Note: There is no transcript for CHAT DAY 2018, which was cancelled due to the Government Shutdown initiated on January 20, 2018.

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 methamphetamine and pills are the same

-anguyen, Texas

Methamphetamine is a very addictive drug known as a stimulant that is closely related to amphetamine. It is a white odorless, bitter-tasting powder that can be taken by mouth or by injecting or snorting. It can also be heated and smoked. It is long lasting and toxic to a nerve terminals in brain that contain a chemical called dopamine. For more information see: Its best to stay away from methamphetamine! Thanks for the question!

-Aria Crump

can alcohol kill you or do something to your body ?

-v45478, Maryland

Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years can affect your brain. It 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. In addition, drinking at a young age makes it more likely to become an alcoholic later in life. So, drinking when we are young could have lots of negative effects on the brain! To learn more about how alcohol can affect kids, how to learn to say NO to kids who offer it to you, check out: To find ways to help your friend, check out: Drinking heavily over a long period of time can contribute to problems with your liver, pancreas, and heart, can impact your immune system, and can increase your risk for certain types of cancer. For more information on how alcohol can impact your health, check out:

-Shuly Babitz

can alcohol kill you?

-110jl, Louisiana

Drinking too much alcohol can absolutely be fatal. If you drink enough alcohol, parts of the brain that are important for keeping us alive can shut down. Then, the heart can stop beating and we can stop breathing. In essence, it's like alcohol flips a switch and shuts the body off. This is what's known as 'alcohol poisoning.' It is also important to point out than having any alcohol at all can increase the chances of dying from injuries, such as falls, drownings, or car crashes.

-Shuly Babitz

Can alcoholism and drug addiction be genetically inherited??

-SamRob, Pennsylvania

Hey SamRob, GREAT question! I am a geneticist, and I am interested in understanding how genes impact how easy it is for someone to become addicted to drugs, and how we as scientists can use that knowledge to help make better treatments for people who have become addicted and need help. Did you know that drug abuse is about 50% genetic and 50% environmental? That means that when we study drug abuse, we have to consider both nature and nurture. And, what I think is most interesting about genetics of drug abuse is that even if you have 'bad genes' the environments you are in can override the genetics- cool! To learn more about why drug abuse is fun to study, check out Keep up the good work in school, and check out our drug facts to get the most accurate information to make healthy decisions for your brain and body!

-Joni Rutter

can all drugs affect eyesight?

-ariannagrande, Maryland

Some drugs like LSD can produce hallucinations and others can make you very sleepy so that you close your eyes! But no drug directly targets the visual system.

-Nancy Pilotte

can animals do drugs

-chicken, Iowa

Hey chicken! A lot of the research on drug abuse has been done in animal models under humane conditions. They aren't human, but they experience the same affects of drugs as humans do. For humans, though, there are added consequences around family, and costs associated with diseases of addiction. For more information on the medical consequences of drug abuse, please see: When it comes to conducting tests related to intelligence, learning, and drug abuse, rats are a popular choice due to their high intelligence (believe it or not!), cleverness, and adaptability. Their psychology, in many ways, seems to be similar to humans. The great thing about rats and other animal models is that rats don't have social pressures, they don't care about being popular, or how they look (ever seen a rat with a Justin Beiber hairdo?). Rodents don't know what addiction is. This means that when scientists observe addictive behaviors in rats, they know that those effects are likely to have similar effects in humans. And, the rat brain has many of the same 'parts' as the human brain, just on a smaller scale (see the attached image). Believe it or not, they've been used in biology and psychiatry research since the late 1800's! Since then, rats have been used in many experiments, which have added to our understanding of genetics, diseases, the effects of drugs of abuse. A 2007 study found rats to possess metacognition (knowing about knowing), a mental ability previously only documented in humans and some primates.

Rats you might have for a pet differs from wild rats in many ways. They are calmer and less likely to bite (WHEW!); they can tolerate greater crowding; they breed earlier and produce more offspring--that means scientists can make sure they use a lot of rats in their studies to have the statistical ability to show an effect.

Thanks for the great question!

-Joni Rutter

Can anyone can be super addict to alcohol in any way ?

-lakers202, Illinois

Alcohol is definitely addicting. Here's why:

Alcohol affects a part of the brain called 'the reward system.' All drugs, alcohol included, turn this part of the brain on and make people feel good for a little while. Some people keep going back to alcohol to get that feeling. Over time, their brains lose the ability to feel good without alcohol and they become addicted to it, meaning they just can't stop thinking about it or using it.

Also, the earlier in life you try alcohol, the more likely you are to become addicted. That is why it is sooo important to find healthy things to turn on the reward system on and make you feel good. For some people, this can be sports, laughing with friends, or even playing an instrument.

-Shuly Babitz

Can caffeine stunt your growth?

-Emily J, Utah

Hi Emily, No, caffeine can't stunt your growth -- at least, there's no evidence of that that I know of. Eric

-Eric Wargo

Can certain illegal drugs ( i.e. cocaine, marijuana, heroin) be used for medicinal purposes?

