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 are jrug's making you die? what can we do about this?

-KaelinAkmon, New Hampshire

Hi KaelinAkmon. Drugs can have a wide range of adverse effects from contributing to chronic diseases like cancer, liver disease, and HIV to acute problems like strokes and overdoses that can be fatal. This is a serious public health concern. At the societal level, we need a comprehensive approach to preventing and treating drug use and addiction. For individuals addicted to drugs--there is help! There are medications to help with nicotine/tobacco, alcohol, and opioid addiction. There are also behavioral therapies that can help people recover. NIDA scientistist are working to develop better prevention and treatment approaches for all types of drugs, because even one death from drugs is too many. There is a lot of information about the health effects of drugs on NIDA's teen site here: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts

-Marsha Lopez

Why are JUULs becoming more popular with teens rather than cigarettes? Is there a study or statistic as to why?

-ThatOneAsian, Michigan

Hi saroo, People may prefer vaping for different reasons. It could be because they think that they are easily available or because they think that vaping is safer than cigarettes, but we don't have data on the long-term health effects. Another reason could be because of how they are advertised (for example, some are shaped like USB flash drives).
A recent report published by The National Youth Tobacco Survey reported that 1 in 5 high schoolers and 1 in 20 middle schoolers reported past month use of vaping in 2018. For more information on vaping, check out our Teen Website.

-Aria Crump

why are law makers against weed when medical marijuana is proven to be help with pain, and seizure disorders?

-Lauren , Illinois

As a researcher, I can tell you how we see it. Many medicines (like opiate pain killers) can have both beneficial effects when used properly, but still be dangerous when abused. That's also true for marijuana, but its a bit more complicated because its medical benefits are more uncertain--people use all sorts of products for all sorts of conditions, some without much evidence. Recently Epidiolex (Cannabidiol or CBD) received approval by the FDA for treating seizures in young children. This product went through careful testing--so someone who uses it knows exactly what they are getting, and that it was produced safely (e.g., not from plants exposed to pesticides). We don't yet have a lot of other products like that from cannabis plant but we will continue to support research to help us take advantage of whatever benefits can be gotten from cannabis or its components.

-Susan Weiss

Why can you get high by sniffing glue?

-MattFromWii, Oregon

Huffing glue can deprive your brain of oxygen and can damage your brain, but can also make you light headed which some call a "high."

-Aaron White

Why can you get high off nyquil

-Anelson22, Oregon

HI Anelson22 - great question. Nyquil contains two drugs that can make you drunk or high. One is alcohol. Look on the package and you will see that some versions of Nyquil have more than 10% alcohol. Another chemical is dextromethorphan (DMX), which is a cough suppressant. But, it also acts on brain cells to make you woozy. Nyquil is intended to help you sleep when you have a cold, and taking it for fun can be very dangerous. If you take a lot of this, it can produce PCP- or ketamine-like effects, including halllucinations and dissociative (out of body) experiences. It impairs your perceptions and coordination. So, you can easily fall or otherwise get severely hurt. So unless you are very sick with a cold/cough, it's not worth trying. Here is some more info: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cough-cold-medicine-abuse.

-Jinhee Lee

Why can't the FDA ban tobacco from the market, or in other words make it illegal?

-Lid507753, Illinois

Unfortunately the FDA just doesn't have the authority to ban tobacco products altogether. But we want to inform people on the dangers of tobacco use because it can be deadly. In fact, tobacco use kills over 480,000 people in the U.S. every year.

-Suzanne Lim

why can't you stop being addicted?

-favianberganza, North Carolina

Addiction is complex and often driven by changes in your brain. This video is a good resource for helping to understand: Why Do Some People Get Addicted? See the Swiss Cheese Model of Drug Addiction: www.drugabuse.gov/videos/swiss-cheese-model-drug-addiction

-Emily Einstein

Why did people realize smoking was bad years after we started smoking it?

-chamness_a, Oregon

Hey there chamness_a,

That is a great question! The short answer is the research was not available yet. To prevent this from happening again, FDA focuses on regulating tobacco products to help protect and improve public health. By regulating more tobacco products, FDA can study the impact of these products and develop policies to improve public health.

-Suzanne Lim

Why did you want to be a scientist and how long have you been a scientist?

-Kylie-FVSU4h, Georgia

Great questions, Kylie!! I became a scientist for two reasons. First, I am fascinated by biology -- and especially the biology of the brain. Second, I wanted to help people with illnesses, especially mental illnesses. I have been a scientist for a long time. I started doing research in high school and college, so I guess you can say I've been a scientist since the mid-1980s. But I graduated with my M.D. & Ph.D. degrees nearly 22 years ago, and have loved every minute of my career in science.

