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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at what point is it necessary for a drug user to go to rehab?

-chomer, New York

If they can not stop on their own and their drug use is messing up their life.

-Nora Volkow

Besides your brain and nervous system what other parts of your body does drugs effect?

-HMS-SADD, Pennsylvania
Hi HMS-SADD,
That's a good question, and the answer depends completely on the drug, because all drugs affect the body differently. Stimulants like cocaine or meth or prescription ADHD drugs (if you abuse them) can raise your heart rate and blood pressure. Marijuana can raise your heart rate a lot too, as well as cause lung problems. Opioids like heroin and prescription painkillers (if you abuse them) can slow your breathing a lot, and is often fatal (it's the reason people die from overdosing on those drugs--they just stop breathing!). So it really depends! 
-Eric Wargo

Are you more likely to become an achoholic if it's in your family history?

-jspina13, New York

Yes, unfortunately the odds are about double if you have a family history. But it also depends on how old you are when you start drinking. Research shows people who have their first serving of alcohol at 15 have a 50% chance of becoming an alcoholic if they have alcoholism in their family or a 30% chance if they don't have a family history of alcoholism. People who wait until they are 21 have less than a 20% chance. Also, the brain is not done developing until after the teenage years and there's a chance that alcohol can interfere with how the brain grows and changes during the teen years. That's why it's best not to drink at all during the teen years. 

-Aaron White

aren't drugs good for you

-aquinonez214, Texas

Medications that are taken as prescribed are indeed drugs that are good for you. Unfortunately, these and other kinds of drugs can be abused leading to serious health effects. check out drugabuse.gov for more info.

-Jack Stein

Aren't nicotine patches drugs themselves? Do they have any negative side effects?

-Gambit, Maryland
Good point Gambit!   
 
The patches contain nicotine, and nicotine is a drug.  However, nicotine alone is less dangerous than nicotine and cigarette smoking together.  Cigarettes contain lots of things besides nicotine - most of them bad for you.  Plus, with the patch, the nicotine is given slowly over time.   This slow release of the drug helps people quit smoking in some cases. They do not crave nicotine as much, because they already have a low dose in their blood.   So it is easier to quit.
 
Dave 
-Dave Thomas

As a teacher, what can I say to parents when their drinking and or smoking is affecting their student?

-Eileen Marshall, Iowa
Dear Ms. Marshall---your students are lucky to have such a caring teacher. We recommend you encourage the parents to check out the NIDA Web site, which discusses the dangers of second hand smoke around the house (it can actually cause lung cancer in non smokers.)  The parents should also know that their child is at higher risk for addiction because of their own behavior---tell the student that he/she has the power to avoid trying any drug. For more information on alcohol, the parents can go to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism Web site at: www.niaaa.nih.gov.
Most importantly, we wanted to make you aware of two helplines if the student is in a crisis:  

he/she can call the government’s crisis Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) anytime 24/7. People call this line for help with substance abuse, relationship and family problems, illness, abuse, depression, mental and physical illness, sexual orientation issues, and even loneliness or thoughts of suicide. He/she will be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area. If abuse is an issue, you or the student can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline:  1-800-799-7233/ http://www.thehotline.org/ -Susan Weiss

at 21 most people arent responsible, so why dont they raise the drinking age

-thebigD, New York

Good question! The US created the 1984 law raising the minimum legal drinking age to 21 because too many young people were getting hurt by drinking alcohol. Raising it to 21 helped to significantly reduce the number of young people killed in alcohol-related car crashes. By contrast, kids drink more heavily in places like Europe and Australia, where the drinking age is lower than 21. So, raising the drinking age was a good thing. If it were raised more, it just might save more lives. But the age 21 law is working pretty well at the moment. 

 
-Aaron White

can snorting kool-aid cause brain damage

-aveson, California
Snorting Kool-Aid...really?!  I don't know that it will cause brain damage, but I know there is high likelihood that it will cause irritation to one's respiratory system! I wouldn't recommend it! 
 
 
-Joe Frascella

can some drugs that are considered bad be used for good like treatment in a hospital

-yayme32, Maryland

Yes--there are a number of drugs that have medicinal effects when used properly but can be very dangerous when abused.  The best example is opioids (vicodin, oxycontin), which can be very helpful for treating pain, but can also be very dangerous when not used as prescribed--in fact the number of overdose deaths due to opioid abuse was about 12,000 in 2010.  

-Susan Weiss

Can someone get addicted to an acoholic drink after their first try? even if it is the first time they have ever drank alcohol? is it likely to be zero intolerant to your first drink and get drunk very easily?

