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 does

-IMS324, Louisiana

Because it causes the very sudden release of chemicals in your brain such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. All drugs of abuse target the brain's pleasure center

-Anto Bonci

why is the smell of gasoline so addictive

-sparikh, Texas

Yuck, to tell you the truth, I don't like the smell of gasoline at all. If I spill even a drop on my clothes when filling up my car, I get a bad headache. But some people do like 'huffing' gasoline and other volatile chemicals (like glue or paint thinner) because it makes them dizzy and disoriented, and they consider that to be getting 'high'. Unfortunately, inhalants are one of the types of drugs that really do kill brain cells and cause long term brain damage.

-Steve Grant

why is tobacco popular?

-aamy, Texas

Thanks for your question. First, the good news: Smoking is at historically low levels among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, according to NIDA’s Monitoring the Future study. The bad news is that the decline in youth smoking appears to be leveling off. In 2010, rates for smoking in the past month were reported as 19.2 percent for 12th graders, 13.6 percent for 10th graders, and 7.1 percent for 8th graders. Use of smokeless tobacco had been showing a decline over the past decade—until 2009, when use began to rise. According to the study, in 2010 current use of smokeless tobacco among 8th graders was 4.1 percent and 7.5 percent among 10th graders. Among 12th graders, 8.5 percent reported using smokeless tobacco in the last month, a number not seen since the late 1990s.There are many reasons that people start smoking. Research has shown that drug use is about 50% genetic and 50% environmental and other factors. So, they may have been from a family of many smokers, or they are around environments that encourage smoking. For example, if people see other people doing it, they might think it's cool. Stress is also a reason why many people say they smoke. What they may not know, though, is that smoking is addictive--once you start, it is VERY difficult to stop. And, it's not cool. For more information, see: www.drugabuse.gov/tib/genetics.html and http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/real-teens-ask-addiction-hereditary/.

-Joni Rutter

why is weed illegal ? i mean i can see like making it illegal to drive while high but otherwise . . .?

-lexy2, Ohio

Ah, a constitutional lawyer in the making, I see. You may not think there are risks of using marijuana but here are a few for you to think about: it can be addictive--someone who uses it a lot can find themselves not able to give it up even when they want to and realize its messing up their lives. About 1 in 6 teen marijuana users become addicted, and 1 in 4 if you use it every day or nearly every day. And because it affects how you think and remember things, and your coordination, you may lose your competitive edge--in sports and in school. And of course smoking anything is not good for the lungs. All of these risks go into the mix when you think about weed being legal. We already have enough problems caused by the legal drugs (for adults) --tobacco and alcohol--do we really need more?

-Christine Colvis

Why is weed legal in Amsterdame, but not in united states and its way better than cigerrettes?

-IMS326, Louisiana

Because the people of Amsterdam and the Netherlands, through their elected officials (politicians) made the decision as a society not to make certain drugs illegal. One of the reasons that the United States is still having this same kind of discussion as a nation because the active component of marijuana, THC, can be addictive. For more information on mariijuana see http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/marijuana and http://www.nida.nih.gov/MarijBroch/teens/.

-Jim Bjork

why is whine an alcaholic beverage if it comes from grapes?

-hahahahahahaha, Nebraska

I see how that can be confusing. Alcohol is produced when yeast, a single celled organism, eats and digests sugar. So wine is made from the sugar that is naturally present in grapes. The different types of alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, liquor) are different because of the source of sugar the yeast feeds on. For example, liquors are often made from the sugar in vegetables.

-Aaron White

why isn't

-monkey413, Maryland

That's a complicated question. In the early 20th century, alcohol was banned all together. While that strategy (called 'Prohibition') did save some lives, it wasn't considered a success in general and alcohol was made legal again. In addition, many people use alcohol responsibly and enjoy it for a wide range of purposes, including celebrations and religious ceremonies. The government can regulate - but not prevent - people from using alcohol in those ways. The exception is the legal drinking age of 21. Making it illegal for people under 21 to drink alcohol has proven to be important for reducing alcohol-related deaths, including from traffic crashes, in young people

-Aaron White

why isn't alcohol banded

-monkey413, Maryland

That's a complicated question. In the early 20th century, alcohol was banned all together. While that strategy (called 'Prohibition') did save some lives, it wasn't considered a success in general and alcohol was made legal again. In addition, many people use alcohol responsibly and enjoy it for a wide range of purposes, including celebrations and religious ceremonies. The government can regulate - but not prevent - people from using alcohol in those ways. The exception is the legal drinking age of 21. Making it illegal for people under 21 to drink alcohol has proven to be important for reducing alcohol-related deaths, including from traffic crashes, in young people.

