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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Are certain drugs better for you than others?

-Lemons1018, Pennsylvania

None of the drugs are better for you, but its rather that some are worse for you than others. Which drugs are worse depends on your genteic vulnerability.

-Nora Volkow

Are dissociation drugs are the worst or harder drugs like crack? - Rory

-Aveson, California
Hi Rory,
Good question, and it's a hard one to answer. Comparing different types of drugs is like comparing apples and oranges--they have different effects, and different people react differently to the same drug. Dissociatives cause more perceptual effects (distorted perceptions and feelings) while crack might be more energizing, but it's hard to say which is worse.
Check out our fact sheets on these drugs:
-Eric Wargo

Can cigarettes affect your eyesight?

-iloveny210, New York
Great question! Short answer: yes. Long answer - health consequences causally related to smoking include blindness, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration. Check out the summary of the just released Surgeon General's report on tobacco for more information on these and other health consequences. http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/reports/50-years-of-progress/exec-summary.pdf
 
-Cindy Miner

Can coke knock off your nose completely if you do it for a while?

-yunglean, New Mexico
Well I don't know about that.  It would be upsetting!!!  Snorting cocaine can cause extensive damage to the nasal mucosa (the lining of you nasal passages), which is serious.  However, I do not think your nose will fall off.
 
Dave 
-Dave Thomas

can crack eventually kill u

-weed machine, New York

Hello there, WM! Yes, it can. As you might know, crack (which is a form of cocaine) is a highly addictive drug. And even a single usage of cocaine can cause heart attack or stroke, which may result in sudden death. But that's not the only health effect to be concerned about. Cocaine can also cause headaches and gastrointestinal complications such as abdominal pain and nausea. Because cocaine tends to decrease appetite, chronic users can become malnourished as well. Snorting cocaine (inhaling through the nose), can lead to loss of the sense of smell; nosebleeds; problems with swallowing; hoarseness; a chronically runny nose; and damage to the nasal tissues. Cocaine abusers can also experience severe paranoia. If you are curious, check out this page: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/cocaine

-Anto Bonci

Can dangerous drugs be modified to become less harmful? What are some effects that vicodin can have on a person? Where do most of the illegal drugs in the United States come from? Could there ever be anyone immune to the effects of harmful drugs?

-eechero, Texas

Hi eechero - thanks for your questions.  Let me try to answer some of them at least.  Your question about modifying drugs to make them less harmful is an excellent question. There has been a lot of research effort to try to develop pain medications, for example, that are less addictive.  Some progress has been made but we have a long way to go.  Vicodin is an opiate drug that reduces pain but is also addictive for some.  If taken in high doses it can cause euphoria, disorientation, and such things as respiratory depression.  Illegal drugs come from many sources, some in the US (marijuana, methamphetamine) and some outside the US (heroin, cocaine, ecstasy).  Your last question is a very good one.  It is true that there are large differences between people in their responses to drugs.  Some people are a lot more susceptible to the euphoric effects and so are much more susceptible to becoming addicted.  However, since all drugs of abuse affect the most basic parts of our brain having to do with reinforcement and reward, it is doubtful that there would ever be total immunity to their effects.

-Steve Gust

Can diseases be inherited ?

-officivl_tjc__, New York

Hey officivl_tjc_--great question!  I'm a geneticist and we've worked very hard to address your question.  

It's true that you can inherit diseases from your parents.  For Huntington's Disease is caused by a genetic defect that, if passed on, causes a person's offspring (their child) to be affected. That means that Huntington's Disease is 100% genetic. Inheritance, in the form of genes, plays a large role in drug addiction also.
 
Research shows that drug addiction is about 50% heritable. BUT.....while genes play a big role, they are only part of the picture. Other factors, like having friends who don't use drugs, or being involved in sports and other recreational activities, also affect your risk of trying drugs and of becoming addicted to them. Researchers are trying to find the genes that make you vulnerable or resistant to addiction, in order to find ways to improve treatment and prevention approaches.
 
Want more information on genes, addiction and teens? Check out: www.drugabuse.gov/tib/genetics.html and https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/real-teens-ask-addiction-hereditary/
 
Get accurate drug facts to make healthy decisions for your brain and body! 
 
-Joni Rutter

Can diseases from drugs be inherited to that person's children?

-Oreiter, Pennsylvania
Hey Oreiter!  This is my favorite question of the day!  It turns out that even addiction can be inherited.  In some cases this inheritance comes from small changes in the DNA sequence that makes someone more vulnerable to use drugs.  (DNA is the genetic code that has instructions for our body.)  That DNA is, of course, passed on from parent to child--making the child vulnerable, too.  
 
