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 here.

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can drugs cause a traumatic effect on someone?

-BirthdaYCakE, New York

Hey Cake -- absolutely!  Drugs can have both direct and indirect consequences that can be traumatic.  By direct consequences I mean the direct effect of the drug itself -- if you have an overdose, or a bad interaction between two drugs, for instance, it can land you in the hospital with some serious health consequences.  Indirect effects would be other kinds of things that the drug causes -- for example, driving while high or intoxicated can lead to traumatic and tragic consequences!

-Lori Ducharme

can drugs cause extreme hallucinations?

-sampugliese, New York
Hey there sampugliese! Thanks for this great question!  Yes, some drugs do cause hallucinations, and some drugs cause very intense extreme ones.  They can be very very frightening to experience and very confusing to a person. Check out this website for more info:
-Harold Perl

Can drugs cause people to not care for others

-lj12, New York

Yes since the damage areas of the brain necessary for awareness, so they can make someone less sensitive to others

-Nora Volkow

Can drugs cause trauma?

-Cowgirl555, New York

HI Cowgirl - yes, many drugs can cause serious psychological damage.  Some people who take hallucinogens or stimulants, for example, can have very bad reactions to them.  These can include hallucinations, panic, anxiety, and depression.  It is important to remember that drugs have many different effects and many of these effects are harmful.  For more information on how drugs affect teens please check out

-Steve Gust

Can drugs change how you think of things?

-baseballguy03, Pennsylvania
The short answer is yep!  Drugs affect the way the brain cells communicate and relays that information to the body.  Drugs can also have a very important effect on a teen's ability to learn, their relationships and also their outlook on life...mostly in a negative way.  You don't see too many happy-looking regular drug users do you? A teen's best bet is to stay drug free! Learn more about the effects of drugs on the brain and body and see questions from other teens like you!
-Dave Thomas

can drugs effect your brain

-trouscus, New York

Hi Trouscus.  Yes, drugs can affect your brain, and that is the reason people take drugs.  But not all drugs can enter the brain because the brain is protected by cells that wrap tightly around blood vessels (called a blood-brain barrier) and only let certain specifics things enter the brain.  Whether or not a drug enters the brain depends on the chemical structure of the drug.  But if someone is taking a drug to get high, you can be pretty sure that the drug is getting into the brain and changing the way the brain is working.  The real issue is whether the changes in the brain caused by a drug lasts a short time, a long time, or ends in permanent changes in the brain.

-Steve Grant

Can drugs kill you

-spongebob, New York

Hi Spongebob.  How's life at the bottom of the ocean ?  All kidding aside, some drugs are very dangerous and can kill you even if you take them only once.  Painkillers like oxycotin contain high amounts of a class of drugs called opioids, and one effect of these drugs is they reduce your breathing. If you take too much you simply stop breathing and die. Other drugs, like amphetamine and stimulants, can cause heart attacks. Even antibiotics can be dangerous; for example some people are allergic to penicillin. Even non-prescription drugs like Tylenol (acetaminophen) can cause very rare but potentially fatal skin disorders as well as liver damage. The Food and Drug Administration writes very detailed descriptions of the effects of the drug, both good and bad, that are included with every prescription. You should always read these labels to find out what the harmful effects are, use them for what they were FDA approved for, and if you have questions talk to your doctor or the pharmacist.

-Steve Grant

Can Drugs kill you?

-maryd@aslacadem, New Mexico

some can...and do. Either directly (like overdosing from heroin) or indirectly (like driving while drunk or stoned). Worth the risk??

-Jack Stein

Can drugs kill you???

-WHITEBOY101, New York

Yes, WHITEBOY101, drugs can kill you. they can kill you quickly- as in a drug overdose, or slowly, as in cancer from tobacco smoking. Your health and life are not worth experimenting with drugs. 

-Marilyn Huestis

can drugs lower your focus in school

-spongebob, New York
Hey Spongebob,
Absolutely!!!! Good question.  Drugs affect the brain and central nervous system.  During the teen years and up to about age 25 the brain in a very rapid period of development.  Doing anything that hinders the maximum development of the brain is harmful to cognitive functioning. Recent research suggests that marijuana, for example, can actually lower your IQ if you start using as a teen. Below are some links that give you more specific information.

