affect your brain? I've met people who used to be addicts and nothing seemed to be wrong with them

-remiso76,

Hi remiso76! Marijuana is psychoactive and regular use as a teen may harm the developing brain, making learning and memory worse. In other words, it changes how the brain works. Marijuana affects specific sites in the brain called cannabinoid receptors. These receptors send messages to different nerve cells throughout the nervous system. They affect brain areas that impact learning and memory, appetite, coordination, and pleasure so interfering with these receptors can have significant effects on your body. Marijuana: Facts for Teens booklet: www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-facts-teens/letter-to-teens

-Mary Kautz

Does marihuana really affect your brain? I've met people who used to be addicts and nothing seemed to be wrong with them

-remiso76,

Hi Remiso76 -- It really does affect your brain in many visible and invisible ways. There are hundreds of well-conducted studies that have shown the effects of marijuana on people's brains. The fact that you haven't noticed any apparent changes in a person doesn't mean that their brain hasn't been severely affected. Please see this page to get the info you need to judge for yourself: https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/commonly-abused-drugs-charts#marij...

-Anto Bonci

Does marihuana really affect your brain? I've met people who used to be addicts and nothing seemed to be wrong with them

-remiso76,

Marijuana definately affects the brain. We are now funding a huge research project on looking at kids brains as they grow up and looking at exactly what happens if they start smoking marijuana. Hope to have more answers soon. But to learn more about marijuana and the brain, go here:

Marijuana: Facts for Teens booklet: www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-facts-teens/letter-to-teens

-Dave Thomas

Does marihuana really affect your brain? I've met people who used to be addicts and nothing seemed to be wrong with them

-remiso76,

Thanks for your question, remiso76. All drugs, marijuana included, affect your brain. In fact, that's how drugs exert their effects on behavior. NIDA-funded research shows that marijuana use, when intiatied during the teen years, is associated with impaired thinking, memory, and learning. Studies suggest that because the teen brain is still developing early use of marijuana may alter the brain's reward system, putting them at higher risk of using other drugs and developing addiction. There is still a lot we don't know about how addiction develops (including who will become addicted and after how much exposure to the drug) and how any particular person will be affected. It's a litle like playing "Russian Roulette". The safest course of action is not to start using marijuana or other drugs in the first place.

-Marsha Lopez

Does marihuana really affect your brain? I've seen people who where addicts and don't seem to be affected

-remiso76,

Absolutely! When marijuana is inhaled, THC (the chemical in marijuana that causes the "high.") quickly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, which carries it throughout the body and brain. As it enters the brain, THC attaches to cells, or neurons, with specific kinds of receptors called cannabinoid receptors. Normally, these receptors are activated by chemicals similar to THC that occur naturally in the body. They are part of a communication network in the brain called the endocannabinoid system. Most of the cannabinoid receptors are found in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement. Marijuana activates the endocannabinoid system, which causes the "high" and stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain's reward centers, reinforcing the behavior. Other effects include changes in mood, lack of coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and disrupted learning and memory.

-Michele Rankin

Does marijuana "really" lead to other drugs? What studies suggest it is actually a "gateway drug"?

-tfworldlit, California

Excellent question tf
It can, but so can nicotine and alcohol. There is nothing special about marijuana in this regard. Many addictive drugs change the reward system in the brain so that it becomes more sensitive to the effects of other drugs. So, at your age, I'd stay away from every drug of abuse.
B smart, respect ur brain

-Ruben Baler

Does marijuana cause an bad affect on people to make them look bad ? Does it helps people with cancer ? Is marijuana the most bad smoking type?

-SM, South Carolina

Lots of good questions! Regular marijuana smokers have red, bleary eyes and often smell bad from all the marijuana smoke. The marijuana plant has not been approved by the federal government for the treatment of any medical condition. Some resesarch suggests that some of the active ingredients in marijuana, like THC and cannabidiol (CBD), may help treat some of the symptoms of epilepsy, cancer, obesity, or addiction. Scientists are studying these ingredients to try to develop new medications. A pill form of THC (an active ingredient in marijuana) is already available for certain conditions, such as nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy. However, smoked marijuana is unlikely to be an ideal medication because of its negative health effects, including the risk of addiction and the damage that smoking can do to the lungs. There are studies showing that it can affect the developing teen brain, and teens should not use it.

