Note: There is no transcript for CHAT DAY 2018, which was cancelled due to the Government Shutdown initiated on January 20, 2018.

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 abusing alcohol increase your risk for cancer?


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:

-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:

-Shuly Babitz

can second hand smoke kil someone

-trealbert, Oklahoma

Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by the smoker. When you stand near a smoker or go to a restaurant or home where smoking is allowed, you breathe secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is dangerous. Over time, secondhand smoke causes death and disease in kids and adults—even if they do not smoke.

Secondhand smoke causes cancer. It has more than 50 chemicals that are known to cause cancer in adults. Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer in people who have never smoked themselves. Secondhand smoke causes heart disease. Even a short time in a smoky room has immediate harmful effects on the body. Breathing secondhand smoke makes it more likely that you will get heart disease, have a heart attack, and die early. Secondhand smoke can cause breathing problems, like coughing, extra phlegm, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Because their bodies are growing, the poisons in secondhand smoke hurt babies and young kids more than adults.

Babies whose mothers smoke while pregnant are more likely to die from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) than babies who do not breathe secondhand smoke. Kids whose parents smoke around them get bronchitis and pneumonia more often. Secondhand smoke causes kids who already have asthma to get more frequent and severe attacks.

Check out a fact sheet the National Cancer Institute put out to learn more: NCI Factsheet, Secondhand Smoke: Questions and Answers

-Cindy Miner

Can sharpie fumes get you high and how long does it usually take to get high off it?

-Wrestler1237, New Jersey

Yes, Sharpies have a volatile chemical that if inhaled can cause a brain effect and high. The inhalants represent a very dangerous class of drugs. Specifically, inhalants are chemical vapors that people inhale on purpose to get “high.” The vapors produce mind-altering, and sometimes disastrous, effects. These vapors are in a variety of products common in almost any home or workplace. Examples are some paints, glues, gasoline, and cleaning fluids. Many people do not think of these products as drugs because they were never meant to be used to achieve an intoxicating effect. But when they are intentionally inhaled to produce a “high,” they can cause serious harm. Although inhalants differ in their effects, they generally fall into the following categories: Volatile Solvents, liquids that vaporize at room temperature, present in: • Certain industrial or household products, such as paint thinner, nail polish remover, degreaser, dry-cleaning fluid, gasoline, and contact cement • Some art or office supplies, such as correction fluid, felt-tip marker fluid, and electronic contact cleaner Aerosols, sprays that contain propellants and solvents, include: • Spray paint, hair spray, deodorant spray, vegetable oil sprays, and fabric protector spray Inhalants often contain more than one chemical. Some chemicals leave the body quickly, but others stay for a long time and get absorbed by fatty tissues in the brain and central nervous system. One of these fatty tissues is myelin, a protective cover that surrounds many of the body's nerve fibers. Myelin helps nerve fibers carry their messages to and from the brain. Damage to myelin can slow down communication between nerve fibers. Long-term inhalant use can break down myelin. When this happens, nerve cells are not able to transmit messages as efficiently, which can cause muscle spasms and tremors or even permanent difficulty with basic actions like walking, bending, and talking. These effects are similar to what happens to patients with multiple sclerosis—a disease that also affects myelin. Hope this helps and for more information on inhalants, check out:

-Joe Frascella

Can sniffing nailpolish or permanent marker make you get high?

-nathans, Maryland

Short answer - yes. Nail polish and permanent makers contain solvents that when inhaled can make you high. For more information on inhalants see:

-Redonna Chandler

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

Can someone become blind in any way by doing drugs?

-Prettyme, Georgia

Hi Prettyme. The answer depends on the drug and what happens when you are under the influence of the drug. Some drugs have direct effects on the retina, which is the part of the eye that processes visual information. Some people actually put drugs in their eyes thinking that the drug will get into the brain faster, only to find out that they have damaged their cornea or other part of their eyes. People under the influence of drugs may engage in risky or dangerous behavior that can lead to accidents that involve injury to their eyes. For lots of information on drug abuse, check our teen site at:

-Steve Grant

Can someone die from smoking once?


