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 alcohol stunt your growth?

-Alysa Regenye, New Jersey

It depends on at what age you're exposed to the alcohol. Exposure to alcohol in the womb during pregnancy can seriously affect a baby's development. A range of problems, the worst of which is called fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) can result. Babies born with FAS are not addicted to alcohol themselves, but they do have smaller brains, abnormal facial features, and often have life-long learning and behavioral problems. It is the leading preventable birth defect associated with mental and behavioral impairment in the United States today. Basically, it is never safe to drink any alcohol when you're pregnant.

Drinking during adolescence might not stunt physical growth but it can alter brain development. Teens who get drunk often perform worse on memory and attention tasks.

-Aaron White

Can alcoholics die if they stop drinking alcohol suddenly?

-John Matier, Ohio

Yes, it's true. If someone has been drinking a lot for a long time, they can have seizures and even die if they stop too suddenly.

-Aaron White

Austin N. IMS, KS- What is MDMA and what does it do to you? What are the side effects too?

-AMY KARR, Kansas

Good afternoon, AMY KARR. Ecstasy (X, Molly, or MDMA) is a stimulant like amphetamine and cocaine and it can also cause hallucinations. MDMA changes the body in many ways. It even interferes with the body's temperature regulation, which leads to dangerous overheating, called hypothermia. This can lead to serious heart and kidney problems—or even death. https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/mdma-ecstasy-or-molly

-Roger Sorensen

Besides alcohol and marijuana, what is the next most-popular addictive drug?

-bob, Illinois

Hi, Bob, good question. Accordng to the 2015 Monitoring the Future survey, certain tobacco products like hookah and small cigars are the next most popular, which is really problematic considering we know that tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the US.  After that, non-medical use of stimulant/amphetamine drugs such as Adderall® or Ritalin®, which are often prescribed for ADHD, are the next most popular.  

-Marsha Lopez

Besides marijuana and nicotine what other things do people use for vaping?

-rbartlett, New Hampshire

alcohol, cannabis extracts.

-Nora Volkow

Besides the mental aspects of using marijuana are there any physical side effects?

-cody, Massachusetts

Hi Cody. Marijuana use leads to addiction in 1 out of 6 people who start using in their teens.  Many people have problems with:

  • learning and memory
  • perception (distorted time, touch, sound, etc)
  • poor coordination
  • increased heart rate

Thank you for your question!

-Joni Rutter

Ca E-cigarettes causes as much or more damage than normal?

-Swaggyp, Michigan

Hi Swaggyp, 
There are a lot of misconceptions about vape pens and e-cigarettes. The aerosol, also called vapor,that e-cigs and vape pens produce is really made of the specific chemicals in the vape pen, such as propylene glycol, glycerin, nicotine, THC, chemical flavorings, and others.  Surveys show that many teens don’t even know what chemicals are in their e-cig device. We still don't know all the effects of using vape pens because they are so new. One thing we worry about with e-cigarettes is that they may lead to nicotine addiction and this might cause some people to start using regular cigarettes, which can cause cancer. On the other hand, if a cigarette smoker is able to give up regular cigarettes by using e-cigarettes, it’s probably a good thing. About 13 percent of 12th graders have tried e-cigs. Check out these resources on e-cigs – https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes

-Maureen Boyle

Cameron H. IMS, KS- How do drugs make you high?

-AMY KARR, Kansas

Drugs make people high by causing activation of the reward centers of the brain.

-Wilson Compton

Are you likely to be an addict, if a family memeber if a family member is?

-mazeem, Texas

Hello Mazeem,  there do seem to be genetic factors that increase a person's risk for becoming addicted but having a family history does not mean that you will be an addict. If you never use a drug you cannot become addicted to it.  If you have family members who have been addicted to drugs you should tell your doctor that before they give you drugs like pain killers.  There is more information about the brain and addiction here: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/brain-and-addiction

-Roger Little

Are you more likely to become an alcoholic if allot of people in your family were alcoholics?

-Anyonomous, Massachusetts

Unfortunately, yes that's true. The odds of being an alcoholic are much higher if you have alcoholism in your family. For instance, if someone has their first drink of alcohol at age 14-15 and has a family history of alcoholism, their odds of becoming an alcoholic are about 1 in 2, while for those without a family history the odds are about 1 in 3.  

-Aaron White

As scientists, if had the possession of a drug that is not pure. Will you be able to decipher what other chemicals reside in the drug that is not pure?

-Charlize Reyes, Michigan

Hey Charlize Reyes. Yup. Scientists can do that. Your chemistry classes can help you understand how!  

-Joni Rutter

at what age are kids more vulnerable to drugs?

-jimenezC, Massachusetts

Hi jimenezC - all ages! Kids brains don't mature until around mid to late 20's, so the effects of drugs can be all the more harmful.

-Michelle Rankin

at what age do drugs start to effect your body

-Aali, Texas

Hi Aali, Drugs can effect your body at any age. They can even affect children in the womb.

-Maureen Boyle

Can sniffing natural products like glue give you and instant rush and if so will it really damage your body?

-precioust130, Georgia

Hi precioust130,
Glue isn't a natural product. But yes, sniffing some glues and other chemicals (like cleaners, solvents, etc.) found around the home can sometimes produce a brief rush by slowing brain function or reducing its oxygen supply. It can also dangerously affect other organs in your body. For instance, "sudden sniffing death" is when the heart stops as a result of breathing (or "huffing") some household chemicals. Very dangerous!

-Eric Wargo

Can some mushrooms be considered a drug?

