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 marihuana kill you ?

-jamie22, Ohio

Marijuana overdose is really unlikely--you're more likely to fall asleep before you can ingest enough marijuana. However, marijuana contributes to lethality in other ways--including car crashes--approximately 14% of people in fatal crashes test positive for marijuana (sometimes in combination with other drugs). In particular, marijuana and alcohol together are worse than either one alone with respect to auto accidents! And MJ can be addicting--about 9% of users, 1 in 6 of those who start young, and 25-50% of daily users become addicted. Smoking marjuana can also increase a person's risk of developing respiratory infections, chronic coughing and more. Want more information about marijuana? Click on: http://www.nida.nih.gov/DrugPages/Marijuana.html

-David Shurtleff

Can marijuana affect pregnancy?

-yamomma, Maine

hi yamommathanks for the question!Animal research suggests that the body's endocannabinoid system plays a role in the control of brain maturation, particularly in the development of emotional responses. It is conceivable that even low concentrations of THC, when administered during pregnancy, could have profound and long-lasting consequences for both brain and behavior. Research has shown that some babies born to women who used marijuana during their pregnancies display altered responses to visual stimuli, increased tremulousness, and a high-pitched cry, which could indicate problems with neurological development. In school, marijuana-exposed children are more likely to show gaps in problem solving skills, memory, and the ability to remain attentive. But this type of research is very difficult to interpret because it is never perfectly controlled. Thus, more research is needed to disentangle the drug-specific factors from the environmental ones.Hope this helpsAll the best to you.

-Ruben Baler

Can marijuana be put in a drink and have the same effects?

-harry.h, Texas

Ingesting marijuana still produces a 'high' as with smoking. However, it takes longer to get into your system and since you don't know how much you're getting, it could ultimately be more dangerous and cause more paranoia and psychosis, as some emergency room reports have indicated.

-Dave White

can marijuana have medical use?

-adison_s, Pennsylvania

The FDA, which approves all therapeutic drugs in the US has not approved marijuana for the treatment of any disease or condition. That's because it hasn't been proven safe and effective in carefully controlled studies with patients. Marijuana is not likely to become a medicine for several reasons--its a plant that contains many chemicals (over 400), some with unknown health effects; the ingredients vary from plant to plant--medicines need to be able to have precisely controlled ingredients--so doctors know how much to prescribe and side effects can be prevented; marijuana's effects on your ability to think and remember make it not ideal; and finally, anything thats smoked is bad for the lungs. Scientists are however interested in some of marijuana's ingredients that may have possibilities as medicines but with less risks than marijuana itself. See http://www.drugabuse.gov/MarijBroch/teens/.

-Christine Colvis

Can drugs make you a schitzophrnic while messing up your mind in the process?

-cramirez, Texas

This is a very controversial question. These drugs are often called psychotomimetic because they produce effects that seem similar to psychotic disorders, such as delusional thinking or sensory distortions. However, further studies found that the effects of these drugs are different in many ways from pscychotic disorders. But what is most dangerous about these drugs is that the effects are unpredictable. Some people have severe adverse reactions when they take these drugs, even if they had taken them before and not had a problem. These experiences can be so terrifying to some people that they can be haunted by them for a long time.

-Steve Grant

Can drugs make you smart or is there even a drug that makes you a little more intellegent?

-popkenblake, Iowa

Thanks, such a great question!there are indeed drugs that can help you focus, pay more attention, or study for longer periods of time. These types of drugs are called cognitive enhancers, but no drug that I know of that will make you smarter or more intelligent.Hope this helps

-Ruben Baler

can extasy harm you besides that its addicting

-cameron, Ohio

Yes, because some research shows that it can damage serotonin neurons in the brain. These neurons help control emotions and a sense of well-being. Using ecstasy increases risk for depression later, even after a person stops using. Some other research on regular users suggest that they have memory problems.

-Jim Bjork

can hand sanitizer get you high?

-smartinez, Illinois

Yes, because it contains ethyl alcohol, the kind of alcohol in alcoholic beverages. However, it can also make a person extremely sick due to the other ingredients in it. That's why the instructions make clear that hand sanitizer is for external use only.

