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.

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can alcohol cause brain damage or suvere brain damage?

-705377, Texas

Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years can make an area of the brain called the frontal lobes smaller. The frontal lobes help us make decisions, think about things, and pay attention. Teenagers who drink a lot have problems with these things. Alcohol also can shrink the hippocampus, the area of the brain area that helps us learn and remember. Teenagers who drink a lot also have trouble with learning. We do not know yet whether these problems go away if the teenager stops drinking.

-George Koob

Can drugs affect your breathing?

-eb09, New York

Hey eb09- Drugs can absolutely affect your breathing. The most dangerous example is when opioid drugs, such as heroin or prescription pain relievers, slow down breathing rate so much that it stops completely, which can result in death. Benzodiazepines (such as valium or xanax) and alcohol also slow down breathing rate, so it's especially dangerous to take these drugs in combination.

-Emily Einstein

Can drugs affect your drawing skills?

-wtran, Texas

this has not been studied

-Nora Volkow

can drugs affected you brain cells

-kayla baiely, Texas

Yes depending on the drug you use it can affect some cells more than others. For some of the drugs like nicotine it can activate brain cells while you are smoking but then they become sluggish when you stop.

For other drugs. like cocaine and meth they can damage the cells because they can produce strokes or hemorrhages.

heroin and opaite analgesis cna also damage cells by interfering with breathing and elivery of Oxygen to the brain

-Nora Volkow

Can drugs and alcohol increase your chance of suicidal thoughts and/or depression?

-kphung, Texas

Hi kphung - Yes. People who use drugs, especially those with addiction, are at increased risk for suicide. This is one of the worst parts of drug use.Please see these helpful publications on depression: and what to do if yoru teen has problem with drugs:

-Wilson Compton

Can drugs be used as medicine

-Andrew sims, Alabama

Absolutely, medicines are drugs. But some medicines can be abused. Here's some more info on that:

-Dave Thomas

Can drugs be used for good purposes?

-jbofill, Texas

hey jbofill, yes, many drugs are used as medicines. When a drug is effective for treating medical conditions it is approved by the FDA. If it is also addictive these medicines are regulated by the DEA to try to prevent their misuse.

-Maureen Boyle

Can drugs be used for suicide???

-Jmurray, Texas

Hi Jmurray--yes, but if you or someone you know have any thoughts of suicide, the first thing to do is talk to someone you trust--a parent, friend, teacher, counselor, for example--or call the national suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (or chat:! There is always a way to get help so that someone can feel better.

-Charlotte Armstrong

can drugs effect a woman's pregnancy

-katniss, Texas

Every drug a pregnant woman takes also reaches her baby. The ways in which the baby can be affected depends on the drug the mother takes, how much she uses, and when in pregnancy she uses. For example, research suggests that women who smoke marijuana while pregnant are at higher risk for having a baby born at a lower birth weight. Drug use in pregnancy can also increase the risk of premature birth. But the good news is that the sooner a pregnant woman stops using drugs, the better the results for her baby. You can read more at

-Emily Einstein

Can drugs effect you playing sports

-Genaro@gentryjs, Texas

yes repeated use of drugs interferes with the motor center in the brain that can lead interfere with fast reflexes and good coordination. This is most negative for high level athletes for it can lead to tthem loosing hte edge over their competitors

-Nora Volkow

can drugs get you to death??

-DMM, Illinois

hey DMM, yes, there were over 52,000 drug overdose deaths in 2015.

-Maureen Boyle

can drugs harm your emotions

-Tyrese FVSU 4_H, Georgia

Hi Tyrese,

Yes, drugs have a strong effect on emotions. Dr. Geoge Koob, head of the National Institute of Alcohol and Alcoholism, has called the effects of drugs on emotions "The Dark Side of Addiction". Taking drugs may make you feel good in the short term, but his research indicates that the longer you take drugs, the more you are likely to feel stressed and feel bad when not taking drugs. He has proposed that this dark side of drug use leads to a vicious cycle of taking more drugs to get rid of the stress, which turns into being more stressed out when you are not taking drugs.For more info:

-Steve Grant

can drugs increase your chance of contracting an STD/STI?

-Patty, Minnesota

Smart question. I have a simple answer. Absolutely. When you are high, you are not thinking straight and make a lot of poor choices. Other people can take advantage of you.

-Michele Rankin

can drugs lead to cancer?

-Wmills, New Hampshire

Dear Wmills,

Drugs do increase the risk for many types of cancer. Tobacco contains many chemicals, and alcohol is also a risk factor for certain types of cancer, including breast and ovarian cancer. There is no safe drug. All you have to do is not use drugs to avoid the risks. Here is more information:,

-Roger Little

can drugs lead to mental health issues

-oscar, Texas

Drugs can of course lead to addiction, which I think of as a mental health issue. Also, many people who are addicted to drugs also have other mental health issues, like depression, anxiety, or PTSD. Whether the drugs caused those illnesses can be difficult to figure out. But regardless of whether the drugs caused the mental health issues or not, treatments aimed at both the addiction and the other mental health issues work better than trying to treat either one alone.

-Josh Gordon

can drugs lead to mental health issues?

-hello123, New York

hello hello

yes. For example, long-term marijuana use is associated with impaired intellectual functioning and IQ decline when usage starts during the teen years. This includes 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 these issues or just makes them worse. Currently, the strongest evidence is for the link between marijuana and psychosis. Marijuana intoxication can, in rare cases, produce a temporary psychosis, and it may play a role in the development of schizophrenia in some people carrying a certain genetic risk. Marijuana may be a means of self-medicating an existing or mild mental illness; it may be a marker of other problems (abuse, trauma); it may contribute to the development or worsening of the mental illness; or it may reflect combinations of the above.

