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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At what age do people start drinking illegally?

-heyncms, Maryland

Well, drinking under the age of 21 is illegal in the US. On average, the typical person in the US has their first drink at age 17.

-Aaron White

at what age do people usley start smoking

-cassidyb, Texas

Hi, cassidyb, I'll give you a couple of numbers to answer this one.  According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among kids who initiated before they were 18 years old, the average age of starting to use illicit drugs was around 15 years old.  Among those who initiated between ages 12 and older, the average age was 20 years old.

-Marsha Lopez

at what age is the most common age for someone to start drugs?

-MeganS, Texas

Hi, MeganS, According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among kids who initiated before they were 18 years old, the average age of starting to use illicit drugs was around 15 years old.  Among those who initiated between ages 12 and older, the average age was 20 years old.

-Marsha Lopez

At what level of alcohol intake would you get alcohol poisoning?

-curious Lion, Kansas

It's tricky to know how many drinks a particular person would have to consume to suffer from alcohol poisoning because it depends on how much a person weighs, whether they are male or female, whether they ate food before drinking alcohol, and other factors. For example, college students who died from alcohol poisoning had blood alcohol levels around 0.35% as compared to the legal limit of 0.08%. For a 155 lbs person, it would take approximately 12 drinks in an hour or two to produce a blood alcohol concetration of 0.35%. It's quite possible someone could die from alcohol poisoning even below this level. If you think someone you know may be experiencing alcohol poisoning, make sure to get help immediately. You can call 911. You can learn more about alcohol poisoning and overdoses at:

-Aaron White

At what point does drugs affect us ? Is it a rate away thing or a later affect?

-Kearsarge, New Hampshire

Hello Sarge--

All drugs of abuse have an immediate and long-term effects.  Usually people use drugs to get the immediate effect and feel the "high." Then, depending on the drug, people get habituated and then they can become addicted. Some drugs like nicotine and heroin and pain killers are highly addictive. Some people say that they just took a few doses of prescription painkillers and they became addicted very quickly. So, the best thing to do is to avoid trying drugs because you never know if you have the predisposition of getting addicted. 

-Ivan Montoya

Be honest, how many people have asked a question relating to breaking bad? (the show aint even that good)

-HrantJamgochian, Maryland

A lot!

-Maureen Boyle

Besides brain damage what is wrong with using weed?

-lilly boladian, Michigan

Lilly Boladian...C'mon.  Isn't brain damage enough?  

-Joni Rutter

Can a animal die from drugs, Pennsylvania

Good morning, -- Certainly. So can humans.

-Joni Rutter

Are you happy about how many questions are being asked today?

-eechase17, Minnesota

Yes, we're thrilled to be getting so many questions! Hope you're having fun and learning a lot!

-Maureen Boyle

Are you seeing a nationwide increase in heroin use? If so is this related to any particular age group?

-jmetcalf, Iowa

Hi, jmetcalf, although heroin use has increased since the early 2000s, despite recent media attention heroin we are not seeing a nationwide increase in use.  According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about one tenth of a percent (0.1%) ages 12 or older were current heroin users in 2013 which is similar to those in 2008 to 2012. 

-Marsha Lopez

Around what age do kids start using cocaine?

-p.g.goalie, Maryland

Thanks for writing p.g.goalie!  According to a national survey, the mean age of initiation among teens who started using drugs prior to the age of 18 was about 16 years old. You can find more information at

-Mary Kautz

can sniffing natural products like glue give you and instant rush and if so will it really damage your body

-kirito sao, Georgia

Hi kirito sao - What’s clear is that when you inhale toxic chemicals like those in markers, paint thinner, or computer duster, it messes with your brain’s wiring and signals, so you feel almost drunk or dizzy for a while—but if you keep doing it, you can have pretty scary side effects. These chemicals can cause dizziness, loss of consciousness, bad mood swings, and headaches. In the long term, toxic fumes can take the place of oxygen in the blood, leading to hypoxia (low oxygen pressure in the body), which can damage your brain and other organs or even kill you. In fact, even one hit of a toxic substance can stop your heart, aka “Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome”—a tragedy that too many teens and parents have experienced. 

-Michelle Rankin

Can someone answer where the chat starts and ends on the scroll...I see questions and answers coming from the top and bottom?

-mjacoby, Ohio

Hi Mjacoby - the most recent answers are at the top!

-Michelle Rankin

can someone get addicted my living with someone who smokes

-cassidyb, Texas

Hi Cassidyb, there are scientific studies showing that kids of smokers are more likely to become smokers.  And the longer they are exposed, the more likely this may occur.  In addition, non-smokers who live with smokers are exposed to second-hand smoke, the smoke that comes off the cigarette itself and the exhaled smoke from the smoker (this is called second hand smoke).  This exposes the non-smoker to nicotine and many of the harmful chemicals found in smoke and can harm the health of the non-smoker. Did you know that over 41,000 people die each year from second hand smoke exposure?  Having the family member quit smoking would always be the best choice for the health of the entire family, and there are a lot resources available to help people who want to quit.  Information about smoking and prevention can be found at

-Kevin Walton

Can steroids be dangerous to one's health?

