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 here.

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Why are some drugs so addictive?

-reddie22,

Great question! Drugs are addictive because they affect the structure and functioning of the brain. People like how drugs make them feel because they cause the release of a brain chemical called dopamine. This release or surge of dopamine in the brain causes the feeling of high that people like. People continue taking drugs because they want to get the good feeling back. But if a person continues to use drugs, eventually the drugs will cause the amount of dopamine in the brain to be depleted, so the person not only won't be able to feel the same high from the drug, but they will feel bad when they are not using the drug. But because they have become addicted, they continue to use the drug. It is this return to this feeling that leads people to keep taking drugs and can lead them to becoming addicted. Some drugs are very effective at making these changes in the brain.Thanks for this question.

-Joe Frascella

Why are some people affected by using drugs and some are not?

-RHS Rider Room,

It is beleived that your genes determine whether you are more or less sensitive to the effects of drugs.

-Nora Volkow

Why do drugs make you so happy and nice?

-cogan1,

Good question! Short term use of drugs of abuse cause an increase in the brain of a chemical called dopamine. The sudden release of dopamine results in the high or rush that one feels in response to taking drugs. When used chronically, we know that these "good feelings" subside, and the risk of addiction becomes greater. The amount of dopamine in the brain also decreases so the person begins to feel bad. That said, not all drugs result in the positive feelings you describe. Some people can experience negative feelings, depending on the person and the drugs abused.Thanks for this question.

-Joe Frascella

Why do gateway drugs cause you to do other drugs?

-HogueAndAzn,

Good question. The theory behind the gateway concept is that marijuana, alcohol, or tobacco may sensitize the brain so that it responds more strongly when subsequently exposed to other drugs. This is still a hypothesis--it hasn't been proven, and it generates a lot of controversy among scientists. We do know is that while it is true that most people who use other drugs have also used marijuana (and nicotine or alcohol), it is not true that most marijuana users go on to use other drugs. It is important to recognize that alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana themselves present significant health risks.

-Eve Reider

why do heroin addicts tend to scratch themselves?

-flipper623,

Good question. Heroin causes release of a chemical in the body known as histamine. Histamine is what causes the itching. See http://drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/Heroin.html for more info.

-Frank Vocci

Why do most people consume drugs ?

-zuli_v93,

Great question! Generally, people take drugs because they like the way drugs make them feel. Drugs have direct effects on the brain systems called the "reward systems". Drugs cause a release of a brain chemical called dopamine, and it is this release or surge of dopamine in the brain that is associated with the rush and feeling of high.We also know that drugs are used to make people feel better (in a sense, to self medicate themselves). Many people take drugs because it is seen as "cool" to do, and they submit to peer pressure.Whatever the reason people decide to take drugs, we know that drugs can lead to continued use and addiction. We also know that some people are more vulnerable to the effects of drugs and thus run the risk of addiction and the negative affects of drugs on the body and brain. For more information on the science behind drug abuse, facts on drugs, and questions and answers, please visit www.teens.drugabuse.gov. Thanks for the question!

-Joe Frascella

why is it that people addicted to meth get meth sores? i take adderal and it is an amphetamine. Why is it that i do not develop sores or act like i am high? can i become addicted?

-patmcgroin,

That's from a hallucination called "formication," Meth users think that bugs are crawling on their skin and so they pick at the non-existent bugs until their skin bleeds.Your Adderal use sounds fine. You should not experience the problems that meth users have since you are using the drug medically. You should not become addicted to your Adderal.

-Frank Vocci

Why is it that some people become addicted to drugs, yet others can stop cold turkey?

-patmcgroin,

Great question! We all have different susceptibilities to different diseases, including addiction. So some people are more prone to develop addictions than others. Much of this vulnerability is based on our genes. In other words, some people have genes that make them susceptible to addiction whereas others have genes that may protect them. In fact, scientists estimate that genetic factors account for between 40 and 60 percent of a person's vulnerability to addiction. Environment and age also affect whether a person becomes addicted (starting as a teen makes you more prone to addiction later). Although it is possible for people to quit drugs, it is not easy once they're addicted. The best advice--don't start. see our illustrated and easy-to-read booklet at http://drugabuse.gov/scienceofaddiction/ for a fuller answer. If you need help, click on the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) link at www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov or call 1-800-662-HELP, where you can find private and confidential help 24/7.

-Frank Vocci

why is it when you are high or drunk you are do things that you wouldn't do if you wasn't

-ozlin,

Good question. Some drugs of abuse cloud our perception and affect/reduce our inhibitions, as you describe. While high, we can do things that we will regret or that can be very dangerous, for example, getting high and then getting AIDS. This is because abused drugs act in the brain and cause changes that may make you may not want. Thanks for this question.

-Joe Frascella

why is it when you drink and smoke weed you get higher quicker?

