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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hayhayhay. which drug does the most damage to the brain the quickest?


Great question - you sound like a junior neuroscientist! This question is a bit hard to answer specifically in that we know that all drugs affect the brain. Some drugs like meth and heroin can be highly addicting and lead to more and more abuse and addiction. All drugs can lead to addiction. We know that people have different vulnerabilities to drugs, and it really depends on your individual vulnerability to a drug and a drug's damaging effects. For more information on the effects of drugs on the brain - check out one of our newest publications:

-Joe Frascella

Does the brain and human emotions suffer irreversible effects from drug use? Abuse only? What's the research say?


Great questions! All drugs of abuse have their effects in the brain, and these effects can certainly effect ones emotions and emotional states. Research is showing how chronic drug use does change the brain structure and ability to function properly. We are starting to see results from research that these changes in the brain can be reversible, depending on a number of factors. For more information and some current research findings, please visit our web site at:

-Joe Frascella

Does the use of drugs increase the chance of hair loss?


Some drugs like steroids can result in hair loss.

-Nora Volkow

does weed affect a baby if you are pregnant?


Thanks for asking this question! Yes, weed/marijuana can affect the baby if the mother uses it while she's pregnant. We've got a couple of scientific studies on this - including one that followed kids from the prenatal/pregnancy stage until they were adults. And these studies found that prenatal exposure to marijuana caused subtle developmental effects on things like paying attention and thinking. Tobacco use can also affect the baby if the mother uses it while she's pregnant. We recommend pregnant women not use alcohol or drugs, including marijuana and tobacco, and ask their doctor for some help if they are having trouble stopping. You can find more answers to important questions like this anytime on our Teen Web site,

-Nicolette Borek

does weed fry your barin cells?


Thanks for your question. Our stuidies have found that weed can contribute to memory problems, altered perceptions, decreased reaction time, lack of motivation, sleep problems, and more. You also might be interested in knowing that studies have shown that chronic use can result in the an overall lack of career success as well as an addiction to marijuana. For more specific information, please visit:

-Joe Frascella

does weed kill alot of brain cells?


Thanks for your question! Our research has found that marijuana (weed) can contribute to memory problems, decreased reaction time, altered perceptions, lack of motivation, sleep problems, and more. You also might be interested in knowing that studies have shown that chronic use can result in the an overall lack of career success as well as an addiction to marijuana. For more specific information, please visit:

-Joe Frascella

Does your brain really wither away if use of drugs is constantly?


No, the brain doesn't typically wither away with chronic drug use, but, in fact, some drugs do affect the structure and functioning of the brain. That is, some drugs can kill brain cells and as well as altering the way other brain cells function. The more one uses drugs, the more likely one is to become addicted. Drug addiction can cause many changes to both the brain and body that have negative consequences.Thanks for this question.

-Joe Frascella

Does marijuana really affect driving?


Yep it sure does. It impacts judgment and reaction time, which are important to safe driving. Studies show that 10 to 22 percent of drivers involved in vehicle crashes, used drugs often in combination with alcohol. In fact, we know that a moderate dose of marijuana can impair driving performance (i.e., reaction time, visual search frequency--driver checking side streets--or perceiving/responding to changes in speed of other vehicles); and that even a low dose of marijuana combined with alcohol markedly increased driving impairment over either drug alone.

-Anna Staton

Does marijuauna slow reflexes? Affect the brain?


Great question! Marijuana has direct affects on brain systems. It interacts with some of the receptor systems in the brain and causes a release of the brain chemical called dopamine. Continued use can result in slowed thinking, impaired balance and coordination, decreased memory and difficulties in learning, anxiety, and it can result in addiction.The amount of negative effects on the brain depends on how much marijuana one uses, how early one starts, and individual vulnerabilities one might have to the negative effects of this drug. For young people it is always more harmful to use any drug not prescribed by their doctor because their brains are still developing. Thanks for this message.Thanks for this message.

-Joe Frascella

how dangerous is pure MDMA??


