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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Can alcoholism and drug addiction be treated?

-TAQUARRIONM, Georgia

Absolutely! And treatment can work wonders for people, particularly if they want to get healthier. You can find treatment centers in your area at http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/. If you have a friend in crisis, then they (or you) can call 1-800-273-TALK to talk confidentially to a professional who can help.

-Aaron White

Can all drugs affects the brain?

-vverdines, Texas

All drugs do indeed affect the brain, vverdines. Different drugs act on the brain in different ways, but all addictive drugs cause release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain's reward area, which is what causes the pleasurable sensation (the high).  After repeated drug use, the brain starts to adjust to the surges of dopamine. Brain cells (neurons) make less dopamine receptors or simply make less dopamine. The result is less dopamine signaling in the brain—like turning down the volume on the reward signal. This can mean that the person starts to find natural rewards – like food, relationships, or sex – less pleasurable, one of the signs of addiction.

Some drugs are toxic to the brain and cause some brain cells to die. Drug use can eventually lead to dramatic changes in neurons and brain circuits, which result in addiction. Learn more at:  http://www.scholastic.com/drugs-and-your-body/brain.htm.

-Roger Sorensen

Can an overdose of mushrooms make you retarded?

-ennisisd, Texas

Hey ennisisd, check out our recent blog on this topic:  https://teens.drugabuse.gov/national-drug-facts-week/drug-facts-chat-day....

What do you think?

-Joni Rutter

Can an overdose on prescribed drugs be as dangerous as taking pills that aren't prescribed to you?

-mbanks, Texas

Hi mbanks,

Yes, you can overdose on prescription drugs. However, you are very unlikely to overdose if you only take prescription drugs that were given to you by your doctor and you follow the doctor's instructions for how to take them. 

-Maureen Boyle

CAN ANIMALS GET DRUNK TOO?

-AyenaK, Texas

Yep! But most animals have the good sense to stay away from alcohol.

-Aaron White

Can animals get high?

-dgarza, Texas

Chemicals can have different effects in different animals—like how chocolate is delicious to humans and poisonous to dogs—so even small amounts of a drug could be very harmful for your pet. Alcohol can cause a dog to suffer dangerous drops in blood pressure, blood sugar, and body temperature. They can also have seizures and stop breathing.
In dogs and cats poisoned by marijuana, signs may be seen within 3 hours, and include severe depression, lethargy, coma, low heart rate, low blood pressure, respiratory depression, hyperactivity, seizures, and vomiting. Also, your pet wouldn’t understand that it had been given a drug, and the sensations that might feel like a high to a human would be a very scary experience for an animal. For more information, check out: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/be-friend-mans-best-friend-keep-marijuana-away-from-your-dog

-Joni Rutter

can any drugs kill you right away?

-melmessan, Texas

Hi melmessan, Yes, there are many drugs that can cause a fatal overdose if too much is taken at once including heroin, prescription drugs, alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamie, and others

-Maureen Boyle

can beer drown your lungs?

-rtorres, Texas

Not that we know of except in cases where people get so intoxicated that they pass out, throw up and drown in their own vomit.

-Aaron White

can beer kill you

-ayden#dm, Texas

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

It's also possible to die from long-term abuse of alcohol. The liver can become enlarged and inflamed and ultimately stop working. 
 

-Aaron White

can being a full time alcohlic affect the pregnancy?

-aranaa, New Mexico

Yes, alcohol can seriously affect a baby's development during pregnancy. A range of problems, the worst of which is called fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) can result. Babies born with FAS are not addicted to alcohol themselves, but they do have smaller brains, abnormal facial features, and often have life-long learning and behavioral problems. It is the leading preventable birth defect associated with mental and behavioral impairment in the United States today. Basically, it is never safe to drink any alcohol when you're pregnant. You can learn more about the dangers of drinking when you're pregnant here:
http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets

-Aaron White

Can being around drug harm you in the future?

-jacob sawyer, Texas

Hey jacob sawyer - it's possible that it can. Secondhand smoke from cigarettes can be quite harmful. Check it out: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/secondhand-smoke-exposed-more-than-you-think. Also, being around people who do drugs can increase the risk that you may start using. Stay safe!

-Joni Rutter

Can certain drugs cause certain illnesses/diseases?