-cuchi_cuchi,

Alcohol and marijuana, when used together, amplify effects on our brains (known as additive effects). To find a wealth of research and facts on the science of addiction, please go to: http://www.drugabuse.gov/. By clicking on the link Students and Young Adults from NIDAs home page you will be able to access resources tailored for students and young adults. For instance this website http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/brain-and-addiction talks about the brain and addiction.

-Frank Vocci

Why is LSD not as common now as before?

-rhhs,

Fortunately, people have learned that LSD can cause a lot of problems--it makes people really anxious and crazy sometimes. Also, the police have gotten rid of many of the sources so there isn't as much LSD in the community.Did you know that when it comes to hallucinogens such as LSD, everyone is NOT doing it? In 2007, 98% of 12th graders did NOT use LSD.

-Wilson Compton

Why is marijanna good for you

-w,

It's not! Smoking anything is bad for the lungs and marijuana can interfere with your memory--making it more difficult to learn, causing problems with coordination and making it harder to do sports. However, there are some chemicals in marijuana that may be useful for certain health problems, and scientists are working to isolate those and develop medications based on them. That's why there's an oral form of THC (the main active chemical in marijuana) that's used to treat the nausea and appetite suppressing effects of cancer chemotherapy. Check out the following link for more information on the health effects marijuana: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/marijuana Thanks for your question!

-Marsha Lopez

Why does smoking cause shortness of breath?

-TennesseeStar,

Smoking causes chronic bronchitis, an inflammation that narrows the airways. Smoking also destroys air sacs ( where oxygen gets into your blood via the lungs), Both of these disorders are called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. COPD is not reversible, but medications can improve breathing. To find a wealth of research and facts on the science of addiction and treatment, please go to: http://drugabuse.gov/scienceofaddiction/ Also, see http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/tobacco for smoking facts.

-Frank Vocci

Why don't they change the age limit for being able to drink and smoke?

-rashid,

Hi there! Since raising the drinking age from 18 to 21--many thousands of lives have been saved through decreases in automobile accidents. What's more, we know that the earlier you start using drugs, including alcohol and cigarettes, the more likely you are to develop drug problems when you get older. There are likely many reasons for this, but you should know that the brain is still developing during the teen years, and drugs may affect that development. So is it really worth the risk?

-Marsha Lopez

why dont all drugs have the samn effects o people if a drug is a drug

-riptangie,

Very good question! What you are referring to is termed individual differences. This just means that responses can be different from one person to the next. Individual differences in response to drugs depends on a lot of factors. A person's age is a factor. For example, teenagers are much more vulnerable to become addicted to drugs. A person's genes also play a role because your genetic make-up can make you either more or less susceptible to the addictive properties of drugs of abuse. This is area of on going research at NIDA. Scientists still do not completely understand individual differences in response to drugs of abuse, but we're still working on it! Feel free to check out NIDA's website for more information on addiction: www.drugabuse.gov

-David Shurtleff

why has the drug rate increased so much during the past few years?

-fluffykittycats,

Actually, overall it hasn't! The use of certain types of drugs have increased (such as non-medical use of pain relievers) and certain age groups have shown increases (such as the 50-59 age group) but for the most part I am happy to say we have too many increasing trends in drug use over the past few years. In young people in particular we have seen a trend of decreasing use over the years, again with a few exceptions. You can look at the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (http://www.samhsa.gov/data/population-data-nsduh) or Monitoring the Future (www.monitoringthefuture.org) surveys to see the numbers and trends. Thanks for your question!

-Marsha Lopez

why is meth so bad?

-Little Puppet,

Because it is very addictive, and it also has adverse effects in your body, particularly your heart and lungs.

-Nora Volkow

why is niccotine so addictive?

-yoyoitsjustine,

Nicotine affects the reward system in the brain. One cigarette saturates the brain's nicotine receptors, producing an effect that lasts for more than an hour in the brain's reward system. We also think the teen brain is especially susceptible to nicoine addiction since the teen brain is a "work in progress," not yet fully developed. Being in this growth stage also makes the teen brain more vulnerable to addiction. Some researchers have found that nicotine addiction can begin with just a few cigarettes in teens. Also, a person's genes can influence whether or not he or she becomes addicted. You can inherit a susceptibility to nicotine addiction. In fact, 40 to 60 % of a person's susceptibility to addiction to nicotine is genetic., Did you know that tobacco is linked to an estimated 440,000 deaths per year? For more info, please visit http://drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/Nicotine.html and see our teen website at http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts

-Frank Vocci

Why is every drug, even prescription drugs, very addidictive?

-cuchi_cuchi,

All the drugs interact with the BRAIN. They cause a release of brain chemicals that make us pay attention and think that the drug is important and exciting. That's how it starts--it seems fun and then the problems mount up.