Probably not, if you just try it once. I know I tried a cigarette once...hated it, and I'm still around. But some people can't stop at just one...that's where you get into trouble. If you continue to use, you are exposing yourself to all the chemicals in smoke that can lead to cancer, pulmonary problems and lead to a lifetime of addiction.

-Cindy Miner

Can steriods cause strokes?

-foconnor, Texas

You can think about a stroke as the result of blockage in a blood vessel that deprives an area of the brain of its blood supply. Steroids are small hormones that don't cause strokes by themselves, but they can lead to the formation of blood clots that can break free from the blood vessel wall and get stuck somewhere else, often in the brain and voila! -- a stroke. The steroids that are most apt to cause a stroke are the gonadal steroids, androgens, estrogens, and progesterone. Blood clots are more easily formed in smaller vessels; smoking reduces the diameters of blood vessels and can increase the chances that clots stimulated by steroids can occur.

-Nancy Pilotte

Can steriods Make you sterral or shrink your "package"?

-Water_Bra, Utah

Hi water-bra Abuse of anabolic steroids can definitely shrink your package. the ridiculously high level of testosterone messes up the hormonal balance and, paradoxically, your body reacts by producing more estrogen (the female hormone) OUCH!!!!! This is what causes your testicles to shrink and over the long run it can cause infertility. I would strongly recommend to stay away from steroids, it's just not worth it. good luck. You can get more information at:

-Dave White

can steroids affect your appearence

-jwilliams, Texas

You bet, and it doesn't necessarily mean you will be transformed from an UGLY ducking to a beautiful swan. Steroid use can cause major physical harm including liver damage, jaundice, fluid retention, high blood pressure and increases in 'bad' cholesterol. Also, males risk shrinking of the testicles, baldness, breast development, and infertility. Females risk growth of facial hair, menstrual changes, male-pattern baldness, and deepened voice. Teens risk permanently stunted height, accelerated puberty changes, and severe acne. Check this site out for more info:

-Redonna Chandler

Can we die when we smoke marijuana ?

-Max, Maryland

Lots of great questions from Walter Johnson High School this morning. I am hoping that dying from marijuana is not your goal! As far as I know, no one has actually died from smoking marijuana directly. But this drug can slow your reaction times a lot, and people who drive after or while smoking this are more likely to get into accidents, and some auto accidents have been known to be fatal. Operating heavy machinery under the influence of marijuana is also very risky. Here is more info about marijuana from our teen site:

-Nancy Pilotte

Can we just simply annihilate illegal drugs?

-VictorP, New Mexico

wouldn't that be nice!

-Joni Rutter

can weed be useful ??

-Young J, Illinois

Dear Young Junior, What an interesting question to ask. Medicines must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) based on their safety and efficacy--marijuana has not met these standards. There are recognized medical benefits to some of the active ingredients in marijuana, and scientists are making use of their knowledge about those ingredients, and the body systems that they effect, in order to develop new medications for a variety of symptoms and diseases including pain, obesity, and addiction. A pill form of THC (an active ingredient in marijuana) is already available for certain conditions, such as nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy and weight loss in patients with AIDS. For more information check out our teen website HERE.

-Bethany Deeds

Can weed change your sexual orientation?

-123456789, Maryland

123456789 where did you hear this? There is no evidence showing that marijuana can change anyone's sexual orientation. Here's what weed can do: Like most other drugs, marijuana affects the parts of the brain that allow us to make plans, solve problems, and make decisions. So while experiencing the effects of marijuana or other drugs you might make decisions you wouldn't if you were sober, including decisions about sex that you might not make if you were not high. This does not mean your sexual orientation is 'changed', just that your decision-making was altered while under the influence of marijuana. Marijuana alters brain chemistry in ways that can have both short term and long term effects. In the short term--marijuana can cause someone to do something dangerous when they are high--like driving and getting into an accident, or not studying and having their grades drop, or seeing their athletic performance decline, and getting kicked off a team. But in the longer term marijuana is addictive. Repeated drug use changes the brain (and the body) and could one day lead to addiction and other serious medical consequences. Interestingly, one of our researchers surveyed people that had used marijuana regularly for many years. The marijuana users reported diminished life satisfaction and more physical and mental health problems, which they attributed to the marijuana. They also had poorer academic and job outcomes and lower salaries than a group of adults from comparable backgrounds who did not smoke marijuana. So don't believe just what you see on the outside--some of these changes take time to happen, and some people are more vulnerable to problems associated with drug abuse than others. We don't know all the reasons why, but genetics and a host of other factors--age of first use, other mental health problems, stress, family difficulties, peers that use drugs--all contribute to someone's likelihood of becoming addicted or developing other health problems because of repeated drug use. You can get the facts about marijuana at or

