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 people use drugs as a medicine?

-JLe, Texas

Sure. Just because a drug might be abused, does not mean it never can also be used as a medicine. But care is needed when a doctor prescribes these drugs and the patient also needs to be careful. Prescrition opioids are a prime example. They can help some people in pain, but they are also abused.

-Dave Thomas

Can prescription drugs taken for anxiety or depression become addictive ?

-blancoisd8, Texas

yes,they can produce addiction in those who are vulnerable.

-Nora Volkow

Can pro football players abuse steroids if they have been using it their whole career...or will it harm them in any way?

-mbanks, Texas

Hi mbanks,
Your own body produces all the steroids it needs. It needs them to regulate your growth, and for reproductive functions. The kind sometimes used by athletes are called anabolic steroids, meaning that they are similar to the male hormone testosterone. Adults and teens who use large quantities of anabolic steroids risk heart disease, and liver damage and may not reach their full height.  It also can cause aggression, male-pattern baldness (who needs that?), and shrinkage of your testicles (if you are a male).  If you are a female who is using anabolic steroids, your voice may deepen permanently, you may grow facial hair, and develop male-pattern baldness. See for more info on steroids, and check out Ruben’s video:

-Maureen Boyle

Can rehab help a person who is really addicted to tobacco stop?

-PPham, Texas

Yes, PPham, we want all people to quit smoking. A combination of medications and behavioral rehab is the best approach to help stop smoking. There are medications to help with some addictions including nicotine/tobacco, alcohol, and opioids (e.g. heroin or pain pills). And there are also behavioral therapies to help people recover. NIDA scientists are working hard to develop better treatments to treat addictions to all types of drugs. You can learn more about effective treatment programs here:

-Roger Sorensen

can second hang pot smoke eventually kill a baby

-ISmart, New Hampshire

Oh my goodness--a very bad idea to be smoking around a baby (tobacco or pot).  It's not good for the baby's lungs, and its not good parenting--especially if something unexpected happens, the parents may not be equipped to deal with it. Second hand pot smoke also delivers the main ingredient in pot (THC) to the recipient--and that also is not good for development of the nervous system. 

-Susan Weiss

Can self harm be addicting?

-unicorn, Massachusetts

Hi unicorn. It can be. People engage in self-harming behaviors as a way to deal with intense emotions. The physical hurt is a release for the emotional feelings so craving that release feeling can become an addiction. If someone is engaging in self-harming behavior, it would be important to get help from a licensed mental health professional to find other, healthier, ways of dealing with their feelings. If you want to find out about getting substance abuse or mental health treatment, call 1-800-662-HELP, 24/7. Or you can go to "" to find information about treatment centers in your area.

-Amy Goldstein

can sleeping pills kill you

-akhan, Texas

Sure, if one takes too many. They are depressants, which reduce breathing rate. Take too many, and breathing is reduced to such a degree that it can stop altogether. No breathing=death.

-Dave Thomas

can sleeping pills kill you?

-marshallwhited, Ohio

Yes, marshallwhited, sleeping pills can kill you. Sleeping pills are in the class of drugs known as sedatives. These drugs depress the function of the brain and nervous system. Thus, they can relax you to help you sleep. But taking too many sleeping pills can depress your nervous system too much. In particular you may stop breathing.

-Roger Sorensen

can smoking cause cancer?

-AaliyahH-FV, Georgia

Cigarette smoking accounts for about one-third of all cancers, including 90 percent of lung cancer cases. Smokeless tobacco (such as chewing tobacco and snuff) also increases the risk of cancer, especially oral cancers.

-Michelle Leff

Can smoking cause somebody to commit suicide?

-jatuchi, Texas

Hi jatuchi,
The reasons for suicide are more complicated than just one thing, like smoking. You might read about some of what we know about the factors in suicide in a booklet on suicide prevention. Hope that helps. 

-Charlotte Armstrong

Can smoking change the way you think in school?

-JLe, Texas

Hi Jle - some people say that smoking helps them focus more. However, there are many other downsides to smoking. Doing other activities, like eating healthy and physical exercise, are good ways to help your mental acuity. Better safe than sorry!

-Joni Rutter

Can Smoking habits be in your genes?

-Daffyduck, Illinois

Hello Daffyduck
Like other diseases, the susceptibility for one to become addicted to drugs is partly genetic. But there are environmental factors too that are important.  One's ability to resist peer pressure, for example.  The safest and best thing to do is not even experiment.  There is more information here:

-Roger Little

can smoking marijuana give you the same dark smoker's lung as if you were smoking a cigarette

-jamecia.T10, Georgia

Hi jamecia.T10,
Great question! The answer is, we don't know yet how harmful marijuana is for the lungs. We don't know if it causes lung cancer, for instance, because studies have shown conflicting results. It's hard to compare it with cigarettes because people who smoke cigarettes usually smoke a lot more in a day (and a year, and a lifetime) than people who smoke marijuana. But people who smoke marijuana may have more colds and lung infections than non-users, since they are still gunking up their lungs with smoke.

-Eric Wargo

Can tobacco kill ???

-704496, Texas

Hey, 704496, what do you think? Here are the facts: Tobacco is among the top killers worldwide. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and cigarette smoking is responsible for nearly 90 percent of those deaths. On average, every cigarette takes 11 minutes off of your life. Smokers die at least 10 years earlier than nonsmokers. For each person in the United States who dies because of cigarette use, nearly two youth or young adults become daily smokers. Avoid becoming a statistic, and stay away from tobacco.

