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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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could hookah give you cancer?

-Jhamani J, Texas

Dear Jhamani J - yes, hookah could cause cancer, as it contains tobacco. Many people think that smoking tobacco through a water pipe is safer than smoking a cigarette--believing that the water filters out the harmful chemicals. That’s a myth! Hookah smoke contains the same harmful tar and other toxic chemicals that cigarette smoke has. Hookah smoking is linked to many of the same health problems as cigarette smoking—like heart disease and lung cancer. In addition, a typical hour-long hookah session, in which a person inhales several long, deep breaths of smoke, can equal as many as 100 cigarettes or more. Want to know more about hookah? Click here

-Heather Kimmel

could marijuana effect your lungs in a bad way

-Jhamani J, Texas

Hi Jhamani J,
Great question. Yes, smoking marijuana causes a lot of the same respiratory problems that smoking cigarettes does, and makes you more vulnerable to lung infections. We still don't know whether it raises a person's risk for lung cancer though.

-Eric Wargo

Could Marijuana help someone with depression become less depressed? i know some people use it as a stress reliever and i was curious

-cvd18, New Jersey

Nope. Using marijuana can contribute to feeling down. Although it may make someone feel different in the short term when they start using, in the long run it is a bad idea.

-Susan Borja

could weed eventually kill you?

-HDumont, New Hampshire

Hi HDumont, while overdoses of marijuana don't kill people being high does increase your risks of accidents and injuries that could be deadly..

-Maureen Boyle

Could you die from one puff of marijuana?

-jharris, Texas


-Maureen Boyle


-summit11142, New Jersey

summit11142 - indeed it is :)-

-Maureen Boyle

Dear Dr. Jack Stein, Thank you for supplying the pizza, and i wanted to know how you solve addiction

-Dorey, Illinois

Hi! Sorry can't send you a slice :)

NIDA is ALL about trying to solve the addiction problem. We are conducting research to answer the many complex problems related to why and how people develop problems with drugs and how to prevent and treat it. We've learned lots but have a ways to go. Keep tracking our progress on our website:

Dr. Jack

-Maureen Boyle

Dear Dr. Joshua Gordon, How do you treat depression

-Dorey, Illinois

Dorey, Hope you don't mind but Dr. Gordon had to go back to running this place so you get me instead (promise I have expertise too). Depression is best treated with medications like SSRIs (see and talk therapy like cognitive behavioral treatment. Check out this website for more information on all things to do with depression including treatment

-Susan Borja

Depression always leads to suicidal thoughts, why ?

-cperez, Texas

Depression doesn't always lead to suicidal thoughts, but it often does. We don't really understand why, but suicidal thoughts are more often seen in "severe" depression, especially when people feel hopeless about their future.

People with other mental illnesses also think about suicide -- including people suffering from addicitons, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD and eating disorders. So it is not just about depression. We don't really know what leads people to think about suicide but we know that treating the underlying disorder can help reduce suicidal thoughts and the risk of suicide.

-Josh Gordon

Did you drink back when you were underage?

-J, Maryland

Yes, in fact I did. When I was 16, I drank a glass of peach flavored alcohol and threw up all night! I still can't eat anything that tastes like peaches. I learned a valuable lesson and did not drink after that.

-Aaron White

DNA is the most complex thing in the body. When it gets modified with marijuana what effects do they mean by modifieing the DNA

-LMA, Other

Dear LMA,

Great question. It is complicated. There are toxicants in tobacco and maijuana that can damage DNA in two ways. One is that they directly bind to DNA so that it may not be copied correctly and therefore result in a mutation when the cell divides (this is one way cancer can develop). The other is that chemicals cause damage to DNA, which causes the strands to break. When the break is repaired, it may create an error, which introduces a mutation to that cell, also potentially leading to cancer. Other drugs, such as alcohol and amphetamines, can also damage DNA. Here is some information about the different cancers caused by drugs:,

-Roger Little

do adults or teenagers get addicted faster to drugs?

-DHoh, Texas

teenagers, because their brains are much more plastic.

-Nora Volkow

Do all drugs affect all people in different way?

-Cheshire Cat, Colorado

Hi Chesire Cat,

Drugs can affect people in different ways, but what we know is that they all affect people in negative ways. So, tobacco may lead to difficulty breathing or cancer - both are bad things! Heroin can make you not care about anything except drugs or you can overdose on it. Both bad as well. So, yes, there are differences, but the differences are how they hurt people. You can learn about specific effects of different drugs at

-Carlos Blanco

do all drugs affect your brain

-spcoley, California

hey spcoley, yes, all drugs of abuse affect the brain.

-Maureen Boyle

Do all drugs cause addiction?

