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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Can smoking marijuana make you seem to have an all of a sudden hunger issue causing you to constantly eat?

-YOE23, Texas
Marijuana has the properties of an appetite stimulant, which causes an increase in appetite.
Check out the following site for more information on marijuana:
-Joe Frascella

Can smoking tobacco lead to cancer?

-Batman369, New York

Dear Batman...(You would NEVER see Batman smoking) Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the United States. It causes many different cancers as well as chronic lung diseases, such as emphysema and bronchitis, and heart disease.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women in the United States, and 90 percent of lung cancer deaths among men and approximately 80 percent of lung cancer deaths among women are due to smoking.

Smoking causes many other types of cancer, including cancers of the throat, mouth, nasal cavity, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, and cervix, and acute myeloid leukemia.

People who smoke are up to six times more likely to suffer a heart attack than nonsmokers, and the risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked. Smoking also causes most cases of chronic lung disease.

-Cindy Miner

can smoking weed kill you?

-ilovepandas101, New York
Hi ilovepandas101
thanks for the question.
Not directly. but it can indirectly increase your chances of dying. in case you are curious, more here
hope this makes sense to you.
-Ruben Baler

can snorting kool-aid cause brain damage

-aveson, California
Snorting Kool-Aid...really?!  I don't know that it will cause brain damage, but I know there is high likelihood that it will cause irritation to one's respiratory system! I wouldn't recommend it! 
-Joe Frascella

can some drugs that are considered bad be used for good like treatment in a hospital

-yayme32, Maryland

Yes--there are a number of drugs that have medicinal effects when used properly but can be very dangerous when abused.  The best example is opioids (vicodin, oxycontin), which can be very helpful for treating pain, but can also be very dangerous when not used as prescribed--in fact the number of overdose deaths due to opioid abuse was about 12,000 in 2010.  

-Susan Weiss

Can someone get addicted to an acoholic drink after their first try? even if it is the first time they have ever drank alcohol? is it likely to be zero intolerant to your first drink and get drunk very easily?

-asdfghjkl, Maryland

Researchers found that the earlier someone has their first drink of alcohol, usually meaning more than a few sips with family, the more likely they are to become an alcoholic. It isn't known whether a few sips is enough to make that happen or if more alcohol is needed. The best bet is to avoid alcohol completely until your brain is done developing in the early 20s. You can learn more about the effects of alcohol on kids at:

-Aaron White

Can steroids affect a girl's period?

-biancaP-p3, Texas

Hi biancaP-p3. Yes, steroids certainly can affect a girl's period. Many steroids are hormones or act like hormones in the body. This is just one way that these dangerous chemicals affect your body.  Thanks for your question!

-Marilyn Huestis

can vodka kill you?

-M&M21, Maryland

Absolutely! Too much alcohol from any source -- beer, wine, liquor, -- can shut down the parts of the brain that keep us alive, leading to death. 

If you drink enough alcohol, parts of the brain that are important for keeping us alive can shut down. Then, the heart can stop beating and we can stop breathing. In essence, it's like alcohol flips a switch and shuts the body off. This is what's known as "alcohol poisoning."

It is also important to point out that having any alcohol at all can increase the chances of dying from injuries, such as falls, drownings, or car crashes.

-Aaron White

Can withdrawal from long time drug use damage the body?

-George W. Bush, New York
Keep the questions coming, GW!  Withdrawal from alcohol and sedatives can be very dangerous, even fatal.  Withdrawal from opioids (like heroin, oxycontin) can be very uncomfortable, too.  Other substances produce uncomfortable withdrawal.  These are a major reason why people relapse. Medications can help in suppressing these withdrawal symptoms and can be a valuable first step in treatment, when combined with other therapies. 
-Wilson Compton

Can you absorb alcohol through skin?

-barackobama, New York

Yes, but not very well! 

-Aaron White

can you build a tolerance to alcohol?

-mikahakinen147, New York
Yes. Tolerance happens when the brain and the liver learn to function like normal even though a drug is in the body. So, over time, the person has to use more and more of the drug to get the desired effect. As a consequence, when the person stops the drug, their body functions in a way that is the opposite of the desired effects. This is called withdrawal. So, if a drug initially makes you feel good but you have to take more and more to get that feeling, you will likely feel really really bad when you stop. 
You can learn more about the effects of alcohol here:
-Aaron White

Can you build a tolerance to drugs or alchohol?