Recently, one study found something very interesting--Did you know that cocaine has been shown to affect DNA expression in the sperm--it actually affects the the way a protein called BDNF is expressed in the brain. Scientists found that the cocaine changes this protein in the sperm of drug-taking rodents, and is passed onto their male pups (yes, "pups" is how you call baby rodents).  The result of this experiment was that the male sons found cocaine LESS rewarding.  
 
So, the answer is pretty complicated and depends on the drug, the timing of exposure, and other individual factors.  Scientists are spending their entire careers trying to answer this very question!
 
Thanks for your question 
 
-Joni Rutter

can doing drugs lead to mental diseases

-handheldaphid, New York

yes, if you have a genetic or other vulnerability (e.g., exposure to trauma or early stress).  Marijuana has been linked to psychosis in some individuals.

-Nora Volkow

can drinking alcohol at a young age have long term affects on you?

-Donnita Rogers, Louisiana
There are lots of negative long term effects of drinking before age 21. First of all, your brain is still changing and growing, and alcohol can interfere with that development. 
 
Risks facing anyone who drinks too much include: 
  1. Legal trouble
  2. Car crashes and other accidents
  3. Making bad choices and engaging in risky behavior

Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years can make the 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 things. 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.

Drinking at a young age makes it much more likely a person will develop alcoholism later in life. It's really important to wait as long as possible to drink alcohol, or to avoid it altogether. Check out: http://www.thecoolspot.gov/ -Aaron White

can drinking or smoking give you brain damage? or put you in a comatose state?

-sampugliese, New York
Yes, alcohol can damage the brain and put you in a comatose state, not to mention kill you! The thinking memory, and feeling parts of the brain are all changing when we are teenagers. Alcohol can interfere with these important changes and actually shrink the thinking and memory parts.

Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years 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. 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.

For weeks and months after a teenager stops drinking heavily, these parts of the brain still struggle to work correctly. It's not clear whether the brain ever fully heals itself. 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!

-Aaron White

Can drinking orange juice get rid of a hangover?

-friendlyperson1, New York

Really nothing gets rid of a hangover except for time. However, some things, like replacing lost fluids, can help ease the symptoms a little. For some people, toast and coffee is their preferred strategy. For others, it might just be orange juice. It just depends on the person. The best way to deal with hangovers is to avoid them entirely! Just don't drink!

-Aaron White

Can drug withdrawal symptoms like hallucinations cause the former drug user to kill himself/herself?

-sandy20, New York
January greetings - Sandy20. And thank you for your interesting question - and unfortunately, drug withdrawal symptoms can have major adverse effects, including anxiety, irritability, restlessness, insomnia, headaches, perspiration, racing heart and palpitations, labored breathing, shaking, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, etc (I've worked with folks going through this - it's a really horrible experience). I can't say for sure that the hallucinations can cause suicide, but it can be one of many factors that contribute. If you know someone who is considering suicide, do not leave him or her alone. Try to get your loved one to seek immediate help from his or her doctor or the nearest hospital emergency room, or call 911. Remove any access he or she may have to firearms or other potential tools for suicide, including medications. Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. All calls are confidential.
-Denny Pintello

can drugs affect how you age

-RALF_WEINER, New York
Ralf,
That is a good question.   I just heard a lecture on this topic.  Clearly drugs can make you look more aged.  Give you wrinkles, make your skin sag, etc.  But is that actually changing your age? I am not sure. But if you don't want to look old when you are not old, staying off drugs will help.   
Dave 
-Dave Thomas

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

can a person die from mariijuana?

-$QuAd98, Maryland

Hey $quad!  Good question.  Marijuana can lead to tragic outcomes, but perhaps not in the way you're thinking about.  Marijuana affects judgment and decision making, so using it can cause you to do things you might not do when you're thinking straight -- like engaging in risky sexual behavior, which can expose you to HIV and other diseases, or getting in a car with someone who has been drinking, or trying to drive your own car yourself while high. All of those situations could end pretty badly, right?  As for a straight-up answer to your question, it's hard to know how marijuana will affect a specific person at any given time, because its effects vary based on individual factors -- a person's genetics, whether they've used marijuana or any other drugs before, and how much marijuana they consume.  And the effects can be even more unpredictable when marijuana is used in combination with other drugs.  Thanks for your question!

-Lori Ducharme

Can addictions to drugs be genetic?

