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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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Do drugs cause brain damage?

-Katelyn/Miranda, Texas

Drugs impact the brain which affect mood and behavior. Research is underway to better understand what are the long-term effects on brain structure and activity. It is believed that chronic drug use can affect the brain impacting on various functions like memory.

-Jack Stein

Do drugs cause depression? If so, how?

-tammiabante, Illinois

Repeated use of drugs will worsen your mood, making you increasingly more vulnerable to depression in what is called the "dark side" of addiction.

-Nora Volkow

Do drugs cause you to "lose" parts of yourself?

-kwong, Texas

Hi kwong,
Depends on what parts. Meth use can make you lose your teeth, for example, and also kill brain cells--tiny but important parts. And using marijuana heavily in your teens can make you permanently lose IQ points (intelligence), which could be considered a part of you. And if you overdose on some drugs like opioids (heroin and prescription painkillers), you can lose your life. That's a pretty important part!
Be smart and keep all your parts! :-)

-Eric Wargo

do drugs change your facial structure

-Msutton, Texas

Hi Msutton. Thanks for the great question. When fetuses are exposed to alcohol it can lead to facial abnormalities (like low set ears, wider space between the eyes), but other drugs are not really associated with facial structure issues (except if someone has a stroke or an injury from their drug use). Here are more drug facts from the NIDA teen site:https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts.

-Wilson Compton

do drugs disturb your hormones

-Nkarim, Texas

Hey Nkarim! Yes! Drugs can definitely disturb your hormones. The most severe example is steroid use, which disrupts the normal production of hormones in the body, causing both reversible and irreversible changes. Changes that can be reversed include reduced sperm production and shrinking of the testicles (testicular atrophy). Irreversible changes include male-pattern baldness and breast development (gynecomastia) in men. In the female body, anabolic steroids cause masculinization. Breast size and body fat decrease, the skin becomes coarse, the clitoris enlarges, and the voice deepens. Women may experience excessive growth of body hair but lose scalp hair.

Opioid drugs can also cause testosterone deficits in men, and can also cause the development of endocrine disorders.

-Emily Einstein

Do drugs have an effect on you weight?

-rivet, Indiana

Hi Rivet - they do. That's because drugs can affect your metabolic rate which can cause you to lose weight if they speed it up or gain weight if it slows it down.

-Michele Rankin

Do I really need to attend a treatment program? Can’t I just go to 12-step meetings?

-p, Other

Hi p,
Great question. Treatment is different from support groups like 12-step programs. Treatment is administered by a medical doctor or counselor, and with some drugs like opioids it involves medication to help the body and brain adjust to not having drugs.12-step groups can also be helpful, both during treatment and after treatment is over, but it is a setting in which people with drug problems can share their experiences and give each other help and support.
See our Step-by-Step Guides to know if you have a problem with drugs: www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/treatment

-Eric Wargo

do mariquana and alcholol kill at the same rate

-erice, Texas

Hey erice- No. While both alcohol and marijuana can cause injury or death from accidents (such as car crashes), alcohol can cause you to stop breathing and die, while marijuana has no such mechanism.

-Emily Einstein

Do more adults do drugs than kids?

-Honesty , Massachusetts

Hi, Honesty, thanks for your question. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the highest percentage of drug use is reported by people between the ages of 18-25, where around 22% said they had used in the month before the survey. About 9% of kids ages 12-17 reported use in the prior month, and 8% in ages 26 and up. For more information, check out the report at https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR1-2015/NSDUH-FFR1-2015/NSDUH-FFR1-2015.pdf

-Marsha Lopez

Do most people start to use drugs when they are depressed or sad? Or do they start using them from curiosity or Addiction?

-Cheshire Cat, Colorado

Hey Cat
All of the above. People start for many reasons. Some start because they think drugs will make them feel better. Others start out of pure curiousity. Others start at the urging of friends. Nobody starts using drugs because they want to be addicted, but some find that they can't stop. Addiction isn't due to lack of willpower, but because drugs change the brain. For more information, see: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-add...

