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 electronic cigarettes a safe alternative to smoking

-jd, New York
Hey JD,
Great question.  E-cigarettes are an unregulated product, so there aren't a lot of studies out there on what's even in them, much less whether they are safe (or safer to use), or if they are effective as a smoking cessation product.  Many people think there are less toxic or cancer-causing chemicals in e-cigs.  In some instances that may be true, but in others, it is not...in fact, some e-cigs contain even more cancer-causing chemicals than a regular tobacco cigarette.  One thing is for sure, a lot of people are starting to use the, so the research is going to have to catch up!  If you want more information of them, check out:
-Dave Thomas

are electronic cigarettes still bad for you?

-ashlin5702, Maryland
Good question, ashlin5702!  
Although they do not produce tobacco smoke, e-cigarettes still contain nicotine and other potentially harmful chemicals. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug, and recent research suggests nicotine exposure may also prime the brain to become addicted to other substances. Also, testing of some e-cigarette products found the vapor to contain known carcinogens and toxic chemicals (such as diethylene glycol and nitrosamines), as well as potentially toxic metal nanoparticles from the vaporizing mechanism. The health consequences of repeated exposure to these chemicals are not yet clear.
 
Stay tuned for when more research comes in to address this very question! Learn more about electronic cigarettes at - http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/electronic-cigarettes-e-cigarettes.
-Joni Rutter

Are hookah pens without nicotine bad for you?

-big bird yellow, New York
Ahhhh, good question big yellow bird (are you the real Big Bird?)
 
You are talking about electronic cigarettes, and they are becoming quite popular.   They may not be dangerous at all if nicotine or other drugs are not put in them.  However, we are not positive at this point. They just started becoming popular and there is not much research on safety.  We are starting work on that, and will hopefully have your answer soon....
Dave 
-Dave Thomas

Are hookah's bad for you?

-kittykat406, New York

Hi Kittykat, Thanks for asking this question. There is a common misconception that smoking hookah isn't bad for you, but it is really just another way of smoking tobacco and we all know that is bad for you. They might add some fancy flavors and tell you that the water is filtering out the bad stuff. Don't believe them -- you are still inhaling tobacco smoke and exposing yourself and your lungs to nasty stuff. There are no safe tobacco products -- don't believe the hype out there. Hookahs still deliver the addictive drug nicotine, and research suggests that smoking hookah is associated with all sorts of the same health problems associated with smoking cigarettes, such as cancers, respiratory illnesses, and addiction. In fact, early results of current research being conducted suggests that one session of hookah smoking is like smoking multiple cigarettes!

-Jeff Schulden

are hookah's really that bad? i don't know why i should refrain from doing this? prove me wrong

-mexicanpride5, New York

Good morning MexicanPride5. Awesome question! Hookahs, like cigarettes, are used as nicotine delivery devices. The tobacco is NO less toxic in a hookah pipe, and the water in the hookah DOES NOT filter out the toxic ingredients in the tobacco smoke. Hookah smokers may actually inhale more tobacco smoke than cigarette smokers do because of the large volume of smoke they inhale in one smoking session. Hookah smoke may also contain high levels of tar, carbon monoxide, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals. In fact, hookah smokers are exposed to more carbon monoxide and smoke than are cigarette smokers. Like with cigarette smoking, hookah smoking is linked to lung and oral cancers, heart disease, and other serious illnesses. Even non-tobacco-based “herbal” shisha smoke contains carbon monoxide and other toxic agents known to increase the risks for smoking-related cancers, heart disease, and lung disease. Check out http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/tobacco_industry/hookahs/ for more information. Resist the urge and choose to stay healthy!

-Kris Bough

Are hookahs as harmful as cigarettes, or are they more similar to hookah pens? (Let's say you buy tobacco-less shisha and the nicotine levels haven't affected you in the past).

-kittykat407, New York

Good morning kittykat407. Yes, if smoked through a 'traditional' hookah, it can be as harmful as smoking cigarettes. There is no evidence to suggest that hookahs deliver less toxic chemicals or nicotine than cigarettes. Hookah pens, however, are more like e-cigarettes in that they are more of a nicotine delivery device. These newer products come in many shapes and sizes, and not as much is known about the harm that they can produce - yet. This is the subject of active research!       

-Kris Bough

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 alcohol destroy your body?

