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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Are hookah's bad for you?

-kittykat406, New York

Hi Kittykat, Thanks for asking this question. There is a common misconception that smoking hookah isn't bad for you, but it is really just another way of smoking tobacco and we all know that is bad for you. They might add some fancy flavors and tell you that the water is filtering out the bad stuff. Don't believe them -- you are still inhaling tobacco smoke and exposing yourself and your lungs to nasty stuff. There are no safe tobacco products -- don't believe the hype out there. Hookahs still deliver the addictive drug nicotine, and research suggests that smoking hookah is associated with all sorts of the same health problems associated with smoking cigarettes, such as cancers, respiratory illnesses, and addiction. In fact, early results of current research being conducted suggests that one session of hookah smoking is like smoking multiple cigarettes!

-Jeff Schulden

are hookah's really that bad? i don't know why i should refrain from doing this? prove me wrong

-mexicanpride5, New York

Good morning MexicanPride5. Awesome question! Hookahs, like cigarettes, are used as nicotine delivery devices. The tobacco is NO less toxic in a hookah pipe, and the water in the hookah DOES NOT filter out the toxic ingredients in the tobacco smoke. Hookah smokers may actually inhale more tobacco smoke than cigarette smokers do because of the large volume of smoke they inhale in one smoking session. Hookah smoke may also contain high levels of tar, carbon monoxide, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals. In fact, hookah smokers are exposed to more carbon monoxide and smoke than are cigarette smokers. Like with cigarette smoking, hookah smoking is linked to lung and oral cancers, heart disease, and other serious illnesses. Even non-tobacco-based “herbal” shisha smoke contains carbon monoxide and other toxic agents known to increase the risks for smoking-related cancers, heart disease, and lung disease. Check out http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/tobacco_industry/hookahs/ for more information. Resist the urge and choose to stay healthy!

-Kris Bough

Are hookahs as harmful as cigarettes, or are they more similar to hookah pens? (Let's say you buy tobacco-less shisha and the nicotine levels haven't affected you in the past).

-kittykat407, New York

Good morning kittykat407. Yes, if smoked through a 'traditional' hookah, it can be as harmful as smoking cigarettes. There is no evidence to suggest that hookahs deliver less toxic chemicals or nicotine than cigarettes. Hookah pens, however, are more like e-cigarettes in that they are more of a nicotine delivery device. These newer products come in many shapes and sizes, and not as much is known about the harm that they can produce - yet. This is the subject of active research!       

-Kris Bough

Are hugs better than drugs?

-spongebob, New York

Hugs and kisses, yo.  XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO  Have a good day, spongebob.  

-Joni Rutter

Are magic mushrooms safe

-pizza, New York
Hey pizza. "Magic mushrooms" generally mean the kind that contain the chemical psilocybin.  The effects of psilocybin are unpredictable, and some people get really paranoid and fearful when high on this drug.  I've seen patients admitted to the emergency room because of a bad reaction to "magic mushrooms," so they definitely are not safe.  
 
-Wilson Compton

are mostly teenager doing drugs or is adults doing drugs

-Mary, California
Hi, Mary. Thanks for participating in Chat Day!  According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there are more than two times as many 18-25 year olds using drugs than 12-17 year olds (21% vs. 9.5%).  So I would definitely say adults, which is better than the other way around, because science has shown that the earlier a person starts using drugs the more likely s/he is to get addicted and suffer major social and medical problems. To learn more about the health effects of drugs, visit NIDA’s teen site here: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-fact

And try this brand new “e-poster”---“Drugs and the Body: It Isn’t Pretty” http://www.scholastic.com/drugs-and-your-body/ -Marsha Lopez

are mushrooms harmefull

-yungcheifkeef, Maryland

Some mushrooms can be safely eaten - My favorite fungi are oyster mushrooms.  They are a good source of vitamin D.  But the psychedelic mushrooms are definitely harmful.  The active ingredient is psilocybin and it's a hallucinogen.  It can cause nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, drowsiness and lack of coordination.  You can check out what kind of effects hallucinogens have on the body on the NIDA website's Drug Facts page: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/hallucinogens-lsd-peyote-psilocybin-pcp  Remember, choose smart and healthy, not gross and impaired! 

-Joni Rutter

can alcohol destroy your body?

-faithchim, Maryland
Yes, alcohol can do lots of damage to the body.
As you drink more and you have more alcohol in your bloodstream, you can experience impaired judgment and difficulty making good choices. You may also have difficulty controlling urges, making it more likely that you will do something dangerous. You can also experience impaired memory -- waking up the next day and not being able to remember what you did while you were drinking.
Still more alcohol can cause potentially fatal side effects, including difficulty breathing, low heart rate, and loss of consciousness.

