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

Do you see alcohol ever becoming illegal in the future?

-lacey123, Pennsylvania

Alcohol can have many adverse affects, however I do not know the answer to this. I can tell you that since raising the drinking age from 18 to 21, many thousands of lives have been saved through decreases in automobile accidents. In fact, one report showed that by 2002 over 20,000 lives had been saved. (See Also, we know that the earlier you start using drugs, including alcohol and cigarettes, the more likely you are to develop drug problems when you get older. So, there are good reasons for NOT drinking. Whether it will ever become illegal is anyone's guess.

-Stephanie Older

do you smoke and when yes, why?

-stefanie, Oregon

No, I don't smoke. I did at one time, but I quit

-Larry Stanford

Do you think Stalin used drugs? And if so, is there a drug that would make you go crazy?

-Papa Marx, Maryland

Interesting question. I have no idea whether Stalin used drugs, but people from all sorts of backgrounds use drugs. The dangerous thing is that drugs can cause mental symptoms, especially in high doses. For instance, cocaine and methamphetamine are well known for causing hallucinations in high doses. And even marijuana can cause hallucinations and delusion in some people.

-Wilson Compton

Do you think that everyone should try a drug before they say anything bad about them??

-Keemy, Massachusetts

No, I don't think someone should try a drug before they can talk about its negative effects. This is because drugs can have deleterious effects event the first time you take them. Also, each one of us has unique genes that can make us sensitive to the adverse effects of some drugs and since we really dont know our genetic background ahead of time, experimenting with a drug is very much like playing russian roulette.

-Nora Volkow

Do you think the use of drugs in teens will go down in the following years?

-conley1, Washington

Good question. Drug use in teens has been going down since the mid 1990's...but the rate that use is dropping is slowing, so we need to keep a close eye on the trend.

-Cindy Miner

Does a drug that gets shot into you from a needle do more damage (and,or) have more of an afect on your body than a drug that gos into your body by inhailing or snorting?

-Brad, Michigan

When a drug is injected it is entered directly into the blood stream and therefore has a more immediate effect on the body, compared to when a drug is snorted or taken orally.

-Anna Staton

Could the econmey in Michigan have any thing to do with how many people do crack or smoke or something?

-Lether 56, Michigan

Could be. Stress is a known risk factor for drug abuse and a down turn in an economy produces a lot of stress.

-Anna Staton

could weed effect a boxer in training?

-chinoxl, Maryland

Absolutely. Besides all the long term health effects of using pot, like memory loss, attention problems and the risk of addiction, smoking marijuana will slow down your reflexes and reaction time--the last thing you'd want once you get inside a ring.

-Ruben Baler

could you die if you are mixing red bull and alcohol?

-casa grande, Arizona

That is an important question. Alcohol is a sedative, and people who drink too much risk passing out. People drink Red bull because it contains caffeine, which is a stimulant and keeps you awake. As a result, you can keep drinking alcohol and not pass out. But when the stimulant effects of Red Bull wear off, you can still have a lot of alcohol in your body, so there is a risk of alcohol poisoning. People die from too much alcohol because they pass out and hurt themselves, stop breathing, or vomit and choke on their vomit. Mixing drugs is always dangerous, and often can lead to worse effects than just taking one drug by itself.

-Steve Grant

could you get lung cancer from second-hand smoke

-kobe27, Texas

Yes. Secondhand smoke is estimated to cause approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths per year among nonsmokers.

-Gaya Dowling

deos weed affect your athletic ability

-Jay, Utah

Thanks for the question. Yes, if marijuana is smoked, this could certainly reduce your lung capacity and stamina.For more information on marijuana, check out:

-Joe Frascella

Did George Bush smoke weed

-Barack Obama, Virginia

I don't know about marijuana but I believe he did say he had abused alcohol in the past.

