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 here.

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why does alcohol affect some people more than others?

-vergeweitigung, Pennsylvania

Good question. You're right, there are individual differences in how people respond to alcohol and other drugs. Part of the reason is genes. Your genes can affect how you metabolize a drug and how drugs act on your brain and other organs in your body. For example, the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase oxidizes alcohol in the body. Some people have an alternate form of this gene that causes the enzyme to work less well, putting them at risk of alcohol toxicity. Another example: people have different forms of a gene for an enzyme that breaks down nicotine, and depending on which form a person has, he or she will be more or less vulnerable to smoking addiction.

-David Shurtleff

why does drugs make your chemiacl balance off

-mary, Virginia

Hi Martinsville,That is an interesting question. Drugs have potent effects on the brain and can alter the manner in which neurons in other brain transmit information and communicate with one another. For example methamphetmine cause the brain chemical dopamine to rapidly pour out of brain cells. This rapid release of dopmaine is associated with the 'rush' or good feeling associated with its use, but over time it can also result in addiction as well as long-lasting emotional and cognitive problems. Need more information? Visit

-David Shurtleff

why does ecstasy make you depressed?

-JOOLAYY :D<3, Arizona

Ecstasy affects the brain by increasing the levels of various brain chemicals. One of these chemicals, serotonin plays an important role in the regulation of mood, sleep, pain, appetite, and other behaviors. The excess release of serotonin by ecstasy likely causes the positive feelings experienced by MDMA users. However, by releasing large amounts of serotonin, ecstasy then causes the brain to become significantly depleted of this important chemical, contributing to the negative feelings like depression that users often experience for several days after taking MDMA.

-Gaya Dowling

Why does marijuana make me hungry?

-Jay Jmnz, Arizona

That is a great question! As you probably know, the brain interprets the effects of marijuana. Marijuana interactions with specific proteins called receptors and can affect the parts of the brain that have those receptors. The reason that marijuana makes you hungry is that those receptors are located on neurons (nerve cells in the brain) that make up the feeding centers in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. Thus, when the receptors are occupied by deltaTHC, it activates those centers and makes you feel hungry. By the way, contrary to popular belief, most teenagers do not use marijuana. Among students surveyed in a yearly national survey, only about one in seven 10th graders report they are current marijuana users (which means they used marijuana within the past month) and fewer than one in five high school seniors is a current marijuana user. Would you like more information on how to live above the influence of marijuana? Visit and Also, if you would like to begin steps to stop smoking marijuana and you find that you are having trouble, visit You can find information on treatment centers in your area.

-Nancy Pilotte

Why do we start drinking alcohol at 21 when are brain isn't fully developed until age 25?

-cyoung, Oregon

Good question. While we scientists may think that what we find out through our research should influence policy and law-but that's not always the case. Bottom line: what is legal vs what is not legal isn't necessarily based upon science.

-Lisa Onken

why do you get sexually active when you get high or drunk?

-mr.hollister, Maryland

For some taking drugs can cause changes in how they make decisions by impacting their judgment. There are also specific types of drugs that have been associated with increases in sexual activity (like stimulants) perhaps because of their ability to energize. So the combination of the drug impacting judgment and increasing energy can lead a person to engage in activities while their under the influence that they normally might not.

-Anna Staton

Why do you have a loss of memory after doing drugs?

-valley vista, Arizona

Good question. Some drugs interfere with the way the brain forms memories. Drugs like Alcohol, marijuana, and anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium (diazepam), alprazolam, or Ambien are well known to impair memory.

-Steve Grant

why do you think most teen's get on drugs?

-drake, Virginia

Teens get into drugs for a variety of reasons, including the sense that if their friends are doing it then they should also do it so they can be cool, others take them to escape their own realities or problems, like be feeling lonely, sad, or that you don't belong or that no one cares about you. Others may try drugs simply because they are bored of feel angry.

