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 you get addicted to prescripotion drugs or no


Yes, you can. One of the common prescription drugs that is abused is oxycodone.

-Joni Rutter

Can you get high off of secondhand smoking?


Good question. You can have effects due to secondhand smoking. It has been reported that secondhand smoke exposure causes disease and premature death in children and adults who do not smoke. Secondhand smoke contains hundreds of chemicals known to be toxic or carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and can irritate and damage the lining of the airways. Even brief exposure can result in upper airway changes in healthy persons and can lead to more frequent and more asthma attacks in children who already have asthma. 

-Ivan Montoya

How can you tell if someone is doing and kind of drug?


Good question!A person may show different signs of using drugs depending on the type of drug, for example, people under the effect of marijuana have red eyes, move slowly and tend to eat a lot. in contrast, people under the effect of cocaine are moving fast, show face movements, have difficulty falling asleep, etc. When people are getting addicted to drugs they usually show changes in their behaviors like lower grades, less care of their appearance, lower interest in things that used to get them excited. For more information on how to tell if someone is using drugs you can visit

-Ivan Montoya

how can you tell if someone is on drugs

-j quintana x,

it depends on the drug and you can not always tell. people that are intoxicated with alcohol or marijuana can have uncoordinated movements. people that take heroin may have contracted pupils. people that are on cocaine or methamphetamine may seem to be moving or talking rapidly. someone that takes marihuana may appear to mellow. However people that take drugs regularly may be able to mask some of the effects of the drug, and appear normal.

-Nora Volkow



It is hard to quit smoking because cigarettes are addictive - and it isn't just the nicotine in the cigarettes that is habit-forming. People get very used to smoking at certain times of the day, and in certain situations, and this habit is hard to break, even when the nicotine addiction is diminished (that may be why it is hard to quit smoking, even with nicotine replacement therapy!). But there are behavioral interventions that can help quite a bit. There are methods that people can learn, that are specific to their situation, about how to avoid the urge to smoke, and what to do when that urge is unavoidable. It is very important to learn these behavioral techniques - even if medications are also being used. For more information, check out And most importantly, please don't get discouraged!

-Lisa Onken

How come people get so addicted to drugs when started?


Drugs affect the brain directly. The effects are as powerful as other types of experiences we enjoy and often much more powerful. All drugs of abuse affect the brain's reward system, causing changes that can disrupt a person's ability to enjoy natural rewards(like good food and music).Once affected by drugs, this system leads a person to repeat the behavior and to go after the drug in place of normal healthy activities they used to enjoy.In some people, such repeated drug use leads to habitual use and addiction. Some people are more likely to become addicted than others. Addiction can run in families. For example, if your parents smoke, you're more than twice a s likely to smoke as someone who does not have smoking parents.

-Frank Vocci

How come people trie to kill them selves after taking drugs


Thanks for your question. The main issue to keep in mind is that all drugs can affect someone's mood. Some drugs cause people to make very bad decisions, including wanting to kill themselves. Working in an emergency room as a doctor, I often took care of people who attempted suicide while they were drunk or high on many different substances. Almost always, when the person sobered up, they didn't feel so bad and didn't want to die.If you are concerned about someone and want to help him/her, please let them know that treatment is available and can be found at the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator at 1-800-662-HELP or go to their website at

-Wilson Compton

How come some people are greatly affected by doing drugs when others arent?


That is a really great question. You probably already know that individuals have different skills and abilities in other aspects of life, so it is natural to expect that different people respond to drugs differently. The ability of drugs to affect different people in different ways is called vulnerability, and we do not really understand what makes one person more or less vulnerable to drugs than others. We believe that genetics most likely influences how people respond to drugs, but there are other factors, like the social setting and effects of your peers and your expectations that can alter your perceptions of what a drug is doing to you. We are very interesting in learning more about vulnerabilities because that knowledge can help us devise treatment and prevention strategies to reduce drug use. To learn more, check out "The Science of Addiction" at

-Nancy Pilotte

How come the nigatine in drugs make it so addictive?


When you smoke, nicotine gets into your brain very quickly--in fact, smoking gets drugs into the brain more rapidly than injecting them. Research has shown that the faster a drug gets into the brain, the more addictive it is likely to be.

-Barry Hoffer

How did people come up with the idea for nicotine chewing gum?


It came from Sweden. A doctor there knew that people who used smokeless tobacco actually reduced their nicotine withdrawal. So he worked on a chewing gum with nicotine. For more information about smoking, go to: And here's a website with resources to help you quit smoking:

-Frank Vocci

How did you find so much things about drugs?