-olakaka, Maryland

Some can--for example cocaine, in addition to be a stimulant drug is a local anesthetic. That means that it prevents the nerves it comes in contact with from carrying pain messages to the brain. For that reason it is sometimes used in eye surgery--applied locally. Marijuana contains ingredients that have medicinal uses as well--for example THC is the main chemical that makes you high, and is also available in a pill form to help people with nausea from cancer chemotherapy, or extreme weight loss associated with AIDs. But that doesn't mean that these drugs are safe to use in other forms (snorted or smoked) or under non-medically supervised circumstances. I'm sure you know there are lots of problems that can result from their abuse.

-Susan Weiss

are all drugs addictive?

-brookep, Oklahoma

No, but most of them are. LSD and PCP are not addictive.

-Nora Volkow

Are bath salts bad?

-111kl, Louisiana

Not the legal kind you put in your bathtub. But the illegal ones, yes, very bad. The synthetic cathinones in bath salts can cause paranoia, agitation, and hallucinatory delirium in some people; some even display psychotic and violent behavior, and deaths have been reported in several instances. See

-Jen Katt

Are bath salts bought at Bath Body works???

-sarajo1313, North Carolina

The synthetic products marketed as “bath salts” to evade detection by authorities should not be confused with products such as Epsom salts that are sold to improve the experience of bathing. The latter have no psychoactive (drug-like) properties.

-Jack Stein

Are bathsalts and meth similar?

-cheezburgar12, North Carolina

Hi cheezburgar12, They are chemically similar, and both have stimulant properties. The energizing and often agitating effects reported in people who have taken bath salts are consistent with other drugs like meth and cocaine that raise the level of the neurotransmitter dopamine in brain circuits regulating reward and movement. A surge in dopamine in these circuits causes feelings of euphoria and increased activity. Eric

-Eric Wargo

are boys more likely to get addicted to drugs than girls?

-purple2016, North Carolina

Yes. Males are more likely than females to abuse and become addicted to drugs. According to the current National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NSDUH)-an annual survey of more than 25,000 respondents, over 10% of males and about 6% of females age 12 or older were classified with substance abuse or dependence (illicit drugs or alcohol).

-Bethany Deeds

Are cancer patients allowed to use medical marijuana? If yes, are there certain types of cancer patients that are allowed?

-abc, Pennsylvania

Marijuana has been used to counter the nausea associated with chemotherapy used for treating cancer. However, marijuana is not actually an FDA - approved medicine for any use (and is not legal according to the Federal Government). It has not gone through the process required for all medicines to be approved--carefully controlled studies that show its safety and effectiveness. In addition to marijuana being smoked (which is not good for the lungs), the plant has thousands of ingredients, most of which have not been identified, and which vary from plant to plant. Medicines are supposed to have precisely controlled ingredients so that a physician can prescribe them appropriately to their patients. On the other hand, one of the active ingredients in marijuana (THC) is approved as a treatment for nausea and for severe weight loss associated with AIDS.

-Susan Weiss

Are certain drugs okay or good for you in moderation?

-Archie, Iowa

Hi Archie, There are some reports that a glass of red wine on an occasional basis may have some health benefits. I have not seen any similar data for crack, heroin, marijuana or any other drugs of abuse. Further, moderate use of drugs of abuse can hurts one's health and lead to heavy drug use. Here are some drug facts if you want some more information: Dave

-Dave Thomas

Are club drugs used more by teens or young adults?

-waterbug31, Illinois

Hi waterbug31, I'm going to give you one example of a drug in the 'club drug' group and to answer your question I turn to the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future study. In 2011, just over 2% of high school seniors reported they were current users of MDMA/ecstasy as opposed to 0.7% of college students/young adults. You can see similar stats for a whole bunch of other drugs at

-Marsha Lopez

Are drug abuse and suicide linked together?

-MeGustaElDulces, Illinois

Hi MeGustaELDulces. Drug abuse and suicide can be linked in a couple different ways. Sometimes, when people are depressed or suicidal, they might turn to drugs to try to feel better. The problem is, using drugs that are not from a doctor to feel better doesn't provide a good solution and makes things worse or leads to more problems. Other times, people who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol do things they wouldn't normally do-- sometimes they become more depressed or impulsive and can harm themselves or become suicidal. The bottom line is if anyone is using drugs OR feeling suicidal, it's very important to get help. A good first step can be to talk to a trusted adult (for example a parent, teach, counselor, or doctor); if it becomes a crisis, help is available by phone 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK.

-Joel Sherrill

Can cigarettes be as fatal as other drugs?

-c.consuegra, Maryland

Sure can....did you know that over 400,000 people in the U.S. die each year from the effects of tobacco? Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of disease and death in the United States. This is why we are working so hard at the Center of Tobacco Products to ensure healthier lives!

-Cindy Miner

Can cocaine make you mentally disable for a while or your whole life?

