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 there any long term effects of Marijuana on the brain and daily life functions?

-MikeBet234, New York

Hi Mike! Research shows that long-term marijuana use is associated with impaired intellectual functioning and IQ decline when usage starts during the teen years. This includes a number of mental conditions, including schizophrenia, psychosis, depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts or attempts. However it is not yet clear whether marijuana use directly causes these issues or just makes them worse. Currently, the strongest evidence is for the link between marijuana and psychosis. Marijuana intoxication can, in rare cases, produce a temporary psychosis, and it may play a role in the development of schizophrenia in some people carrying a certain genetic risk. Marijuana may be a means of self-medicating an existing or mild mental illness; it may be a marker of other problems (abuse, trauma); it may contribute to the development or worsening of the mental illness; or it may reflect combinations of the above.

For more about marijuana use: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana.

-Emily Einstein

are there any negative effects to drinking monster or red bull for athletes

-Isaac Hilbario, New York

That's a great question. As you probably know, the active ingredient in these drinks is caffeine, and some of these drinks have a lot more caffeine than a cup of coffee. I suggest that you check with your physician about his/her recommendations for your specific situation, but keep in mind that the Mayo Clinic recommends no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day for most healthy adults. Caffeine is not recommended for children. Too much caffeine can cause a person to feel stressed, anxious or jitterfy. It can also cause headaches, dizziness, trouble sleeping and increased urination which can cause dehydration. It can also interfere with any medications that a person might be taking.

-Aria Crump

Are there any new laws for drugs

-Tomas Klett, Illinois

Hi Tomas Klett! Yes, there have been new laws enacted for drugs. These changes would depend on if it is a state or national change and what kind of drug. Here are two examples of some changes:
*You need to be 21 years of age now to smoke or vape in Hawaii.
*California, Nevada, and Massachusetts approved measures legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, while Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota allow marijuana for medical purposes.

-Bethany Deeds

Are there any new up-and-coming drugs that not much is known about but is very dangerous among high school students?

-loooooogan, New York

Hi, loooooogan, the answer to this question is a moving target because new drugs tend to burst onto the scene rapidly (and sometimes disappear just as rapidly). We have a National Drug Early Warning System which includes a virtual community of scientists, government officials, public health experts, law enforcement representatives, who share information from their local communities about emerging drug problems or changes in drug use trends. Check it out!

-Marsha Lopez

All my friends are stoners/crackheads which is pretty cool but drugs are bad, say no to drugs like me stay fresh They don't listen what do I do?

-seranzaldo20, California

Hola seranzaldo20 from Los Molinos High School! It sounds like you are not only super fresh, but are a super positive influence in your peer group. Just knowing the facts and that drugs are harmful might not prevent people from using drugs. For more information, click on: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/brain-and-addiction.

Also, if you haven't already prepared a plan before heading out into a pressurized situation with your friends. Develop talking points in your head about what you are going to say and do. For some suggestions, visit: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/6-tactful-tips-resisting-peer-pressure-to-use-drugs-and-alcohol. Also be aware that your brain works differently in groups than when you are alone. For more information, check out: http://headsup.scholastic.com/students/the-science-of-decision-making-and-peer-pressure.

-Bethany Deeds

all my old relatives did LSD when they were hippies but they're fine. why would it harm me?

-gayginger, Maryland

Hi gayginger,
Great question -- it wouldn't necessarily harm you -- not all drugs harm everyone -- but you never know how drugs will affect you, because every person is different. Drugs can have worse and more lasting effects if you take them when you are young.
Also, these days especially, you can never be sure what is actually in the drugs you take. A dealer may call it LSD, but it could be anything. Today there are some very very dangerous (deadly) synthetic hallucinogens on the streets that might be sold as "LSD" but send people to the hospital or the morgue.
Stay safe.

-Eric Wargo

Although marijuana does have its problems, why is it put in the same classification as meth as a schedule 1 drug? Also 0 people die from marijuana overdose each year and its illegal while thousands die from prescription opioids and they are considered safer, why is that?

-RedneckRandy246, Pennsylvania

hey RedneckRandy246, schedule I includes any drug with abuse potential that is not approved by the FDA as a medication. Schedules II-V include drugs approved by the FDA ranked by the abuse potential such that the most addictive drugs are in Schedule II.

-Maureen Boyle

approximately how often, and how extremely does someone have to use "gateway drugs" like marijuana and alcohol for it to irreparably impact the frontal lobe.