-Nora Volkow

why do you think people make drugs (such as companies) if they know that they are bad. And how come the goverment has not done anything to stop them?

-Casa Grande, Arizona

Great question. The drugs that are produced by companies, or prescription drugs, are not bad. It's when people abuse them that they cause negative consequences. The FDA (Food Drug Administration) does regulate medications, but because medications are useful and reduce suffering they are needed, again it is when they are abused that the problems start. Like many things striking a proper balance is the most desiresable and difficult thing to do.

-Richard Denisco

why do you throw up after drinking alcohol

-linleywillis, Michigan

Alcohol, like other drugs, is a poison when taken in high doses. Each person has a different response but in general, stomach effects are very common with alcohol.

-Wilson Compton

Why do young teens start using drugs even though they know it's bad?

-ScLions026, Pennsylvania

they take them because initially it feels good but with repeated use these drugs loose their ability to make you feel good and when you are not on them the person will be feeling much worse than before they started taking. However, when someone (particularly a young person) uses a drug he or she doesn't necessarily think of how they will be feeling (poorly) after the drug leaves their body.

-Nora Volkow

Why is there a big debate on what is worse between alcohol and drugs?? Why cant we just all agree that both are bad no matter the consequences??

-Casa Grande, Arizona

Casa Grande, I like the way you think. Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, other drugs, they all can have very serious consequences, I hope that we all can agree on that.

-Cindy Miner

why is weed considered a drug

-tjohnson1234, Arizona

Marijuana comes from a plant that contains THC, which is 'psychoactive' (it affects mood and behavior) and can be addictive. For more information on mariijuana see and

-Stephanie Older

Why is weed illegal and alcohol is not?

-balllllllllerrr, Maryland

This is a very good question, but unfortunately there is no easy answer. Other countries have experimented with legalizing marijuana, but the long-term impact of going this route is not yet clear. One of our concerns, as public health officials, is that we don't fully understand the range of possible unintended consequences of making marijuana widely available. We are particularly concerned about the young people that are so much more likley to become addicted to a drug once they start using it. Now, going back to your comparison to alcohol, do you know the impact of early alcohol (or cigarettes for that matter) use by young people--especially among disadvantaged populations? It is truly devastating! This should give us pause before pushing forward and making another dangerous substance widely available because it tends to disproportionately harm the most vulnerable.

-Ruben Baler

Why is weed illegal when the physical damage is less than tobacco which IS legal?

-1337pwnerer, Maryland

The reasons why drugs are legal or illegal in this country are not so simple, and often based on historical considerations. In fact many drugs have been legal at some point in time and illegal at others (for example, tobacco illegal given what we know about the damage it causes? I would. Also weed causes its own set of problems--it messes with your memory, your coordination, and your perceptions. If you're smoking weed and trying to learn something in school, you're going to have big problems, or if you are trying to drive, you could get into an accident. We all know that tobacco is highly addictive--and can cause cancer, cardiovascular diseases, but did you know that marijuana is also addictive. Among people that smoke weed every day, some 25-50% become addicted--that means that they have trouble stopping use even though they recognize that marijuana is negatively affecting their lives. So, you pick your poison, but both can cause problems

-Susan Weiss

why shouldnt people do drugs

-I D 10 T, New York

That's a very basic and good question. In short, drugs can harm or kill you. Some drugs are more dangerous than others but keep in mind that when you get drugs on the street (or from 'friends'), they could contain anything.Some contaminants can be worse than cocaine, meth, or any other drug of abuse. In one case, a contaminant in street pills that was supposed to contain an opiate actually contained a toxic chemical (MPTP), which kills dopamine neurons. People who bought the pills ended up with permanent drug-induced Parkinson's disease. Read "teens real stories" with drugs on our teen website:

-Dave McCann

Will you please answer my question!! My friend has been cutting her self. And I am VERY scared and concernd! She has also been having a lot of mood swings....what does it mean??