-Pvt.donut1176, New Jersey

Yes, it can. Cocaine can produce brain ischemia (lessened blood flow to the brain) and irreversibly damage parts of your brain.

-Anto Bonci

can crack kill you instantly if you use a wrong dosage?

-geo8899, New York

Yes. Crack, a form of cocaine, can cause a heart attack or a stroke. But remember that there is no such thing as a 'right' dosage. Any dosage can trigger these serious health effects.

-Anto Bonci

Can drinking promethazine-codine cough syrup kill you? What are some effects?

-Tyrone, Texas

Hi Tyrone. In a word, yes. Codeine is an opioid drug like Vicodin, Oxycontin and heroin, and in fact, it converts to morphine in your body. Opioids depress breathing, and that is the most common cause of death from an overdose of opioid drugs. Promethazine is in the phenothiazine class of drugs, which are major tranquilizers. Other drugs in this class which include thorazine and haloperidol which are used to treat schizophrenia. Some people are very sensitive to phenothiazines and can have a fatal reaction after just a single dose. So, drinking promethazine-codiene cough syrup has a clear potential for killing you and should only be used when prescribed by a doctor in the amounts that the doctor recommends. We have more information about prescription drug abuse on our teen sight at:

-Steve Grant

can drug addiction be caused through genetics

-H, Maryland

Genetics can influence your vulnerability to addiction but without drug you cannot become addicted, ever, period.

-Nora Volkow

can drug addiction be caused through genetics or influences?

-TTrinity, Texas

Both actually- we are learning that genetics plays a role, but early exposure to stress, parenting, and taking a drug abuse particularly at a young age can put people at risk for drug addiction. Thanks for your questions and keep 'em coming! -

-David Shurtleff

both my grandfather and my father have a chewing tobacco problem... does it mean i have a good chance of getting addicted, too?

-hnllzforevs, Maryland

We know that addiction can run in families. Sometimes you will hear that its all genetic, or its all the environment. Well its not one or the other, both genes and environment contribute to someones risk of getting addicted. But don't mistake that for fate. Plenty of people grow up in families that have addiction problems among their parents and grandparents, doesn't mean you will. You might be at greater risk, but you are in charge of your choices, you can control your future. I grew up with parents and siblings with severe drug and alcohol problems and both my parents smoked. Fortunately, I did not repeat those mistakes in my own life!

-Cindy Miner

Can a bottle of alcohol destroy brain cells?

-ltenorio, Texas

Alcohol is very damaging to the brain, especially the teenage brain. The teenage years are a very important time for development of the brain. The thinking parts, memory parts, and feeling parts are all changing when we are teenagers. Alcohol can interfere with these important changes and actually shrink the thinking and memory parts.

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.

For weeks and months after a teenager stops drinking heavily, these parts of the brain still struggle to work correctly. It's not clear whether the brain ever fully heals itself. In addition, drinking at a young age makes it more likely to become an alcoholic later in life. So, drinking when we are young could have lots of negative effects on the brain!

-Shuly Babitz

Can a chemical imbalance affect your emotions?

-iank, New Mexico

Yes- in fact it's thought that depression, for example, results from an imbalance of the brain chemical serotonin- changes in other brain chemicals can affect emotion too. That's why drugs---which are chemicals---affect your brain and emotions as well.

-David Shurtleff

can a doctor prescribe a person marijuana

-IMS611gd, Louisiana

Some states have legalized medical marijuana, and doctors in those states can qualify patients to get marijuana, although this is not the same as prescribing--where you get a specific amount of a medicine, at a specific dosage, with clear instructions on how to take it and what to watch out for. Also, be aware that marijuana is not considererd medicine by the Federal government since it has not gone through the formal process that allows a medication to be marketed. This requires approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which evaluates the results of carefully controlled studies that measure the safety and effectiveness of a medication and decides if its benefits outweigh its risks.

-Susan Weiss

Can a person die from trying to get high off of everyday things like glue and paint?

-IMS321hr, Louisiana

The simple answer is YES. Trying to get high from household items like glue, paint or cleaners is one of the stupidest things you can do. We call these things 'inhalants' when people are abusing them like this. Most inhalants produce a rapid high that resembles being drunk. If inhaled in large amounts, nearly all solvents and gases produce a loss of sensation, and even unconsciousness. You can actually do permanent brain damage, lose your hearing, or get uncontrollable spasms. Sniffing high concentrations of inhalants can literally kill you by stopping your breathing or causing your heart to stop. You can find more information on this and other drugs on our teen Web site at

-Carol Krause

Can a person get arrested for using prescribed drugs that are not prescribed for them?

-ims729aa, Louisiana

Using someone else's prescription is illegal, but even if you don't get arrested, taking someone else's prescription medications isn't a good idea. Medications have powerful effects on the brain and body and should only be taken under the supervision of a medical professional. More information on prescription drug abuse can be found at:

-Redonna Chandler