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

And try this brand new “e-poster”---“Drugs and the Body: It Isn’t Pretty” -Lis Robertson

can you get addicted to mental health medication? and ig you get the wrong diagnosis for a mental health issue and you take medicine for it can that drug do something really bad for your body?

-skpmb, Maryland

Hey SKPMB.  Wow great and complicated question about mental health problems.  First, certain prescription medications used to treat certain mental and physical health conditions can be addictive.  Medications like opiates to treat pain and some of the stimulants used to treat ADHD can be addictive.  The key is to ONLY take medications prescribed for you, take those medications ONLY as prescribed by the physician, and to REMAIN under the care of a reputable physician.  Regarding question two:  treating mental health problems, like treating physical health conditions, requires an accurate diagnosis.  Mental health professions should provide an assessment to  determine the type and severity mental health problem. Sometimes,  medications are prescribed as part of treatment by psychiatrists or physicians.  You are on the right track though - an accurate diagnosis is key to successful treatment.  For more information on prescription medications see:

-Redonna Chandler

can you get cancer from trying a cigarette one time?

-xoxogossipgirl, Massachusetts
Hi Gossipgirl! No, but you might get addicted to smoking, which causes cancer, as you know. Many people that became addicted to smoking thought they would only try it once. 
If you are curious to know more, please go to:
-Anto Bonci

can you get drunk of bleech?

-gk22, New York
hei there gk22
You mean: bleach?? like in clorox? are you crazy????? it is extremely toxic stuff
watch out! 
-Ruben Baler

can you get help when you are addicted to marijuana, New Jersey
Hi Tyost,
Yes, there definitely are ways to get help if you are addicted to marijuana.  Realizing that there is a problem is an important first step.  Here is a resource to find substance abuse treatment in your area:
If you want to ask about getting substance abuse or mental health treatment, call 1-800-662-HELP, 24/7. Or you can go to to find information about treatment centers in your area.
Good luck!! 
-Michelle Leff

can you get high by choking yourself

-strawberrycream, Maryland

Strawberrycream,  Well you ask an interesting question.  If you choke yourself to the point of asphyxiation - where you deprive your brain of oxygen - you would experience dizziness, light headedness, etc.  My question for you is: why would anyone want to do that to themselves?  There is no high like a natural high.  Go climb an indoor rock wall, ski down a mountain, write the best English paper, go see "I Frankenstein" with a friend.  Something fun and that won't negatively affect your brain!

-Redonna Chandler

Can you get high off life?

-Not a Drug Guy, California

sure can....we can now even see the brain "light up" when we are participating in engaging activities like sports, etc. Try it!

-Jack Stein

Can you get high off of cat pee

-icecreamswirl5, Maryland

Cat pee?  Seriously icecreamswirl5?  There are no psychoactive properties in cat pee.  Pee (urine) is a fluid that is filled with waste from the body.  What other questions do you have?

-Joni Rutter

can you get high off of poppy seeds?

-cakecakecake, New York


-Susan Weiss

Can you get high off running? If so, how and why do you get high off running?

-Student101, Maryland
Good question to start my day!   I don't know if I would say "high" but running and exercise can cause the release of chemicals in your brain called "endorphins" and they can make you feel good.
-Dave Thomas

can you get high off secondhand smoke?

-CrazyK999, New York

CraxyK999,  Good question.  If you are referring to marijuana smoke the answer is no. However, if you are referring to cigarette smoke there is a different answer. Secondhand tobacco smoke does deliver nicotine which is the psychoactive ingredient in cigarettes.  Secondhand smoke is a combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by the smoker. When you stand near a smoker or go to a restaurant or home where smoking is allowed, you breathe secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is dangerous. Over time, secondhand smoke causes death and disease in kids and adults—even if they do not smoke.  Check out a fact sheet the National Cancer Institute put out to learn more: NCI Factsheet, Secondhand Smoke: Questions and Answers  And if you are interested in a recent study, here is an interesting news release:

-Cindy Miner

Do drugs effect the people around the people that are doing the drugs

-xPreparationz, Pennsylvania
Hi x...z. I bicycle in Bellefonte when I visit my relatives.
Absolutely doing drugs affects the people around them, in many ways. Drunk and drugged driving can harm and kill pedestrians and passengers in the car. Drugs and alcohol might change a person's personality, which can lead to conducting violent acts. If it's a friend doing the drugs, you will worry about your friend. You will worry whether your friend who is taking the drugs will harm himself, do something stupid that your friend wouldn't normally do, or have medical consequences or overdose and you will have to get them medical help quickly. You and your friends can have much more fun doing something other than drugs. Don't ruin your fun by taking drugs.