-Joni Rutter

can weed kill you if you smoke a lot of it?

-sdiaz, Texas

Marijuana is one of the most commonly used recreational drugs in the US and around the world. A marijuana overdose can occur when a person takes too much of the drug, often due to the inhibited reasoning that marijuana can cause. Marijuana overdose results in a variety of symptoms that may or may not appear in an individual user, including: Feelings of paranoia or fear Nausea and vomiting An increased heart rates Hallucination and disorientation Marijuana overdose is not thought to cause serious symptoms that can result in the death of the user, and in fatal cases, death is usually due to other drugs or medical conditions of the patient. The few cases in which marijuana overdose was named as the primary cause of death are highly contested and controversial. At levels where death due to an overdose of THC (the primary active chemical in marijuana) is thought to be possible, a user would have to take enormous amounts of the drug, far past what is taken for recreational purposes. Of course, smoking marijuana while driving or operating dangerous machinery can result in accidents that lead to death. Hopes this helps. For more information go to:

-Joe Frascella

can weed make you more hormones?..........!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-scouttheplayer, Iowa

Hi scouttheplayer actually, this is a very good question: Endocannabinoids (which are the molecules in our bodies that can be hijacked by the active ingredient in marijuana) act as a major neuromodulatory system in a variety of physiological and behavioral functions. Three major lines of evidence suggest that the endocannabinoid system interacts with gonadal hormones. First, the endocannabinoid system is implicated in behaviors and physiological functions that are known to be regulated in part by gonadal hormones. Second, receptors and metabolic enzymes of the endocannabinoid system are localized extensively on structures in the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. Third, changes in levels of gonadal hormones alter endocannabinoid signaling. So, THC can in theory perturb a number of hormonal systems and in fact there is evidence that chronic or heavy use of marijuana can negatively affect fertility. be smart and stay safe, ruben

-Ruben Baler

can where you live and who you are around everyday affect weither or not you smoke and/or take drugs and drink

-mickey15, North Carolina

Hi mickey Absolutely. Most drug abusers have a combination of risk factors. Some are internal to the person, like genetic predisposition or a brain injury. Others are contextual: such as family conflict or lack of parental monitoring of children's behavior classroom with children who are exhibiting out of control aggressive behaviors peers who are using drugs schools and communities that do not have or enforce rules and regulations regarding drug possession and use These factors are called risk factors and we know that individuals who have multiple risk factors in multiple areas are more likely to abuse drugs. Protective factors are also important. Intelligence is an important personal factor, others include a supportive family, good classroom management by teachers, communities with lots of recreation resources for kids and so forth. Protective factors can balance out the effects of risk factors, so it is the balance between them that is important. I hope that helps. Liz

-Lis Robertson

can withdrawel cause sickness

-nero1, Illinois

Many drugs, when stopped cause the body to go through withdrawal, and some can cause severe sickness. The exact type of sickness induced withdrawal depends on the drug. For some drugs like Xanax or any benzos withdrawal can cause fatal seizures. Opioid withdrawal can be very painful and causes diarrhea and bad sleep disturbances. It's important that withdrawal is done in a medical setting, like a hospital or treatment facility, so that trained professionals can help the person manage the symptoms of withdrawal and reduce the discomfort and risk of serious complications.

-Richard Denisco

Can you be addicted to weed?

