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 so many drugs so easily accessible?

-LB, New Hampshire

Great question! Our country's law enforcement professionals all work very hard to try to catch people who produce and distribute drugs in this country. But their job is really hard! Some very dangerous drugs like fentanyl are very potent and thus come in very small packages that can be hard to find. People who buy and sell drugs are very motivated to keep these activities concealed from law enforcement.

I wish it were harder for people to get drugs, but people also can avoid drugs if they make smart choices.

-Tisha Wiley

Why are some drugs legal even through they can be deadly if misused?

-aj8064, Illinois

Great question aj8064! Some drugs have medical uses, so they are legal, but are only safe to use under medical supervision. So, it's important to keep these drugs available, but also to control who has access to them.

-Emily Jones

why are teachers so clueless to people high in my classes

-chamness_a, Oregon

Not sure. It is not always easy to detect and if there are a lot of kids in the class, might not be paying close attention to everyone. If they did notice, maybe they could help them get off the drugs and get more out of school. Maaybe there is some way your could help?

-Dave Thomas

Why are teens less afraid of weed and why are adults so worried?

-batroomcomunity, Illinois

Hi Batroomcomunity! Thanks for participating today and for the great question. Teens may want to experiment but NIDA-funded research shows that when usage starts during the teen years, marijuana use is associated with impaired thinking, memory, and learning functions. It is also associated with a number of mental conditions, including psychosis (schizophrenia), depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, 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 in persons with a preexisting genetic or other vulnerability. Marijuana intoxication can, in rare cases, produce a temporary psychosis. Some teens might try to use marijuana to make them feel better but in the long run, it can cause problems, including misuse.

-Kristen Huntley

Why are there still drugs around the world if they are all illegal?

-Zoxo, South Carolina

Interesting question, Zoxo! Laws intended to protect people are not always 100% effective, unfortunately. Governments have limited resources, and decreasing the supply of drugs is just one activity that these resources support. So, even drugs that are illegal remain available. But, governments are also making efforts to reduce demand for drugs; even if drugs are available, people do not have to use them. If demand decreases, then suppliers will not be able to make money selling illegal drugs and then they would not make the effort to smuggle or manufacture them.

-Emily Jones

why are they considering legalizing mushrooms in Colorado ?

-g, Illinois

Dunno, but seems likely that people hoping to pass laws allowing for psilocybin mushroom use would focus their efforts in states that have passed laws allowing for marijuana use.

-Emily Einstein

Why are vapes so easy to get compared to cigarettes

-A NAME, Illinois

We're working on that!

At FDA we are working hard to enforce the law that makes it illegal for any store or website to sell vapes to teens.

Since we started enforcement we've found thousands of illegal sales of vape products to teens. Retailers who break the law risk being fined by the federal government.

-Mitch Zeller

Why are vaping companies making flavors and fun scents for JUUL pods? Are they targeting teens?

-Skittles, Illinois

One reason: to make money. Good question, Skittles. Public health experts are concerned about the appeal of flavoring in vaping devices and the attraction these flavors hold for young people. There is concern that flavored products will help to hook kids on the nicotine delivered through vaping devices and--even worse-- lead them to pick up regular cigarettes, which are deadly. We hope kids won't be fooled by this because the most popular products all contain nicotine, even if you think it just contains a flavoring.

-Marsha Lopez

Why aren't children more informed on drugs and the risk of drug usage?

-ThatOneAsian, Michigan

That's a great question, ThatOneAsian. Although most children may not know all the negative effects of drugs, most of them know that drugs are bad. However, people sometimes do things that they know are bad because it may tempting to do them: eating junk food, smoking...and using drugs. They may find it easier to concentrate on the short-term pleasurable effects than on the long-term negative consequences. You can help by starting a conversation and spreading helpful information about why drugs are harmful. There is a lot of information about the health effects of drugs on NIDA's teen site here:

-Carlos Blanco

why aren't ciggeretts against the law

-WMSJBA, Illinois

Hi WMSJBA, this is a VERY good question! While the government has not banned the use of tobacco products, they are being heavily regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That means that certain types of usage in the future may be banned, but it also means that use will be more tightly controlled (for example, kids can't buy cigarettes). Keep the questions coming!!!

-Marsha Lopez

who and why a drug can offset the symptom of other drug?

