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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do drugs make you do poorly in school?

-nidichat, New Hampshire

Drugs are chemicals that work in the brain by tapping into its communication system and interfering with the way nerve cells normally send, receive, and process information. This can mess you up. More info is at When you are drunk or high on drugs, you often can't make good decisions. Not to mention, there is a lot we still don't know about who becomes addicted and why, and after how much drug exposure. We do know that each person is different, so it's a little like playing 'Russian Roulette' if you choose to use drugs. Continued use of drugs changes how your brain functions, impairing your ability to think clearly, to feel OK without drugs, and to control your behaviors. These all contribute to doing poorly in school.

-Marsha Lopez

do drugs make you loose your muscles?

-shane(, Kentucky

Steroids and other 'body building' drugs can have profound effects on your muscle structure. In the short term, they can increase muscle growth, but over the long term, the effects can damage muscles and cause other unpleasant side effects. Other drugs can affect your strength and endurance because you tend not to exercise or eat right. See this video on steroids, featuring NIDA scientist Dr. Ruben Baler:

-Steve Grant


-16976678, Maryland

Along other inhalants like paint and gasoline, the chemical vapors from glue can be very dangerous.Your lungs absorb inhaled chemicals into the bloodstream very quickly, sending them throughout the brain and body. Along with your 'high,' sniffing glue may result in death from heart failure or suffocation (inhalants displace oxygen in the lungs). You can get more information from our teen site at

-Jane Lipkin

do hallucinogens really expand your thinking and differ your thought posses for the better?

-purpledubs, Utah

They make you see things that are not there. If you call that expanding, then it does. However, when people talk about the 'mind expanding' effects of halucinigens like LSD, they usually mean to say you have a clearer view of the Universe and human condition when on them. I don't think there is any evidence for that. For more info on drugs, see

-David Thomas

Do I lose more brain cells smoking weed or drinking?

-Paulr, Maryland

It's tough to directly compare the effects of alcohol and marijuana on the brain because they are so different. For teenagers, both drugs interfere with how the brain develops and grows. The brain is changing in very important ways during the teenage years and alcohol can interfere with brain development. Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years can make the part 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 things. 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. Drinking at a young age makes it much more likely a person will develop alcoholism later in life. It's really important to wait as long as possible to drink alcohol, or to avoid it altogether.

-Aaron White

Do marijuana affect driving?

-nihao, Maryland

Yes--it affects the skills you need to drive safely--reaction time, motor coordination, and attention; and has been shown in driving simulator and road tests to impair performance. Further, when combined with even a small amount of alcohol, the effects are worse than either drug alone. Approximately 14% of fatally injured drivers in car crashes test positive for marijuana (sometimes in combination with other drugs).

-David Shurtleff

do most people do drugs as an escape or under pressure?

-vitelozi, Maryland

Both. Temporarily, drugs can change the way someone feels. BTW, so can other, healthier behaviors like exercising. You are very perceptive: wouldn't want to become a scientist would you? :) Check out this colorful booklet for more info:

-Bethany Deeds

Do most teens who use drugs stop taking drugs later in life?

-dever, New Jersey

Great question! Research has found that there are patterns of drug use that we can see if we follow development beginning in childhood, through late adolescence and young adulthood. One pattern is what we call the 'early starter' pattern. This pattern refers to beginning to experiment with drugs early in development, which increases the likeliehood of drug use and abuse in adolescence and young adulthood. Another pattern is what we call the 'later starter' pattern. This pattern refers to beginning to use drugs in adolescence but for a shorter period of time--reducing or ending use by late adolescence or young adulthood. These are not the only patterns of drug use. Drug use often relates to other problem behaviors like poor academic progress, delinquency, involvement with the criminal justice system, etc. It can get complicated very quickly--further creating problems down the road. We do know that drug use in childhood and adolescence can lead to later drug abuse and other problems, and it is best to never start. But, if you have started using already, you should know that the earlier you stop, the more likely you will be to avoid addiction and the other harmful consequences associated with it. For more information, see

-Belinda Sims

do nicotine patches really work ? they didnt work on my mom and dad

-nidachat, New Hampshire

I'm sorry to hear that nicotine patches did not help your mom or your dad quit smoking. People have different responses to therapy. Some people have been successful using the nicotine patches or nicotine gum. Other people have been successful with prescription medications such as varenicline. Maybe you should suggest to your parents that counseling (along with medication) is the best way to 'kick the habit'!!!Here is more, Good luck to your parents! Tell them to keep trying!

