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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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

-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.,

-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:

-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:

-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 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

Can cigarette/cigar smoke cause ear infections?

-Corrie, Illinois

Cigarette/cigar smoke can cause ear infections by irrating the Eustachian tubes in your ear. Eustachian tubes are small tubes that run from each ear directly to the back of the throat. When they become swollen or blocked, fluid builds up in your middle ear, causing an ear infection.

-Heather Kimmel

can cigarettes calm your nerves

-staceyahFVSU/4-, Georgia

Dear staceyahFVSU/4 - you've asked a great question. Many smokers feel like cigarettes "calm their nerves." In reality, using cigarettes can make mental health problems, including anxiety, worse. In addition, other tobacco-related health problems, such as shortness of breath, cancer, and gum disease can make people MORE anxious. It would be better to find other ways to calm down, including exercise, sleep, being with friends and family, taking care of a pet, and/or even seeking professional help. Learn how to get help here:

-Heather Kimmel

Can cocaine cause early heart attacks?

-ace, Maryland

Hi Ace,
great question. Yes it can. People who use cocaine regularly are at high risk of coronary artery disease which can result in heart attacks. Also, a recent study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine reports that stopping or reducing cocaine use can potentially reverse the process of coronary atherosclerosis. Never too late to stop!
For more information on cocaine, visit:

-Anto Bonci

can cocaine kill you

-waxlerch, Texas

Hey waxlerch- Yup, cocaine can kill you. There's a chance of death even from the first use. It's also even more dangerous when taken at the same time as alochol- together they produce the chemical cocaethylene, which increases the risk of death. Check out some of these other cocaine facts:

-Emily Einstein

can doctors give u a personal card to be able to smoke mary jane

-alyssa143, Texas

Hi alyssa143, yes, in some states doctors are permitted to recommend marijuana for medical reasons but most states only allow this for adults.

-Maureen Boyle

Can doing drugs affect your vision permanetley

-AceFlash225, Illinois

Hello AceFlash225 - Interesting question. Most drugs don't effect eyesight or vision. However, cocaine and some other drugs can cause a stroke which may affect eyesight.

-Wilson Compton

Can doing drugs while being pregnant hurt the baby?

-Papa Johns, New York

Hi Papa Johns! because the mother and her growing fetus share the same circulatory system, whatever substances the mother takes also goes to the baby. As you can imagine, the fetus is rapidl,y developing and all of these biological processes can be impacted by the presence of drugs. The severity of birth defects experienced depends on what substances the mother takes, how long, etc.

-Michele Rankin

Can doing inhalants permanently damage your body from doing daily activities?

-imoeez, Texas

Hi Imoeez

YES ! Sniffing glue or other volitile chemicals like gasoline, paint, permanent markers, or other aerosols is extremely dangerous. These drugs damage the brain and lungs, and the damage may be irreversible. Even when you are using a volatile chemical for its intended purpose, you should always wear a protective mask.
There's more info here:

-Belinda Sims

Can drinking a sip of alcohol cause you to become addicted to it?

-Vestavia Hills , Alabama

hey Vestavia Hills, No, a single sip is unlikey to get you intoxicated or to initiate an addiction.

-Maureen Boyle

Can drinking affect giving birth?

-GPonce, Texas

We're not sure whether it can affect actually giving birth, but it definitely can effect the development of a fetus in the womb during pregnancy. Alcohol can disrupt fetal development at any stage during a pregnancy – including at the earliest stages and before a woman knows she is pregnant. Research shows that binge drinking, which means consuming four or more drinks per occasion, and regular heavy drinking put an unborn baby at the greatest risk for severe problems.

-Aaron White

can drinking smoking and inhaling things kill you?

-hansley, Texas

Yes, yes and yes. One can overdose from drinking, smoking and inhaling drugs. Plus, taking drugs in these ways can also cause diseases which can cause death in the future. take a look at this resource for a lot of great info:

-Dave Thomas

can drinking to much have long term effects

-n.r.s., Illinois

Long-term effects of alcohol abuse include accidents, injury, alcohol dependence, vulnerability to psychiatric disorders and even brain damage. Chronic alcohol abuse can also cause liver disease and other organ damage, weaken the immune system, and contribute to cancers.

-Aaron White

Can drinking too much alcohol while pregnant effect the baby?

-bill nye, New York

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. You can learn more about the dangers of drinking while you're pregnant here:

-Aaron White

can drudgs give you hiv

-erice, Texas

Hey erice, great question! Injecting drugs is a major risk factor for HIV and so are the risky behaviors that tend to go along with drug use - including unprotected sex.

-Maureen Boyle