-Aaron White

why isnt

-urmom, Maryland

That's a complicated question. In the early 20th century, alcohol was banned all together. While that strategy (called 'Prohibition') did save some lives, it wasn't considered a success in general and alcohol was made legal again. In addition, many people use alcohol responsibly and enjoy it for a wide range of purposes, including celebrations and religious ceremonies. The government can regulate - but not prevent - people from using alcohol in those ways. The exception is the legal drinking age of 21. Making it illegal for people under 21 to drink alcohol has proven to be important for reducing alcohol-related deaths, including from traffic crashes, in young people

-Aaron White

why isnt alcohol banned?

-urmom, Maryland

That's a complicated question. In the early 20th century, alcohol was banned all together. While that strategy (called 'Prohibition') did save some lives, it wasn't considered a success in general and alcohol was made legal again. In addition, many people use alcohol responsibly and enjoy it for a wide range of purposes, including celebrations and religious ceremonies. The government can regulate - but not prevent - people from using alcohol in those ways. The exception is the legal drinking age of 21. Making it illegal for people under 21 to drink alcohol has proven to be important for reducing alcohol-related deaths, including from traffic crashes, in young people.

-Aaron White

why was marinol approved by the fda if is is chemically identical to

-SPORKY, New York

Because it is not a plant and it is not smoked. It not being a plant is important, since the plant contains lots of ingredients with unknown health effects and varied amounts of these ingredients from plant to plant. For something to be a medicine it has to have well defined ingredients that are the same from pill to pill. This allows doctors to prescribe the correct dose to each patient based on their age, weight, other prescriptions, etc

-Susan Weiss

why was marinol approved by the fda if is is chemically identical to marijuana

-SPORKY, New York

Because it is not a plant and it is not smoked. It not being a plant is important, since the plant contains lots of ingredients with unknown health effects and varied amounts of these ingredients from plant to plant. For something to be a medicine it has to have well defined ingredients that are the same from pill to pill. This allows doctors to prescribe the correct dose to each patient based on their age, weight, other prescriptions, etc.

-Susan Weiss

Why were synthetic drugs legal?

-wexx,

Hello wexx, that's a good question. Synthetic cannabinoids were legal until last year when the Drug Enforcement Agency 'scheduled,' or labeled as illegal, 5 drugs with different structures. We have an analog law in the US, meaning that if a drug is similar to an illegal drug and has the same effects, it is illegal too. So these compounds are not legal any more and could make users and suppliers legally responsible. Before this new law, the structures of synthetic cannabinoids were significantly different from THC in marijuana and could not be prosecuted under the laws for marijuana. Thanks for asking!

-Marilyn Huestis

Why when drunk, does the body not feel anything?? Like if nothing hurts?

-J,

Alcohol slows down activity in the brain, including the areas of the brain that tell us that something is wrong. Alcohol makes it harder for nerves to send pain signals to the brain, and we are not as aware of the pain signals that do get through. In this way, alcohol acts a little like the novacaine you would get at the dentist's office.

-Aaron White

Will you explain how Amy Winehouse drank herself to death?

-shannonl, Ohio

Sure. For anyone, drinking enough alcohol can shut down parts of the brain that are important for keeping us alive. If those areas are shut down, the heart can stop beating and we can stop breathing. In essence, it's like alcohol flips a switch and shuts the body off. It appears this is what happened to Amy Winehouse. Based on reports in the media, she had five times the legal driving limit of alcohol in her body and several empty bottles of vodka were found in her room when she died. Presumably, she drank enough alchol to shut off these vital centers in her brain and she stopped breathing.

-Aaron White

will you get addicted to drugs if you do it once?

-Ariana, Ohio

Thanks for your question. It's not a simple one. For some people, it's the first puff on a cigarette, or the first experience with any drug. Factors that underlie addiction (to cigarettes or other drugs of abuse) are many. They include genetic factors, environmental factors, age, etc. Science has shown that drugs can cause biological changes in your brain that weaken your ability to make decisions (like deciding to not use drugs again). Of course, the more you use drugs, the more they can weaken the brain. Luckily, these biological changes can be reversed, and addiction can be treated. But, you are better off not trying drugs in the first place! You can check out NIDA’s Web site at: http://www.drugabuse.gov/. By clicking on the link 'Students and Young Adults' from NIDA's home page you will be able to access resources tailored for students and young adults.

-Joni Rutter

women who drink when they are pregnant, does that mean babies are always affected by it if they drink?