-Michelle Leff

Can you overdose on pain killers and kill yourself?

-ilikelions, Kentucky

You absolutely can overdose on pain killers! One of the main side effects of opiates is that they slow your brain and heart function, and depress your respiration, or breathing. With out adequate oxygen to your brain, you will die. As a matter of fact: the number of fatal poisonings involving prescription pain medications more than tripled from 1999 through 2006, outnumbering total deaths involving heroin and cocaine. See for more...

-David White

can you please tell me why people do drugs pleasr

-manman, Pennsylvania

Another great question from Pennsylvania! People use drugs for many reasons- but usually it is to make them feel good. In our brain, we have a brain-reward system. When we stimulate this system with natural rewards like food we love, time with people we love, sex, or a sports victory, we stimulate this system and we feel good. When people use drugs, they artificially stimulate this reward system and produce a strong euphoria. This happens because neurotransmitters in the brain are released creating this feeling. The problem comes when this system is overstimulated and the body responds by producing fewer neurotransmitters or decreasing the receptors in the brain that produce this positive feeling. The individual who uses a lot of drugs may become dependent on the drug to feel good at all, or may even feel very bad when not under the affects of the drug. So - they take more and more drugs to feel better, and have difficulty enjoying life when they are not doing drugs. This response is called anhedonia- an inability to enjoy or have pleasure. Some of the other reasons that people use drugs are to reduce stress, to forget negative things in their lives, and to relax. For more information, see:

-Marilyn Huestis

Can you really turn into the hulk, if your on PCP

-PH, Virginia

Ummm, no. The Hulk is a cartoon character and is not real. But PCP is very real. Phencyclidine, the real name for PCP, was initially developed as an anesthetic, but it did not work well in that way. People who were given PCP as an anesthetic did not like it and they said it made them feel 'dissociated from reality,' and led the makers to describe PCP is a dissociative anesthetic. It is not used medically today. But this effect is what made it attractive to people who abuse it. It really makes it hard to distinguish your internal state from what is really there--some people have thought they could fly under the influence of PCP and have jumped off of roofs. The bottom line is, they could not. It also enhances aggression and reduces sensitivity to pain, so some of these people are difficult to calm down and seem to be very strong because they are not responding appropriately to the signals their bodies are sending them (like pain). Fortunately, the number of people who use this dangerous drug is very small. For more information, please go to .

-Nancy Pilotte

can you smoke spice and get away with it if a cop finds you?

-Hackettstown, New Jersey

What an interesting question ... When spice was first used in Germany and Europe, no one knew how to detect it in urine. We now know how Spice is metabolized in the body and excreted into the urine. The regular test for pot in urine will not test positive if you smoke Spice, but now new tests are available to identify that Spice has been used. The tests are not routinely available, but if a urine test is negative for marijuana, the new test may be used. You might be interested in knowing that marijuana and related drugs build up in your body, especially if you use them frequently. Pot is a drug that likes to be stored in fat. If someone is an occasional user, your urine is usually only positive for one or two days after your last use, but if you use on a daily basis, you build up a large amount of the drug that is excreted over weeks. This residual drug also continues to affect you while it is in your body, including your brain. Recent research shows that your urine, blood and saliva can be positive for weeks after last use. I hope this answer is useful.

-Marilyn Huestis

Can you smoke water vapor?

-craigb, New York

Nope. Have you seen our teen blog? Go to

-Jim Bjork

Can you speed up your body processing weed?