-Ann :),

Hi Ann
Interesting question. I guess I can think of many examples that work through many different mechanisms. But let me just give you one scenario to introduce the concept: A person overdoses on an opioid laced with fentanyl. She is about to die because the drug potently blocks the receptors in the brain stem that allow one to breathe. Then a paramedic comes in the nick of time and squirts some naltrexone in the person's nose. This drug (which seeks and binds to the same receptors but with a different effect on the cell) can kick the fentanyl out of the receptor, restore their breathing and bring them back to life. Just one example but I hope it gives you a rough idea of how this works.
Thank you for your interest.

-Ruben Baler

Who determines how drugs are categorized?

-TH, Maryland

Ususally pharmacologists--based on the chemical properties of the drug. Great question!

-Susan Weiss

Why alcohol is legal if many people gets in serious problems with it?


In the U.S., alcohol use is legal only for adults over 21. In children and teenagers, research has shown that alcohol can be harmful to the developing brain.
In adults as well, alcohol misuse can cause major medical and psychological problems.
There are U.S. government agencies that study alcohol's effects, improve public health awareness, and conduct applied public health research on alcohol misuse. For information on alcohol, please refer to the below links:

-Vijay Ramchandani

why am i so lonely?

-JD, Illinois

Hello - thanks so much for participating today and asking this question. If you are feeling lonely this is important to pay attention to, and could be a sign of depression. You can find information on depression and mental health at this website: If you feel you are in a personal crisis, you can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) anytime, 24/7. You'll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area. This is confidential.

-Kristen Huntley

Why are certain substances such as alcohol and nicotine legal nationwide, along with marijuana in some states, when the brain hasn't fully developed until one reaches 25?

-Brendan, Illinois

This is a good and timely question, Brendan. Young people, particularly teens, are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of drugs. Research shows that early use of marijuana and other drugs may alter the brain's reward system putting these individuals at inreased risk of using other drugs and increasing the risk for addiction. As states implement new policiees for both medical and recreational use of marijuana, public health experts worry about the effects of adolescents and young adults.

-Marsha Lopez

Where can I find the most current facts about vaping?

-Sparta19, New Jersey

Hi Sparta19,
That's great you want to learn more about vaping! Did you know that most vapes contain nicotine, and, like other tobacco products, using vapes that contain nicotine may lead to addiction. As a teen, your brain is still developing, which can make it easier for you to get addicted to nicotine. For more information you should check out FDA's The Real Cost campaign and also check out information from the Surgeon General.

-Suzanne Lim

Where do harmful metals, if any, come from when inhaling from a JUUL?

-_xXAnTiJUULXx_, Illinois

Hi _xXAnTiJUULXx_ Great question. Almost all e-cigs heat the liquid to an aerosol, or vapor, using a metal coil hooked up to the battery. These coils can be made out of several different metals, and when heated can give off lead, chromium, manganese and nickel. These metals can be toxic, and right now there is no verified data to know which e-cigs give off metals and how much. There are many other chemicals in the vapor, such as the addictive drug, nicotine, as well as propylene glycol, glycerin and other chemicals not known to be safe to be inhaled. For more info, check out this link:

-Kevin Walton

where do poppy plants grow?

-Javares-FVSU4h, Georgia

Hi Javares-FVSU4h, It flourishes in dry, warm climates and the vast majority of opium poppies are grown in a narrow, 4,500-mile stretch of mountains extending across central Asia from Turkey through Pakistan and Burma. Recently, opium has also been grown in Latin America, notably Colombia and Mexico.

-Marsha Lopez

where do teens get JUULs and other vaping products and why is it (seemingly) so easy to get them underage

-bear, Oregon

Hi bear,
Juuls and e-cigarette use is on the rise among underage youth. In fact, between 2017 and 2018 the number of teens vaping increased 78%. FDA is working to help prevent teen vaping and protect the public 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. You can find out more about FDA's efforts to stop youth access by checking out:

-Roger Little


-Anonymous Cat, Oregon

Cocaine is an alkaloid chemical found in the coca plant which grows in the Andes mountains of South America. Cocaine is extracted from the coca plant by chemical processes, and is then purified to powder form. Powdered cocaine is sold on the illicit drug market worldwide.
Here's more on cocaine:

-Suzanne Lim

Where Does Texas stand in overdose and what regions are more or less?

-NT, Texas

Hi Nelia Tovias. Thanks for your question! Texas ranks on the lower end of drug overdose death rates with 11.0 deaths per 100,000 persons. To give you perspective, Nebraska has the lowest rate with 7.9 deaths/100k persons and West Virginia has the highest rate with 54.0 deaths/100k persons. For information on opioid specific rates by state check out NIDA's Opioid Summaries by State.