-Carol Krause

Does marijuana destroy brain cells and restrict a person from thinking at times ?

-JE, South Carolina

Hi JE -- Many studies have shown that marijuana produces long-term negative effects on your brain. And yes, it can also produce mental health problems such as increased psychosis, lower IQ, and trouble thinking clearly, just to name a few. Here's a link so you can draw your own conclusions:
https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-a...

-Anto Bonci

Does marijuana give you anxiety, stress, and mood swings, or less feelings of happiness

-LB, Illinois

Hi there - great question Yes it can. There are reports of marijuana users seeking treatment in emergency rooms, reporting unease and shaking, anxiety, paranoia, or hallucinations, and in rare cases, extreme psychotic reactions. Marijuana use can also increase risks for accidents and injuries.

-Michele Rankin

Does marijuana help in some cases for adolescents?

-Eline, Illinois

Hi Eline
There is a chemical derived from the cannabis plant called "cannabidiol." This has been found to be effective in treating some rare childhood seizures. Most of the commonly available cannabis/marijuana contains THC, which is addictive and causes a high and has limited health benefit to adolescents or adults.

-Geetha Subramaniam

do the people who play video games produce the same brainn waves as when someone is using cocaine.

-SB, Montana

hi s b
good question.
Brain waves could be useful but may not be all that informative in this context. Dopamine on the other hand tells a more interesting story: the dopamine releases people display in their brain reward centers during video gaming or online social interactions can be very similar to those that happen in the course of a drug experience. This is one of the reasons we think that some video games could be actually quite addictive.
Thanks for your interest.
best of luck

-Ruben Baler

Do u get worse when combining different types of alcohol

-romina ,

Thank you for your question! All of the forms of alcoholic beverages that people drink contain a type of alcohol called ethanol. It's the only type of alcohol that is even remotely safe to drink.
In terms of the different types of beverages -- wine, beer, distilled spirits -- they all contain the same drug, ethanol. Whether a person drinks beer, wine, spirits or all of the above, they're taking the same drug. It's not the combination, it's the amount of alcohol that causes harm.

-Heather Kimmel

Do you believe marijuana should be Legal?

-#VapeNation, Illinois

Hi -- Since the legalization of marijuana will lead to increased use and the problems that go along with that, NIDA hopes that good science will inform decisions about legalization. Whatever happens, we do not want more teens to use marijuana, because of the potential impact on the developing brain (whcih does not stop developing until you are in your mid-20s.) For more information on the negative effects of marijuana, see our booklet, Marijuana: Facts for Teens: www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-facts-teens/letter-to-teens

-Steve Gust

Do you believe Marijuana should be used for medical purposes?

-Chungus, Illinois

There has been a lot in the news lately about medical marijuana. While the marijuana plant has not been approved by the FDA for the treatment of any medical condition, there is early research suggesting that some of compounds in marijuana may potentially help treat things like epilepsy, cancer, obesity, or addiction. Scientists are studying these ingredients to try to develop new medications. A pill form of THC (an active ingredient in marijuana) is already available for certain conditions, such as nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy and weight loss in patients with AIDS. Smoked marijuana isn't an ideal medication due to its negative health effects, including the risk of addiction and the damage that smoking can do to the lungs. www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-facts-teens/letter-to-teens

-Tisha Wiley

do you guys feel using scare tactics is the best way to prevent kids from using drugs ya yeet

-dash, Illinois

Hi Dash--I perfer being honest. For instance, we know that the earlier that kids try drugs, the more likely they are to become addicted. we also don't know the long-term ways drugs can affect the growing brain and if you can recover from these changes. You get only 1 shot a growing a FABULOUS brain--why risk it? I should also mention that just knowing the facts and that drugs are harmful might not prevent people from using drugs, so we recommend creating a positive environment for yourself (by cultivating an awesome support network of family and friends) so that you don't go down that road. Here is a link to learn more about preventing drug abuse: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/preventing-drug-use-among-children-adolescents. Thanks for the great question!