-asdfghjkl, Maryland

Researchers found that the earlier someone has their first drink of alcohol, usually meaning more than a few sips with family, the more likely they are to become an alcoholic. It isn't known whether a few sips is enough to make that happen or if more alcohol is needed. The best bet is to avoid alcohol completely until your brain is done developing in the early 20s. You can learn more about the effects of alcohol on kids at: http://www.thecoolspot.gov/index.asp

-Aaron White

Can steroids affect a girl's period?

-biancaP-p3, Texas

Hi biancaP-p3. Yes, steroids certainly can affect a girl's period. Many steroids are hormones or act like hormones in the body. This is just one way that these dangerous chemicals affect your body.  Thanks for your question!

-Marilyn Huestis

can steroids permanetly make you strong?

-bmorse, New York

no--those effects tend to go away when you stop taking them, but some of the harmful effects can be permanent--e.g., stunted growth, the masculinizing effects in females, such as deepened voice;  and feminizing effects in males.

-Susan Weiss

Can street drugs such as heroin and meth be used recreationally? or are they too addictive?

-SETLAX32, New York

There are people who use drugs occasionally and don't become addicted. In part that depends on their genes and their home/school life.  But that said, there are at least 2 problems with using drugs recreationally--one is that you never know what you are really getting, and whether it might be contaminated with poisonous ingredients.  The second is that some drugs (like heroin and meth) are more addictive than others--depending in part on how they are taken.  Smoking or injecting are among the most dangerous ways because the drugs get to the brain very quickly. And there are other diseases also linked to injecting drugs, such as Hepatitis and AIDS

-Susan Weiss

Can supplements affect growth?

-whiteshoes81, Maryland
Hi whiteshoes.   There is a lot of debate about whether dietary supplements do anything for you.  I have never heard of them making you grow, or stopping growth for that matter.  It's probably better to get everything you need from food! 
 
Dave 
 
 
-Dave Thomas

Can taking a drug like cocaine or marijuna once potential kill you?

-GEFRE, New York
Hey GEFRE -
 
good question.  My answer is yes, but not necessarily for reasons you might think.  While there are documented cases of people dying from a single exposure to cocaine, there are other indirect ways these and other drugs can have tragic consequences even if you were to just use them once.  Think about it -- drugs impair your judgment, your memory, and how you process information.  If you were to drive a car, or get into a car with a drug-impaired driver, you're seriously increasing your risk of something awful happening.  So it's not just the drug you have to think about -- it's the whole context of the situation and the possible results.  Stay safe and take care!
-Lori Ducharme

Can the effects of drugs, like feeling dizzy or sick to your stomach, last even after you stop doing drugs?

-maryd@aslacadem, New Mexico
Thanks for your thoughtful question.  Most drugs have both short- and long-term harmful effects, although dizziness and nausea are often short-term. However, if the drug has some damaging effects to certain brain areas, long-term dizziness can result. 
 
You might want to check specific drugs in our teen Drug Facts section:  https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/ 
-Joe Frascella

Can People Overdose Themselves With Different Type Of Drugs ?

-bill, California

Hi Bill.  This is a very important question.  In a word, yes people can overdose on just about any kind of drug, but some are more dangerous than others and can kill you even if you take them only once. Painkillers like oxycotin contain high amounts of a class of drugs called opioids, and one effect of these drugs is they reduce your breathing. If you take too much you simply stop breathing and die. Other drugs, like amphetamine and stimulants, can cause heart attacks. Even antibiotics can be dangerous; for example some people are allergic to penicillin. Even non-prescription drugs like Tylenol (acetaminophen) can cause very rare but potentially fatal skin disorders as well as liver damage. For more information on various drugs and what they can do to your body, see https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts.

-Steve Grant

Can pregnant women who smoke put the baby in any danger? If so, what kind of danger?

-GEFRE, New York
Yup, GEFRE, it can be a danger to the baby.  Pregnant women have to be real careful in what they consume or put in their body.  
 
We know now that babies born to smokers can be smaller than normal when they are born, and some studies show that these babies may have developmental problems and somewhat decreased cognitive abilities (shorter attention spans, inability to focus on a task) that may be related to maternal smoking. Our nicotine research report has a section on smoking and pregnancy at http://www.drugabuse.gov/researchreports/nicotine/nicotine.html
-Dave Thomas

Can prescription drugs be as harmful as illegal drugs?

-bubbles7977, Maryland
Dear bubbles7977,
 
Yes, prescription drugs can be as harmful as illegal drugs.  Some prescription drugs are as addictive as illegal drugs if used the wrong way (i.e., not as prescribed).  Here is more information:
 

There is lots of information on NIDA’s Web site at http://www.drugabuse.gov/

Check out the "Students and Young Adults" tab.