-Aaron White

can heroin kill you

-julian, Texas

Yes, by suppressing the part of your brain that tells your chest to breathe. Even if a person doesn't overdose and die, recent data using brain scans of long-time users shows that heroin actually shrinks parts of your brain-- especially the gray matter! It also can effect the white matter in the brain that connects cells together, though the white matter might recover a bit once people stop using. In addition, the brain gets used to the molecules, and makes adjustments, that might require more and more heroin over time to get the same high. A great risk can be the other junk in street heroin besides the heroin itself. Sharing dirty needles is an EXTREME risk to get HIV and AIDS.

-Jim Bjork

Can drugs brainwash you?

-jum, Texas

Not quite sure I know exactly what you mean by 'brainwashing' you. If you are asking if drugs can affect the brain and hijack certain brain circuits, there is growing evidence that drugs can do this. It really is the process of addiction where drugs change the brain such that we are no longer in control of our behaviors. The definition of addiction is a disease characterized by uncontrollable drug craving, drug seeking, and drug use that persist even in the face of extremely negative consequences, such as losing your job, doing poorly in school, getting arrested, or getting sick. Addiction develops because of changes to the brain caused by drug use. Initially, all drugs of abuse, either directly or indirectly, increase the activity of the chemical dopamine in the brain's reward centers, which is what makes people feel good. However, with continued drug use and excessive activation of dopamine neurons, the brain starts to adapt to the good feeling, so more drugs are needed to achieve it. This causes people to become dependent on the drug, to feel bad when it is not in their system, and to seek and take the drug compulsively--without even thinking about it. Another way that drugs change the brain is to affect the ability to make decisions, such as judging what's important, what's healthy, and what's dangerous. The compulsive seeking and using of drugs even in the face of potentially devastating consequences is the essence of addiction.So I think addiction is a kind of 'brainwash'!To learn more, check out 'The Science of Addiction' at http://www.nida.nih.gov/scienceofaddiction/.

-Joe Frascella

Can drugs change the person’s character?

-Svelkova,

Yes! While people can act differently when they're actually high at the time, continuous use of some drugs like meth or ecstasy can damage brain circuits that help us keep control over our emotions, leading an addict to become really disagreeable or nasty, for example.

-Jim Bjork

can drugs effect sex?

-master, Michigan

Some drugs can. For example:anabolic steroids can lower sex drivemarijuana can lower sperm countecstasy and poppers are often abused to enhance sexual arousal.Thanks for a great question.

-Joe Frascella

Can drugs give you a stroke?

-pokemonmaster, Vermont

yes

-Nora Volkow

Can drugs in general cause physical and self-control diseases such as anorexia and bullimia?

-Andrew, Ohio

We don't know of evidence linking drug use to anorexia or bulimia.

-Nora Volkow

can drugs kill people?

-Sweetheart101, Virginia

Yes. Cocaine and stimulants can increase heart rate and blood pressure to cause heart attacks and strokes. Heroin and alcohol (and especially a combination of the two) can cause the brain to stop telling the chest to breathe, and people die from overdose for that reason.Finally, driving while intoxicated kills a LOT of people, as another example of how drugs kill.

-Jim Bjork

Can drugs kill sperm cells and vaginal areas?

-leapfrog33, Pennsylvania

Drugs can definitely affect sperm cells and the uterus. They can reduce fertility and affect hormones that are important for reproduction, and certainly affect the ability of sperm to travel, but I don't remember reading that they actually kill the cells. Drugs can still disrupt normal function even if cells aren't killed. Drugs never have one effect, in almost all cases they affect normal function as well. It is important to consider all effects when making an informed decision about using drugs or not. Thanks for your question!

-Marilyn Huestis

can drugs kill u or can they make u go mental

-AliciaT, California

Yes, drugs can be very dangerous and can result in significant negative medical and health consequences, and also can result in death. As for affecting your mental health, certainly drugs are capable of producing psychological, psychiatric and neurologic problems such as psychosis, paranoia, hallucinations, panic attacks, seizures.For more information on the effects of drugs, check out 'Drugs, Brains, and Behavior - The Science of Addiction' at http://www.drugabuse.gov/scienceofaddiction/. Additional resources can be found on NIDA's website, www.drugabuse.gov.

