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 here.

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can someone get addicted my living with someone who smokes

-cassidyb, Texas

Hi Cassidyb, there are scientific studies showing that kids of smokers are more likely to become smokers.  And the longer they are exposed, the more likely this may occur.  In addition, non-smokers who live with smokers are exposed to second-hand smoke, the smoke that comes off the cigarette itself and the exhaled smoke from the smoker (this is called second hand smoke).  This exposes the non-smoker to nicotine and many of the harmful chemicals found in smoke and can harm the health of the non-smoker. Did you know that over 41,000 people die each year from second hand smoke exposure?  Having the family member quit smoking would always be the best choice for the health of the entire family, and there are a lot resources available to help people who want to quit.  Information about smoking and prevention can be found at

-Kevin Walton

Can steroids be dangerous to one's health?

-atessier, New Hampshire

Yup.  Anabolic steroid use can lead to aggression and other psychiatric problems as well as impair your kidney; damage your liver; and cause cardiovascular problems leading to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack (even in young people). For other health effects, see  Good question, atessier!

-Nancy Pilotte

can using steroids every once in a while be harmful ?

-ChailynF, Texas

Your own body produces all the steroids it needs...and it needs them to regulate your growth, and are critical for reproductive function. People who use large quantities of anabolic steroids (based on testosterone) risk heart disease, liver damage (even in young people), and may not reach their full height.  It also can cause aggression and male-pattern baldness (who needs that?), and if you are a female who is using anabolic steroids, your voice may deepen permanently, grow facial hair, and develop male-pattern baldness. The trick is that steroids must be present for a long time to see any effects, so occasional use is not likely to provide any good or bad effect. Other steroids like estrogen, progesterone, cortisol and cholesterol do not have the same effects as anabolic steroids. See for more info on steroids.

-Nancy Pilotte

Can weed cause cancer

-bruh79805, Michigan

Not sure yet about lung cancer.  It is also linked to an aggressive form of testicular cancer that affects young males.

-Nora Volkow

Can weed cause cancer?

-Tundraj, Texas

Hi Tundraj! Because a lot of people who smoke marijuana also smoke cigarettes, it's difficult to tell what increased risk of cancer comes from cigarette smoking, and how much of that risk is due to smoking marijuana. More research is needed in this area, but marijuana is addictive. 1 in 6 teens who use marijuana will get addicted to it, and 25-50% of those who use every day are addicted.  You can find out more about marijuana and addiction here:

-Joseph Frascella

can weed lead to vomiting?

-RaoK, Texas

yes--in fact people have been showing up in emergency rooms with what's called hyperemesis -- where they can't stop vomiting.   

-Susan Weiss

can weed make people go crazy

-brecks, Texas

Marijuana use has been associated with a number of mental conditions, including schizophrenia, psychosis, depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts or attempts. However it is not yet clear whether marijuana use directly causes or exacerbates these conditions. Currently, the strongest evidence is for the link between marijuana and psychosis.  Marijuana intoxication can, at high doses, produce a temporary psychosis, and it may play a role in the development of schizophrenia in vulnerable individuals especially those with increased genetic risk. 

-Maureen Boyle

can weeed give you cancer?

-allofme, Maryland

Don't know yet--Its certainly not good for your lungs to smoke anything--and it is linked to bronchitis and other lung infections, but the jury is still out on lung cancer. Surprisingly, there have been a few studies showing a link between marijuana and an agressive form of testicular cancer that affects young men.

-Nora Volkow

can you be addicted to weed?

-rowane, Ohio

yes--about 9% of users become addicted (4M people in the US this past year), 16% of users who start as teens and 25-50% of daily users.  

-Susan Weiss

can you be so high that you could be possible to hurt yourself?


Hi ASHLEYA - YES! Not only can you hurt yourself, but you can hurt others if you happen to be driving a car.

-Michelle Rankin

Can You Become Addicted to a Drug if You Just Take It Once?

