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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why do tv stations band smoking commercial but not alcohol commercials

-JConrad, Texas

Good question. Well, the alcohol industry developed its own set of rules regarding advertising, which mainly involves not running ads on shows that kids watch.

-Aaron White

Why do we take 5-HTP before or after taking MDMA and LSD

-Senpai, Washington

because MDMA and LSD deplete your brain of serotonin. Taking 5-HTP which is a serotonin precursor helps replenish serotonin in your brain

-Nora Volkow

Why do women do drugs, if they know they are carrying a baby?

-LBolton, New Hampshire

Excellent question--you would think that they would want to keep their body as healthy as possible throughout the pregnancy.  Sometimes people don't know they're pregnant (in the first few months); sometime people don't believe the data--amazingly, not everyone believes that alcohol is bad for the developing baby despite years of research clearly showing this.  But some people are addicted and have trouble quitting despite being pregnant.  Its important to work with those women to get good prenatal care and to help them quit.  Being pregnant can be a big motivator--so its a good time to offer them help.  

-Susan Weiss

Why do you hallucinate when you take certain drugs?

-Saulz, New Mexico

Hey Saulz -  Here's a website for you:  http://science.howstuffworks.com/lsd3.htm.  

Basically, some hallucinogens act on your sensory pathways and make them distorted--colors can seem more vivid, time seems to slow down, temperature regulation is amock, and overall you have a sense of happiness. Here are the facts: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/hallucinogens.

This is a fascinating question--the brain is an amazing organ--keep it safe. 

-Joni Rutter

Why do you hallucinate with drugs?

-autumna, Georgia

Drugs are able to get into the brain where they effect what are known as neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain).  The neurotransmitters usually cause an effect by binding to what are known as receptors.  When a person takes a drug, it can cause changes in how the neurotransmitter acts or binds to its receptors.  We don't yet fully understand how drugs are able to act, but we do know that they can interfere with a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which is an important neurotransmitter for perception of reward in the brain.  For more info on drugs, please see: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts

-Nancy Pilotte

Why do you think kids are so curious about the effects of drugs on their body when they know about all the dangers they can cause?

-lisadrogers, Texas

Hey lisadrogers!

Dr. J filling in for Dr. Leff due to tons of SNOW here :)

Grrrrreat question! Both adults and kids are curious by nature. Kids particularly so. Big part of the answer lies in the BRAIN. Its important to know that your brain continues to develop till mid 20s! (amazing huh?). This means that what you may KNOW may not always translate into what you should DO. So, kids sometimes are vulnerable to making decisions that may not be the best for them especially if under the impression that "everyone else is doing it" which by the way, is rarely the case.

Hope this answers your question.

Dr. J

-Michelle Leff

why is weed bad for you?

-mercedes, New Mexico

Hi Mercedes, Marijuana can have a lot of effects that last for a long time. It can negatively impact learning, memory, judgment and coordination.  It can also cause problems for your lungs, heart, and for those at risk, serious mental illness. You can see a detailed description here: http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/commonly-abused-drugs/health-effect...

-Roger Little

why Is weed illegal if its a natural substance

-akavanaugh, Texas

HI akavanaugh,
Marijuana for medical use has been in the news a lot lately. The marijuana plant has not been approved by the FDA for the treatment of any medical condition. There is early research suggesting that some of the active ingredients in marijuana, like THC and cannabidiol (CBD), may potentially help treat things like epilepsy, cancer, obesity, or addiction. Scientists are studying these ingredients to try to develop new medications.   A pill form of THC (an active ingredient in marijuana) is already available for certain conditions, such as nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy and weight loss in patients with AIDS.  However, smoked marijuana is unlikely to be an ideal medication because of its negative health effects, including the risk of addiction and the damage that smoking can do to the lungs.

-Maureen Boyle

Why isn't the chat responding to medical marijuana questions? Or things related to that?

-memelover89, Michigan

Hi memlover89 - Actually, our experts have answered many questions related to medical marijuana. Please scroll through the chat to see the variety of questions that have been answered.

-Gaya Dowling

Why isn't weed banned in some states?

-JLe, Texas

HI JLe,
Legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use and for medicinal purposes is currently the subject of much public debate. For the last few years, the Department of Justice has said that it is not going to prioritize enforcement of federal marijuana laws when state laws allow for possession of small amounts of marijuana. They are giving states the flexibility to test new policies for both ‘medical’ and recreational use of marijuana. Whatever happens, public health experts are worried that these changing policies could lead to more use among teens. Regular marijuana use as a teen may harm the developing brain – making learning and memory worse – and can impair the ability to drive safely (especially when combined with alcohol).

-Maureen Boyle

why isnt beer illegal?

-klebbie, Texas

Beer is illegal for anyone under 21. But it's legal for adults.

-Aaron White

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

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