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.

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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 drugs affect your mind in any way?

-Dr. Swag, Illinois

Yes, all drugs of abuse have psychoactive properties, meaning they affect psychological processes. Drugs can have stimulant effects and speed up mental processes and others can have depressant effects, slowing down processes. Others can significantly cloud, distort, and alter mental processes. For more information on the drugs of abuse and their physical and psychological effects, see:

-Joe Frascella

Can drugs and alcohol make you emotionaly unstable?

-walawaladingdon, North Carolina


-Jen Katt

can drugs be useful?

-MLopez, Texas

Yes, of course. Medications have improved and transformed many people's lives. It's when they're taken in ways or doses or by people they weren't prescribed for that makes them dangerous.

-Jen Katt

Can drugs cause depression and sleep problems?

-holly r, Alabama

Yes--a number of drugs can do this. Stimulant drugs for example (cocaine, methamphetamine, and even MDMA or ecstasy) can cause depression when people come down from their effects and have also been shown to disrupt sleep. Alcohol and marijuana as well disrupt sleep and are linked with depression, even if they have a temporary effect of making someone feel better. In the long run, they are more likely to cause depression (or an amotivational syndrome for marijuana).

-Susan Weiss

can drugs cause suicide?

-aash, New Hampshire

HI aash. Drug abuse and suicide can be linked in a couple different ways. Sometimes, when people are depressed or suicidal, they might turn to drugs to try to feel better. The problem is, using drugs that are not from a doctor to feel better doesn't provide a good solution and makes things worse or leads to more problems. Other times, people who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol do things they wouldn't normally do-- sometimes they become more depressed or impulsive and can harm themselves or become suicidal. The bottom line is if anyone is using drugs OR feeling suicidal, it's very important to get help. A good first step can be to talk to a trusted adult (for example a parent, teach, counselor, or doctor); if it becomes a crisis, help is available by phone 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK.

-Joel Sherrill

Can drugs effect you having children?

-josafinap, New Mexico

Yes. Heroin can reduce a man's sperm count and make him less likely to be father; cocaine can inhibit normal ovulatory cycles in women. But it just takes one sperm and one ready while doing these drugs will not make you sterile, they may reduce your chances of becoming a parent. But this is no guarantee! Practice safe sex if you are active; a history of drug usage will not reduce your chances of having children.

-Nancy Pilotte

Can drugs give you energy but have a harmful effect on your body?

-syousaf, Texas

Yes drugs can give you energy but they also cause many more harmful side effects such as dangerously high blood pressure and stroke. It's not worth the risk! Learn more about the dangers of stimulants here:

-Nancy Pilotte

Can drugs harm my dog and does it have the same affect on humans?

-r0ach, Missouri

Drugs affect animals in exactly the same way that they affect people. So people give animals antibiotics for infections, insulin for diabetes, anti-depressants for anxiety, and many others. That is one reason why animals are such good models for studying drug abuse--they produce the same kind of responses as people do but it is easier to control variables like what they eat and how they live and who they hang out with.

-Nancy Pilotte

can drugs hurt your teeth

-killerchef, Maryland

Hi Killerchef the drug most famous for causing bad teeth is meth: see more about this topic here: good luck and be smart about drugs ruben

-Ruben Baler

can drugs influence your boby

-blue44, Texas

Absolutely. Your body tries to protect your baby from anything that is taken, but many drugs are able to pass to the baby and can affect the baby's growth, brain development, and especially issues like ability to learn easily, get along well with other children in school, and might (we don't know for sure yet) make them more vulnerable to drug use themselves when they grow up. Also, mothers may not take care of their babies well if they are addicted to drugs.

-Marilyn Huestis

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