-Cora Lee Wetherington

Do nicotine patches, nicotine gum and cigarettes hurt you equally or cause the same level of addiction?

-IRL, Other
Hi IRL,

Good question! Nicotine replacement therapies like the gum or patches do have nicotine, but they don't have the harmful effects of smoked tobacco. They also result in a more steady-state concentration of nicotine than the one you get from smoking, decreasing the craving and withdrawal that drive the desire to smoke. https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes

-Mary Kautz

Do nicotine patches, nicotine gum and cigarettes hurt you equally?

-IRL, Other

IRL - short answer is no. Nicotine patches and gum have been developed as treatments to help peole who want to stop smoking cigarettes. They do not the harmful effects of smoking. Smoking has very harmful effects on the body, including increasing risk of cancer, respiratory infetions, cardiovascular problems. Plus smoking gives you yellow teeth and really bad breath!

More information on smoking and smoking cessation can be found at:https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes

-Redonna Chandler

do non alcoholic drinks afflict kids

-otto_davidson, New York

It depends on what's in them. Caffeine can cause sleep problems and anxiety, while sugar can lead to excess fat and contribute to diabetes.

-George Koob

Do people actually think alternate forms of certain substances are safer?

-bhuynh, Texas

yes, for example if u inejct or smoke cocaine its more dangerour than snorting it or taking it orally.

-Nora Volkow

Do people become addicted to medical marijuana?

-ally, New York

Dear Ally,

It is possible that someone could become addicted to medical marijuana. There is no difference between marijuana and medical maijuana except that it is being used for a medical condition. If you are concerned that someone you know is addicted, you can get information below.

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 https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov to find information about treatment centers in your area.

-Roger Little

do people choose to keep smoking because they're addicted, or just because they want to?

-jbofill, Texas

Dear jbofill - You've asked a great question that scientists at NIDA are working hard to answer. People usually continue to smoke because they become addicted to nicotine, which is present in cigarettes and other tobacco products. Unfortunately, it's usually very difficult to stop using tobacco products because of this addiction. There are medications and 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. 

-Heather Kimmel

Do people get drunk when they drink beer?

-ASteele, Massachusetts

Yes if they drink too much! And that amount varies depending on a person's own biology. For some people, one or two drinks can make them drunk.

-Carol Krause

Do people react differently to smoking marijuana?

-Jnavarrete, Texas

yes, each person has a unique response to marijuana. For example some people may feel sleepy, others groovy and others paranoid and fearful.

-Nora Volkow

Do people really start seeing colors and other stuff when there high?

-rloch, Texas

The effects of drugs can vary from person to person. Some people have reported seeing colors or other objects that are not present. Depending on the drug, people report a variety of different side effects. It's best to not even start using drugs due to the negative consequences.

-Albert Avila

Do people use prescription drugs to smoke them?

-Matthew G, Texas

That's not the typical way these types of drugs are used. Prescription opioids are chemically similar to opium, and opium has been smoked for centuries. But prescription opioids are typically taken by mouth or injected.

-Dave Thomas

do people who take drugs smell bad?

-James , New York

they very well could. One of the effects of drug use and addiction is lack of motivation and care in things that used to be important to you, like sleeping well, dressing up properly, or keeping up with your hygiene.

-Ruben Baler

do people with eating disorders take medication to help as well?

-melissa, Ohio

Hi Melissa,

This is a great question. Medications can be important parts of a comprehensive treatment program for eating disorders. However, medications alone are not effective. For example, antidepressant medications have been shown to help individuals with anorexia nervosa, but they don't work well unless the person is close to normal weight.

Best,

Joshua Gordon

-Josh Gordon

Do peoples behavior change when drinking alcohol ? In what way does it affect you ?