-Wilson Compton

why is it hard for people to quit somking or drugs

-imacoolkid123,

Drugs have a powerful effect on the brain. Initially, all drugs of abuse, either directly or indirectly, increase the activity of the chemical dopamine in the brain's reward centers, which is what makes people feel good. However, with continued drug use and excessive activation of dopamine neurons, the brain starts to adapt to the good feeling, so more drug is needed to achieve it. This causes people to become dependent on the drug, to feel bad when it is not in their system, and to seek and take the drug compulsively--without even thinking about it. People also have trouble quitting drugs because the changes associated with drugs change a person's ability to make good decisions, such as judging what's important, what's healthy, and what's dangerous. The compulsive seeking and using of drugs even in the face of potentially devastating consequences is the essence of addiction.

-Redonna Chandler

Why is it so bad to take prescription drugs that aren't prescribed for you?

-tomotuhombre,

Prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as other drugs. Recent data shows that more than 20,000 persons die from overdose in each year and that most of these deaths are from prescription drugs. For more information on prescription drug abuse risks, visit www.drugabuse.gov.

-Wilson Compton

Why does alcohol make everyone so social and fun to be around?

-john doe,

Actually, not everyone becomes social and fun when drinking alcohol. Some people get angry and get into fights. some get really stupid and don't make as much sense when they drink. Everyone who drinks becomes a little slower and can end up getting accidently injured. but of course, some of the effects of drugs and alcohol are to get intoxicated or "high". This is the attraction of using and how people end up getting into trouble. They start out having fun and the problems start later.NIDA is frequently asked whether alcohol is a drug, and where to find information about alcohol abuse. There is another government agency that studies alcohols effects. For information on alcohol, go to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism Web site at: www.niaaa.nih.gov.

-Wilson Compton

Why does crack make people skinny?

-s.alyssa.oliver,

Crack cocaine is a stimulant, and it is a powerful appetite suppressant. This property of the drug can lead people to stop eating/eat less and thus lose weight. But crack cocaine has other serious and very harmful effects so there are better ways to lose weight.Great question.

-Joe Frascella

why does people think smokin is cool????????

-,

Smoking is cool? Not everyone thinks that-- especially when you know how it can affect your body! Being dead or coughing all the time or having stained hands, bad breath - just not cool! Sometimes people get influenced by each other - if one friend is addicted to tobacco and this person has a lot of influence on others in their group, the group might smoke together, but that's not really cool.

-Nicolette Borek

Why do you think there has been such an increase in abusing perscription drugs?

-rhhs,

Great question. We don't completely understand the causes of this epidemic but there are several clues. For one thing, people think that prescription drugs are "safe" because they come from a doctor or pharmacy. This is really dangerous. We just recently learned that over 20,000 people die each year from overdose and most of these are due to prescription drugs. Did you know that in 2007, one in ten high school seniors reported the non-medical use of the prescription pain reliever Vicodin?

-Wilson Compton

Why is the reason people can't stop usng drugs at once?

-T.O.P,

Hi - and thanks for your question. Drugs affect the brain and continued drug use can lead to addiction. Drugs affect the "reward areas" within the brain, which leads to the rush and high. These reinforcing properties (drugs make us feel good) is what keeps us coming back to taking them again and again. This process leads to addiction, which is characterized by changes in the brain. People find it difficult to break this cycle of drug addiction because of this changed state of the brain. With treatment, people can stop the cycle of addiction. For information about treatment, please visit: http://drugabuse.gov/infofacts/treatmeth.html

-Joe Frascella

Why isn't my question coming up?

-Shmaery,

Please be patient, we are getting several thousand questions already this morning....many of them the same questions. So we might not answer your question, but if someone else asked a similar question, you should read through the chat to see if we answered it!

-Cindy Miner

why was cocaine used in coca cola????

-somethingsimple,

It was put in Coca-Cola as a stimulant before it was recognized that people could become addicted to it. Today, caffeine serves the same purpose, alhough caffeine is a milder stimulant. See http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/stimulants for more.

-Frank Vocci

Would someone be put in jail for taking a perscribed drug without needed?? can they be arreseted for taking over counter meds without needed too???

-legallyblonde<3,

Great question! Yes it can happen and it's never a good idea to take something that is not prescribed for a specific medical condition. Prescription drugs when not taken as prescribed can be highly addictive. OTC drugs can also be harmful if not used appropriately. Go to our online research report on prescription drugs for more information at http://drugabuse.gov/ResearchReports/Prescription/Prescription.html

-Jan Lipkin

would you vote for obama?

-obama08,

I probably shouldn't get into politics here! But it is great that you are interested and involved because voting is very important. And being actively involved in the democratic process will give you great experience. I have also worked on presidential campaigns and on Capitol Hill for several Members of Congress. At any rate, keep active and involved. May I suggest that you go on the candidates' web sites to find out if they have a position on drug abuse, medical research, and other health issues. If you are interested in learning more about drug abuse and addiciton, we have a great web site for teens that has lots of science-based facts about the issue and some neat quizzes and interactives. Check it out at www.teens.drugabuse.gov.

-Jan Lipkin

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