 

Drinking too much can also cause some cancers. It causes many kinds of stomach problems. It causes the liver to swell up and develop lots of scar tissue. It also interferes with the immune system and can make it harder for the body to fight off infections. It also damages the brain and interferes with how the brain grows and develops. You can learn more about these effects at http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.htm.
 
 
 
-Aaron White

can alcohol kill you

-tate, New York

Absolutely! Too much alcohol from any source -- beer, wine, liquor, -- can shut down the parts of the brain that keep us alive, leading to death. 

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 that having any alcohol at all can increase the chances of dying from injuries, such as falls, drownings, or car crashes.

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
 
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/
 
 
-Aaron White

Can alcohol worsen a teens depression?

-Faith Watkins, Texas

hi Faith.  Good question, and one that we hear a lot. The short answer is yes.  But the relationship between alcohol and depression is complicated.  Some people turn to alcohol when they are depressed. The problem is, alcohol isn't a good way to cope with problems, and it is a depressant drug that can make things worse.  If you or a teen you know is feeling depressed or using alcohol, talk to a trusted adult (parent, relative, counselor) about connecting with some help to assess the problem and see if treatment might help.

-Joel Sherrill

can ALL drugs be fatal if consumed improperly?

-bubbles7977, Maryland

Yes, if you consume them at high doses or you are vulnearable because of genetic or medical conditions.

-Nora Volkow

can all drugs kill you?

-23769, Maryland
Hello 23769,
In a way, yes. They indirectly cause harmful effects on the body and brain which increases the odds of illness and death. However, if you are referring to direct effects - drugs such as alcohol, sedative pills, heroin, prescription opioid pills, PCP, bath salts, stimulants such as cocaine, meth, etc. can be lethal in overdose and can kill you! Drugs and alcohol often cause impaired coordination, judgement, memory, concentration, etc. so if you were to drive, skate, ski or operate machines under the influence of these drugs, that could kill you! Then there are other drugs that may cause death indirectly such as tobacco, marijuana, etc. which result in chronic medical illnesses which increases the likelihood of death. It is much safer, i.e. higher likelihood of not dying, if you don't use drugs, even recreationally. 
-Geetha Subramaniam

Can animals become high if they smoke drugs or inhlae second hand smoke

-:), New York

How exactly do animals smoke drugs?  Be nice to your pet....

-Joni Rutter

Can animals get addicted to drugs?

-kuchneat, Pennsylvania

Definitely! Much of what we know about addiction has been learned through studies that often involve animals (like rats!). 

-Jack Stein

Can any drugs kill you with in a day

-chchchase estes, Maryland

Yes, unfortunately.  Many drugs can kill you if you overdose.  For example, pain killers.  Also, certain other drugs used for anxiety.  Inhalants can also kill.  

-Steve Gust

Can any of the bad effects of marijuana, base from the individuals physcological point? Personally, I don't FEEL as though I've been affected in a negative way, aside from self-esteem.

-asian, Maryland
Asian,  You mention a really important negative outcome you are experiencing personally.  If marijuana is making you feel bad about yourself that's a BIG deal.  You might consider not smoking marijuana and replacing it with other activities that provide a natural high like running or indoor rock climbing that build self-esteem.
 
Remember-Marijuana, like other drugs, have a negative impact on the brain, body, and behavior--including addiction.  Many people think marijuana is not harmful but our evidence suggests otherwise.
 

If you want to ask about getting substance abuse or mental health treatment, call 1-800-662-HELP, 24/7. Or you can go to http://www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ to find information about treatment centers in your area.

-Redonna Chandler

can anyone become addicted to drugs?

-xoxogossipgirl, Massachusetts

Hello and XOXOGossipGirl! When drugs enter your brain, they can interrupt how it works and actually change how the brain functions and performs its jobs. These changes can lead to someone becoming addicted to drugs. This can happen to anyone. If you’re worried about your own or a friend or family member’s drug use, it’s important to know that help is available. You can go to http://www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ to find information about treatment centers in your area.

-Bethany Deeds

can beer and wine kill you?

-123FOnzy, Maryland

Absolutely! Too much alcohol from any source -- beer, wine, liquor, -- can shut down the parts of the brain that keep us alive, leading to death. 

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 that having any alcohol at all can increase the chances of dying from injuries, such as falls, drownings, or car crashes.

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
 
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/
 
 
-Aaron White

Can caffeine affect your judgement?

-#whitegirl, Maryland
Hmmm....hey #whitegirl.  Caffeine (found in foods like energy drinks, coffee, tea, and chocolate) is a stimulant with psychoactive effects.  Caffeine is typically used to help wake people up, but that's about it. Caffeine is generally regarded as a safe drug when taken in moderation because toxic doses are very high.
 