-atessier, New Hampshire

Yup.  Anabolic steroid use can lead to aggression and other psychiatric problems as well as impair your kidney; damage your liver; and cause cardiovascular problems leading to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack (even in young people). For other health effects, see  Good question, atessier!

-Nancy Pilotte

Can steroids make me more powerful???

-Kim Jong Un, Maryland

Steroids can strengthen your muscles so it will make you stronger if you work out.  The problem is that they do not strengthen your heart muscle and this unbalance can result in heart failure when someone on steroids is invovled in intense physical activity

-Nora Volkow

Can taking more painkillers than the bottle prescribes hurt me?

-glenelg21, Maryland

YES!!!   ABSOLUTELY!  Taking just a pill or two extra in some cases is enough.   And it happens a lot.  About 17,000 Americans die each year from opioid overdoses.   Be careful with opioids and NEVER take more than prescribed.   If you have bad pain, get help from your doctor.  You can even get help from your pharmacist.

For more info see:


-Dave Thomas

Can the chemicals used to raise yields in marijuana have a different effect on the brain than if it were just grown organically?

-Juan Figueroa, California

Hola Juan
probably no, the critical think that affects the potency or brain effects of marijuana is the concentration of THC that is achieved in the plant.
good luck to you.

-Ruben Baler

Can the fumes from melting fabrics harm thought processes?

-glenelg24, Maryland

Hi glen, 
the fumes of anything, at high enough concentration, can and will affect your brain, your thinking process, and even threaten your life.


-Ruben Baler

Can the mary jane be healthy

-Hoopla, Maryland

Hi Hoopla,
No, probably not. There's no positive long-term effect on the brain, and no evidence it actually cures or prevents most diseases. The question is how bad is it for you. If you're a teen, using regularly is definitely bad. 

-Eric Wargo

can the smell of cigarette smoke on someone's clothes harm you?

-ShefBoyRD, Maryland

Hey again, ShefBoyRd - So this is a little different question than your last one.  It's hard to say if smelling a tobacco odor on someone's clothes can harm you.  What you are smelling is a smoke residue -- something called "thirdhand smoke".   Not much is known about the risk of third hand exposure, there are some studies kids living in homes where smokers live do have some risky exposure from the smoke residue on the walls, furniture etc. The odors on clothes will get washed out, limiting your exposure.   Harm from smelling gym socks... well, that's another story!!

-Cindy Miner

can the smell of meth get you high?

-RaoK, Texas

Hi RaoK - I have a question for you: Does the smell of dinner on the table make you full?  

-Joni Rutter

Can tobacco be swallowed?

-chance, Illinois

Hi chance. Yes, there are some forms of tobacco that can be swallowed. You can learn more about the dangers of tobacco and nicotine at

-Ish Amarreh

can people put drugs in liquid

-chance, Illinois

in some cases depends on the drug and its chemical composition.

-Gaya Dowling

can people smoke marijuana at 16 years old?

-niilane, Maryland

Good question, niilane. They can, but teens are much more vulnerable to the harmful effects of drugs because the brain continues to develop and grow through the age of 25.  You only have one brain, don't mess it up. Check out this video: Development of the Young Brain:

-Joni Rutter

can poppy seeds show positive on a drug test

-kholderness, Michigan

you'd  have to eat a lot of them to get a positive effect, but its possible.  

-Susan Weiss

can smelling cigarette smoke affect your body in a bad way?

-ShefBoyRD, Maryland

Hey your spaghetti!  Yes, inhaling the smoke produced by a smoker (second hand smoke) can have bad effects.  That smoke still contains all the same harmful chemicals as the smoke that the smoker is inhaling.  In fatc, over time, exposure to second hand smoke can result in higher risk of disease and death. For more info, and to take a fun quiz, go to

-Cindy Miner

can smoking kill you

-kennedi2015, Georgia

Hi kennedi2015 - thanks for the question.  Yes!  Cigarette smoking kills over 480,000 people every year.  Most adults who smoke try to quit every year and find they cannot.  And most smokers started smoking before age 18.  Kids are very sensitive to the addictive properties of nicotine, so the best defense is to never start smoking.  Check out these NIDA resources for more information on tobacco/smoking - and

-Kevin Walton

can smoking kill you

-Denayzha, Georgia

Yes, 443,000 deaths per year are attributed to smoking:

-Maureen Boyle

Can smoking pot damage your lungs?

-Little Bill, Michigan

Hi Little Bill – YES Smoke from marijuana irritates the lungs, causing breathing and lung problems among regular users similar to those experienced by people who smoke tobacco—like a daily cough and a greater risk for lung infections such as pneumonia. Research has not found a strong association between marijuana and lung cancer, but many people who smoke marijuana also smoke cigarettes, which do cause cancer. 

-Susan Weiss