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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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

Can alcohol stunt your growth?

-Alysa Regenye, New Jersey

It depends on at what age you're exposed to the alcohol. Exposure to alcohol in the womb during pregnancy can seriously affect a baby's development. 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.

Drinking during adolescence might not stunt physical growth but it can alter brain development. Teens who get drunk often perform worse on memory and attention tasks.

-Aaron White

Can alcoholics die if they stop drinking alcohol suddenly?

-John Matier, Ohio

Yes, it's true. If someone has been drinking a lot for a long time, they can have seizures and even die if they stop too suddenly.

-Aaron White

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: http://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

Allison M. IMS, KS-How many beers do you have to drink to kill yourself in one day or night?

-AMY KARR, Kansas

Good question. That's something that would depend on how old the person is, their size, whether they are used to drinking alcohol, and other factors. It's important to recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning. Critical signs of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Mental confusion
  • Stupor
  • Coma
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow or irregular breathing
  • Hypothermia (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 at: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets

 

-Aaron White

Amna Hussain from Reservoir High school Most teenage drug users come from low income families. How can they seek help from rehabs and such if they have no insurance or anything else to pay for help?

-amna, Maryland

Hi Amna, Great question. Drug and alcohol use isn't limited to any income level, but it's true that low-income families and communities are at increased risk. The insurance problem is a terrible one, and it is one of the reasons for new health reform laws that are making it easier for low-income people to be insured and to have medicaid benefits, and also requiring insurance companies to cover drug rehab. Hopefully in the near future it will be easier for low-income people to get drug treatment. Glad you are thinking about this.

-Eric Wargo

Are alcoholism and drug addiction genetically inherited?

-DA, New Jersey

Hi DA

It's not 100%. Your genes are not a death sentence. but genes do contribute (abouot 50% roughly) to your overall risk of using drugs and of becoming addicted. The other 50% of the risk has to do with the environment you live in and the age at which you start using a drug. The earlier you are exposed to a drug of abuse the higher your risk of becoming addicted.

Thanks for the great question.
Ruben
 

-Ruben Baler

Are all drugs bad?

-jasmineb, Georgia

Hey jasmineb -  This depends on what you mean by "bad."  Some drugs, like tobacco, can damage you slowly – for example long-term tobacco use can cause cancer and is the leading cause of preventable death. Many drugs, and alcohol, can impair your coordination and lead to devastating accidents (like drunk driving). Other drugs, like meth, can be especially toxic to your brain. And taking drugs, like heroin or cocaine, or misusing prescription drugs, has the potential to cause overdose and death even the first time you use them. It can also lead to addiction. So any drug you use can be the most dangerous drug for you. Please protect your brain and your health - you need them! Check out the overdose death statistics for various drugs: http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates

-Joni Rutter

ARE ALL PRESCRIBED DRUGS GOOD FOR YOU

-Ethan G, Texas

Prescribed drugs are given to you in limited amounts for limited amounts of time and will hopefully help resolve the medical issue for which they are prescribed.  But if you misuse or abuse them by using them when you no longer have a problem or taking too much of them at one time or using someone else's prescription, they would not be good for you.  In fact, taking too much of the prescription medicine Vicodin or other opiate drugs can result in your death.  For more information on prescription drugs, see: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/prescription-drugs

-Nancy Pilotte

are any steroids used for medical purposes?

-jgarcia, Texas

yes, some steroids are used as anti-inflammatory drugs, for the treatment of allergic reactions and autoimmune disorders.   the most frequently used steroid is cortisol. Androgenic anabolic steroids can also be used medically, to treat hypogonadism, a condition in which the testes do not produce sufficient testosterone for normal growth, development, and sexual functioning. The primary medical uses of these compounds are to treat delayed puberty, some types of impotence, and wasting of the body caused by HIV infection or other diseases.

-Nora Volkow

are brownies a drug and is it addictive

-mike hawk, Massachusetts

Hi Mike,Brownies contain chocolate, which is highly delicious, but not technically addictive.

-Eric Wargo

Are coca plants addictive or do they have to be converted to a drug?

-jthompson, Texas

the coca leaf generates a mild state of dependence. once it is processed into cocaine, then it becomes highly addictive

-Ruben Baler

are drug users losers?

-mary jane, Illinois

Hi mary jane,
Is that your real name? :-)
Everybody is a winner, so no. 
But in the long run, lots of scientific research shows that people who use drugs a lot have more problems in life including mental illness, do worse in school, don't make as much money, and are less happy. 

-Eric Wargo

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: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/stimulants

-Nancy Pilotte

can cough liquid drink effect you when you abuse it

-Quak bird, Illinois

Hello Quak b
Yes. Taking more than the recommended dose of cough medicine can cause hallucinations and other unpleasant effects like numbness, loss of coordination, and elevated heart rate. Some cough medicines contain opioids--compounds that are related to morphine and heroin. These can be addictive, and in high doses, can severely depress breathing and the heart. The dangers area compounded when someone takes cough medicine and another opioid--including prescription pain relievers--together.
There is more information here: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/cough-and-cold-medicine-dxm-and-c...

-Roger Little

can crystal meth kill you? Possibly put you in the hospital?

-aranaa, New Mexico

yes, it can kill you by producing seizures, heart arrhythmias, miocardial infarction or a stroke, 

-Nora Volkow