-mkovesdvn, Texas

can some people not get addicted to drugs even if they smoke at least once a week ?

-yfeghali, Texas

Although there is some individuality in the effects of drugs, most people will become addicted if they use a drug often enough.  Using a drug once a week may not cause addiction, but someone who does that will most likely end up using the drug more frequently and then eventually become addicted.  So it’s better to stay away from drugs!   For more info on drugs see: http://www.drugabuse.gov/children-and-teens

-Nancy Pilotte

Can someone not get drunk from alcohol or liquor

-George_Jettson , Pennsylvania

While people differ in their sensitivity to alcohol, everyone who has a relatively normal human brain will get drunk from consuming any type of alcohol.

-Aaron White

can someone over dose on marijuana

-Erick mendoza, New Mexico

Hi Erick,
Yes, they can, and they'll have a very long, unpleasant experience, and may even need to go to the hospital. They won't die, though (at least not directly from the marijuana).

-Eric Wargo

Can steroids actually help your athletic performance?

-ww73, Illinois

some specific aspects of it, yes.
but there are always  adverse effects that people tend to not pay attention too much. That's unfortunate.

-Ruben Baler

can steroids destroy your reproductive system?

-angie13, Texas

Hi Angie,  That is a great question. First, f

Question: What can steroids do to your organs?
 
Answer: Steroids can have a lot of effects, but first you should know that your own body produces all the steroids it needs...and it needs them to regulate your growth, and they critical for reproductive function.  People who use large quantities of steroids (often to help build muscle or control weight) risk heart disease, liver damage (even in young people), and may stop growing tall earlier than they should.  It also can cause aggression, and if you are a female who is using anabolic (androgenic) steroids, your voice may deepen permanently, and you may grow facial hair, and develop male-pattern baldness. Oh, and yes, overuse of anabolic steroids can make a male stop producing sperm...and without sperm...well, you get the picture.  For more info, see: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/anabolic-steroids
-Nancy Pilotte

Can steroids increase a mans sex drive?

-(), Michigan
 
Anabolic steroids can be legally prescribed to treat conditions resulting from steroid hormone deficiency, such as infertility, delayed puberty, as well as for diseases that result in loss of lean muscle mass, such as cancer and AIDS.  But most people naturally produce all the steroidsthey need in exactly the amounts needed to maintain good health.  And although steriods are important for normal functioning, there can be too much of a good thing.  When people take steroids in doses of 100 times or more than they need, their own steroid production shuts down because it senses there are already enough out there. The high doses of steroids can have numerous negative effects, including negatively affecting the ability to get and maintain an erection...and sperm production shuts down too.  Fortunately, these effects can be reversed with quitting.  For more information, see https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/anabolic-steroids
-Nancy Pilotte

Can steroids kill you ?

-jsanchez, Texas

yes by producing heart insufficiency

-Nora Volkow

can tar from cigarettes cause cancer?

-klebbie, Texas

The short answer is yes.  But I should explain what the word "tar" really means when we talk about cigarettes.  In this context tar is not the stuff used to pave the roads!  When researchers study cigarette smoke they use the big smoking machines that collect all the chemicals on a piece of filter paper that would be inhaled by a smoker.  All those chemicals look like a big black gooey gob so they actually kind of look like tar....  There are lots of chemicals in tobacco smoke that have been shown to cause cancer....so yes the "tar" in cigarette can cause cancer

-Cindy Miner

can tar from cigarettes cause cancer?

-klebbie, Texas

yes.  For more info on tobacco and cigarettes, visit: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes

-Nancy Pilotte

Can tar give you cancer?

-ahernandez, Texas

Hi ahernandez, yes, several chemicals in cigarettes can lead to cancer, including tar. Here is a wiki page on it:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tar_(tobacco_residue)

-Joni Rutter

Can teens get drunk faster than adults?

-atekrouri, Texas

Often times yes simply because we tend to be smaller than adults when we're teens. Smaller bodies mean more alcohol gets to the brain. Learn more about how drinking affects teens

-Aaron White

Can the amount of drugs affect the sperm to the reproductive system?

-PSwidrak, New Hampshire

Yes, especially the use of anabolic androgenic steroids like testosterone.  Mega-doses that most people use to build muscle actually decrease sperm production and testicular size.  For more info see: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/anabolic-steroids

-Nancy Pilotte

Can the baby of a pregnant woman be born addicted if the mother was addicted to drugs?

-Cookie P. JR, Illinois

Hi Cookie P.JR.  Yes, sadly this can happen. You might have heard of "crack babies" or babies born with "neonatal abstinence syndrome."  These are caused by the mother using cocaine or heroin, respectively. You can learn more in our Substance Use in Women DrugFacts and our Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome infographic. 

-Joni Rutter

Can therapy help you stop doings drugs ?

-MTrevino, Texas

Hi MTrevino:

Yes!

There are medications to help with some addictions including nicotine/tobacco, alcohol, and opioids (e.g. heroin or pain pills). And there are also behavioral therapies to help people recover. But addiction is often a lasting condition, like heart disease or diabetes; there are treatments that help someone live a healthy, productive life but there is no cure. NIDA scientists are working hard to develop better treatments to treat addictions to all types of drugs. You can learn more about effective treatment programs here:  http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/treatment

-Michelle Leff

can tobacco affect any part of the body on the outside? (skin, hair, etc.)

-jle, Texas

Absolutely. Tobacco affects many parts of the body. Skin is less elastic and becomes more wrinkled when someone smokes and the lustre of hair diminishes. It's amazing that tobacco harms not just the lungs but MANY parts of the body.

-Wilson Compton