-aromero, Texas

Not always, but drinking during pregnancy is quite risky and can seriously affect a baby's development. A range of problems, the worst of which is called fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) can result. Babies born with FAS are not addicted to alcohol themselves, but they do have smaller brains, abnormal facial features, and often have life-long learning and behavioral problems. It is the leading preventable birth defect associated with mental and behavioral impairment in the United States today.

-Aaron White

WonderWaffle7-Why do CrystalMeth Labs explode ?

-Dulles Middle, Texas

Because of the chemicals and byproducts used in making meth from over-the-counter medications. Sometimes these get spilled. Even if the lab doesn't explode, it will leave toxic chemicals behind in the carpets and floors for the next occupants to deal with....

-Jim Bjork

would a 13 year old doing drugs have a different effect on them than a 21 year old doing the same ones?

-alexis, Ohio

Evidence seems to suggest that the earlier one starts abusing drugs, the more likely one is to become addicted to the drugs. Of course, there are lots of individual variability with respect to ease of becoming addicted, but kids are particularly vulnerable to the addicting effects of drugs. Clearly, at the age of 13, the brain is still developing, changing, making new connections, etc. Drugs at this age can effect all of these processes and affect normal brain and cognitive development.If you are interested in learning more about this topic and other related issues, please check out:http://www.drugabuse.gov/scienceofaddiction/

-Joe Frascella

Would docters prescribe prescription drugs that are dangerous to you?

-pwillis, Texas

Hi and thanks for the question. Prescription medications are not dangerous if taaken as prescribed and by the person they are prescribed for. The problems you are hearing about are because people are abusing the medicine. We have a website that you might find interesting: http://www.teens.drugabuse.gov/peerx/.

-Richard Denisco

would it be okay to date someone who is addicted to meth?

-bottom2015, Nebraska

Serious question - I can't tell you who to date but I can say that I wouldn't want my friends or family members dating a meth addict. That's because meth has a profound impact on the brain and behavior. The addict will have a complusive need to use drugs despite negative consequences - including problems with family, school, person they are dating, the law, etc. Addicts are not good at relationships with other people because their primary relationship is with their drug of choice. If they are a meth addict, they may not be very dependable, trustworthy, or able to consider your feelings and needs. Perhaps you can be their friend - listen to them talk about why they use drugs, make them aware of the consequences of meth use, encourage them to participate in treatment. But, date someone else - somone who isn't using drugs. For more information on methamphetamine and getting help, see: http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugpages/methamphetamine.html and http://www.drugabuse.gov/infofacts/methamphetamine.html

-Redonna Chandler

Would it be worst for your body to snort or smoke drugs?

-BsHs, Pennsylvania

The answer is: Yes! Any way you ingest drugs is a bad way. Science has shown that drugs can cause biological changes in your brain that weaken your ability to make decisions (like deciding to not use drugs again). Of course, the more you use drugs, the more they can weaken the brain. If you smoke them, you are also causing major insults to your esophagus and lungs--eventually causing diseases such as lung cancer. Snorting also can cause major damage to your nose and septum--why would you want to do that? Snorting is also dangerous because you can deliver high -- and possibly lethal -- doses of drugs very quickly. For a list of commonly abused drugs and their routes of administration, go to http://www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/DrugsofAbuse.html.

-Joni Rutter

Would why doesn't everybody take Ritalin?

-BrendanW, New York

Because medications usually have some side effects that could cause problems. Ritalin suppresses appetite, for example, resulting in stunted growth/height in some studies. There should be a real important biological reason (like fixing a real brain problem) to justify exposing yourself to side-effect risks.

-Jim Bjork

would you consider

-acastro, Texas

There are lots of dangerous ingredients in cigarettes. Nicotine is highly addictive, and because of the terrible health effects of long term smoking (including 440,000 deaths a year), some people would say nicotine is the most dangerous ingredient. However, the the tar in cigarettes increases a smoker's risk of lung cancer, emphysema, and bronchial disorders. The carbon monoxide in smoke increases the chance of cardiovascular diseases. Pregnant smokers have a higher risk of miscarriage or low birthweight babies. Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer in adults and greatly increases the risk of respiratory illnesses in children

-Carol Krause

would you consider nicotine the most dangerous ingredient in tobacco/

-acastro, Texas

There are lots of dangerous ingredients in cigarettes. Nicotine is highly addictive, and because of the terrible health effects of long term smoking (including 440,000 deaths a year), some people would say nicotine is the most dangerous ingredient. However, the the tar in cigarettes increases a smoker's risk of lung cancer, emphysema, and bronchial disorders. The carbon monoxide in smoke increases the chance of cardiovascular diseases. Pregnant smokers have a higher risk of miscarriage or low birthweight babies. Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer in adults and greatly increases the risk of respiratory illnesses in children.