-Summit11701, New Jersey

Dear Summit11701,

This is a great question, and the answer is different for every person. For reasons we are still trying to understand, different people may not have the same risk for becoming addicted to different drugs. One person might get addicted very quickly to cocaine but be able to drink alcohol socially without becoming addicted to it. We do know that illicit drugs such as opioids and cocaine are potentially very harmful and very addictive, which is why these are illegal, or for opioids, highly regulated. The safest thing is to never try them. There is more information at http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/commonly-abused-drugs/health-effects#marijuana.

-Roger Little

Are alcohol or drugs more addictive? Or does it depend on what kinds?

-Jade, Minnesota

Hi Jade,

Both are very addictive. There are many things that can influence how addictive any drug can be, including the frequency with which the drug is taken as well as the amount. Having another mental disorder, such as depression, can also make drugs more addictive. And taking more than one drug (e.g., cannabis and alcohol) also makes each of them more addictive. It is like fighting several ennemies at that same time!

-Carlos Blanco

Are alcoholism and drug addiction genetically inherited?

-Amanda R., Texas

Dear Amanda R.,

This is a great question. We know that genetics do affect people's risk for addiction. People who have a family history of drug or alcohol addiction are at greater risk. Environment is also very important--stress and other negative environmental factors can increase addiction risk, but having good friendships and family support can protect people who are at risk. Also having a stimulating environment, like having lots of hobbies and interests, can reduce your risk. The safest thing is to never try drugs. https://easyread.drugabuse.gov/, https://easyread.drugabuse.gov/content/does-addiction-run-families

-Roger Little

Are alcoholism and drug addiction genetically inherited?

-Molly Look, Colorado

People can inherit a susceptibility to become addicted to alcohol and drugs. But, inheriting that susceptibility doesn't mean that they automatically will become addicted. Having said that, if alcohol and drug addiction, including nicotine addiction, seems to run in someone's family, they would be wise to stay away from those drugs. Nobody can become addicted to a drug they don't ever use. Better to be safe than sorry, as many who have become addicted can tell you.

-Cora Lee Wetherington

Are alcoholism and drug addiction genetically inherited?

-4-H, Colorado

hey 4-H, yes genetic factors do play a role in addiction to drugs and alcohol. It is estimated that about half the risk is genetic and half environmental (social support, access to drugs, stress, etc.)

-Maureen Boyle

are all drugs bad

-dgarza, Texas

Hi dgarza! Drugs is a broad term that include both medicines as well as illegal drugs. Medicines are generally safe when used by the person for whom they were prescribed in the dose the doctor recommened. But medicines can also be abused. When this happens, they can become harmful. Illegal drugs are known to cause lots of health problems and even death. When a drug is illegal, that means it isn't safe to use either recreationally or as a medicine. For more info, see: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/

-Will Aklin

Are all drugs dangerous

-Jamiah, Texas

Different drugs can be dangerous in different ways. Some drugs, like tobacco, can damage you slowly – for example long term tobacco use can cause cancer and is the leading cause of preventable death. Many drugs, and alcohol, can impair your coordination and lead to devastating accidents (like drunk driving). Other drugs, like meth, can be especially toxic to your brain. And taking drugs, like heroin or cocaine, or misusing prescription drugs, has the potential to cause overdose and death even the first time you use them. They can also result in addiction.

Medications can be life-saving and beneficial, but any drug that is misused, even over the counter medications that are not used the way they are intended, can be dangerous. Please protect your brain and your health, you need them! Check out the overdose death statistics for various drugs: https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates.

-Emily Einstein

Are all illegal drugs deadly?

-Summit11344, New Jersey

hmmm, good question. All of the drugs we look at can cause either overdose or result in behavior that one way or another might result in serious harm or death - like impaired driving. So my answer is yes, they can be.

-Dave Thomas

Are anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication addictive/dangerous

-val, New York

Dear Val,

Most antidepressants are not addictive. However, the body and brain do adapt to the presence of these medications, so that stopping them right away can cause some uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, most doctors will tell patients to slowly lower the dose of an antidepressant before stopping the medication altogether.

Some anti-anxiety drugs can be addictive, particularly drugs like valium that belong to a class of medicines called "benzodiazepines." They can be used safely, but I always recommend to my patients that we try to use them for short periods of time and at as low a dose as is effective. As with many antidepressants, I also recommend that patients slowly lower the dose when they're ready to stop.

In terms of dangerousness, all medicines should be taken as recommended, because high doses can be dangerous.

Josh

-Josh Gordon

are certain cigarettes stronger than others?

-ApPlEsLiCe, Texas

Dear ApPlEsLiCe - that's a great question! Different cigarettes brands can contain different amounts of nicotine, the addictive substance present in tobacco products. Although flavored cigarettes are illegal in the US, some cigarettes contain menthol, which provides a cooling sensation while using the cigarette. In addition, the filters in cigarettes remove much of the tar (but not other chemicals), which can alter the perceived strength of the cigarette.