-klu, Texas

Hi klu,
Not necessarily. Most hallucinogens are not considered addictive, because they don't cause people to compulsively repeat the experience. Also steroids do not cause the euphoria that usually necessary for a drug to be addictive. People can be dependent on steroids, though, which is different from addiction. Dependence means feeling unpleasant physical effects of withdrawal.
Great question!

-Eric Wargo

do all drugs effect your heart

-aacosta, Texas

yes they all do but the extent to which they do it varies. Among the most potent are cocaine and meth

-Nora Volkow

Do all people that smoke get lung Cancer?

-Osiris@Gentry, Texas

hey Osiris@Gentry, no, there are other factors that influence risk but smokers are 23 times more likely to get cancer than non-smokers!

-Maureen Boyle

Do anti depressants even work?

-Johanna@Gentry, Texas

Yes. Antidepressants take time – usually 2 to 4 weeks – to work, and often, symptoms such as sleep, appetite, and concentration problems improve before mood lifts. It's important to take the medication as prescribed by your doctor, and to stick with it.

-Susan Borja

Do anti depressants work?

-Johanna@Gentry, Texas

Good news, they do work! Antidepressants take time–usually 2 to 4 weeks–to work, and often, symptoms such as sleep, appetite, and concentration problems improve before mood lifts. It's important to take the medication as prescribed by your doctor and to stick with it.

-Susan Borja

Do anti- depressants make you more addicted to them?

-Jess5.18, New York

Antidepressants aren't addictive but when people take antidepressants, their brains do adjust to the medication. If you stop taking them abruptly, you may feel symptoms since your body has gotten used to having the medication. It is important to take medications as prescribed and not discontinue abruptly unless that is what your doctor says to do. Typically a doctor would slowly raise your dose as you start until your symptoms are better, and will gradually reduce the dose when it is time to discontinue.

-Susan Borja

Do anti-depressants really work?

-Johanna@Gentry, Texas

Yes, for many people. Sometimes you may need to try a different dose or a different drug but working with your doctor can help make sure you get the best treatment. Also, anti-depressants often work best when used with talk therapy like cognitive behavioral treatment.

-Susan Borja

Do any drugs cause hair loss.

-ack, Massachusetts

anabolic steroids come to mind

-Ruben Baler

Do certain drugs mess up the reproductive system?

-IRamos, Texas

Hi IRamos,

Yes, tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs can damage the reproductive system. They can lead to symptoms now as well as later when you want to try to have a baby. In general, drugs are bad for most parts of the body. That is why they can be so damaging.

-Carlos Blanco

Do cigerrets affect your age?

-Nkarim, Texas

Hi Nkarim,
Yes, some brands of cigarette can actually cause you to travel through time. I smoked a Camel once and now I'm 10 years old -- never doing that again!

-Eric Wargo

Do druggs make you depressed?

-Dominique , Ohio

Hi Dominique

Yes. Most people who ask to be treated for drug abuse are depressed.
Drugs may lead to depression either directly due to the depletion of neurotransmitters from repeated use. Or, the depression may be a result of being demoralized by the negative consequences of drugs, such as declines in school and athletic performance, lost or disturbed relationships with friends and family, etc.
Another interesting relationship between depression and drug abuse is that some folks use drugs to try to cope with depressed feelings. However, this is not a good strategy.

-Geetha Subramaniam

do drugs affect different parts of the brain?

-hello123, New York

Hi Hello123,
Yes, they affect many brain areas, and can cause damage in many different ways. They all affect the brain regions that control our emotions, known as the limbic system. Different drugs act on the brain in different ways, but they all 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 fewer dopamine receptors or simply make less dopamine—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:

-Anto Bonci

do drugs affect males and females differently?

-zanebk, New York

Hey zanebk! This is a great question! Biological differences between males and females can absolutely cause differences in the way drugs affect them. For example, men and women process alcohol differently, and on average women will get drunk after a smaller amount of alcohol than men. Women have also been shown to transition faster from misuse of prescription pain relievers to addiction.
For more information on sex differences, visit:

-Emily Einstein

Do drugs affect when a woman is pregnant or breastfeeding?

-Laisha@gentryjs, Texas

Every drug a pregnant woman takes also reaches her baby. 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. For example, research suggests that women who smoke marijuana while pregnant are at higher risk for having a baby born at a lower birth weight. 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

-Maureen Boyle

do drugs affect your genetic makeup or dna

-k,hajee, Texas

there are some studies that have shwon DNA dmage in cells in isolation but no one has shown this in a living person at doses that people consume

-Nora Volkow

Do drugs and alcohol affect school work?

-psaleh, Illinois

Yes and it will depend on how much and how frequently you take them.

Nicotine will not affect your school work but it can make you addicted

Marijuana has long lasting effects in your brain that will impair your memory, attention, and interest

Alcohol can lead to risky beahviors that also can interfere with how you perform at school

-Nora Volkow