-Joe Frascella

Do drugs make people calm or make them worse

-IMS408, Louisiana

Most drugs of abuse can be classified as stimulants or depressants. Stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, wake people up, make them more active, speed up their heart rate, increase their blood pressure and other effects. Depressants, such as heroin, do the reverse. Both are dangerous. For more information about stimulants and depressants, check out www.teens.drugabuse.gov

-Dave Thomas

Do drugs make u not drive well?

-?????????, Iowa

Yes, drugs like alcohol and marijuana can impair your perception and motor coordination, both of which you need to drive well and react appropriately. For example, marijuana is the most common illegal drug found in drivers who die in accidents (around 14 percent of drivers), often in combination with alcohol or other drugs. Combining marijuana with drinking even a small amount of alcohol greatly increases driving danger, more than either drug alone. See http://www.drugabuse.gov/MarijBroch/teens/ for more.

-Ruben Baler

Do drugs make you drive odd when you are driving?

-mackenziem32, Iowa

Yes but it depends on the drug. Alcohol and marijuana interfere with your reflexes and coordination but other drugs like opiates (prescription painkillers) and benzodiazepines (drugs to treat anxiety, like valium) can make you sleepy and drowsy. Drugs like cocaine can make you aggressive and a risky driver.

-Nora Volkow

Do drugs rapidly spread in your body as soon as you use them?

-fc bobcats, Texas

This is a great question!How quickly a drug spreads throughout the body depends on many things, specifically on how the drug is injested (e.g., by mouth in a pill [slower] or injected directly into the blood stream [much more quickly]). Some drugs, for example, like nicotine, if smoked, can reach the brain within 10-15 seconds!!

-Kris Bough

do drugs shorten your life?

-kyle, Ohio

Great question. They sure can, in many different ways. Here are just a few examples:Some drug use, like smoking cigarettes, produce many kinds of cancer; some others such as cocaine, amphetamine, and psychostimulants, can cause strokes, heart attacks, and even death. Others can cause brain hemorrage (bleeding). Drugs like alcohol can cause many kinds of negative brain effects and liver disease, if abused. So abusing any drug, legal or illegal, can certainly shorten your life.

-Anto Bonci

do gay people do more drugs than straight people?

-willz, Pennsylvania

The research shows that drug addiction does not discriminate. Both gay and straight people are affected by drug addiction.

-Joni Rutter

Do genetics determine your likelihood of abusing drugs and

-Hyper4Hetalia, Pennsylvania

I am a geneticist, so this is my favorite type of question!! All diseases have some heritable component (this means that you can inherit them from parents), but how much you inherit can vary. Here's an example. Huntington's disease is caused by a genetic defect that, if passed on, causes a person's offspring (their child) to be affected. That means that Huntington's is 100% genetic. Inheritance, in the form of genes, plays a large role in drug addiction also. In fact, research shows that drug addiction is about 50% heritable. BUT.....while genes play a big role, they are only part of the picture. Other factors, like having friends who don't use drugs, or being involved in sports and other recreational activities, also affect your risk of trying drugs and of becoming addicted to them. Researchers are trying to find the genes that make you vulnerable or resistant to addiction, in order to find ways to improve treatment and prevention approaches. Want more information on genes, addiction and teens? For more information: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/real-teens-ask-addiction-hereditary/

-Joni Rutter

Do genetics determine your likelihood of abusing drugs and alcohol?

-Hyper4Hetalia, Pennsylvania

I am a geneticist, so this is my favorite type of question!! All diseases have some heritable component (this means that you can inherit them from parents), but how much you inherit can vary. Here's an example. Huntington's disease is caused by a genetic defect that, if passed on, causes a person's offspring (their child) to be affected. That means that Huntington's is 100% genetic. Inheritance, in the form of genes, plays a large role in drug addiction also. In fact, research shows that drug addiction is about 50% heritable. BUT.....while genes play a big role, they are only part of the picture. Other factors, like having friends who don't use drugs, or being involved in sports and other recreational activities, also affect your risk of trying drugs and of becoming addicted to them. Researchers are trying to find the genes that make you vulnerable or resistant to addiction, in order to find ways to improve treatment and prevention approaches. Want more information on genes, addiction and teens? For more information: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/genetics-epigenetics-addiction and https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/real-teens-ask-addiction-hereditary.