-KoA, Maryland

We are not aware of any way to 'speed' the body's processing of marijuana. THC in marijuana is rapidly absorbed by fatty tissues in various organs. Generally, traces (metabolites) of THC can be detected by standard urine testing methods several days after a smoking session. In heavy users, however, traces can sometimes be detected for weeks after they have stopped using marijuana. The best way to avoid testing positive for marijuana is to not use it. More information on marijuana can be found at:

-Redonna Chandler

Can you tell that a person does drugs by looking at their eyes?

-Mr.C2013, Maryland

It would depend on the drug taken, how much the person consumed and how long ago the person took that drug. Some drugs such as hallucinogens can dilate a person's pupils. For more information, check out:

-Kris Bough

do you have a fun job

-luckysoccer, Kentucky

Yeah I do, and I like everyone I work with who can see this answer on a big screen we have here at Chat Day HQ and on the web!!! Actually, I have a great job. I love science and discovery.

-David Thomas

Do you know any drug that can make beneficial efects onyour body?

-jorgedanipingu, Other

Great question! There are lots of drugs--called medications--that can have very good effects on you. Remember, all drugs are not abused drugs--drugs are anything you take into your body for its effects, whether it is for control of pain, control of weight, control of diabetes, or antibiotics. Even drugs that have the potential for abuse have medical uses. Heroin is an abused opiate; but morphine, another opiate, is a medical treatment for pain. Cocaine not only can make you high, it is also a very effective local anesthetic still used today in eye surgery. Whether a drug is good for you or not often depends on dose and what you are using it for!

-Nancy Pilotte

do you love doing this job?

-Hackettstown, New Jersey


-Nicolette Borek

do you really hallucinate when taking shrooms?

-jaspir, New Jersey

Great question! The answer is a resounding 'Yes!' The active ingredient in mushrooms is a chemical called psylocibin, which is known to produce altered perceptions. For more information on hallucinogens, see .

-Nancy Pilotte

do you think ganja should be leagel?

-killa cam, Pennsylvania

I worry about it as a scientist interested in the public's health, so no I don't think so. there are risks of using it, just like with most drugs. For one, you can become addicted although many people don't realize that--about 1 person in 11 whose ever used it will become addicted and the numbers increase when you start young or use it regularly (25-50% of daily users). Did you know that there's a recognized withdrawal syndrome linked to marijuana--its similar to cigarettes--irritability, sleep and appetite problems, and craving--which often keeps people using the drug even when they may want to quit.

-Susan Weiss

do you think it is ok for everyone to try drugs once...the non adictive ones?

-qwerty320, New Jersey

Ahh, good question! There are really no drugs that are nonaddictive. We are not sure how any individual will respond to a drug, and that is what we are trying to find with research. I mean we are trying figure out what specific factors make someone vulnerable to the addictive properties of drugs. Some people are very vulnerable; others are not. When someone tries a drug, he or she can never be sure how the drug will affect them. You can learn more about different drugs and their addictive properties on our teen web site:

-Joe Frascella

do you think marijuana should be legal for medical use

-tyler, Pennsylvania

It already is for medical purposes but let me explain this (it's a little complicated). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is responsible for ensuring the safety of everything from cosmetics to human and animal medications to our nation's food supply has not approved marijuana to treat any medical illness. That is because smoking marijuana has not been shown in rigorously conducted studies called, clinical trials, to have medical benefits that exceed its risks--the same standard used to approve any medication. However, the FDA has approved certain medications that contain ingredients found in marijuana. These medications are usually prescribed to relieve symptoms in seriously ill patients, such as reducing nausea for cancer patients on chemotherapy or helping AIDS patients to eat more. Also, there is some new and exciting research looking at the biology of cannabinoids, the general class of molecules related to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. This research suggests new ways of treating pain and other illnesses without the dangers of becoming addicted or the health liabilities linked to smoking marijuana. See for more information.

-Joe Frascella

do you think marijuana should be legal why or why not

-killa cam, Pennsylvania

No. Mostly because if its legal, it's likely that more people will smoke it more often and that increases the number of people who become addicted to it (about 9% of users become addicted), the number of people that get into car accidents because of it, and the loss of potential in youth who do less with their lives because they choose to use drugs rather than help solve our world's problems.