-Anna Staton

Did you ever smoke or did some type of drug when you were younger? Everyone tryed it at least one

-babycakes123, Pennsylvania

Actually, yes. I had many friends who smoked cigarettes. I thought that they were pretty cool, so I wanted to try them. I tried smoking cigarettes a couple of times, and really hated them....made me sick. turns out I was lucky....I was on the high school tennis team, I couldn't have played sports (and continue to play today) if I had continued smoking! Smoking causes over 400,000 premature deaths per year.

-Cindy Miner

did you ever smoke?

-paNDA BurR 1338, Utah

I smoked cigarettes for about twelve years and it took me three years to quit completely. Definitely one of the most difficult things I've ever done but with the help of a medication called Zyban I was finally able to quit completely.

-Anna Staton

Do "light" cigarettes contain less toxins than regular ones?

-SCLions077, Pennsylvania

The so called 'light' cigarettes have less nicotine than the regular cigarettes but contain the same amount of other toxic substances present in a regular cigarette. If fact, it has been reported that 'light' cigarette smokers tend to smoke more and have deeper puffs to make up for the lower nicotine. Therefore, they may end up inhaling more toxins. Flavored cigarettes aren't any better...check it out:

-Ivan Montoya

do all drugs have negative side effects

-Wind River High, Wyoming

Yes. For more information about the effects of specific drugs go to NIDA's website

-Nora Volkow

Do antidotes to certain drugs give you complete immunity to that drug in the future so that if you are exposed again, you will not undergo the same symptoms?

-The Batman, Maryland

Good question!! The antidotes that we have right now don't give you complete immunity to drugs taken in the future. Vaccines are being developed for nicotine, cocaine and other drugs of abuse. If they work, they may come close to providing the type of immunity that you mentioned. But that's a ways off yet.

-Dave McCann

Do over the counter drugs or things like cough medicine effect a pregnancy?

-Jellybean, Arizona

This is a difficult question because the answer depends on what over-the-counter drug is being used and exactly what the ingredients are in the specific cough medicine. Because a developing fetus can be affected by many different medications a women who is pregnant should always ask her doctor's advice before taking any drug.

-Larry Stanford

Do overthe counter drugs or things like cough medicine effect a pregnancy?

-Jellybean, Arizona

This is a difficult question because the answer depends on what over-the-counter drug is being used and exactly what the ingredients are in the specific cough medicine.Becausea developing fetus can be affected by many different medications a women who is pregnant should always askher doctor's advice before taking any drug.

-Larry Stanford

Do parkinsans dieases have something to do with drugs

-Lil Ai3, Virginia

Great question. Parkinson's disease is a caused by a degeneration of a certain population of cells in the brain -- dopamine cells. We know that all drugs of abuse affect the dopamine system and can actually cause decreases in dopamine function. Also, different people have different levels of dopamine in their brains, so it is possible that if you get the right mix of dopamine system function together with drug-induced reductions in this system, then Parkinson's symptoms might result.Thanks for such a thoughtful question!

-Joe Frascella

do people die doing drugs? if so how many people do die doing drugs?

-Brianna, Virginia

Yes they do. In 2006, about 35,000 people died from what were called 'unintentional drug poisonings' and many of these deaths involved prescription pain relievers (e.g., Vicodin and OxyContin). But if you add deaths related to alcohol and tobacco that brings the total to about 560,000. Tobacco is definitely the drug that causes the most deaths (440,000 a year).

-Anna Staton

Do people take drugs because it's hereditary and a goat?

-Squishy Camel, New York

There is a hereditary component to drug-taking. Genes inherited form parents determine how people respond to drugs. Because genes affect how drugs are metabolized in the body, some people who take cocaine (for example) like it very much and go on to develop addiction, while others find it unpleasant. Similarly with alcohol and tobacco: genes that affect how they are metabolized make some people more vulnerable than others to heavy drinking and smoking. Genes aren't the whole story, however. No matter what your genes are, you can avoid getting into trouble with drugs by not taking them to begin with.Scratching my head about the goat, though.