-Atipnis, Texas

When people drink, they tend to take more risks and make bad choices due to the effects on the frontal lobes of the brain. Due to effects on the hippocampus, another area of the brain, some drunk people don't remember what they did when they wake up the next day. Alcohol disrupts the cerebellum in the back of the brain, which makes drunk people stumble around and lose their balance.

-Aaron White

do percription drugs have the same effect on people than regular drugs?

-b.alaga, Texas

Hi b.alaga! This is a good question, and the answer is "it depends." I am assuming that you are talking about the prescription drugs that are a big problem now because people can become addicted and even overdose and die. Prescription opioids have some similarities to opioids that are abused (like heroin). Usually, if someone is prescribed a opioid for pain relief/control, the doctor is careful to assess the person fully, and prescribes a therapeutic (and safe) dosage. In this situation, there is very little chance of overdose. However, these drugs can be addictive, and if that occurs, people will take more than prescribed, and then there can be bad effects - nodding off, unable to function, overdose, and even death.

-Michelle Leff

Do some ppl take drugs by there hurt or depressed even bullying

-Kaitlyn , Texas

Sometimes. People take drugs for various reasons often prompted by mental health problems or trauma (like bullying). Helping find more positive ways to cope with such problems is the key. Check out our website at drugabuse.gov for more resources!

-Michele Rankin

do steroids count a a drug

-dtrach, New Hampshire

Hey Dtrach,
Good question. Yes, steroids count as a drug because they have a physiological effect on your body. Steroids are synthetic variations of the male sex hormone testosterone. Some common names are Gear, Juice, Roids, and Stackers. Some short-term effects of steroids include mental problems, such as

  • paranoid (extreme, unreasonable) jealousy
  • extreme irritability
  • delusions—false beliefs or ideas
  • impaired judgment

Extreme mood swings can also occur, including "roid rage"—angry feelings and behavior that may lead to violence. You can read up on this on the NIDA website: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/anabolic-steroids

-Carol Krause

Do steroids help you in certain medical cases? If so, why is it dangerous?

-LNguyen, Texas

Hi LNguyen,
Steroids taken by athletes and by non-athlete bodybuilders are synthetic versions of the male hormone testosterone. They can sometimes be prescribed for legitimate medical needs, and there are other "steroid" drugs used for different medical conditions (such as "corticosteroids"), but these are different, and they are taken differently. Misuse of steroids to improve body image or athletic performance is dangerous because it has many harmful physical and behavioral side effects.

-Eric Wargo

do steroids increase your risk for suicide?

-Sweet, New York

Steroids aren't sweet, Sweet.
Long-term steroid abuse can act on some of the same brain pathways and chemicals—including dopamine, serotonin, and opioid systems—that are affected by other drugs. This may result in a significant effect on mood and behavior---including:

  • paranoid (extreme, unreasonable) jealousy
  • extreme irritability
  • delusions—false beliefs or ideas
  • impaired judgment
  • suicide

Extreme mood swings can also occur, including "roid rage"—angry feelings and behavior that may lead to violence.

-Michele Rankin

Do teens smoke more in high school or college

-jada fvsu 4h, Georgia

Hey Jada- Rates of smoking are higher in older age groups. For example, in 2015, 12% of people aged 12-17 used tobacco products in the past year, compared with 44% of people aged 18-25. For more drug use trends, check out https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/nationwide-trends.

-Emily Einstein

do the animals get killed by getting tested drugs on?

-blue, Illinois

Dear Blue,

Some animals that are used for research do die, but they are put down humanely--they go to sleep like the way pet dogs and cats do. Many life-saving drugs and drugs that reduce human suffering have been made as a result of this research. Also, all of the drugs that veterinarians have developed to save the lives of family dogs, cats, parrots, turtles--you name it, have been tested on animals too. That is how we know they are safe and effective. In a really exciting development, new cancer drugs that have not yet been approved for use in people are being made available for the treatment of family pets with cancer. This is important because it helps in the process of drug development and showing safety but also offers the chance of an effective treatment for your family pet.

-Roger Little