-faithchim, Maryland
Yes, alcohol can do lots of damage to the body.
As you drink more and you have more alcohol in your bloodstream, you can experience impaired judgment and difficulty making good choices. You may also have difficulty controlling urges, making it more likely that you will do something dangerous. You can also experience impaired memory -- waking up the next day and not being able to remember what you did while you were drinking.
Still more alcohol can cause potentially fatal side effects, including difficulty breathing, low heart rate, and loss of consciousness.

 

Drinking too much can also cause some cancers. It causes many kinds of stomach problems. It causes the liver to swell up and develop lots of scar tissue. It also interferes with the immune system and can make it harder for the body to fight off infections. It also damages the brain and interferes with how the brain grows and develops. You can learn more about these effects at http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.htm.
 
 
 
-Aaron White

can alcohol kill you

-tate, New York

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.

Drinking heavily over a long period of time can contribute to problems with your liver, pancreas, and heart, can impact your immune system, and can increase your risk for certain types of cancer. For more information on how alcohol can impact your health, check out: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.htm.
 
 
 
 
-Aaron White

Can alcohol worsen a teens depression?

-Faith Watkins, Texas

hi Faith.  Good question, and one that we hear a lot. The short answer is yes.  But the relationship between alcohol and depression is complicated.  Some people turn to alcohol when they are depressed. The problem is, alcohol isn't a good way to cope with problems, and it is a depressant drug that can make things worse.  If you or a teen you know is feeling depressed or using alcohol, talk to a trusted adult (parent, relative, counselor) about connecting with some help to assess the problem and see if treatment might help.

-Joel Sherrill

can ALL drugs be fatal if consumed improperly?

-bubbles7977, Maryland

Yes, if you consume them at high doses or you are vulnearable because of genetic or medical conditions.

-Nora Volkow

can all drugs kill you?

-23769, Maryland
Hello 23769,
In a way, yes. They indirectly cause harmful effects on the body and brain which increases the odds of illness and death. However, if you are referring to direct effects - drugs such as alcohol, sedative pills, heroin, prescription opioid pills, PCP, bath salts, stimulants such as cocaine, meth, etc. can be lethal in overdose and can kill you! Drugs and alcohol often cause impaired coordination, judgement, memory, concentration, etc. so if you were to drive, skate, ski or operate machines under the influence of these drugs, that could kill you! Then there are other drugs that may cause death indirectly such as tobacco, marijuana, etc. which result in chronic medical illnesses which increases the likelihood of death. It is much safer, i.e. higher likelihood of not dying, if you don't use drugs, even recreationally. 
-Geetha Subramaniam

Can animals become high if they smoke drugs or inhlae second hand smoke

-:), New York

How exactly do animals smoke drugs?  Be nice to your pet....

-Joni Rutter

Can animals get addicted to drugs?

-kuchneat, Pennsylvania

Definitely! Much of what we know about addiction has been learned through studies that often involve animals (like rats!). 

-Jack Stein

Can any drugs kill you with in a day

-chchchase estes, Maryland

Yes, unfortunately.  Many drugs can kill you if you overdose.  For example, pain killers.  Also, certain other drugs used for anxiety.  Inhalants can also kill.  

-Steve Gust

Can any of the bad effects of marijuana, base from the individuals physcological point? Personally, I don't FEEL as though I've been affected in a negative way, aside from self-esteem.

-asian, Maryland
Asian,  You mention a really important negative outcome you are experiencing personally.  If marijuana is making you feel bad about yourself that's a BIG deal.  You might consider not smoking marijuana and replacing it with other activities that provide a natural high like running or indoor rock climbing that build self-esteem.
 
Remember-Marijuana, like other drugs, have a negative impact on the brain, body, and behavior--including addiction.  Many people think marijuana is not harmful but our evidence suggests otherwise.
 

If you want to ask about getting substance abuse or mental health treatment, call 1-800-662-HELP, 24/7. Or you can go to http://www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ to find information about treatment centers in your area.

-Redonna Chandler

can anyone become addicted to drugs?

-xoxogossipgirl, Massachusetts

Hello and XOXOGossipGirl! When drugs enter your brain, they can interrupt how it works and actually change how the brain functions and performs its jobs. These changes can lead to someone becoming addicted to drugs. This can happen to anyone. If you’re worried about your own or a friend or family member’s drug use, it’s important to know that help is available. You can go to http://www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ to find information about treatment centers in your area.