-Kim il sung, Maryland

No, u need to take it several times to become addicted.  However what can happen is that the first time you get exposed to the drug you like it so much that it makes you desire to take it again in the future, and this can initiate a path to problematic drug use or addiction

-Nora Volkow

Can you become addicted to over counter drugs such as NyQuil or similar?

-Taytaylataytay, Michigan

Hello to Franklin High! I guess I would say techincally you could get addicted to anything. I think the important thing to mention is that it wise to not take any drug unless you really need it--that way it will be effective when you really do need it.


-Bethany Deeds

Can you become addicted to prescription drugs even if they are prescribed? If not, is there any way to avoid prescription drug addiction?

-erisrael17, Minnesota

This is a very important question!  Prescription drug abuse is when someone takes a medication that was prescribed for someone else or takes their own prescription in a way not intended by a doctor.  When prescription drugs are taken as directed, they are usually safe. However, it requires a trained health care clinician, such as a doctor or nurse, to determine if the benefits of taking the medication outweigh any risks for side effects. There is a lot we still don’t know about who becomes addicted and why, and after how much drug exposure. We do know that each person is different.  When dealing with prescription drugs it is very important to be following the direction of your doctor or nurse in order to prevent addiction. Check out for more information.

-Katia Howlett

can you die from alcohol

-HussamA, Texas

Yes, you can! Close to 90,000 people per year in the United States die from alcohol-related causes, including 5,000 or so teenagers. Stay safe and make smart choices. 

-Aaron White

Can illegal drugs prevent STDs like HIV or AIDS? Could that be the reason some people use them?

-sami14, Maryland

Hi sami14.  No way!  Actually, using illegal drugs can increase risk for STDs like HIV or AIDS because they affect your brain, they way you think and can lead to poor decision making, like engaging in risky sexual behaviors that increase risk for HIV/AIDS.  Here is some additional information for you to review --  It's great that you are asking this type of question.  You've just shattered a drug fact myth!

-Belinda Sims

can it be painful when you don't do cocaine in a while??

-Sophie Dupree, Texas

Hello Sophie--good question. When you take cocaine for along time, you can become addicted. This means that your body has now adapted to wanting to have cocaine. When you first stop taking cocaine, your body still wants the drug. If you don't take cocaine, your body begins to react. This is known as physical withdrawal. During physical withdrawal your body shows many ailments. This physical withdrawal can be very painful to the person.

-Roger Sorenson

Can LSD be a gateway drug like in the novel "Go Ask Alice"?

-919323, Florida

Hi 919323,
I'd say it's pretty unlikely, because these days LSD is pretty rare--a person would be very unlikely to take it as their first drug before having tried alcohol, marijuana, etc. One thing that makes a "gateway" drug is accessibility.
Great question, though!

-Eric Wargo

Can LSD really be stored in your spine and cause trips in the future?

-Kat, North Carolina

Hi Kat,
No, it's a myth that the LSD stays in your spine or anywhere else in your body. But it is true that you can have a trip in the future (a "flashback"). This is because of changes to the brain caused by the drug. It's your own altered brain causing the trip. (Pretty trippy, right?)

-Eric Wargo

Can Marijuana Be Addictive

-QueenAliyyah, Maryland

Sure, addiction is compulsive use despite harm.  That happens a lot with marijuana,  Here is some more information on marijuana:


-Dave Thomas

Can marijuana be fatal?

-curious Lion, Kansas

There are, to my knowledge, no direct fatalities attributable to marijunana itself. Causality is hard to prove. But people can and do injure themselves and die because of marijuana's effects on judgment, perception, and coordination. There are reports of people who have died in traffic accidents while under the influence of marijuana because it dramatically slows your reaction time (and you don't respond to danger signals from traffic as quickly as you would without the drug). Also, people can experience extreme anxiety (panic attacks) or psychotic reactions (where they lose touch with reality and may become paranoid).  Do you want to know more about drugged driving? Check out

-Nancy Pilotte

Can Marijuana cause paranoia?

