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 steriods addictive?

-JWhite, Texas

To answer that question, we first have to understand what addiction is. At NIDA, we think of addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disease. People who are addicted make drugs the most important things in their lives, to the detriment of their families and important relationships, normal activities of daily living, and any other goals they have had. The signs can include intense craving, and trying to get drugs at all costs and not being able to stop using once you've begun. People who become addicted often show what we call 'tolerance,' or needing more and more of a drug to get high, and they often experience Withdrawal - feeling bad when stopping use of drugs suddenly. The symptoms of addiction are well known for drugs that are narcotics, like opiates, the only symptom that has been reported for people who use steroids is withdrawal. They sometimes report feeling depressed when they stop but this goes away with time. So by these criteria, it would be hard to say that steroids are addictive. For more information about steroids, please see this link: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/anabolic-steroids

-Nancy Pilotte

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: www.drugabuse.gov/consequences/ 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

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 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 https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts.

-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: http://www.teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/prescription-drugs

-Redonna Chandler

Can abusing alcohol increase your risk for cancer?

-manning,

Drinking alcohol doesn't necessarily cause cancer, but drinking a lot can increase your chances of developing cancer. That does not mean that anyone who drinks too much will develop cancer. But, numerous studies show that the more you drink, the more you increase your chances of developing certain types of cancer. The National Cancer Institute identifies alcohol as a risk factor for the following types of cancer: Mouth Esophagus Pharynx Larynx Liver Breast You can learn more about these risks at: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.htm.

-Shuly Babitz

Can achol damage the human brain cells

-310gg, Louisiana

Alcohol can certainly do a lot of damage to the teenage 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!

-Shuly Babitz

can alcohol be good sometimes in moderation?

-haileyisadork, Utah

It is possible there are some small benefits of alcohol, but only for adults. Research suggests that up to one drink per day or females or two for males can improve the health of the heart. However, drinking at levels beyond that can increase the risk for cancers and other diseases. Importantly, there do not appear to be any benefits, only harms, associated with alcohol use during adolescence. To learn more about how alcohol affects your body, check this out: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.pdf

-Shuly Babitz

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: http://www.thecoolspot.gov/ To find ways to help your friend, check out: http://www.thecoolspot.gov/real_life2.asp 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: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.htm

-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 http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/science-addiction. 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

At what age do most people start their drug addictions?

-webmd3, Maryland

Hi webmd3, Most people who develop drug problems become addicted in their late teens or early adulthood. Eric

-Eric Wargo

at what age do people get addicted the fastest?

-erodriguez, Texas

Mid-to-late adolescence. This is an age that is behaviorally associated with risk-taking in general, and several research studies show that the earlier in life a person starts to regularly use alcohol or other substances, the more likely it is that the person will lose control of taking the drug in the future. The frontal lobe of the brain, which is responsible for critical thinking and the inhibition of compulsive behaviors, is not fully developed at this age, which also contributes to the vulnerability at this developmental stage.

-Dave White

At what age does your matabalism start to slow down?

-ROCKET, North Carolina

This is a great question, ROCKET! Really, it would depend on a lot of factors. In terms of metabolic rate, once you reach adulthood, it would potentially depend on several diverse factors such as your gender, diet and - most importantly - the level of regular physical activity. A person's resting metabolic rate generally is responsible for accounts for ∼60–75% of daily energy expenditure. Keep up your exercise!

-Kris Bough

At what age is it easiest to get addicted to drugs?

-ck1216, Maryland

Hello there Walter Johnson HS! There is evidence that adolescents may be especially prone to developing substance use disorders and addiction. For example, adolescents may be more sensitive to the reinforcing effects of nicotine in combination with other chemicals found in cigarettes, thus increasing susceptibility to tobacco addiction. There is some evidence that another chemical found in cigarettes called 'acetaldehyde' also increases nicotine’s addictive properties in adolescents, but not adults. A recent study also suggests that specific genes may increase risk for addiction among people who begin smoking during adolescence. You might find this website interesting: www.teens.drugabuse.gov.

-Kris Bough

AWGUIBARG!!! WHAT KIND OF DRUG IS BATHSALTS???!?!?!?!

-BurningChicken, Oklahoma

'Bath salts' actually refer to mixture of drugs, all of which have stimulant-like properties, such as mepehdron and cathinone that make you feel high and energized but can also lead to paranoia. Some of these drugs also have hallucinogenic properties. If you are interested to learn more about so called 'bath salts' and their effects please read on: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/synthetic-cathinones-bath-salts.

-Nora Volkow

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

Are you guys screening questions so as to maintain a consistent message?

-thesupersam, Indiana

what is our consistent message? no, we are not.

-Susan Weiss

are you scientists

-My Name Is, Maryland

Yup, most of us here are. Some of us have laboratories Others just help promote good science. And we even do chat day once a year. Pretty fun job.

-Dave Thomas

Aren't some prescription drugs and illegal drugs the same?

-SynGatesA7X7, New Jersey

Great question- yes!! Pain medications such as Vicodin and heroin are similar in that they are both 'opioids'. Prescription pain medications can cause addiction and death, just like heroin, if they are used in ways or amounts not prescribed by a physician. Check out this link for more information about prescription drugs - http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/prescription-drugs and http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/commonly-abused-drugs/commonly-abused-prescription-drugs-chart

-David Shurtleff

Around how many crashes a day are cause by people who drink and drive?

-fun101, Maryland

The CDC reports that in 2010, 10,228 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.

That includes about 1,900 deaths of young people under age 21.

You can learn more statistics like these at:

http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/impaired_driving/impaired-drv_factsheet.html

http://niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/special-populations-co-occurring-disorders/underage-drinking

-Shuly Babitz

Can some depressants make you more depressed?

-lhub3, Illinois

Hi Ihub3, good question. Just as there are many signs and symptoms of depression, and not everyone will have all of the same symptoms, there are also many different side effects with medications, and not every person has the same reactions. If you are taking a medication to treat depression and you are still feeling depressed or feeling even worse, it is very important to talk to the doctor who provided the medication. It could be that the depression is actually worse, or it could be that the medication has some side effects. In either case, you don't wan't to make changes to your medication without talking to your doctor first. So talk it through with your doctor as soon as possible!

-Joel Sherrill