-Roger Sorensen

Do drugs have a different affects on people with ADD/ADHD versus someone without them? - A

-Aveson, California

hi there-- They sure do!  The drugs that are used to treat ADD/ADHD target brain functioning in a very specific way and they impact the body in other ways, too.  Many of the medications that are used for ADD/ADHD are 'psychostimulants" that help people with ADD/ADHD who often have trouble focusing stay more focused.  People who don't have ADD/ADHD can experience the drug effects very differently and they don't get the intended benefit of the drug but they might experience some of the side effects or problems.  As with all drugs, it's very important not to "share" medications that are prescribed for a specific person.  Learn more about ADHD/ADD here:

-Joel Sherrill

Do drugs have the same intoxicating abilities as alcohol?

-RrRrRayG, Maryland
HhHhHey RrRrRayG
Thanks for asking.
Drugs and alcohol both intoxicate--basically,"intoxicate" means "poison". Intoxication from drugs and alcohol are the same in some ways--for example, both cause a chemical called dopamine to build up in a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, and both alter thinking and memory. In other ways, each drug produces intoxication effects of its own.  
-Roger Sorensen

Do drugs help increase the consideration and the commitment of suicide?

-Gingerale, Maryland
Important question. Yes - studies suggest there may be a link between use of certain drugs and increased risk for suicide. For example, people who use opiates, cocaine, and sedatives may have a higher risk of suicide than those who use other drugs. Among those with an alcohol use disorder, a greater severity of recent drinking is associated with an increased likelihood of suicide attempt and death by suicide. And combining alcohol with drugs - or using more than one drug - may increase risk of suicide even more. Bottom line: stay away from drugs!

Here is a Web site for more information on suicide prevention as well as information on other serious problems like drug abuse, physical or verbal abuse, and depression. -Anto Bonci

Do drugs make people violent

-#FreeBieber, New York

Some drugs make people violent.  For example, bath salts (which are synthetic stimulants), cocaine and alcohol can make people violent when they are intoxicated. Indeed many violent crimes are committed under the infleunce of drugs

-Nora Volkow

do drugs make the user have more of a sex drive?!?

-bmorse, New York
Not really.  But drugs of abuse do typically impair a person in many ways.  For more information on drugs see
-Dave Thomas

do drugs make you happy


Hi again, ralf-weiner.  People say that they take drugs to make them happy, but the happiness is short-lived and for a very high price. Aren't there other and better ways to make you happy?  I like to read, hike, and hang out with friends.  What makes you happy?  Live above the influence !!!

-Joni Rutter

do drugs really kill your brain cells?

-tamara francois, New York
Drugs can change your brain, never mind damage or kill brain cells!  
Some examples of drugs that damage brain cells: 
Meth not only damages endings of dopamine-containing nerve cells, it also kills other nerve cells in additional brain pathways.  Inhalants prevent the necessary oxygen from reaching the brain, which can damage brain cells.
To learn more about how drugs make changes to your brain, check out this Sara Bellum blog on
-Joni Rutter

Do electric cigarettes have any drugs in them?

-gallarda.19, New York

Hi...thanks for question. E-cigs have liquid nicotine in them along with other chemicals to create the "smoke" (or vapor) produced. Check out for more info about them.

-Jack Stein

Do heroin increase or decrease reaction time?

-felisa.holden, Virginia

Hello again felisa,holden! Thanks for all of your great questions. Heroin is a depressant and could definitely decrease your reaction time while you are under the influence. It would affect many more aspects of your performance too- like your coordination.

-Marilyn Huestis