-Joni Rutter

do girls have a diffrent effect when they drink or smoke

-greggy3, Ohio

In general, girls are affected more by alcohol than guys. Girls can feel the immediate effects of alcohol more quickly and for a longer time than guys. Thanks to natural differences in body chemistry and metabolism, girls retain more alcohol in their blood than men do, and also break down and get rid of alcohol more slowly than guys do. Girls may also be more likely to get cancer from drinking alcohol than males.

-Aaron White

Do girls or boys do drugs more often?

-fort settlement, Texas

Hello to you at Ft. Settlement Middle School! According to a recent Monitoring the Future Suvery it is even...Past year use of Illict drugs among 12-17 year olds was 19.4% for both boys and girls in 2010, Here is a summary from last year's Monitoring the Future, an annual survey of drug use among 8th, 10th and 12th graders. Because the survey has been going on for years, it helps us see trends. The summary is at: http://www.drugabuse.gov/newsroom/10/mtf10overview.html If you are interested in more details, go to http://www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/MTF.html. We expect to release 2011 data from MTF some time in December.

-Bethany Deeds

Do Inhalants causes brain seizure?

-iofoegbu, Texas

I'm not sure about brain seizures, but here's want I do know about inhalants. They seem harmless, but they can actually be quite dangerous. Inhalants are chemical vapors that people inhale on purpose to get “high.” The vapors produce mind-altering, and sometimes disastrous, effects. These vapors are in a variety of products common in almost any home or workplace. Examples are some paints, glues, gasoline, and cleaning fluids. Many people do not think of these products as drugs because they were never meant to be used to achieve an intoxicating effect. But when they are intentionally inhaled to produce a “high,” they can cause serious harm. The lungs absorb inhaled chemicals into the bloodstream very quickly, sending them throughout the brain and body. Within minutes of inhalation, users feel 'high.' The effects are similar to those produced by alcohol and may include slurred speech, lack of coordination, euphoria, and dizziness. The high usually lasts only a few minutes. With repeated inhalations, many users feel less inhibited and less in control. Some may feel drowsy for several hours and experience a lingering headache. Inhalants often contain more than one chemical. Some chemicals leave the body quickly, but others stay for a long time and get absorbed by fatty tissues in the brain and central nervous system. One of these fatty tissues is myelin, a protective cover that surrounds many of the body's nerve fibers. Myelin helps nerve fibers carry their messages to and from the brain. Damage to myelin can slow down communication between nerve fibers. Long-term inhalant use can break down myelin. When this happens, nerve cells are not able to transmit messages as efficiently, which can cause muscle spasms and tremors or even permanent difficulty with basic actions like walking, bending, and talking. These effects are similar to what happens to patients with multiple sclerosis—a disease that also affects myelin. Inhalants also can damage brain cells by preventing them from receiving enough oxygen. The effects of this condition, also known as brain hypoxia, depend on the area of the brain affected. The hippocampus, for example, helps control memory, so someone who repeatedly abuses inhalants may lose the ability to learn new things or may have a hard time carrying on simple conversations. If the cerebral cortex is affected, the ability to solve complex problems and plan ahead will be compromised. And, if the cerebellum is affected, it can cause a person to move slowly or clumsily.Inhalants can be addictive. Long-term use can lead to compulsive drug seeking and use, and mild withdrawal symptoms. For more information, go to: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_inhale1.php.

-Joni Rutter

do kids become addicted to drugs easier than adults?

-mgeiger, Oklahoma

Great question! Evidence seems to suggest that the earlier one starts abusing drugs, the more likely one is to become addicted to the drugs. Of course, there are lots of individual variability with respect to ease of becoming addicted, but kids are particularly vulnerable to the addicting effects of drugs. If you are interested in learning more about this topic and other related issues, please check out:http://www.drugabuse.gov/scienceofaddiction/

-Joe Frascella

do medicated drugs get tested by animals?

-Hellothere, Maryland

always!this testing is very thorough and is one of the early stages in medication development. thanks for the question

-Ruben Baler