-Heather Kimmel

Are chicken nuggets a drug because i think i am addicted?

-Jacksun, Maryland

You and me both Jacksun!

-Maureen Boyle

Are cigars more addictive than cigarettes?

-Shane@Gentry, Texas

Hi Shane,

Cigars tend to have greater amounts of nicotine than cigarettes. However, what really counts is how much nicotine you are exposed to. So, if you smoke one pack of cigarettes a day versus one cigar per year, the cigarettes will play a bigger role in your addiction.

-Carlos Blanco

Are cigars worse than cigarrettes and if they are, by how much?

-Elevatior music, Illinois

Good question! Both are bad for your health. Cigarette smoking remains one of the leading causes of death in this country -- nearly 500,000 people die each year because of smoking cigarettes. Although fewer people smoke cigars, cigars are dangerous because they involve burning tobacco, which maximizes the harm of the chemicals in tobacco. This is true of any kind of cigar, including big (traditional) cigars, little cigars, and cigarillos. It's best to avoid tobacco altogether for a healthy life!

-Kevin Conway

Are depressant bad for you when your actually depressed?

-isaac, California

Drugs like alcohol are called "depressants" because they depress activity in the brain, and can make you feel sad. For people who are already depressed, this can be dangerous. For example, people who are depressed and drink alcohol are more likely to try to kill themselves. So yes, alcohol and other "depressants" are indeed bad for you when you are actually depressed.

-Josh Gordon

Are drug's effects worse to younger people?

-Emre, Illinois

Hi Emre,
Good question. The big risk in younger people is that their brain, your brain, is still in development. Brains are not completely developed until about the age of 25. And a developing brain is more "fragile" than a fully developed brain. Thus drugs may have a bigger and longer lasting impact on younger people.

-Dave Thomas

are drugs bad?

-anon, New York

Drugs can cause significant health problems including addiction!

-Jack Stein

Are drugs more affective if you are young?

-sprinkle sparki, Texas

If you start using drugs while you are young---as a teen---you are more likely to get addicted.

-Michele Rankin

Are drugs more popular in male or females

-James , New York

Hi, James, thanks for your question. Generally the percentage of males who report using drugs is higher than females. According the the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 12.5% of males had reported using drugs in the month prior to the survey, compared to nearly 8% of females. Here's a chart comparing gender differences regarding prescription drugs - https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/prescription-dru...

-Marsha Lopez

Are E-Cigarettes as bad as regular cigarettes?

-jnguyen, Texas
We are just beginning to understand vaping but we have much more to learn including what kinds of chemicals may be inhaled. So, although many of the toxic chemicals from burning cigarettes may not be present in vaping, other dangers may exist! There are many checmicals in the vaping liquid that were never meant to be inhaled. In addition, many of these liquids contain nicotine, which is very addictive. So, while we don't know the answer to this question, we do know that vaping OR smoking is bad for you. Stay in control of your health and don't use any tobacco product!
-Heather Kimmel

Are e-cigs actually safer than regular cigs?

-AceFlash225, Illinois

Overall yes, but they themselves can have toxicity, and because they deliver nicotine they are also addictive

-Nora Volkow

Are E-cigs worse than regular cigarettes?

-PacePinellas, Florida

Good question and one that lots of others are asking in today's chat. The research is very clear that cigarettes are really, REALLY bad -- you should never smoke them. For vaping (e-cigs), the research is still ongoing but we are learning vaping involves risk to your health, especially because it invovles heating liquid (juice) and other products and inhaling them into your lungs. And, e-cigs can also contain nicotine, which is the chemical that makes tobacco so addictive. The same general answer applies to marijuana -- vaping is a risky business.

-Kevin Conway

Are electric cigarettes or cigarettes more used?

-ntruong, Texas

Hi, ntruong, thanks for your question. Right now there are more teenagers reporting use of electronic cigarettes than regular cigarettes. According to the 2016 Monitoring the Future survey, 12.5% of high school seniors, 11% of 10th graders, and 6% of 8th graders reported they had used electronic cigarettes in the month prior to the survey compared to 10.5% of 12th, 5% of 10th, and less than 3% of 8th graders reporting use of regular cigarettes. Want more data? Check out www.monitoringthefuture.org

-Marsha Lopez

Are electronic cigarettes better for you than normal cigarettes?

-K Perry, New Hampshire

hey K Perry, 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 formaldehyde and acetaldehyde), as well as potentially toxic metal nanoparticles from the vaporizing mechanism. The health consequences of repeated exposure to these chemicals are not yet clear.

-Maureen Boyle