-SMS, New Jersey

Good morning, SMS, good question with a somewhat definitive answer.  There are certain drugs we know for sure cause or at least increase your risk for certain diseases, like tobacco use and cancer and respiratory conditions, or alcohol and liver diseases.  Some other drugs are more complicated, like marijuana for example, because it is quite common for them to be used in conjunction with other drugs and other risky behaviors which could be contributors to illnesses/diseases.  So it's hard to tell exactly what is causing them.  For individual drugs go and check out NIDA's DrugFacts pages https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/finder/t/160/DrugFacts
 

-Marsha Lopez

Can certain people have an addictive personality? If so, can something like that be hereditary?

-ennisisd, Texas

Hi ennisisd - check out this article that quotes one of our best scientists!! http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v522/n7557_supp/full/522S48a.html?W...

-Joni Rutter

Can cigarettes cause paralysis

-jquezada, Texas

Not to my knowledge 

-Susan Weiss

Can cocaine make your hands shake?

-ISmart, New Hampshire

Not that I know of.  But other stimulants, like amphetamine and methamphetamine might.  This is because they can actually get into the nerve cell and cause some biochemical changes in the nerve cell that are like what you see in Parkinson's Disease.  And shaking hands are one of the symptoms of this neurological disorder.  Unlike amphetamines, cocaine cannot enter the nerve cell and thus cannot produce Parkinson's-like symptoms.  For more info see:  http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine

-Nancy Pilotte

Can cocaine ruin your smelling?

-eRodriguez, Texas

It does not improve it.  And particularly if you snort cocaine it can hurt your ability to smell. For more info on cocaine, see: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/stimulants

-Nancy Pilotte

Can a child get high in womb?

-autumna, Georgia

As one NIDA scientist put it, “We know that drugs of abuse can cross the placenta and reach the fetus. So, drugs used by the mother definitely can affect the baby’s health and can even cause long-term harm many years later. That is why doctors recommend that pregnant mothers not smoke or use alcohol or other illicit drugs.”  Check out more here: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/real-teens-ask-will-drugs-hurt-unborn-baby.

-Joni Rutter

Can a hookah cause disease after using for a while?

-jgarcia, Texas

Hey jgarcia. You may think that using a hookah (waterpipe) is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, but it still delivers the addictive drug nicotine and is at least as toxic as cigarette smoking. In fact, research shows that hookah smokers inhale 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke in a 1-hour hookah session than they would from a single cigarette. OY!!!

-Joni Rutter

Can a marijuana addiction be passed down from your parents?

-mkovesdvn, Texas

It's true that you can inherit diseases from your parents. For example, Huntington's Disease is caused by a genetic defect that, if passed on, causes a person's offspring (their child) to be affected. That means that Huntington's Disease is 100% genetic. Inheritance, in the form of genes, plays a large role in drug addiction also. Research shows that drug addiction is about 50% heritable. BUT.....while genes play a big role, they are only part of the picture. Other factors, like having friends who don't use drugs, or being involved in sports and other recreational activities, also affect your risk of trying drugs and of becoming addicted to them. Researchers are trying to find the genes that make you vulnerable or resistant to addiction, in order to find ways to improve treatment and prevention approaches.
Want more information on genes, addiction and teens? Check out: https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/genetics and https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/real-teens-ask-addiction-hereditary/

-Joni Rutter

Can addiction be cured easily?

-AXia, Texas

HI 
There are medications to help with some addictions including nicotine/tobacco, alcohol, and opioids (e.g. heroin or pain pills). And there are also behavioral therapies to help people recover. But addiction is often a lasting condition, like heart disease or diabetes; there are treatments that help someone live a healthy, productive life but there is no cure. NIDA scientists are working hard to develop better treatments to treat addictions to all types of drugs. You can learn more about effective treatment programs here:  http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/treatment

-Maureen Boyle

Can addiction be passed from mother to child?

-GGAStudent, Texas

Hi GGAStudent - addiction is considered a complex disorder with both genes and the environment at play. The ways in which the baby can be affected depends on the drug the mother takes, how much she uses, and when in pregnancy she uses. But the good news is that the sooner a pregnant woman stops using drugs, the better the results for her baby. You can read more at https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/using-drugs-when-pregnant-harms-baby. 
And, if that's not bad enough, "Recent evidence suggests that parental drug exposure produces behavioral, biochemical, and neuroanatomical changes in future generations." This could happen because the parent used drugs before the woman becomes pregnant, but the drugs still affect the eggs (if mom used) or sperm (if dad used).  There are many scientists who are studying this important question so that we can undersand what these effects are and why they happen. 
 