-official-_sean, Maryland
Hi there official-_sean.  I've gotta ask: is there an "unofficial" sean out there somewhere?  (just kidding!) Your question is important, and the answer is YES, absolutely.  For alcohol and many drugs, tolerance does build up.  That means that a person needs to take more to feel the effect. In fact, that is often when the really big problems start to happen.  A person keeps taking larger amounts of drugs or alcohol and the physical and mental damages keep growing larger!  Its always best not to start at all -- then you won't need to worry about tolerance.  Check out this website for more info:
-Harold Perl

Can you describe rebound symptoms?

-UNIV NorthTexas, Texas

Rebound is when u have worse symptoms after the drug leaves your brain (e.g., depression even though you may have initially taken a drug to make you feel better).

-Nora Volkow

Can you die from doing a drug once?

-Kfitzy28, Massachusetts
Sure. For example, this can definitely happen with opioids like prescription pain medications. If you take too much, it can slow your breathing to the point where it just stops.  It can also happen with cocaine.  For example, a basketball player named Len Bias took cocaine for the first time, had a heart attack and died.  His entire future career was down the drain in an instant.  Now, not every person will die from taking drugs for the first time or over time, but they definitely increase their chances of having a really bad outcome each and every time they use.  Learn more about the effects of drugs on the body and how to live above the influence at -  and
-Dave Thomas

Can insects and animals get addicted by drugs?

--A, Massachusetts

Totally, -A-.  Drugs can definitely affect animals.  In fact, a lot of the research we support uses animals to examine the effects of drugs because animal brains are a good model for human brains.

You should also check out this great blog by our very own Dr. Joe Frascella on drugs being "discovered" first by animals!
-Joni Rutter

Can it hurt me to take Tylenol and Advil at the same time?

-Eileen Marshall, Iowa
Probably not.  They are similar types of pain killers. But they typically are not given together.  If you take one and it works, there aren't advantages to taking the other.  But if you have pain, I suggest you get some medical advise from a doctor, and try that instead of experimenting on yourself.
-Dave Thomas

can long term drug abuse give you mental health problems such as bipolar disorder, BPD, or OCD?

-skpmb, Maryland
Good morning!
This is a great question. Let me try to explain the complex connection between drugs and mental illness. To answer your question directly, there is no clear evidence that long term drug abuse "causes" BPD or OCD. However, mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, etc. coexist or in some cases, appear before one develops a substance use problem. You may also want to know that long-term use of drugs are likely to result in other mental illnesses such as psychosis, depression, anxiety and in some cases suicidal thoughts.
Thanks a lot for asking! 
-Geetha Subramaniam

can marijuana affect you right away?, New Jersey

Hi, Yes it can if you smoke it. We did a study and showed that people could feel the affects immediately during the first puff on a marijuana cigarette. You feel your heart rate increasing right away and the way you think and feel becomes affected.

-Marilyn Huestis

can Marijuana be baked into food? and how can you tell it is in the food?

-hashtagmadswag, New York

Hello there hashtagmadswag, Yes, marijuana can be baked into food and you may not be able to tell it's in the food before you eat it. There's really no way to tell food has marijuana in it just by looking at it. You wouldn't feel the effects until much later- 2 to 4 h after eating the food. The affects would be milder than if you smoked the marijuana but effects can last longer. Thanks for your question.

-Marilyn Huestis

Can marijuana cause cancer

-20n62604, Pennsylvania
20n62604--Wow! This is a great question, and one that is currently being studied extensively. We have learned a lot about cigarette smoking and we are only just beginning to learn about marijuana. Remember, it took a long time for us to understood the connection between cigarette smoking and illness.  Now we know, however, that cigarette smoking results in more than 443,000 deaths in the US each year, and an additional 8.6 million people suffer from serious illnesses including cancer caused by smoking. There are studies ongoing where researchers are now investigating whether there is a similar link between smoking marijuana and cancer. Stay tuned!
-Will Aklin

Can marijuana cause lung cancer?