-spt0617, Michigan

People who become depressed, lonely and isolated sometimes look to dangerous behaviors to 'feel better'. Try talking to a counselor, trusted adult or doctor that can help. If you'd like some more info about how to help your friend try calling 1-800-662-HELP or 1-800-273-TALK, where you can find private and confidential help 24/7.

-Richard Denisco

will you tell me an interesting fact about drugs?

-Ladybuff_00, Virginia

Here's an interesting fact - In 2007, nearly 288,000 people entering drug treatment programs reported marijuana as their primary drug of abuse.

-Gaya Dowling

witch drug kills the most

-balljay, Michigan

In 2006, about 35,000 people died from what were called 'unintentional drug poisonings' and many of these deaths involved prescription pain relievers (e.g., Vicodin and OxyContin). But if you added deaths related to tobacco that brings the total to about 475,000. So tobacco is definitely the drug that causes the most deaths. It causes about 440,000 deaths a year.

-Anna Staton

Would drinking or smoking(weed) occasionaly.. drasticly affect your grades/how smart you are?

-Bhelferty, Pennsylvania

Marijuana, like most other drugs, affects the parts of the brain that allow us to make plans, solve problems, and make decisions-- so yes, even occasional use can cause someone not to study and/or have their grades drop. The same holds true for alcohol.

-Stephanie Older

Would somebody commit suicide if they cant stop taking a drug???

-fani^_^, Texas

Drug abuse contributes to suicide risk--that is, drug abusers are more likely to commit suicide than people who don't abuse drugs. For example, marijuana use has been associated with a number of mental conditions, including schizophrenia (psychosis), depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation or attempts. But there is help available and people can turn their lives around before it is too late.

-Wilson Compton

would you smoke weed and crack for a 500,000 dollars?

-anthony, Pennsylvania

Hmmmmm, I doubt that anyone will offer you a lot of money to use drugs! The negative consequences such as stealing, losing friends, family problems, or other physical or mental problems brought on by drug abuse (addiction) are too great.

Although we know what happens to the brain when someone becomes addicted, we can't predict how many times a person must use a drug before becoming addicted. A person's genetic makeup, the genes that make each of us who we are, and the environment each play a role. What we do know is that a person who uses drugs risks becoming addicted, craving the drug despite its potentially devastating consequences.

-Wilson Compton

would you stop me from doing drugs if you seen me doing it?

-DoyleCassie, Michigan

Well, there is no point in using physical force to stop someone from using drugs. It is likely that the person may react and want to use more. If someone is using drugs, I would talk about the harm they're doing to themselves and give them some scientific facts that might make them reconsider their choice. However, in the end, it's up to the person to stop or not. Hopefully, the healthy decision will win out. Take a look at our teen website:

-Ivan Montoya

y do people smoke

-lie961, New York

Great question! People smoke for lots of different reasons. Smoking (cigarettes) can have a stimulating effect, but it is also very dangerous and addictive. So, whereas most people start smoking because they are curious about the effects of nicotine or because of peer pressure, once they become addicted, they can't stop.For more information see: and

-Kevin Conway

y is speed called speed

-JDT24, Massachusetts

I believe that speed is called speed because many people become stimulated by it and they feel that their thoughts are racing through their heads. Of course, there are also dangers. Keep in mind is that when drugs are bought on the street (or from 'friends'), they could contain anything. 'Speed' may not be speed. Some pills can contain contaminants that are worse than cocaine, meth, or any other drug of abuse. In one case, a contaminant in street pills that was supposed to contain an opiate actually contained a toxic chemical (MPTP), which kills dopamine neurons. People who bought the pills ended up with permanent drug-induced Parkinson's disease. There is no way of knowing in advance how someone may react. Read more about speed and other stimulants at You'll see other interesting things to click on while you're there.

-Dave McCann

you dont like rockville high dont u

-Nachosssss, Maryland

Love Rockville High School, I even visited and spoke at your school a year ago.. But I don't like those speed cameras in front of the school!! :)

-Cindy Miner