-Joni Rutter


-john, New Mexico

Good question john! Tobacco causes nearly 500,000 deaths every year in the United States. It is estimated that 1 BILLION lives will be lost around the globe from tobacco use in the 21st Century. And all of these deaths are preventable--if tobacco is avoided. Here's some more information from our teen site:

-Wilson Compton

Can too much drinking result in a shutdown in your body and kill you?

-CXDYLANXC, Illinois

Hi CXDYLANXC, Yes, you can overdose on alcohol and it can lead to death. Check out this information from NIAAA:

-Maureen Boyle

can u die from weed

-ItsFrosticles , Massachusetts

Deaths from weed are related to things people do under its influence--driving, for example, since it increases the risk of accidents.  Also, there have been a few reported incidents where people became psychotic (they see things that aren't there) and paranoid (they think people are out to get them) and injure (or kill) either themselves or others.  

-Susan Weiss

can u get addictive to spray paint


What up, NARWHAL? You can become mentally addicted to abusing the chemicals found in spray paint. These chemicals are known as inhalants because you breathe them into your body. If you use inhalants long enough, your body begins to expect that you will continue to use inhalants. Largely because it is easy to get inhalants [paint thinner, gasoline, shapies], inhalants are among the first drugs that preteens or teens abuse. In fact, they are one of the few types of substances that are abused more by younger teens than older ones. Inhalant abuse, if continued, can become a real problem in adulthood. Some common household products used as inhalants to get high can have permanent effects including hearing loss, limb spasms, central nervous system or brain damage, bone marrow damage, and possibly death from heart failure or suffocation.

-Roger Sorensen

can u have a hart attack if u smoke marijuana?

-mayla clardy, New Mexico

Hi mayla,
Good question. Marijuana raises heart rate and blood pressure. Someone with heart disease or a weak heart might be at higher risk of having a heart attack after smoking. But for most people, it would be unlikely. 

-Eric Wargo

can u kill your self in one day for having to many drugs in one day...????

-704496, Texas

HI 704496,
In 2014, over 47,000 Americans died of drug overdoses. That’s 129 people dying every day. Their deaths are felt by countless mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, family, and friends. What do you think we can together do to help save lives and prevent more suffering?

-Maureen Boyle

can u really get addicted to all the drugs that u take

-Abigaila, New Mexico

Hmmm, all drugs?  Not sure. Certainly all drugs that are abused. The definition of addiction is "compulsive use despite harm." Lot's of people do lots of things that fit this definition, and it goes way beyond addiction to drugs.

-Dave Thomas

Can weed kill you?

-Jalaqaun Fotu, New Jersey

Weed has sent people to the emergency room with acute psychoses. You could get behind the wheel intoxicated and kill yourself, or become cognitively impaired and contract a sexually transmitted disease like HIV.
So, you should not think that weed is natural or benign.


-Ruben Baler

can weed make you dumb

-kgameroverlord, Massachusetts

HI kg
no doubt about it!!!!!!!!!!!!


-Ruben Baler

can withdraw from heroin kill a person

-JConrad, Texas

It is dfficult, but under medical supervision, I have not heard of people dying. On the other hand, continuing to use heroin certainly can kill!

-Dave Thomas

Can withdrawl from any type of drug kill you?

-HVasquez, Texas

Hey Hvasquez -  Here are a couple of examples: Withdrawal from heroin can be very difficult, but dying from an overdose is more likely. There are several medications that can help. For more information, check out this site:

If you or someone you know is trying to quit using heroin, you should talk with a health care provider about what to expect and how to stop using safely. Make sure to tell the doctor about all of your health history, including drug or alcohol use.

Long-term marijuana users trying to quit can have withdrawal symptoms including irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and drug craving, making it even harder to quit.

-Joni Rutter

Can you addiction to Drugs that doctors prescribed?

-madsoccer28, Illinois

HI Madsoccer28. Some medications that are prescribed can be addictive. Painkillers, sedatives and stimulants that are prescribed can all be addictive. That's why it's important not to take other people's medications. They are meant for serious health conditions and can be dangerous when taken outside of medical supervision.

-Wilson Compton

can you be addicted to anti-depressants or is it normal for you to feel like you need them after stoping?

-daphneg, New Mexico

Anti-depressants do not produce an addiction in the same way that cocaine or amphetamine might.  They are given in small doses over a longer period of time, not the very large ones taken recreationally, that tend to overtake the normal processes that your brain uses.  But you might feel a little different when you stop if you have taken them for months or years because they have helped you feel "normal" for so long. But not to worry--you will recognize the new normal without them, just as you will recognize if you have to go back to taking them. There is an NIH Institute dedicated to helping treat depression and other mental health problems. For information on depression and mental health, go to the National Institute on Mental Health website:  You might also want to se the Teen Depression Fact Sheet:

-Nancy Pilotte

Can you die after trying marijuana for the first time?

-kirsten2017, Texas

not likely, unless you get into an accident

-Ruben Baler

can you die from alcohol

-Bob, Massachusetts

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.

It's also possible to die from long-term abuse of alcohol. The liver can become enlarged and inflamed and ultimately stop working. 

You can learn more about the effects of alcohol on your body here:

-Aaron White

can you die from being a passive smoker

-jhermann, Texas

Good question. Secondhand smoke can cause asthma, heart disease, lung cancer and emphysema--just to name a few. It is estimated that more than 40,000 persons per year die from second-hand exposure.  So, the dangers are not just to the person who smokes but also to everyone around them too.

-Wilson Compton