-IMS619mm, Louisiana

Actually,you can be. Research shows that about 1 in 11 people who try marijuana get addicted. If you start as a teen, this number goes up--to about 1 in 6. For young people who smoke it daily as teens, 25%-50% get addicted. Moreover, among young people in drug abuse treatment, marijuana accounts for the largest percentage of admissions: 61 percent of those under age 15 and 56 percent of those 15-19.

-Jen Katt

Can you become addicted to Marijuana?

-Dustin A, Alabama

Yep. Research shows that about 1 in 11 people who try marijuana get addicted. If you start as a teen, this number goes up--to about 1 in 6. For young people who smoke it daily as teens, 25%-50% get addicted. Moreover, among young people in drug abuse treatment, marijuana accounts for the largest percentage of admissions: 61 percent of those under age 15 and 56 percent of those 15-19.

-Jen Katt

Can you catch a disease by doing drugs?

-IMS701wb, Louisiana

Yes, you sure can. First, you can get addicted to drugs, which is a disease. But beyond that, getting other diseases is common. One very notable one is AIDS. AIDS can be easily spread with injection drug use. There are many diseases on can get from smoking, including cancer, heart and lung diseases, to name a few. Alcohol can cause liver disease. The list does on and on...

-Dave Thomas

Can you develop mental disorders from taking drugs?

-Rosie Rose, Utah

Hi Rosie Rose. This is not an easy question to answer! There is some research to suggest that marijuana plays a role in psychosis, but the direction of the relationship is unclear. For example, in one study, teens who used marijuana were more likely to experience hallucinations when they were older, while younger teens who had hallucinations were more likely to use marijuana later on. The important thing to realize is that people who have mental illness often use drugs as a way to 'self medicate' or make themselves feel better. Using drugs is a short term and risky solution to dealing with a mental illness. If you need more help or treatment call 1-800-662-4357.

-Amy Goldstein

Can I try drugs just once and not become addicted?


Great question. The exact factors that lead an individual to become addicted to the drug are not well known. Some individuals are highly susceptible to drugs' addictive properties, whereas others are highly resistant. It depends on the specific drug, one's biology and genetic make up, as well as other factors. For more information go to: My advice, keep your brain and body safe, and stay away. Joe

-Joe Frascella

can marijuana be a prescription drug

-sparky, Maryland

Some states have legalized medical marijuana, and doctors in those states can qualify patients to get marijuana, although this is not the same as what normally happens in prescribing a medication. Prescriptions mean that 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, note that marijuana is not considered medicine by the Federal government since it has not gone through the formal approval process 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 marijuana be addictive?

-622tp, Louisiana

The short answer is 'yes.' About 1 in 11 people using marijuana will become dependent. This risk increases in teens (1 in 6) and in daily marijuana users (25-50%). Research has shown that marijuana has short- and long-term effects on learning and memory, and these effects last even after someone stops using marijuana. For example, a recent study shows that regular marijuana use that begins in the teen years reduces IQ into adulthood, even if the person stops taking marijuana. So marijuana use during adolescence can produce negative biological (brain development) effects that can change the structure and function of the brain. You can read more here:

-Will Aklin

Can marijuana be fatal?

-Jamesp, Colorado

It can cause cancer and impair motor skills like driving, leading to accidents. However, I have never heard of an overdose of marijuana. Neither have the scientists sitting on either side of me...

-Dave Thomas

Can marijuana be taken any other way than by smoking it? if it can, does it effect your body the same way?

-monkeylover123, Illinois

Yes, marijuana can be taken orally, in which case it induces less rewarding effects and is less addictive.

-Nora Volkow

can marijuana change your physical appearence?

-koralieo, New Mexico

Marijuana is not known for changing your physical appearance. But other drugs do. For example, steroids are definitely known for changing your appearance: Boys taking steroids risk shrinking of the testicles, baldness, breast development, and infertility! YIKES! Girls taking steroids risk growth of facial hair, menstrual changes, male-pattern baldness, and deepened voice! I don't know any females that want that! Check out the facts: and Thanks for the question!

-Joni Rutter