-Joshua Gordon

why do doctors prescribe marijuana to some patients?

-r.buffa, Montana

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 or weight loss in patients with AIDS. Also, FDA approved a CBD-based liquid medication for the treatment of two forms of severe childhood epilepsy 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.

-Marsha Lopez

why do doctors prescribe weed to Some of their patients

-TY, New Mexico

Spectacular question, TerilynYazzie! 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. A pill form of THC (an active ingredient in marijuana) is already available for certain conditions, such as nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy or weight loss in patients with AIDS. Also, FDA approved a CBD-based liquid medication for the treatment of two forms of severe childhood epilepsy. While some doctors are prescribing marijuana, 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.

-Katia Howlett

When trying to quit drugs is it better to leave the environment that lead to consuming or can you quit even when staying at an unhealthy environment

-RG ,

Hi! This is a good question - thanks for participating today! If the environment has a lot of cues that remind you of drugs and causes you to crave drugs it is a good idea to cultivate other activities and relationships that don't elicit such cravings or encourage drug use. There are medications to help with some addictions including nicotine/tobacco, alcohol, and opioids (e.g. heroin or pain pills). There are also behavioral therapies to help people recover. But addiction is often a lasting condition, like heart disease or diabetes; there are treatments that help someone live a healthy, productive life but there is no cure. People in recovery from an addiction still have be very careful. NIDA scientists are working hard to develop better treatments to treat addictions to all types of drugs. You can learn more about effective treatment programs here: https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/treatment

-Shwe Gyaw

When you are in drugs, do you realize that your brain is dying, do you feel it ?

-Ragazzanna,

Hi Ragazzanna -- Great question. Some people experience strokes or stop breathing, so they do immediately feel strong adverse (bad) effects. Some others, unfortunately, don't feel any changes until it's too late, but they can have lifelong brain issues, like mental health problems. Read more and decide for yourself:
https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/commonly-abused-drugs-charts

-Anto Bonci

When you call alcohol a drug it makes it sound really bad how bad can it be

-Who am I, Illinois

It turns out that alcohol causes more deaths around the world than all other drugs combined. About 3 million people die from alcohol each year!

-Aaron White

When you drink Alcohol and you are in a terrible accident, why don't feel pain that much.

-squid502, Illinois

Alcohol is an analgesic (relieves pain) but acute stress also causes acute pain relief because it is thought to involve the release of brain endorphins -- compounds that make you feel good.

-George Koob

When you overdose on prescripted medicines, can something bad like death or something less harmful happen to you? If it causes death, does the process hurt?

-joseline,

Hi joseline! Oxycodone is a prescription opiate that when taken properly, can relieve pain. However, any opiate when taken in large amounts can cause respiratory depression. This means the person will stop breathing and die if they don't get help immediately. As the person stops breathing, they will feel helpless and gasp for air. This is one reason why the opioid crisis is so bad. As people take opioids they become tolerant to the pain-relieving actions of opioids and they need more and more to get the same affect. But if they take too much, enough to get pain relief, they may end up having respiratory depression and death.

-Mary Rooney

When you take drugs, do you become more and more stupid?

-squid502, Illinois

Hi squid502,
That is a great question, although I might change your question just a bit. There are lots of effects that different drugs can have on the brain that may make the user seem...not quite with it. Some drugs can make people impulsive, doing things that they wouldn't normally do and making decisions that they might normally think better of. Some drugs can slow your physical and mental processing speed, which means that it can be more difficult to keep complicated thoughts straight in your mind -- not to mention doing complicated multi-tasking like driving. Over time, drug use can impair these abilities in the brain even when people aren't actively using the drugs.

-Eric Murphy

When your someone in your family is an alcoholic what is the best you can do?

-Topo,

Hi Topo,
Alcohol use disorder does have a hereditary risk. That means that having a family history of alcohol problems increases the person's own risk of developing alcohol problems. It is important to understand this risk, and educate the person on the harmful effects of alcohol not just on the individual but also to their families. It would probably best for the person not to start drinking as the misuse of alcohol can increase the risk of the person themself developing an alcohol problem.
Thanks!
- Vijay

-Vijay Ramchandani

WHEN a person drinks does it affect their reproductive system

-Angela-FVSU4H, Georgia

Yes. Among other things, alcohol can damage sperm cells in men and can disrupt the menstrual cycle for women.