-big pappa,

Through scientific research. I work at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) - part of the National Institutes of Health, and NIDA provides support to scientists to study the effects of drugs on the brain and body, how to prevent people from using drugs, and how to provide effective treatment to people who are addicted to drugs, among other things. These scientists conduct research studies that provide all of this information. For more information on the National Institute on Drug Abuse, please look at the website:

-Lisa Onken

how do can you stand up to pure pressure if all your friends are pressuring you to smoke


Peer pressure can really be difficult to handle. Here are a few tips. First be assertive about what you want (for them to back off).Remember that it's your body and at the end of the day, you live with the consequences of your choices. Feel free to state reasons, for example--"that stuff makes your clothes stink" or"I don't want to be addicted to cigarettes". Finally, be prepared to ask yourself if your friends are really acting like "friends" if they keep asking you to do something that you don't want to do--especially when it is something that's harmful to you. Stay strong.

-Aria Crump

How do doctors know what a good amount of medicine is to be prescribed for a person?


how much medicine a person needs depends on the disease they are suffering from. in the case of addiction we have medication for 2 types of drugs heroin and nicotine. the doses are determined on the characteristics of the person (weight and gender) and their histories of drug use.

-Nora Volkow

How do drugs affect growth?


The teen brain is a work in progress: It undergoes dramatic changes during adolescence and into adulthood. Drug use during this time can cause brain changes that can make a person more vulnerable to addiction. Research is just beginning to help us understand how adolescent and adult brains brains differ in response to drug use. We know that some drugs, especially steroids, affect physical growth. For more information on steroids, see

-Cora Lee Wetherington

How do drugs affects ones common sense?


Most drugs will affect your brain which in turn will influence the way you behave. Drugs can alter your judgment and inhibitions and may lead you to do things you would not normally do.

-Jacques Normand

How do drugs effect your body?


Drugs of abuse affect your body in many ways. They can affect organs such as the heart but most importantly, they act on the brain where they interact with brain circuits known as neurons. With repeated drug use, these neurons can lead to brain changes that can result in addiction. Also, some drugs of abuse such as "ecstasy" are "neurotoxic," meaning that they can damage or kill nerve cells.

-David Shurtleff

How do drugs effect your performance in sport???


Drugs can affect sport performance in a lot of ways, and the effect differs by the type of drug that is used. The most common drug associated with sport performance is anabolic steroids. While anabolic steroids can enhance sport performance, they are dangerous drugs and, when used inappropriately, they can cause many severe, long-lasting, and often irreversible negative health consequences. These drugs can stunt your growth,cause masculine traits in girls (e.g., unwanted hair growth), and alter sex characteristics of boys (e.g.,breast development). Some steroid abusers report that they have committed aggressive acts, such as physical fighting, vandalism, or burglary. Athletes who use marijuana could find their performance is off; timing, movements, and coordination are all affected by THC. If you want to know more about steroid abuse, go to:

-Kevin Conway

how do drugs have certian affects


Great question! Drugs can have many effects on your brain and body. Drugs act on different parts of your brain, and your brain controls your thoughts and your body. All drugs affect affect the dopamine system. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain (also called a neurotransmitter) that has a role in lots of functions. Drugs can also have additional effects on many other parts of your brain. For example, cocaine and marijuana both affect your ability to reason and to remember, but by activating different parts of your brain. So cocaine would directly affect your frontal cortex (the area primarily responsible for decision-making)and marijuana affects an area called the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory. You can find out more at:

-Nancy Pilotte

Hello, and Thanks - Has drug use risen among teens in the last five years or declined?


Over the past five years, the studies we use to monitor drug use in this country have shown a decline among overall drug use in teens. Some individual drugs show a decline while others do not over a five year period, but most have declined over this time. For the most part, teens are are taking better care of themselves: drug use declined by 23.2% from 2001 to 2006.You can see more about trends and statistics about drugs at:

-Marsha Lopez

Hello, i had a question regarding the positive effects of steriods on a devoloping adolscence is someone is kind enough to help


Steroids are actually human-made substances related to male sex hormones. As you probably know, some athletes abuse anabolic steroids to enhance performance by boosting muscle size and reducing body fat .High school athletes,for example, have also been known to use steriods to enhance performance on the field. But the down side is that steroids disrupt the normal production of hormones in the body,and can lead to reduced sperm production and shrinking of the testicles.Other changes include male-pattern baldness and breast development in men-(Yuck!).In the female body, anabolic steroids cause masculinization. This means that females will experience decreases in body fat, coarsening of the skin,and deepening of the voice. Women may also experience excessive growth of body hair(chest, chin, back, etc.) and lose the hair on their head. Examples of other effects are increase of the risk of blood clots and damage to heart muscle. Steroid abuse has also been associated with liver tumors and a rare condition called peliosis hepatis, in which blood-filled cysts form in the liver. Both the tumors and the cysts can rupture, causing internal bleeding.Most important, with continued steroid use, some of these effects become irreversible. If you want to know more about steroid abuse, go to:

-David Shurtleff

hey can all drugs make yo mentall ill


This is an excellent and complicated question. Drug abuse in general is associated with higher rates of many mental illnesses, like depression, schizophrenia and manic depressive illness. However, one can look at this from either direction:persons with mental illness may use more drugs than other people and early drug use may lead to later mental illness. The reasons why addiction and other mental disorders coincide so frequently are not fully understood. Children and adolescents with psychiatric conditions (conduct disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and learning disabilities) are at higher risk of abusing drugs than other youth. Also, you might find it interesting to know that there is evidence that drug abuse early in life may increase the risk of psychiatric disorders or accelerate their course. NIDA-supported investigators are using neuroimaging, genotyping, statistical modeling, and other tools to parse the interplay of risk factors in the development of such disorders. For further information see:

-Wilson Compton

hey how long do ecstacy effects last

-Mike S,

Right after you take ecstasy you can feel relaxed and very social for several hours, depending on the dose. Sometimes people feel depressed after using it, and if you use it regularly it may have longer lasting effects, including damaging some nerve cells in your brain because ecstasy can raise your body temperature.

-Barry Hoffer

hey how long is this goin on?


We are going to be doing this for about another hour. But we do plan on answering as many questions that we can over the next few days and posting them to our website next check back, if you don't see your question answered today, it might get answered next week.....

-Gaya Dowling

hi, why are prescription drugs dangerous?


prescription drugs when used inappropriately can be dangerous since they can produce addiction and can also trigger an overdose

-Nora Volkow

HIV can be trasmitted by sharing of the needles using drugs obvisouly and other things ex: sex etc.... however what is missing? why cant they find a treatment? What do they need are they anywhere close to finding a cure?


That is a great question.Tremendous advances have been made in treating HIV infection and AIDS, which has become a chronic disease and can be managed for many years. Some of the latest medications actually reduce the levels of HIV below detectable levels, so there is great hope for curing AIDS. There is a lot of research still going on to find a vaccine for HIV which would prevent the disease. Until then, more needs to be done to reduce the risky behaviors that you mentioned, like sharing needles and having unsafe sex with an infected person.You can find information for young people, parents and teachers about the link between drug abuse and HIV infection, with links to the latest research findings and news updates at

-Steve Gust

Hola, c`omo estas usted? Me llamo Ramiro. C`omo te llamas? Soy de Brentwood. De donde t`u? !Hasta Luego!


Somos un grupo de cientificos. Estamos cerca de Washington DC y con gusto responderemos a sus preguntas.


How addictive are prescription drugs?

-wild wild west,

Great question! It turns out that prescription drugs, when not taken as prescribed, can be very highly addictive. We have found that long-term use also can lead to physical dependence, a condition where the body adapts to the presence of the substance and withdrawal symptoms occur if use is reduced abruptly. This can also include tolerance, which means that higher doses of a medication must be taken to obtain the same initial effects. You might be interested to know that physical dependence is not the same as addiction, physical dependence can occur even with appropriate long-term use of opioid and other medications. Addiction is defined as compulsive, often uncontrollable drug use in spite of negative consequences. And, prescription drugs can become very addictive when not used properly.For more information specifically on prescription drugs, you might want to check out: Also, to learn more about addiction in general, check out "The Science of Addiction" at

-Joe Frascella

how addictive is heroin?


Heroin, like many other opiates,is a very addictive drug, as anyone trying to come off of it could tell you. It can cause severe withdrawal symptoms in someone trying to stop taking it, and, when heroin is smoked or injected, it gets into the brain very rapidly, contributing to its addictive potential.You can learn a lot more about heroin abuse and addiction by visiting

-Barry Hoffer

how addictive is marijuana?


There is quite a lot of evidence that regular use of marijuana can cause addiction-that is, you feel an overwhelming urge to use in spite of knowing deep down that it is harmful to you. In fact, more teens in drug treatment are there for using marijuana vs. any other drugs of abuse.For more information about marijuana, go to

-Barry Hoffer

how do you know if someone is addicted to alcohol?


There are signs. Maybe the easiest one to spot is the person's pattern of use--how much they drink. Most people who are addicted to alcohol drink more than 29 drinks per week, or 4+ drinks a day. A doctor diagnoses alcohol addiction using several criteria, such as tremor (shaking), withdrawal symptoms (such as sweating), assessing whether the person is using more than intended, or spending more time recovering than intended.

-Frank Vocci