-Blue Ivy, Massachusetts

Great question Blue Ivy--unfortunately, we don't yet have an answer.  Marijuana smoke contains many of the same carcinogens and other toxins or poisons as tobacco smoke, and people tend to inhale deeply and keep the smoke in their longs for longer periods than tobacco smoke.  But studies in people have not been conclusive in showing higher rates of lung cancer in those who smoke only marijuana (and not tobacco).  Marijuana does increase the risk for other respiratory illnesses, like bronchitis, and produce increased coughing and phlegm production.

-Susan Weiss

Can marijuana change your feelings/attitude?

-yffjc, New York
Hey yffjc:  Thanks for your question!  It's a complicated question....individuals respond to drugs differently, so there's not a single answer.  In general, people take drugs for different reasons.   The bad thing is that those effects wear off and people become addicted because they have to keep taking the drug to keep the high.  Once that happens, other effects of the drugs take over and they "hijack" the brain so that you can no longer make good decisions.
Serotonin is clearly an important neurotransmitter in addiction and contributes to the intoxicating effects of alcohol--and also may be the link to alcohol and depression.  There is definitely a higher incidence of mental health issues in people who do drugs, but we don't have a good handle on why this is.  Maybe you will become a scientist and help us figure this one out!
You can check out this great webpage on the NIDA for teens site that explains what effect drugs have on the brain:
-Joni Rutter

Can marijuana cure cancer?

-ashley.bowling, Kentucky

There are no studies that have shown that marihuana can cure cancer.    However the value of cannabinoids (the active ingredients in marijuana) in cancer treatment is being evaluated by researchers.

-Nora Volkow

can marijuana intoxicate drivers and cause them to be unsafe on the road?

-sampugliese, New York
Hi sampugliese,
Great question! The answer is a definite yes. Marijuana more than doubles a person's chance of being in an accident! Don't believe people who tell you they drive slower and safer when high--we've done studies on this and found that people who drive high are very impaired, and the effects on driving can be detected as much as a month (!) after using the drug. 
Be safe--don't ever use any drug and then drive, and never get in a car being driven by someone who has. 
-Eric Wargo

Can marijuana kill you?

-Angel, Texas

Hi Angel - it is often said that marijuana has never caused a death by overdose. However, there are many other harmful effects of marijuana that could increase the risk of severe injury or death.  For example, there is an increased risk of having an accident while driving under the influence of marijuana.  For more information check out

-Steve Gust

Can medical drugs be harmful even if used properly.

-atkinsj.19, New York

Yes, in individuals that have genetic vulnerability to their adverse effects.

-Nora Volkow

can medicinal marijuana be abused, because I see many flaws in the system

-weed machine, New York
Hey weed machine,
Great question. Yes "medical marijuana" can be abused, and probably is abused. The best way to deliver marijuana's benefits to people with real health problems will be creating actual medications from the chemicals (called cannabinoids) in marijuana, such as THC and cannabidiol. Scientists are hard at work on this.
Glad you're thinking about this. 
-Eric Wargo

Can misusing prescription drugs be almost as bad as using them without a prescription?

-defaultusername, New York

yes misuse of prescription drugs  is equally dangerous if u have a prescription vs. not having one. 

-Nora Volkow

Can my body build up tolerance for drugs?

-lms611, Massachusetts
Good question.  
Yes, that happens with most drugs.  You take them, and over time, you need more and more to get the same effects. This happens often with individuals who have chronic pain.  It doesn't mean that they are addicted to their pain medications, just means that over time their bodies have become used to the medication and at times can require higher doses to get pain relief.
-Dave Thomas

Can one drink (that has alcohal in it) effect someone who is, say 14, in a threatening way?

-aveson, California

Well, if that one drink was just a single serving, like a beer or a glass of wine, it's unlikely that a person would die but even that small amount is enough to cause small changes in balance and reaction times that could make it more likely to have an accident or get into a car crash and die. More importantly, that one drink at the age of 14 could significantly increase the risk of becoming an alcoholic later in life. Researchers found that the earlier someone has their first drink of alcohol, usually meaning more than a few sips with family, the more likely they are to become an alcoholic. It isn't known whether a few sips is enough to make that happen or if more alcohol is needed. The best bet is to avoid alcohol completely until your brain is done developing in the early 20s. You can learn more about the effects of alcohol on kids at:

-Aaron White