-Roger Little

Where in the brain does drug use stem from?

-weow, Arizona

Hi weow, Drugs act directly on the reward systems in the brain. As you take drugs more and more often, the drug effects are so powerful that the brain reward system becomes less responsive to other interesting things in your life. In addition, your brain may become more focused on the anticipation of taking drugs with the result that, as you say, you become less interested in other activities. For more information, check out the NIDA Teen Website.

-Steve Grant

Which are the most common medicines people can get addiction to?


Medicine? Opioids for sure. We are not sure how many people get addicted to opioids when used as directed for pain. However, when people use these opioid medications other than as prescribed by a doctor, addiction is very possible. And this addiction can lead to the use of illicit opioids like heroin.

-Dave Thomas

Which are the symptoms of someone with addiction to medical substance and how can you help them?


pooping. Parents may also notice that their kid has new friends, lose interest in school and other activities, and stay out very late. The good news, there are treatments. Various medications are available to help. Plus, counseling can help. But they need to seek this help.

In a personal crisis, one call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) anytime, 24/7. They will be connected to a skilled, trained counselor.

-Dave Thomas

Which areas of the brain are most damaged and/or stimulated through the use of drugs?

-Ashleigh, Illinois

Great question Ashleigh! Scientists know that drugs can damage a brain region called the prefrontal cortex which is important in making decisions. It can also effect other parts of the brain. Some drugs such as methamphetamine can lead to degeneration of neurons in particular parts of the brain. Check out Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction: for more on how drugs affect the brain.

-John Satterlee

which can be method to stop vaping?


What's up?!!!! Thanks for your question! Don't be fooled, vape pens, or e-cigarettes are not safe to use for any reason (and even though you may have heard that people can use them to quit smoking cigarettes, that's not quite true). The good news is that there is help for people who want to stop vaping addictive substances like marijuana or tobacco. There are FDA approved medications, as well as behavioral treatments to help people stop smoking tobacco and behavioral treatments that show promise for treating marijuana use disorders. Want more info on e-cigarettes and marijuana? Check it out!,

-Marsha Lopez

which drug can help me die faster?


Hello kcocdestroyer62...I hope this is a hypothetical question but in case you think about things like your own death, and want to talk to a confidential expert, please call 1-800-273-TALK. It is all anonymous and they offer help and advice. Now to answer your question-- the most accidental overdose deaths are caused by opioids--these are drugs like heroin, pain pills, fentanyl, and more. These drugs depress your breathing and when people take high doses for the "high," they can easily stop breathing and die. In fact, 130 people accidentally die every day in this country from opioids. Sometimes drug dealers mix the dangerous opioid fentanl into other drugs and people don't even realize it---after all there are no reliable labels on illegal drugs. Please take care of yourself and make good choices about your health--We care about you.

-Carol Krause

Which drug is better, sicko mode or mo bamba

-LB, Illinois

Hi LB,

Drugs, when used or (for prescription drugs) misused, are all bad. The harm they can do varies based on how they act on the body, but they all can damage your brain, which is very sensitive to drugs. So the best thing, and the easiest way to avoid these bad outcomes, is to not try drugs -- and, if a doctor prescribes drugs for you, to follow the directions. Check out our Commonly Abused Drugs Chart to see what some of the health effects are at

-Jinhee Lee

Which drug is move destructive heroine or Cocaine in a rural area

-MS, Illinois

Both are bad, and also depends on how you take it. Injection drug use is particularly dangerous--not only in terms of addictiveness, but also the spread of diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. Smoking cocaine or heroin also gets the drug to the brain very quickly--which makes them more addictive. Cocaine and heroin have opposite effects. Cocaine is a stimulant and heroin is a sedative. They have these effects because they work through different kinds of neurons in the brain and in different brain areas. See here for cocaine: and here for heroin: Cocaine may be as bad as, or worse, for some people than heroin. Because people's biology can vary, some people may be more susceptible to one than the other.

There is a lot of information about the health effects of drugs on NIDA's teen site here:

-Carlos Blanco

which drug is the least harmful?


Great question yogis! Any drug you use can be dangerous for you. Some drugs like tobacco can damage you slowly and lead to diseases like cancer. Drugs like alcohol can impair your coordination and lead to devastating accidents like drunk driving. Some drugs like heroin or cocaine or misused prescription drugs can cause overdose and death even the first time you use them. And nearly all can lead to addiction which destroy lives. Why take a chance? For more information on overdose death statistics for different drugs check out See information on different drugs here:

-John Satterlee