-Joni Rutter

Can addictions to drugs and alcohol be passed down from parents to their children?

-ASC123, Illinois

Great question ASC123!!  It's possible. It's true that you can inherit the vulnerability to diseases from your parents, including addiction. For example, Huntington's Disease is caused by a genetic defect that, if passed on, causes a person's offspring (their child) to be affected. That means that Huntington's Disease is 100% genetic. Research shows that drug addiction is about 50% heritable. BUT.....while genes play a big role, they are only part of the picture. Other factors, like having friends who don't use drugs, or being involved in sports and other recreational activities, also affect your risk of trying drugs and of becoming addicted. Researchers are trying to find the genes that make you vulnerable or resistant to addiction, in order to find ways to improve treatment and prevention approaches.
Want more information on genes, addiction, and teens? Check out: https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/genetics and https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/real-teens-ask-addiction-hereditary/

-Joni Rutter

Can Advil be addicting

-Mahats, Massachusetts

I have not heard of Advil addiction, but it can be harmful if you take too many.  

-Dave Thomas

Can alcohol (besides getting you addicted) affect your body permanently?

-Karli Nadsady, Ohio

Alcohol affects every part of the body. The immediate impacts of drinking include impaired judgment, thinking skills, and memory. Alcohol's potentially fatal side effects include difficulty breathing, low heart rate, and loss of consciousness.

Over time, drinking too much can also cause some cancers, stomach, and liver problems, and makes it harder for the body to fight off infections. It also damages the brain and interferes with how the brain grows and develops. Studies show that people who are alcohol dependent are also 2-3 times as likely to suffer from major depression or anxiety over their lifetime. 

Genes, environment, and even diet can play a role in whether you develop an alcohol-related disease. On the flip side, some people actually may benefit from drinking alcohol in small quantities.

You can learn more about these effects at http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.htm

-Aaron White

Can alcohol abuse affect your brain and lungs ?

-yfeghali, Texas

Definitely the brain. 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, and pay attention. 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. 

However, there is some evidence that, for older people, drinking small amounts of alcohol (a drink per day for women or two for men) might decrease the changes of developing dementia, a condition in which brain function deteriorates and it becomes harder to focus attention and learn new things.  

Learn more about how alcohol can impact your health

-Aaron White

can alcohol affect the way you act ?

-adriannaw, New Mexico

Yes, for sure. Alcohol alters how the brain works, including the areas involved in how we act. Unfortunately, many young people do not fully recognize the negative effects alcohol can have on their health and behavior. Drinking can lead teens to make poor decisions about engaging in risky behavior, including drinking and driving, risky sexual activity (such as unprotected sex) and aggressive or violent behavior.

-Aaron White

Can alcohol benefit you? If it does what does it benefit

-George_Jettson , Pennsylvania

There is some evidence that small amounts of alcohol might help improve heart health.

-Aaron White

Can alcohol kill a person? How?

-lcontreras, Texas

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.

It's also possible to die from long-term abuse of alcohol. The liver can become enlarged and inflamed and ultimately stop working. 
 

-Aaron White

Can alcohol kill you?

-Eli!!!!!, Michigan

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. It's also possible to die from long-term abuse of alcohol. The liver can become enlarged and inflamed and ultimately stop working.

-Aaron White

Can alcohol kill you? Ana Peralto Fieldstone Middle School

-mnealon, New York
Yes. Alcohol poisoning can occur from a single episode of drinking way too much and can be deadly. Alcohol builds up in your bloodstream and can slow down important body processes like breathing and the gag reflex, which prevents you from choking. Even if you have stopped drinking or pass out, alcohol in the stomach and intestine can continue to enter your blood stream and circulate throughout your body.
Critical signs of alcohol poisoning include:
  • Mental confusion
  • Stupor
  • Coma
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow or irregular breathing
  • Hypothermia, or low temperature
  • Bluish skin color
  • Paleness

If you think someone you know may be experiencing alcohol poisoning, make sure to get help immediately. You can call 911. You can learn more about alcohol poisoning and overdoses at:

http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets

 

-Aaron White