Excellent question. It is unlikley you will ever get access to pure MDMA (also called ecstasy) since the stuff you buy in the street is usually "cut" or adulterated with other ingredients or contaminants that make it more profitable. This is in fact an additional danger of taking ecstasy, because you can never be sure what other contaminants (and how much) you might be putting in your body. The effects of known doses of MDMA, however, are fairly well documented: research in animals has shown that MDMA in moderate to high doses can be toxic to nerve cells that contain serotonin and can cause long-lasting damage to them. If you'd like more information about the consequences of MDMA abuse go to :

-Ruben Baler

how did people find out about how medicine work and why do drugs kill off brain cell

-xyare lambert,

You ask a very interesting question. Much research is being done to develop medications and treatments for diseases. Research shows how diseases affect the body and brain, and medications are developed to try to treat, or cure the effects of disease. The same type of research is done to show how drugs of abuse affect the brain and body. Studies show the toxic effects of some drugs on brain cells. At the National Institute on Drug Abuse, many studies are being supported and done to help us understand better the how drugs affect the many systems in the body and brain. We hope to be able to discover treatments that can help drug abusers and addicts.Thanks for this question.

-Joe Frascella

how do drugs affect brain functions in teens?


Drugs not only affect mood and behavior in teens like they do in adults, there is a special ADDED risk when using drugs as a teen. This is because YOUR BRAIN IS STILL IN THE PROCESS OF DEVELOPING and finishing off how it connects with itself- it is like riding a bike over the sidewalk while the cement is still wet-- you're left with a rut that can endure! Adolescent rats exposed to drugs show lifelong altered responsiveness to drugs of abuse in laboratory behavior tests! For more comprehensive information on the brain and addiction, see

-James Bjork

How do steriods effect athletes in the long term?


"There is a long list of potentially serious health consequences that can result from the abuse of anabolic steroids which include:

-Ruben Baler

How do steroids affect a person's mood?


Very good question! It is possible that some steroid abusers may become addicted to the drugs, as evidenced by their continuing to take steroids in spite of physical problems, negative effects on social relations, or nervousness and irritability. Also, they spend large amounts of time and money obtaining the drugs and experience withdrawal symptoms such as mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, loss of appetite, insomnia, reduced sex drive, and the desire to take more steroids. The most dangerous of the withdrawal symptoms is depression, because it sometimes leads to suicide attempts. Untreated, some depressive symptoms associated with anabolic steroid withdrawal have been known to persist for a year or more after the abuser stops taking the drugs. If you want to learn more about steroid abuse, please go to:

-Ruben Baler

how do u know so much about drugs


In one word: Research. Twenty five years of it. You would be amazed about the amount of information we've been able to obtain through studyng the brain and the effects that different drugs can have on it.You can learn much more about what addiction research has taught us by visiting

-Ruben Baler

how do you get a license for medical marijuana?


You don't. First, your teen. Second, I'm guessing your not sick or a doctor. Third, it's illegal...medical or not.

-Elisabeth Davis

How can you detect someone doing drugs?


Sometimes you can tell when someone is using drugs because their behavior begins to change. They may become less interested in school, spending time with non-drug using friends, being with family, etc. They may also start making decisions that just don't make sense like skipping school, not participating in activities they use to love like sports, or deceiving friends/family about how they are spending their time. If you think someone you care about is using drugs talk to a trusted adult and/or call 1-800-662-HELP if you need advice on treatment options.

-Redonna Chandler

How can you stop taking a drug if your already adicted???


Great question! Stopping after addiction can be very difficult, as addiction is characterized as a chronic, relapsing disease. Most people have found that professional treatment help to be the most effective in stopping their drug use. One step in the right direction is to avoid the people that you do your drugs with, the places where you hang out and do your drugs, and those things that can remind you of the drugs and can result in craving and memories of drugs.Remember that drug addiction is a disease of the brain (a changed brain) that can be difficult to stop. Relapsing is common. But treatment works! Be sure to talk to your parent and the school conselor for more help.Hope this helps and thanks for the question.Be sure to talk to your parent and the school conselor for more help.Hope this helps and thanks for the question.

-Joe Frascella

how can i tell if aomeone is usin drugs?


It is not always easy but there are signs that could alert you: changes in personality, lack of interest in school, changes in weight, sloppiness in clothes, borrowing money constantly, lying frequently, sleepiness during the day, irritability, funny odors on their clothes (marijuana or inhalants).

-Nora Volkow

how can people stop being addicted to drugs?