-Ruben Baler

can drugs lead to metal health issues?

-hello123, New York

Hello to hello 123! This is a great question - and many scientists are looking into this as we write. Some recent studies have suggested that marijuana is linked to psychiatric disorders - and here is a link that will provide helpful information:

Overall, some drugs can enhance anxiety, sadness, hallucinations - yet this does not mean that the person has a mental illness. Maybe you can become a researcher and help definitively answer this question!

-Denny Pintello

can drugs lead to mistakes

-C.J.S 33, Indiana

Hi C.J.S 33
I believe you can make mistakes without drugs too. Ha ha!
But to answer your question - it increases the chance that you make "mistakes" because drug use negatively affects ones memory, emotion, judgement, etc. When your mind is not clear because you are intoxicated, you are capable of making mistakes you would not make if you were sober.

-Geetha Subramaniam

Can drugs lead to obesity?

-KanekiSenpai <3, Illinois

Not directly in fact many of the drugs decrease your appetite. However once you stop taking them, your risk for gaining weight is higher, in part because people compensate by overeating sweets and other foods high in calories.

-Nora Volkow

Can Drugs lead to prostitution?

-e7321, Maryland

Hi e7321,
Fantastic question. Sometimes people who become addicted to drugs will do anything to get more. When they run out of money (which is very quick), they might resort to trading sex for drugs.Drugs also harm a person's ability to make wise decisions, so that can lead to making harmful decisions about sex and life in general.

-Eric Wargo

can drugs make mentally ill?

-pigbru, Texas

Drugs can of course lead to addiction, which I think of as a mental illness. Also, many people who are addicted to drugs also have other mental illnesses, like depression, anxiety, or PTSD. Whether the drugs caused those illnesses can be difficult to figure out. But regardless of whether the drugs caused the mental health issues or not, treatments aimed at both the addiction and the other mental health issues work better than trying to treat either one alone.

-Josh Gordon

Can second hand smoking kill you.

-Jonathan R, Pennsylvania

Research shows that being around someone who smokes increases exposure to smoke and lots of the dangerous chemicals that get released when tobacco is smoked. Research also shows that kids who live with adult smokers are at increased risk of smoking themselves. You might find this blog post helpful (it gives statistics for the number of people who die from effects of secondhand smoke):

-Kevin Walton

can second-hand smoking increase the chances of someone else getting addicted?

-anguyen, Texas

This is a very interesting question, anguyen. We know that exposure to second-hand tobacco increases health problems like lung cancer and emphysema, but the link to addiction is not so clear. It's hard to know if the reason someone becomes addicted may be because of their genetic risk or the risks from second-hand exposure in the home. For other drugs (like marijuana smoke), we need more information about the effects of second hand smoke.

-Wilson Compton

can second-hand smoking make someone also get addicted to smoking?

-anguyen, Texas

Dear anguyen, when you are exposed to secondhand smoke, you are not exposed to nicotine, the addictive substance in tobacco products. However, it's important to remember that more than 41,000 people who don't smoke in the United States die every year from diseases caused by exposure to secondhand smoke. Try not to be around others who are smoking and keep control of your health!

-Heather Kimmel

can second-hand smoking make someone also get addicted to smoking?

-anguyen, Texas

Hi Anguyen,

Yes, you can get addicted (and also develop cancer) from secondhand smoke. That is why it is very important to avoid secondhand smoke and to make sure that other people do not get exposed to secondhand smoke.

-Carlos Blanco

Can small amounts of alcohol, specifically red wine, actually have beneficial effects on your body?

-loooooogan, New York

Hi, Looooooogan. Yes, some studies have shown beneficial effects of moderate alcohol use on stroke, heart disease and diabetes. More studies are under way. Other dietary factors may also contribute to the health benefits associated with moderate consumption of red wine. It's possible that the health benefits are just from the alcohol and not some other component of the wine.

-Aaron White

can smoking make you stop breathing for good eventually

-dgarza, Texas

Hello dgarza,
Absolutely, cigarette smoking can make you stop breathing for "good." That's what will happen when years of smoking causes death from lung cancer. It is very sad to see that happen to someone, especially a family member or friend. I lost my brother-in-law to lung cancer a few months ago. He'd smoked for many many years and the cancer spread from his lungs to many parts of his body. In his last few weeks of life, it was so sad to see the horrible effects smoking on his body and his life.. I also lost my mother and sister to lung cancer due to smoking several years ago. Please do not start smoking. You will never regret not smoking. But if you do start smoking, then you could live to regret it and then die from it,

-Cora Lee Wetherington

Can social anxiety take over your life? And if so how do you deal with it?

-kudeh, Texas

Social anxiety can definitely disrupt how you do in school, with friends, and really most aspects of life since other people are everywhere. Learn more here:

-Susan Borja

Can some drugs be used for medicine?

-Ailed@gentryjs, Texas

Yes, many medicines can be, unfortunately, misused. Pain medication for example can be very effective in treating pain. They are often made up of powerful substances (opioids) that can be addictive. If not used as prescribed, major problems can arise.

Thanks for asking!

Dr. J

-Jack Stein

can some people be more prone to addiction and alcoholism?

-nikkinikkilo, Maryland

Yup, there is a certain portion of addiction that is genetically mediated. One is not born as a person with substance use disorder, but there are people that are more prone to addiction. The good news is that one can defeat this genetic predisposition by not starting!

-Dave Thomas