-Carol Krause

Would you consider the choking game a drug?

-OMGBECKY, Iowa

No, just dumb risk-taking.

-Ruben Baler

y is

-24, Nevada

Alcohol is dangerous because it affects every organ system in the body, especially the central nervous system, which includes the brain. Alcohol has both short-term and long-term effects on the brain. In the short-term, such as during a night of drinking, alcohol can do the following:1. Frontal lobes - Alcohol turns off the frontal lobes, which are important for making good decisions and controlling our urges to do things that could ultimately be very bad for us. This increases the odds of getting into fights, getting injured, and taking dangerous risks.2. Hippocampus - Alcohol suppresses the hippocampus, which is the brain area that makes our memories. As a result, many people wake up the next day after drinking and have trouble remembering things that they did the night before.3. Amygdala - The amygdala is in charge of warning us when we are in danger by making us feel afraid or anxious. Alcohol suppresses the amygdala, which makes it easier for us to do thing that normally would make us feel anxious or afraid. This increases the chances we will get hurt or do things we will regret.4. Cerebellum - The cerebellum plays a big role in balance and walking. Alcohol impairs these abilities.5. Brain stem - The brain stem contains areas important for keeping us alive. If these areas are shut off, such as by high levels of alcohol consumption (i.e., alcohol poisoning) we can die.Alcohol also has long-term effects on the brain, particularly during the teen years. The teenage years are a very important time for development of the brain. The thinking parts, memory parts, and feeling parts are all changing when we are teenagers. Alcohol can interfere with these important changes and actually shrink the thinking and memory parts.Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years can make an area 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. 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.For weeks and months after a teenager stops drinking heavily, these parts of the brain still struggle to work correctly. It's not clear whether the brain ever fully heals itself. In addition, drinking at a young age makes it more likely to become an alcoholic later in life. So, drinking when we are young could have lots of negative effects on the brain!

-Aaron White

y is alcohol so dangerouse

-24, Nevada

Alcohol is dangerous because it affects every organ system in the body, especially the central nervous system, which includes the brain. Alcohol has both short-term and long-term effects on the brain. In the short-term, such as during a night of drinking, alcohol can do the following:1. Frontal lobes - Alcohol turns off the frontal lobes, which are important for making good decisions and controlling our urges to do things that could ultimately be very bad for us. This increases the odds of getting into fights, getting injured, and taking dangerous risks.2. Hippocampus - Alcohol suppresses the hippocampus, which is the brain area that makes our memories. As a result, many people wake up the next day after drinking and have trouble remembering things that they did the night before.3. Amygdala - The amygdala is in charge of warning us when we are in danger by making us feel afraid or anxious. Alcohol suppresses the amygdala, which makes it easier for us to do thing that normally would make us feel anxious or afraid. This increases the chances we will get hurt or do things we will regret.4. Cerebellum - The cerebellum plays a big role in balance and walking. Alcohol impairs these abilities.5. Brain stem - The brain stem contains areas important for keeping us alive. If these areas are shut off, such as by high levels of alcohol consumption (i.e., alcohol poisoning) we can die.Alcohol also has long-term effects on the brain, particularly during the teen years. The teenage years are a very important time for development of the brain. The thinking parts, memory parts, and feeling parts are all changing when we are teenagers. Alcohol can interfere with these important changes and actually shrink the thinking and memory parts.Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years can make an area 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. 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.For weeks and months after a teenager stops drinking heavily, these parts of the brain still struggle to work correctly. It's not clear whether the brain ever fully heals itself. In addition, drinking at a young age makes it more likely to become an alcoholic later in life. So, drinking when we are young could have lots of negative effects on the brain!

-Aaron White

Y is it that when i took perscription drugs i was able to quit them? by all rights i should have been addicted to them b/c i took them for two years b4 i stopped. If i did something different i would like to help my friends who suffer from this too

-Hope, Arkansas

Hello, Hope. You are lucky. You were a regular drug user who did not get addicted and could stop using.The problem is that a certain portion of regular users do get addicted. Scientists are still trying to discover what it is about someone's genetics or personality that puts them at biological risk to lose control.

-Jim Bjork

You answered a question about drugs and ADD. How about drugs mixed with allergy medicines?

-teacher 48, Iowa

Hi and thanks for the question. Mixing drugs and/or medications is just not good to do. The interactions are unpredictable and if you mix sedating drugs with allergy medication you can get more sedation and possibly stop breathing. See this for more info: http://www.nida.nih.gov/drugpages/prescription.html

-Richard Denisco