-Aaron White

when a person drinks does it affect their reproductive system?

-Demerius-FVSU4H, Georgia

High alcohol use can disrupt mentrual cycles in females, and impair sexual performance while intoxicated in both sexes.

-George Koob

when a person drinks does it effect their reproductive system?

-Aybrian-FVSU4H, Georgia

Yes, it sure can. Among other things, alcohol can damage sperm and disrupt the menstrual cycle.

-Aaron White

when are steroids used for medical use?

-owc12, Illinois

Hello OWC12,
There are different types of steroids, anabolic which build muscle and catabolic which cause the metabolism of muscle. The anabolic steroids are used by athletes to add muscle mass and do not have a medical use and can be very dangerous. The catabolic steroids have anti-inflammatory properties and are used for relief of inflammation for some diseases such as arthritis and bone pain or respiratory issues. These also cause weight gain and water retention so are used cautiously and as a last resort. For information about the risks of anabolic steroids, see: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/anabolic-steroids

-Emily Einstein

When did drugs and alcohol start?

-FshhhDog9999999, Illinois

Drugs and alcohol are probably as old as civilization. They can be rewarding in the short run, so humans learned how to use them very quickly. But there is lots of research now showing that drugs are harmful for the brain and the body.

-Carlos Blanco

When did juuls become so accessible to minors?

-chamness_a, Oregon

Hi chamness_a,

Between 2017 and 2018 there was a 78% increase of youth e-cigarette use. To protect the public, especially youth, from the dangers of all tobacco products, FDA finalized a rule to regulate all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. This means that, like all other tobacco products, you must be at least 18 or older to buy them. In some places, the minimum age to buy is even older, such as 19 or 21.

-Suzanne Lim

when is the most adequate age to start drinking without being harmful for your health?

-mafed3,

It doesn't appear that there is any perfectly safe amount of alcohol consumption for anyone at any age. The brain continues developing into at least the mid-20s so the best choice is to wait to drink until at the least the legal drinking age of 21.

-Roger Little

why are opiods prescribed if they're so dangerous

-not el chapo, Illinois

Hi not el chapo, again. I answered this before but incase you missed it:

They are prescription drugs for a reason. A clinician can help understand how to use such drugs and how not to use them. If used as directed and prescribed, they can help people some with moderate to severe pain. However, if misused, they can be VERY dangerous. It is also important to keep in mind that in past years, some clinicians have inappropriately prescribed or have prescribed too much, was has also contributed to our opioid crisis. Educating doctors has improved this as of late and we hope we will continue to see improvements.

-Dave Thomas

why are opiods still prescribed if they're so bad for you

-not el chapo, Illinois

Hey not el chapo.
They are prescription drugs for a reason. A clinician can help understand how to use such drugs and how not to use them. If used as directed and prescribed, they can help people some with moderate to severe pain. However, if misused, they can be VERY dangerous. It is also important to keep in mind that in past years, some clinicians have inappropriately prescribed or have prescribed too much, was has also contributed to our opioid crisis. Educating doctors has improved this as of late and we hope we will continue to see improvements.

-Dave Thomas

Why are opioids so deadly right now as apposed to other drugs?

-mil506412, Illinois

Hi Mil,
Opioids cause respiratory depression, where one takes less and less air into their lungs when breathing. And if the dose of the opioid is too large, or if the user is also taking something else which produces respiratory depression (for example alcohol or benzodiazepines), breathing can stop. Stop breathing… stop living. And unfortunately, drugs like fentanyl are becoming very available on the streets. Fentanyl is a VERY powerful opioid and taking just a small amount can lead to death.

-Dave Thomas

why are people dumb to take drugs at the first place if they know it will kill there body =

-chelsy, Arizona

Hey Chely, great question. People do drugs for lots of different reasons. Some people do it to impress people. Some people do it feel good in the moment, kind of like eating junk food. But the effect of using drugs - any drugs - on your brain and body can be severe, especially if you start using drugs when you are in your teens. There is a lot of information about the health effects of drugs on NIDA's teen site here: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts. Stay safe!

-Carlos Blanco

Why are people with mental illness more common to do drugs than others?

-Mr. Bp, Illinois

Hi Mr. Bp,
People with mental illness are indeed at a higher risk for using drugs. Often, this is because the symptoms of mental illness can make someone feel bad, and many drugs have the short-term effect of reducing these bad feelings. Unfortunately, even if these drugs make someone feel slightly better in the short-term, they often have the effect of making mental illness symptoms worse in the long run.

-Eric Murphy