-Michelle Leff

Can psychotropic hallucinogens have effects of causing you to have irrational emotions?

-ryan_thorpe, New York

Hi, RT. Yes they do. Hallucinogens produce rapid, intense emotional swings. LSD, peyote, psilocybin, and PCP are drugs that cause hallucinations, which are profound distortions in a person’s perception of reality. Under the influence of hallucinogens, people may see images, hear sounds, and feel sensations that seem real but are not. LSD, peyote, and psilocybin cause their effects by initially disrupting the interaction of nerve cells and the neurotransmitter serotonin. For more info, please go to: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/hallucinogens-lsd-peyote-psilocybin-pcp.  

-Anto Bonci

Can rehab help you get over an addiction to alcohol? How long will it usually take?

-Aveson, California
Absolutely! Rehab certainly can help a person deal with their addiction to alcohol. How long it takes depends on several things, including how serious the problem is and what kind of rehab the person goes to, whether in-patient or out-patient. Most people who treat alcoholism believe that alcoholism is a life-long condition and that a person never really gets over it but, rather, learns to cope with it. 

Here is a link to further information about the signs of alcoholism and suggestions for quitting:

 

-Aaron White

Can small amounts of alcohol on occasions eventually add up and cause permanent brain damage or memory loss?

-emily_ho, Pennsylvania
Hi Emily. Probably not, but they can produce other kinds of serious problem, such as alcohol addiction or DUI (driving under the influence), which is a major cause of injuries and death. Bottom line, be careful! 
-Anto Bonci

Can smoking help with stress and pain?

-Samniesha, Mississippi

if u are a smoker, smoking will decrease anxiety and might decrease pain; however when u stop smoking the anxiety will be worse and similarly the pain will be exacerbated, which is why smoking is not a good solution 

-Nora Volkow

Can smoking marijuana make you seem to have an all of a sudden hunger issue causing you to constantly eat?

-YOE23, Texas
Marijuana has the properties of an appetite stimulant, which causes an increase in appetite.
 
Check out the following site for more information on marijuana: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/marijuana
-Joe Frascella

Can smoking tobacco lead to cancer?

-Batman369, New York

Dear Batman...(You would NEVER see Batman smoking) Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the United States. It causes many different cancers as well as chronic lung diseases, such as emphysema and bronchitis, and heart disease.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women in the United States, and 90 percent of lung cancer deaths among men and approximately 80 percent of lung cancer deaths among women are due to smoking.

Smoking causes many other types of cancer, including cancers of the throat, mouth, nasal cavity, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, and cervix, and acute myeloid leukemia.

People who smoke are up to six times more likely to suffer a heart attack than nonsmokers, and the risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked. Smoking also causes most cases of chronic lung disease.

-Cindy Miner

can smoking weed kill you?

-ilovepandas101, New York
Hi ilovepandas101
thanks for the question.
 
Not directly. but it can indirectly increase your chances of dying. in case you are curious, more here
 
hope this makes sense to you.
 
cheers
ruben 
-Ruben Baler

can u die from cocaine

-william_yang, New York
Good morning william!
Yes. One can die from the acute effects (intoxication) of cocaine because of its effects on the cardiovascular system: one can suffer heart attacks or strokes, which may cause sudden death. Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of the heart stopping (cardiac arrest) followed by an arrest of breathing. In addition, there is an increased risk of death from cocaine due to risk of HIV infection from sharing needles when injecting the drug. Depression during cocaine withdrawal can be dangerous because one can become suicidal. Also important that if you drive, ski or skate under the influence you are increasing your chances of dying or seriously injuring yourself and/or others. In addition to these scenarios, mixing cocaine with alcohol or heroin (or prescription opioids) can also result in death from the additive effects of the drugs. 
Thank you for asking! 
-Geetha Subramaniam

can u die from doing to much Steriods

-mary, California

Hi- thanks for question--Steroid use can result in serious damage to the body including kidney failure, liver damage, and cardiovascular problems. Changes in blood pressure can result in heart attack. Some individuals can also develop serious emotional problems resulting in depression and, in some severe cases, suicide. 

-Jack Stein

can vodka kill you?

-M&M21, Maryland

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.

-Aaron White

Can withdrawal from long time drug use damage the body?

-George W. Bush, New York
Keep the questions coming, GW!  Withdrawal from alcohol and sedatives can be very dangerous, even fatal.  Withdrawal from opioids (like heroin, oxycontin) can be very uncomfortable, too.  Other substances produce uncomfortable withdrawal.  These are a major reason why people relapse. Medications can help in suppressing these withdrawal symptoms and can be a valuable first step in treatment, when combined with other therapies. 
-Wilson Compton