-Carol Krause

Do you think that since more drug awareness is being spread that more people will try to quit?

-), Kentucky

We hope so! Today, we know much more about the consequences of drugs and alcohol on health and we are trying to get the word out. Here are some resources for people who want to increase their drug awareness and who want to quit using drugs, including tobacco. If you know someone who needs help with an addiction, you can find a substance abuse treatment facility by calling 1-800-662-HELP or go to anytime, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. For general information about drugs of abuse go to NIDA's website

-Belinda Sims

do you think that using drugs might affect the family of the user ?

-tanta, Maryland

You bet it does! First, it is painful to watch someone you care about doing something that harms their body. Second, repeated use of drugs can change the brain and behavior of the user making them cranky, moody, uninterested in the feelings of others, and decrease their desire to spend time with family members. Sometimes people who use drugs say that their drug use only affects them but if you ask anyone who has a loved one using drugs you'll quickly learn that is not true. To read stories from real teens about drug use and recovery, click on

-Redonna Chandler

Does a little amount of alcholo affect a kid and their growth?

-16994369, Maryland

It's very unlikely that a small sip of alcohol can do any lasting damage to your body or affect your growth. But, you should know that exposing the brain to alcohol at a young age can increase the odds of developing a drinking problem down the road. To be safe, stay away from alcohol for as long as you can! Definitely until 21 or older because your brain will still be developing until then and the odds of developing alcoholism are much lower if you wait until after 21.

-Aaron White

Does ahlcohol slow down your body?

-Bobbaganoosh, New Jersey

Drinking just once causes a bunch of changes in the brain that usually go away once the alcohol wears off. Alcohol slows down a part of the brain called the 'frontal lobes.' The frontal lobes help us make good decisions and stay out of trouble. Drinking alcohol increases the chances we will make bad decisions and get in trouble. Alcohol turns on a part of the brain called the 'reward system.' This is what makes alcohol feel good for some people. Alcohol slows down an area called the 'amygdala.' This area helps tell us when we are in danger. By slowing this area down we often fail to recognize when we could be in danger and makes it easier to make bad choices. Alcohol also shuts down a part of the brain called the 'hippocampus', which helps us make memories. Drinking too much alcohol can make it harder for us to make memories and even cause 'blackouts.' These are blank spots in our memories that prevent us from remembering what happened while we were drinking alcohol. Finally, alcohol can slow down the 'cerebellum', which is important for letting us keep our balance and walk without stumbling. Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years can make the frontal lobes smaller. As mentioned above, 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 things. 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.

-Aaron White

D u think it's good marijuana is becoming legal in certain places ?

-derek, Maryland

Currently marijuana is not 'legal' anywhere although it is available as a medical treatment for certain conditions in some states. I think it is important for teens to know that marijuana is a serious drug that can have harmful effects on the brain and body. Teens are at a critical period in the development of the brain. All addictive drugs - including marijuana impact the development of the teen brain and can create problems in function including memory, concentration, decision making, and even the development of addiction. Making marijuana legal might increase its availability and make it more accessible for teens. We have seen this with other drugs - including prescription drugs. The rates of teen abuse and addiction to prescription pain killers and other drugs has risen as the number of presriptions have risen. Whether you are for or against 'legalization' of marijuana, increased avilability and use by teens would not be good for their health, development, or brains.

-Redonna Chandler

Describe the type of brain damage drugs can do to you

-green kittens, Kentucky

Great question! Drugs are chemicals and because of their chemical structures they all work differently and affect the brain in different ways by interfering with the way nerve cells normally send, receive, and process information. Some drugs, like marijuana or heroin, activate neurons because their chemical structure mimics that of a natural neurotransmitter. In fact, these drugs can "fool" receptors, lock onto them, and can activate the nerve cells. The problem is, they don't work the same way as a natural neurotransmitter, so the neurons wind up sending abnormal messages through the brain. You can read all about the brain and how different drugs affect it at

-Marsha Lopez