-Bethany Deeds

can beer and wine kill you?

-123FOnzy, 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.

Drinking heavily over a long period of time can contribute to problems with your liver, pancreas, and heart, can impact your immune system, and can increase your risk for certain types of cancer. For more information on how alcohol can impact your health, check out: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.htm
 
To learn more about how alcohol can affect kids, how to learn to say NO to kids who offer it to you, check out: http://www.thecoolspot.gov/
 
 
-Aaron White

Can caffeine affect your judgement?

-#whitegirl, Maryland
Hmmm....hey #whitegirl.  Caffeine (found in foods like energy drinks, coffee, tea, and chocolate) is a stimulant with psychoactive effects.  Caffeine is typically used to help wake people up, but that's about it. Caffeine is generally regarded as a safe drug when taken in moderation because toxic doses are very high.
 
However, each person has different sensitivity to caffeine, with some people having severe effects on the body.  It's more serious affects are on the heart, where caffeine use can cause your heart to race, and you can get the shakes.  The side effects of using caffeine and also stopping caffeine use may cause you to become cranky, tired, or get headaches, and that might affect your judgement. 
-Joni Rutter

Can cancer develop while intaking alcohol?

-c322d, 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 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 I goto rehab because of my flappy bird addiction?

-MICHAELISMYBAE, Maryland
Hi MICHAELISMYBAE,
I don't know--do you think you need rehab? Unlike drugs, game addictions can usually be cured by finding another fun activity ... or the next game that comes along 
I cured my Angry Birds addiction with Words With Friends. :-)
Good luck! 
-Eric Wargo

Can insects and animals get addicted by drugs?

--A, Massachusetts

Totally, -A-.  Drugs can definitely affect animals.  In fact, a lot of the research we support uses animals to examine the effects of drugs because animal brains are a good model for human brains.
 

You should also check out this great blog by our very own Dr. Joe Frascella on drugs being "discovered" first by animals!  https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/so-why-do-people-drugs.
 
-Joni Rutter

Can it hurt me to take Tylenol and Advil at the same time?

-Eileen Marshall, Iowa
Eileen,
Probably not.  They are similar types of pain killers. But they typically are not given together.  If you take one and it works, there aren't advantages to taking the other.  But if you have pain, I suggest you get some medical advise from a doctor, and try that instead of experimenting on yourself.
Dave 
-Dave Thomas

can long term drug abuse give you mental health problems such as bipolar disorder, BPD, or OCD?

-skpmb, Maryland
Good morning!
This is a great question. Let me try to explain the complex connection between drugs and mental illness. To answer your question directly, there is no clear evidence that long term drug abuse "causes" BPD or OCD. However, mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, etc. coexist or in some cases, appear before one develops a substance use problem. You may also want to know that long-term use of drugs are likely to result in other mental illnesses such as psychosis, depression, anxiety and in some cases suicidal thoughts.
 
Thanks a lot for asking! 
-Geetha Subramaniam

can marijuana affect you right away?

-Tyost@vtsd.com, New Jersey

Hi Tyost@vtsd.com, Yes it can if you smoke it. We did a study and showed that people could feel the affects immediately during the first puff on a marijuana cigarette. You feel your heart rate increasing right away and the way you think and feel becomes affected.

-Marilyn Huestis

can Marijuana be baked into food? and how can you tell it is in the food?

-hashtagmadswag, New York

Hello there hashtagmadswag, Yes, marijuana can be baked into food and you may not be able to tell it's in the food before you eat it. There's really no way to tell food has marijuana in it just by looking at it. You wouldn't feel the effects until much later- 2 to 4 h after eating the food. The affects would be milder than if you smoked the marijuana but effects can last longer. Thanks for your question.

-Marilyn Huestis

Can marijuana cause cancer

-20n62604, Pennsylvania
20n62604--Wow! This is a great question, and one that is currently being studied extensively. We have learned a lot about cigarette smoking and we are only just beginning to learn about marijuana. Remember, it took a long time for us to understood the connection between cigarette smoking and illness.  Now we know, however, that cigarette smoking results in more than 443,000 deaths in the US each year, and an additional 8.6 million people suffer from serious illnesses including cancer caused by smoking. There are studies ongoing where researchers are now investigating whether there is a similar link between smoking marijuana and cancer. Stay tuned!
-Will Aklin