-David Shurtleff

Do people take drugs because of depressions?

-babycakes123, Pennsylvania

Interesting question. We know that people typically take illegal drugs for two main reasons - because it is new and exciting, or because they feel lousy and want to feel better. People trying to cope with depression may take drugs to feel better. But any relief from the saddness is short-lived and abusing drugs won't help treat depression in the long run. The best way to address depression is through treatment from a medical or mental health professional. Medications and behavioral therapies offer the best way to deal with depression. Using drugs is no solution and because of the way they impact the brain, body, and behavior only complicate treatment for depression. For more information see:

-Redonna Chandler

Do smelly markers effect your brain

-HockeyGirl#99, New Hampshire

Some can make you "high" depending on the chemical used. The high would be caused by the release of dopamine in the reward areas of the brain, and the high would resemble alcohol intoxication. The problem is that some of these chemicals are toxic--they can produce a loss of sensation, and even unconsciousness if taken in high concentrations! With repeated use they can irreversibly result in hearing loss, limb spasms, and brain or bone marrow damage. Sniffing high concentrations of inhalants may result in death from heart failure or suffocation (inhalants displace oxygen in the lungs)-not good!For more information about drugs, check out!

-David Shurtleff

do drug kill your brain cells?

-chachabunny, New Hampshire

Good questions. Some drugs, like alcohol, can have a toxic effect on brain cells. Also, ecstasy has been shown to kill a specific subset of neurons when given over long periods to monkeys. Most drugs, though, produce changes in the way that brain cells function, and those changes can last a long time after the drug effects wear off and the drug is no longer in your body. However, even though the brain cells have not died, the drug has caused a change in the way the cells function, and the more times you do the drug, the longer those changes can last.

-Steve Grant

do drugs affect day to day activities

-Wind River High, Wyoming

Certainly taking drugs every day will result in effects on day to day activities. The kinds of effects that you might see depend on the kind of drugs taken, but can include both how well you think, how you interact with people, how irritated you get over small things, coordination and reaction time and other physical effects. And that's just to start: someone who has taken enough of a drug to become addicted, seeking and taking drugs may replace his or her previous day-to-day activities. Some drugs can give false feelings that everything is going well even while they are reducing the ability to deal with day to day activities.

-Mark Greene

do drugs affect the form of ur baby while ur pregnant

-hotfatmonkeyman, Michigan

What's up, Lakeview?!If you mean will your baby be deformed when he/she is born, it's not likely. However, if you are asking if drugs can affect how your baby develops during pregnancy, then absolutely--and not in a good way! In general, the earlier in pregnancy you take a drug, and the longer you keep taking drugs the more your baby will be affected. Alcohol and opioids (heroin, oxycotin and other prescription pain killers) are particularly harmful and might lead your baby to have withdrawal symptoms after birth. To learn more, check out 'The Science of Addiction' at For more information on alcohol abuse, go to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism at

-Joni Rutter

do drugs affect your testicles?

-R U Stoned, Michigan

As far as I know it is only chronic anabolic steroid abuse that has been reported to shrink your testicles.

-Ruben Baler

do drugs and alcohol increase confidence

-joshmcfather, Georgia

Yes, drugs and alcohol can sometimes increase confidence, but that is not the same thing as actually helping you to do something. In fact, alcohol and drugs can decrease mental and physical abilities so you may feel more confident, but perform worse.

-Mark Greene

Does being under the influence of drugs have an affect on your ability to concieve?

-girarkay13, Maine

Wow! That is an interesting question. Some drugs, like marijuana, may lower sperm counts in males, but this too depends on how much and how often it is used. All drugs, for males, can influence your ability to 'follow-through' (if you know what I mean). In females, abuse of stimulants like cocaine and amphetamine may make you cycle irregularly, affecting your ability to become pregnant. So it is not an easy answer--your chances depend on your behavior.

-Nancy Pilotte