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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why isnt tobacco baned

-chessenips342, Massachusetts

HI chessenips342:

Dr. J here as Dr. L is caught in the snowstorm.

Tobacco has become more and more "regulated" over the years but it remains a legal substance for adults to use. We continue to be VERY concerned about the bad health effects it can have when consumed, especially by kids. To learn more about tobacco, nicotine and e-cigs, see http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes

Dr. J

-Michelle Leff

why marijuana so strong

-sethm123, Georgia

Hi sethm123,
The strength of marijuana depends on the amount of the chemical THC that it contains. Some strains these days have a lot of THC because growers are creating strong strains. 

-Eric Wargo

why people drink and drive

-juqwonr345, Georgia

Very good question. Some people simply don't understand how dangerous it is and others think they can drive just fine after drinking. The truth is that even just one or two drinks increases the risk of a crash. At a blood alcohol level of 0.08%, the legal limit for driving for adults 21 and older, a person is three times more likely to cause a crash. The good news is that the number of people who die from drunk driving crashes every year has gone down quite a bit over the years. Still, more than 10,000 people die in car crashes involving alcohol every year.

-Aaron White

why should you not drink alcohol?

-april a, Texas

Here are 6 reasons:

1) For teens, the most obvious reason is to protect your brain and let it finish developing
2) Drinking alcohol can cause kids to have accidents and get hurt. In 2011 alone, about 188,000 people under age 21 visited an emergency room for alcohol-related injuries.
3) For adults, even one drink can make it more dangerous to drive
4) Drinking can lead to making poor decisions like drinking and driving, sexual activity (such as having unprotected sex), and aggressive or violent behavior.
5) Alcohol can cause cancer
6) Alcohol can cause your liver to become enlarged, scarred, and eventually stop working

 

-Aaron White

why study drug abuse a voluntary behavior?

-fabushaban, Texas

Hi Fabushaban - thanks for the question which gets at a lot of the discrimmination that drug users experience. When drug use escalates to drug abuse, it is no longer a "voluntary" behavior. A person's body actually demands these drugs and makes it impossible for some people to quit using. That is why getting help with uncontrollable drug use as soon as possible is so important. Addiction treatment professionals can help a person regain "voluntary" control again.

-Michelle Rankin

Why were there fewer instances of medical emergencies related to the use of synthetic drugs (e.g. K2, Spice) a decade ago compared to today? How and why have these drugs changed?

-gaas01, Minnesota

Excellent question gaas01!!  Gold star for you!!  A decade ago, there were fewer synthetics compared to more recently and they were not tracked. About 5 years ago, there were large increases in emergences. Over the past 4 years, however, there has been a decline in use of synthetic cannabinoids (“K2/Spice,” sometimes misleadingly called “synthetic marijuana”). Only 5.2 percent of 12th graders reported using K2/Spice in 2015, compared to 7.9 percent in 2013 and 11.3 percent in 2012. This was associated with an increase in the perceived risk of taking synthetic marijuana once or twice among 12th graders. Check out more statistics here: http://www.drugabuse.gov/trends-statistics/monitoring-future/monitoring-future-study-trends-in-prevalence-various-drugs

-Joni Rutter

Why were there fewer instances of medical emergencies related to the use of synthetic drugs (e.g. K2, Spice) a decade ago compared to today? How and why have these drugs changed?

-gaas01, Minnesota

Hi gaas01,
Great question. The simple reason is that those drugs didn't exist--or only barely existed--a decade ago. It's just in the past few years that synthetic cannabinoids like K2/Spice have been sold, and manufactuers are creating new versions to avoid bans on older versions.

-Eric Wargo

Will ecig's hurt you as much as smokeing

-Ian Kraus, Ohio

Hi Ian,
There are a lot of misconceptions about vape pens and electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes. The aerosol, also called vapor,that e-cigs and vape pens produce is really made of the specific chemicals in the vape pen, such as propylene glycol, glycerin, nicotine, THC, chemical flavorings, and others.  Surveys show that many teens don’t even know what chemicals are in their e-cig device. We still don't know all the effects of using vape pens because they are so new. One thing we worry about with e-cigarettes is that they may lead to nicotine addiction and this might cause some people to start using regular cigarettes, which can cause cancer. On the other hand, if a cigarette smoker is able to give up cigarettes by using e-cigarettes, it’s probably a good thing. About 13 percent of 12th graders have tried e-cigs. Check out these resources on e-cigs – http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes

-Maureen Boyle

Will heroin usage alter the way my brain function?

-fdadabhoy, Texas

Yes! It does all sorts of things to the brain. It can change activity in various brain areas and impact chemical communication. It can also cause the brain to become inflamed...

-Dave Thomas

will heroin use alter my brain?

-Dalexopoulos, Texas

Yes, it will block the production of your own endogenous opiates, which you need in order to feel good. Eventually, repeated use can make you addicted to it.
 