-Kim Jong Un, New York

Most definitely! In fact, genetics plays a very significant role in determining if a person will ultimately develop a drug problem. However, other factors contribute as well, including one's environment in which they grow up and peer influences. 

-Jack Stein

Can alcohol cause cancer when drinking to much

-laylay11, California

Yes, for sure. Drinking a lot of alcohol over time increases your chances of developing cancers of the head, neck, mouth, throat, and breast. You can learn more about these risks at:http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.htm#cha...

-Aaron White

can drugs cause a traumatic effect on someone?

-BirthdaYCakE, New York

Hey Cake -- absolutely!  Drugs can have both direct and indirect consequences that can be traumatic.  By direct consequences I mean the direct effect of the drug itself -- if you have an overdose, or a bad interaction between two drugs, for instance, it can land you in the hospital with some serious health consequences.  Indirect effects would be other kinds of things that the drug causes -- for example, driving while high or intoxicated can lead to traumatic and tragic consequences!

-Lori Ducharme

can drugs cause extreme hallucinations?

-sampugliese, New York
Hey there sampugliese! Thanks for this great question!  Yes, some drugs do cause hallucinations, and some drugs cause very intense extreme ones.  They can be very very frightening to experience and very confusing to a person. Check out this website for more info: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/educators/curricula-and-lesson-plans/mind-over-matter/hallucinogens
 
-Harold Perl

Can drugs cause people to not care for others

-lj12, New York

Yes since the damage areas of the brain necessary for awareness, so they can make someone less sensitive to others

-Nora Volkow

Can drugs cause trauma?

-Cowgirl555, New York

HI Cowgirl - yes, many drugs can cause serious psychological damage.  Some people who take hallucinogens or stimulants, for example, can have very bad reactions to them.  These can include hallucinations, panic, anxiety, and depression.  It is important to remember that drugs have many different effects and many of these effects are harmful.  For more information on how drugs affect teens please check out teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts.

-Steve Gust

Can drugs change how you think of things?

-baseballguy03, Pennsylvania
The short answer is yep!  Drugs affect the way the brain cells communicate and relays that information to the body.  Drugs can also have a very important effect on a teen's ability to learn, their relationships and also their outlook on life...mostly in a negative way.  You don't see too many happy-looking regular drug users do you? A teen's best bet is to stay drug free! Learn more about the effects of drugs on the brain and body and see questions from other teens like you!
-Dave Thomas

can drugs effect your brain

-trouscus, New York

Hi Trouscus.  Yes, drugs can affect your brain, and that is the reason people take drugs.  But not all drugs can enter the brain because the brain is protected by cells that wrap tightly around blood vessels (called a blood-brain barrier) and only let certain specifics things enter the brain.  Whether or not a drug enters the brain depends on the chemical structure of the drug.  But if someone is taking a drug to get high, you can be pretty sure that the drug is getting into the brain and changing the way the brain is working.  The real issue is whether the changes in the brain caused by a drug lasts a short time, a long time, or ends in permanent changes in the brain.

-Steve Grant

Can drugs kill you

-spongebob, New York

Hi Spongebob.  How's life at the bottom of the ocean ?  All kidding aside, some drugs are very dangerous 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. The Food and Drug Administration writes very detailed descriptions of the effects of the drug, both good and bad, that are included with every prescription. You should always read these labels to find out what the harmful effects are, use them for what they were FDA approved for, and if you have questions talk to your doctor or the pharmacist.

-Steve Grant

Can Drugs kill you?

-maryd@aslacadem, New Mexico

some can...and do. Either directly (like overdosing from heroin) or indirectly (like driving while drunk or stoned). Worth the risk??

-Jack Stein

Can drugs kill you???

-WHITEBOY101, New York

Yes, WHITEBOY101, drugs can kill you. they can kill you quickly- as in a drug overdose, or slowly, as in cancer from tobacco smoking. Your health and life are not worth experimenting with drugs. 

-Marilyn Huestis

can drugs lower your focus in school

-spongebob, New York
Hey Spongebob,
Absolutely!!!! Good question.  Drugs affect the brain and central nervous system.  During the teen years and up to about age 25 the brain in a very rapid period of development.  Doing anything that hinders the maximum development of the brain is harmful to cognitive functioning. Recent research suggests that marijuana, for example, can actually lower your IQ if you start using as a teen. Below are some links that give you more specific information.
 

There is a lot of information about the health effects of drugs on NIDA’s teen site here: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-fact

And try this brand new “e-poster”---“Drugs and the Body: It Isn’t Pretty” http://www.scholastic.com/drugs-and-your-body/ -Lis Robertson

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