-Ruben Baler

How can u know if someone is doing drugs? (like the symptons)

-lll,

That's a really good question and thanks for asking and caring. Different people have different symptoms depending on the drug they've used. The important thing is to notice if they are behaving differently and if you feel comfortable ask them if they are ok. It's best to talk to a teacher or parent to make sure the person gets the help they need. Here's a link on guidance for helping.

-Michele Rankin

how can vaping on a regular basis affect a person's everyday actions and/or thought processes? when will we know more about long term affects?

-geo507685, Illinois

Thank you for such a great question, geo507685! Vaping on a regular basis increases that person's exposure to nicotine. Nicotine is addictive, so when someone becomes addicted to nicotine, they will seek it out even if it interferes with their normal activities. Vaping, particularly in kids, can lead to the use of regular tobacco products, like cigarettes, which are very harmful. In addition, exposing the developing brain to drugs, including nicotine, can cause changes in the brain that then lead to the use of other drugs. Many researchers are working to understand the long-term effects of vaping and exposure to nicotine. For more information, see: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes.

-Heather Kimmel

how can we avoid when people offers us drugs?

-kei,

Hey Hey Kei. Avoid by saying no. Walk away. Say 'I don't do that.' You are responsible for your own choices and you don't have to do drugs just because they are offered. Choose words that feel comfortable for you, but it's okay to make your own decisions and leave a situation where you are feeling uncomfortable or pressured. Remember, you don't have to justify taking care of your health to anyone.

-Amy Goldstein

How can we best educate young people about the risks of vaping?

-mpapa, New Jersey

Hi mpapa, Great question. Vaping has many more chemicals than people may know about, so someone who vapes exposes their body and brain to addictive nicotine, heavy metals, aldehydes and other toxic substances. Because vaping has only been around for a few years, we don't yet know the long term consequences, but we do know enough to say that these are not harmless products. For more info, check out this link about Electronic Cigarettes (E-cigarettes): https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/electronic-cigarettes-e-cigarettes

-Wilson Compton

how can we convince the JUULers to give us our bathroom back

-what the nugget, Illinois

Hey there what the nugget,

That sound frustrating! Here is my suggestion. Direct your friends and peers to visit The Real Cost website. The Real Cost was created to give you what you need to know about tobacco−facts based on science, so you, and your peers, can judge for yourself.

-Suzanne Lim

How can we prevent addictions?

-Spicy Memelord, Montana

That is such a great question! We really don't know for sure, but if people are happy and have healthy ways to cope with stress and have fun, they're much less likely to develop addictions. So it's important that we help teenagers find ways to be happy and healthy.

-George Koob

How can we put an end to this drug overdosing world. It is ridiculous.

-MO, New Hampshire

Hi MO! This is a question that keeps me awake at night. Chronic use of drugs can overtake your brain, causing a person to change their thinking and jugdment. Unfortunately, the changes in their brain caused by drugs make these people even more motivated to seek drugs. NIDA is supporting research to understand why people have a difficult time changing their behavior towards seeking drugs, and discovering interventions that will help addicted people stop using drugs.

-Roger Sorensen

how can we stop the vaping epidemic?

-E, Illinois

That's a really important question.

The best way to stop the vaping epidemic is to stop teens from ever starting and making sure they understand there are real health consequences from vaping.

Check out our website for our teen public education campaign that we call The Real Cost. It has great information aimed at the teens at greatest risk of taking up vaping.

-Mitch Zeller

How can you approach people who are struggling with drugs

-MS, Illinois

One of the best things you can do for a friend who is drinking or using drugs is let them know you are there for them. That you are concerned about their behavior. Encourage them to seek help from a trusted adult, like a teacher, mentor, coach, or parent. You can also help by being a positive influence. Encourage them to get involved in activities that don't involve drugs, for example joining a club, playing sports, or playing music. If your friend is becoming a negative influence in your life, you might have to step away from the friendship for a while. If you feel your friend is a danger to him or herself or to others, it is important to get a trusted adult right away – it could save his or her life. For help go to: https://www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov/. NIDA also has great guides: https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/treatment

-Tisha Wiley