-Nora Volkow

Will heroin use alter my brain?

-rabushaikha, Texas

Yes, rabushaikha, heroin can alter your brain! You only have one brain and it needs to last you a long time!!!  Lots of research tells us that heroin is very addictive. Heroin is definitely NOT GOOD for the brain. Short-term effects of heroin include a surge of euphoria (feeling very good) and clouded thinking followed by alternately wakeful and drowsy states. Regular heroin users develop a tolerance to the drug. This means their “high” gets less strong, and more heroin is needed to achieve the same effect. But, taking more heroin increases the risk of addiction and overdose. Heroin slows breathing, which means that an overdose can lead to death. Get the facts on drugs to make healthy decisions for your body and brain. Here is where to find more info on heroin: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin

-Joni Rutter

will heroin use alter your brain

-JConrad, Texas

YES! It changes your reward system, and can make things you used to enjoy be less fun. Plus, it may put you in a state called opioid-induced hyperalgesia, where the opioid (heroin in this case) actually makes you suffer from pain...

-Dave Thomas

Will smoking effect your child if he barley was born?

-ennisisd, Texas

Hi ennisisd, smoking can affect your child even if he/she was just born!  Every drug a pregnant woman takes also reaches her baby. You can read more at http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/using-drugs-when-pregnant-harms-baby. 

And, if that's not bad enough, "Recent evidence suggests that parental drug exposure produces behavioral, biochemical, and neuroanatomical changes in future generations."  This could happen because the parent used drugs before the woman becomes pregnant, but the drugs still affect the eggs (if mom used) or sperm (if dad used).  There are many scientists who are studying this important question so that we can undersand what these effects are and why they happen. 
 

-Joni Rutter

Will steroids affect the way your body functions? If yes, how?

-bdinh, Texas

There are so many ways...
if you are really interested read here:

https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/anabolic-steroids

 

-Ruben Baler

Will the alcohol or drugs that some may put in their bodies will it be released their kidney and bladder ?

-precioust130, Georgia

Most drugs are metabolized in the liver, in the kidneys, and in the lungs.  So you excrete them primarily in urine and in the air.  For more info on drugs, see: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts

-Nancy Pilotte

Will the companies that makes tobacco shutdown?

-vverdines, Texas

highly unlikely, the business is booming and now they are moving agressively into the e-cig and marijuana markets. Tobacco companies also aggressively market their products in other countries where the public health risks are less well known.

-Ruben Baler

will vaping have any major effects. i know someone who vapes and they havent changed

-mynameis, Texas

Hi mynameis
if that someone is still vaping on a regular basis, chances are he or she is now addicted and unable to quit on his/her own. Now, if that's not a change, i dont know what is./>Ruben

-Ruben Baler

will weed affect your weight?

-ennisisd, Texas

Hi ennisisd,
Marijuana boosts appetite, and some research suggests it may cause frequent users to gain weight, but this has not been studied much.
Good question!

-Eric Wargo

worst drug? A) Molly B) Cocaine C) Meth D)Marijuana

-arturoc, Texas

Meth, but they all have dangers, and you usually don't know exactly what you're getting anyway with molly and cocaine.  Meth is very addictive and very dangerous for the brain and the body.  

-Susan Weiss

would a parent ever force their child to use drugs other than medical conditions?

-edo, Texas

Hi edo--

Let's hope not. Parents are responsible for their kids' health. Drugs aren't part of that equation!!

-Michelle Leff

would using prescription painkillers calm me down before finals?

-TheWaffle, Michigan

Well Waffle, first of all, don't try that! And they are more for pain control, not reducing anxiety. But just study hard and I am sure you will do fine.

-Dave Thomas

Xavier C. IMS, KS- What is meth and what can it do to you?

-AMY KARR, Kansas

Hi Xavier. "Meth" is the nickname for "methamphetamine." This is a powerful stimulant drug.  Other names include "Ice," "speed," "crank" and sometimes there are other nicknames used. Meth is very addictive and causes both an irrational euphoria as well as many mental changes. It causes people to become paranoid and can even cause psychosis (hearing and seeing things that aren't there). Here's more facts from our teen site: http://www.teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/methamphetamine

-Wilson Compton

YPF, DPC Alexis Hicks: Can you test positive for marijuana just by being around a group of people who are smoking? (hot boxing in the car)

-FSCAA, Delaware

Yes you can.  There are several studies showing this.

-Susan Weiss

YPF, DPC Mesiah Waters, Central Middle School, Dover, Delaware: If doctors know that some of the medicines that they prescribe are addictive, why don't they prescribe the non-addictive medicines like tramadol etc?

-FSCAA, Delaware

Well unfortunately we do not have one pill or pain treatment that works with everyone on every type of pain. And tramadol does have abuse liability and side effects. But I agree, doctors tend to over-prescribe opioids and should try other options.  Opioids should be one option of many considered....

-Dave Thomas