There are behavioral therapies and medicines that can be accessed to treat addiction. To find a wealth of research and facts on the science of addiction and treatment, please go to: http:/// By clicking on the link Students and Young Adults from NIDAs home page, you will be able to access resources tailored for students and young adults, If you need help, you will also find a link there to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at or 1-800-662-HELP, where you can find private and confidential help 24/7.

-Frank Vocci

How can taking drugs affect you socially?


Two ways: when you are under the influence they could disinhibit you and make you do things that otherwise you would not do. Some drugs (marihuana and cocaine) in some people can make them paranoid and very scared that others are trying to hurt them. Once the drugs have left your body you may be left depressed and tired decreasing your motivation to socialize

-Nora Volkow

How come ciggerettes are not illegal?


Well actually cigarettes are illegal in every state for anyone under the age of 18. For those over 18, the legal systems let adults make their own decisions regarding smoking. Also, cigarette smoking is increasingly being banned in public spaces in many states. So governments have been recognizing the health effects that cigarettes can have.

-Redonna Chandler

How come drugs can be so harmful but yet be really good medicines?


Great question. Many medications can be harmful when taken incorrectly - not as prescribed by a doctor. Even vitamins can be dangerous if you take too many of them. Some medications (like painkillers, sedatives and sleeping pills and stimulants) can be really helpful when someone is sick but can be addictive.

-Wilson Compton

how come people foreget things after smoking weed?


Because marijuana directly activates the memory centers of your brain inhibiting your ability to remember.

-Nora Volkow

How come some drugs are legal even though they have bad effects????????


Whether drugs are legal or illegal depends on a number of factors. And some drugs are legal when used by a physician for a medical condition but are illegal on the street. Even drugs like cocaine and amphetamine can be used medically at times but are completely illegal in other settings.The Drug Enforcement Adminstration ( categorizes drugs as legal or illegal.

-Wilson Compton

how could tobacco kill people


Whether someone smokes, chews, or sniffs tobacco, he or she is delivering nicotine to the brain and increasing their chances of becoming addicted. Once addicted, it is very difficult to quit and so repeated use means that there is a lot more exposure to all of those cancer causing chemicals in tobacco-so that's how tobacco kills people.

-Elisabeth Davis

how do i stop drinking


If you are addicted to alcohol, my suggestion is that you get into treatment. Treatment does work. Ffor more information on resources on alcohol addiction and where you can seek help you can call 1-800-662-help. You can also visit

-Joe Frascella

How do I tell friends stop drinking?


You say - stop drinking. Seriously, you can express your concern to them about their drinking and the problems it may cause. Ultimately, the choice to drink is theirs and you can't stop them. But you can be a good friend and encourage them to make better choices for themselves. For more information on alcohol abuse visit

-Redonna Chandler

how do drugs affect your body and brain


Good question! When you take a drug of abuse like cocaine, it affects your brain and every organ system in your body. In the brain it attaches to brain receptors and can cause the nerve cells to release abnormally large amounts of natural brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters). It can also disrupt or even prevent other normal activities of the brain cells. This disruption utimately affects the ability of our brain cells to be able to communicate with each other. The difference in effect can be described as the difference between someone whispering into your ear and someone shouting into a microphone. Drugs can also affect the body. Cocaine, for example, has also been found to trigger chaotic heart rhythms, called ventricular fibrillation; accelerate heartbeat and breathing; and increase blood pressure and body temperature. Check out NIDA's website for more information!

-David Shurtleff

How do drugs affect your body? Physically,Mentally, and Socialy? l


Drugs have a powerful impact on your entire body but particularly your brain. Initially, all drugs of abuse, either directly or indirectly, increase the activity of the chemical dopamine in the brain's reward centers, which is what makes people feel good. However, with continued drug use and excessive activation of dopamine neurons, the brain starts to adapt to the good feeling, so more drug is needed to achieve it. This causes people to become dependent on the drug, to feel bad when it is not in their system, and to seek and take the drug compulsively--without even thinking about it. Another way that drugs change the brain is to affect the ability to make decisions, such as judging what's important, what's healthy, and what's dangerous. The compulsive seeking and using of drugs even in the face of potentially devastating consequences is the essence of addiction.

-Redonna Chandler