However, each person has different sensitivity to caffeine, with some people having severe effects on the body.  It's more serious affects are on the heart, where caffeine use can cause your heart to race, and you can get the shakes.  The side effects of using caffeine and also stopping caffeine use may cause you to become cranky, tired, or get headaches, and that might affect your judgement. 
-Joni Rutter

Can cancer develop while intaking alcohol?

-c322d, California

Yes, for sure. Drinking a lot of alcohol over time increases your chances of developing cancers of the head, neck, mouth, throat, and breast. You can learn more about these risks at:http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.htm#cha...

-Aaron White

Also what about mariquana with hi cbd and low thc content.

-xmen515, Maryland
Hi again xmen515,
You're asking good questions today--bravo!
Yes, some parents are giving hi-CBD (cannabidiol) marijuana to their children with a terrible form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. CBD is another cannabinoid chemical related to THC but doesn't produce a high and has probably a lot of beneficial health effects. But the best way to deliver CBD to Dravet patients and others would be through actual medications made from CBD, with none of the other harmful chemicals in marijuana. A CBD drug is already being tested in children with Dravet Syndrome, and if it works, there will be no need to breed marijuana strains or give children marijuana to treat their disease.
 
-Eric Wargo

Am i secondhand smoking is I can smell the smoke?

-jdizzle813, Maryland

If u can smell the smoke its likely that some nicotine will get into your brain but the questions is how much.  Just smelling smoke when u come close to someone who is a smoker is unlikely to deliver much nicotine into your brain but if you are in a room where people are smoking and stay there for several minutes then you will get sufficient nicotine into your brain to affect it.    

-Nora Volkow

apparently recent studies have shown that the most dangerous drug is alcohol... is that true?

-lalala, New York

You are right that some studies suggest that alcohol is more dangerous than many, if not most, other drugs. However, it really depends on how you define "dangerous". In terms of the number of years of life lost due to drugs, the number of deaths due to drug overdoses, the number of fatalities caused by injuries sustained while under the influence of drugs, alcohol ranks #1. But part of the reason is because there are so many people in the world who drink alcohol. Way more people drink alcohol than do other drugs. This makes it hard to compare the consequences of various drugs. 

-Aaron White

are 'soft' drugs less harmful than 'hard' drugs?

-lalala, New York

Not exactly sure which drugs you are considering soft vs. hard.  Some drugs are definitely more addictive than others (e.g., methamphetamine) and  people can be more sensitive to some drugs than others because of their genetics.  Alcohol and tobacco are among the most damaging--because they are so widely used--are they hard or soft?

-Susan Weiss

are alcohol and smoking bad combinations?

-devondonahue, New York

Both alcohol and nicotine can produce nausea and some people get really sick from the combination. If you meant smoking marijuana, both can impair balance, coordination, reaction times, decision making and attention, making the odds of being injured or making back choices higher if you combine the two drugs. 

-Aaron White

are all drugs addicting

-whiteman03, Maryland

Yes, most drugs of abuse can be addicting.  Research shows that brain development continues well into a person’s twenties. Alcohol and drugs can affect this development, and contribute to a wide range of problems. There is a lot of information about the health effects of drugs on NIDA’s teen site here: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-fact

And try this brand new “e-poster”---“Drugs and the Body: It Isn’t Pretty” http://www.scholastic.com/drugs-and-your-body/

-Joe Frascella

Are all drugs fatal or cause damage to your body if used on a daily basis?

-Soto2016, Texas
Depends on the drugs and the doses used.
 
For example, one glass of wine a day in an adult would not be fatal but 5 glasses a day will be harmful and even higher alcohol intake can result in death from overdose, accidents or liver damage.  
-Nora Volkow

are any drugs good for you

-drugs, New York

Hey drugs.  Is this a trick question?  It's a good one.  There are drugs that can be good for you--they are the ones that your physician prescribes.  Your physician knows which drugs at what dose will help you with an illness or health condition.  They are usually safe for you when used properly!  But used improperly, they can become very dangerous.  You might take a peek at this Prescription Drugs Fact page for more info: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/prescription-drugs.

-Joni Rutter

are bath salts the same as bath salts? what are bath salts, they sound like inhalants

-AG, New York

HI AG - good question.  And the answer is no.  There are bath salts that are meant to be used in an actual bath, and these tend to be things that smell nice or make your skin smooth.  There are also 'bath salts' that are drugs meant to be taken by mouth and not used in baths at all.  The 'bath salts' term is just used to get around the illegality of selling these substances for human consumption.  It is important to know and remember that these 'bath salts' are very different from each other and that they can contain any of a number of chemicals, many of which we do not know much about.  For more information check out http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/bath-salts.

-Steve Gust

are celebrities allowed to have drugs?

-Blackgurl, Maryland

Nope!

-Jack Stein