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.

Download Full Year

Can drugs hurt your future?

-Yasmine Cowan, Alabama

Hi Yasmine:

Great question. Drugs can have significant impacts on one's future health. Most importantly because they act on the brain, something that continues to develop well into the 20s. Dfferent drugs act on the brain in different ways. Some drugs are toxic to the brain and cause some brain cells to die. Drug use can eventually lead to dramatic changes in neurons and brain circuits, which result in addiction. In some cases, researchers have observed long-term effects on IQ levels, work productivity, etc. Learn more at: And on this link to find out how drugs affect your body:'


-Michelle Leff

can drugs kill a baby in the mothers uterus? could the baby be deformed? What could you do to prevent it?

-ArtisticPainter, Texas

Hello ArtisticPainter,

Illicit drugs or alcohol or cigarettes can harm a developing fetus.  Deformities while possible are not as likely as stunted development (they don't grow as fast as they should as they should).  Brain development can be slowed too and they can be born addicted to drugs, neo-natal abstinence syndrome.  Dealing with this requires a doctor's care because stopping the drug if the baby is addicted can be harmful.  The best thing is to never abuse drugs during pregnancy and use prescription drugs only as advised by a doctor.  Babies born addicted to drugs can have a whole range of outcomes. It is very important for a mother-to-be to tell her doctor she is using drugs, so that the baby can be treated as quickly as possible. Treatment can reduce the chance that the child will experience developmental problems as it grows.

-Roger Little

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

-precioust130, Georgia

Hi precioust130,
Glue isn't a natural product. But yes, sniffing some glues and other chemicals (like cleaners, solvents, etc.) found around the home can sometimes produce a brief rush by slowing brain function or reducing its oxygen supply. It can also dangerously affect other organs in your body. For instance, "sudden sniffing death" is when the heart stops as a result of breathing (or "huffing") some household chemicals. Very dangerous!

-Eric Wargo

Can some mushrooms be considered a drug?

-mkovesdvn, Texas

can some people not get addicted to drugs even if they smoke at least once a week ?

-yfeghali, Texas

Although there is some individuality in the effects of drugs, most people will become addicted if they use a drug often enough.  Using a drug once a week may not cause addiction, but someone who does that will most likely end up using the drug more frequently and then eventually become addicted.  So it’s better to stay away from drugs!   For more info on drugs see:

-Nancy Pilotte

Can someone not get drunk from alcohol or liquor

-George_Jettson , Pennsylvania

While people differ in their sensitivity to alcohol, everyone who has a relatively normal human brain will get drunk from consuming any type of alcohol.

-Aaron White

can someone over dose on marijuana

-Erick mendoza, New Mexico

Hi Erick,
Yes, they can, and they'll have a very long, unpleasant experience, and may even need to go to the hospital. They won't die, though (at least not directly from the marijuana).

-Eric Wargo

Can steroids actually help your athletic performance?

-ww73, Illinois

some specific aspects of it, yes.
but there are always  adverse effects that people tend to not pay attention too much. That's unfortunate.

-Ruben Baler

can steroids destroy your reproductive system?

-angie13, Texas

Hi Angie,  That is a great question. First, f

Question: What can steroids do to your organs?
Answer: Steroids can have a lot of effects, but first you should know that your own body produces all the steroids it needs...and it needs them to regulate your growth, and they critical for reproductive function.  People who use large quantities of steroids (often to help build muscle or control weight) risk heart disease, liver damage (even in young people), and may stop growing tall earlier than they should.  It also can cause aggression, and if you are a female who is using anabolic (androgenic) steroids, your voice may deepen permanently, and you may grow facial hair, and develop male-pattern baldness. Oh, and yes, overuse of anabolic steroids can make a male stop producing sperm...and without sperm...well, you get the picture.  For more info, see:
-Nancy Pilotte

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

can I stop or prevent someone from doing heroin after they've been doing it for countless years

-leeann, Massachusetts

Hi leeann,  One of the best things you can do for a friend with a serious drug problem is let them know you are there to support them. Let them know you are concerned about their drug use, and encourage them to seek help from a trusted adult or their doctor.  You can also help by being a strong positive influence - help them get involved in non-drug-using activities like joining a club, playing music, or playing a sport. However, if your friend is becoming a negative influence in your life you might have to step away from the friendship for a while. If you feel your friend is a danger to him or herself, or to others, it is important a trusted adult right away – it could save their life. To get your friend help go to: NIDA also has great guides:

-Maureen Boyle

Can inhalants make the people taking it loose control

-Nmistry, Texas

Hello Nmistry,
Inhalants can cause you to lose conciousness which is dangerous. If you mean lose self-control in a way that you act out, that is less clear.
Inhalants are extremely dangerous because these are often products designed for commercial applications and are not safe for human ingestion.There is a long list of the toxicities associated with this class of drug, including death: Inhalants can also multiply the effects of drugs that depress heart and breathing activity, including opiates, heroin, and prescription pain killers.  

-Roger Little

Can inhaling too much helium addict you so much just like drugs?

-MSwanick, New Hampshire

No.  Helium sort of coats the sacs in your lungs that enable you to breathe and temporarily makes your voice sound higher, but it is not addicting in the way that cocaine, nicotine, or prescription drugs are.  It is also so short-acting and volatile that it is not likely to kill you.

-Nancy Pilotte