-Marie, Maryland

Thanks for your question. Yes, for some people they can become paranoid after taking marijuana, and other drugs also. You can learn more about the effects of marijuana at

-Joseph Frascella

can marijuana change someones personality?

-Catherine Mayer, Ohio

Hi cathy,
i really think so. Anything that changes the brain can affect personality. besides the risk of addiction (which is a dramatic change in personality, associations have also been found between marijuana use and other mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts among adolescents, and personality disturbances, including a lack of motivation to engage in typically rewarding activities. 
hope this helps

-Ruben Baler

Can marijuana change the way you act and your personality?

-kearsarge, New Hampshire

Yes--any drug can do that.  Marijuana affects parts of the brain that are important for decision making and judgement, and at high doses or in vulnerable individuals it can make you paranoid or psychotic.  That usually goes way when the effects of the drug wear off, although in people with a pre-existing vulnerability to psychosis--it can contribute to a younger age of onset or more severe course of illness.

-Susan Weiss

Can marijuana enhance any mental disorder?

-JuanV, Texas

Hi Juan.  Good question.  Drugs affect your brain and your behavior whether or not you have a mental disorder. Some research suggests that drugs like marijuana use can increase risk for mental disorders.  We also know that using various drugs can also lead to impulsive behavior or can impair judgement, so using drugs can sometimes interact with symptoms or make mental health problems worse.  It's sort of odd when you think about the fact that we sometimes use drugs to treat mental disorders, but then again, medications to treat mental disorders are prescribed by a doctor under careful monitoring.

-Denise Pintello

can marijuana kill you?

-NateArchibald , Minnesota

Hi NateArchibald – deaths due direct exposure to marijuana are few, but driving under the influence of marijuana is very deadly especially when it is used along with alcohol.

-Susan Weiss

Can Marijuana Kill You?

-gerald jeffries, Maryland

Hi gerald jeffries. Great question! Not directly. Use of marijuana can impair coordination and lead to accidents that kill people.  Also, sometimes people become very anxious and paranoid when they use marijuana and end up hurting themselves.  Find out more on marijuana at

-Wilson Compton

can marijuana lead to other drugs as its called the gateway drug and if so what kinds?

-WBrooks, New Hampshire

Good question, WBrooks.  The research is not yet settled but it suggests that while most people who smoke marijuana do not go on to use other drugs, few young people use other illegal drugs without first trying marijuana. For example, the risk of using cocaine is much greater for those who have tried marijuana than for those who have never tried it. However, this is also true for alcohol and tobacco. Animal studies suggest that early use of marijuana (or alcohol or tobacco) may impact the brain – which is still developing in adolescents— altering the reward system in ways that affect the likelihood of using other drugs as you get older. In addition, using marijuana puts children and teens in contact with people who use and sell other drugs. So, a person who uses marijuana may be more likely to be exposed to and urged to try other drugs.

-Joni Rutter

Can medications for animals be taken by people?

-glenelg41, Maryland

Glenegl41, You want to take flea medicine?  If people take their animal's medications, how will the animal get better?  Some medications for animals and people are the same, but they may be administered in different dosing regimens. It is never a good idea to take drugs that are not prescribed by your doctor for a specific ailment.  

-Joni Rutter

Can meth kill you on the first try? Or in that just a myth?

-Tyrone Young, Minnesota

Meth is a way dangerous drug. Since it, as well as many other drugs, are often filled with other chemicals, reactions are often difficult to predict. Unfortunately, this can result is some very scary outcomes including death!

-Gaya Dowling

can mj effect blood flow to the brain?

-thor, Maryland

Hi Thor - YES marijuana can affect affect the contraction and expansion of your blood vessels, so it does affect blow flow to the brain.

-Susan Weiss