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

do steroids really make your wiener smaller?

-bear, Utah

Not your weiner, but steroids can shrink your testicles. That is because steroids alter your body's hormonal balance including hormones related to sexual organs. You can find out more by clicking here on steroids.

-Steve Grant

do u think old people do drugs?

-dixie smurf123, Utah

You know that is something we are watching out for. The baby boomer generation had a history of drug use when they were young, and has lived in a 'quick fix' world of taking medications for whatever ails you (as have younger generations). So we are interested in whether they will return to using illicit drugs, or become abusers of prescription drugs as they age and retire from their jobs and responsibilities. This could be highly problematic--especially if they have other health conditions and/or are taking medications that can interact with drugs or alcohol. At NIDA we continue to focus most of our efforts on young people--trying to prevent problems before they take hold, but older people are on our radar too, and they may need specific treatment and prevention interventions geared towards their motivations for drug use and its consequences.

-Susan Weiss

Do wine have the same afect on you as drinking beer

-rcmhs014, Georgia

Hello to Georgia! You ask a very good question -- it is one that many people wonder about. Some people think that wine is less harmful than beer or other so-called 'hard' liquor. But the truth is that all alcoholic beverages contain the same chemical called 'ethanol.' The only difference between the different drinks is the percentage of ethanol that each contains. So, the answer to your question is that drinking any kind of alcohol -- including wine -- is harmful at a young age. Teen brains are still developing -- in fact, our brains keep developing until at least the mid-20's. Alcohol can harm the brain even more during this developmental period. And research shows that persons who start drinking early in life are much more likely to develop alcohol use problems later in life, including alcohol addiction, or alcoholism. Please check out the website of our sister agency, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). They focus on the problems caused by drinking alcohol and have a great site for teens at Thanks for asking and keep those great questions coming in!

-Harold Perl

do you advice teenagers to use drugs to help out in school or in street problems. ily

-waldo, New York

I would never advise anyone, teenager or adults, to use drugs on their own to solve problems they are having. However, some teenagers have problems such as depression, anxiety or attention deficit disorder. A person with those types of problems should see a doctor, who can prescribe specific medications to help them and closely monitor their use to make sure that the person doesn't use too much or suffer adverse effects.

-Steve Grant

do you believe in the saying-'once an addict, always an addict'?

-somebody, Arizona

Good question. When someone has been using drugs for a long time and becomes addicted, they have long term changes and problems. The real issues is that they have memories for their drug use that may last a very long time. They are still at risk for relapse. The good news is that it becomes easier and easier for them to remain clean and sober. Recovery is possible with effective treatments such as behavioral-based therapies in which people learn to change their behavior; and, for addiction to some drugs, such as tobacco, alcohol, heroin,or other opiate drugs, medications can help. Treatment will vary for each person, depending on the type of drug(s) being abused and the individual's specific circumstances. For many people with drug addictions, multiple courses of treatment may be needed to achieve success.

-Wilson Compton

Do you enjoy eating pizza?

-SCLions018, Pennsylvania

Yes, my favorite is Mac and Manco's on the Jersey shore

-Cindy Miner

do you get high even if you have never smoked before

-jeriwhiting, New York

I assume you're talking about marijuana...People have different experiences. Much would depend on the amount smoked. Here's a good link to learn more:

-Dave McCann

do you guys love to do your job? and teach kids.

-Mr.Bigberrys, Maryland

I can speak for myself....yes I do love my job, and one of the best things about it is teaching!

-Cindy Miner

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