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 does the body take time to get rid of the alcohol

-Elijah, Maryland

Hi Elijah,
Alcohol is metabolized or broken down by the liver by specific enzymes. The rate of this metabolism depends on the capacity of these enzymes, which is about one standard drink per hour. If larger amounts of alcohol are consumed, the capacity of these liver enzymes is exceeded, which can result in a rapid accumulation of alcohol leading to overdose and serious consequences.
Check out this fact sheet on Alcohol Overdose for more information.
Hope this helps!
- Vijay

-Vijay Ramchandani

why does the U.S. have a higher legal drinking age than other countries?

-anonymous, Illinois

Because data generated by scientists during the Reagan administration determined that alcohol contributed to 50% of traffic fatalities and that raising the drinking age would substantially reduce traffic fatalities, which it did after President Reagan signed the law. There has been a straightline decrease in alcohol related traffic fatalities since then. See this fact sheet for more info.

-George Koob

why does uzi say that "xannys take the pain away"

-sssssssssssssss, Illinois

Drugs can make you forget or not care about pain--for a little while, but the pain comes back unless you find a way to actually deal with it.

-Roger Sorensen

Why does your body metabolizes ethanol to glucose?

-Memo Hérdez,

Alcohol is metabolized in the liver by specific enzymes that convert it to acetic acid, not glucose. Acetic acid can enter the energy cycle (called the citric acid cycle) in the body and generate calories. However, alcohol is not a good source of calories, and many people with alcohol problems develop malnutrition and other metaboiic conditions.

-Vijay Ramchandani

Why doesn't the FDA regulate E-liquids

-Fen507335, Illinois

Hi Fen507335.

Actually, FDA does regulate e-liquids. We're enforcing federal prohibitions against the sale of e-liquids to kids. And we are trying to figure out how to best protect kids from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and e-liquids, because of their skyrocketing popularity with kids.

-Mitch Zeller

Why doesn't the goverment start to slowly cut back on the bad drugs and insted help people get better drugs to help poeple get over theiradictions

-gbatya, Oregon

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.

Unfortunately, sometimes it's easier for people to get drugs that are bad for them than it is for them to access treatments that can help them. I'm hopeful though--I think there is a growing recognition of the importance of treatment and many people are working hard to make it easier to find treatment.

If you have questions about substance abuse or mental health treatment, call 1-800-662-HELP, 24/7. Or you can go to www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov/.

-Steve Grant

why don't people get help when they have an addiction?

-dino , Illinois

The most common is that some people with an addiction do not realize that they have one, the same way that some people who have a bad temper think they are very friendly. If you don't believe you have a problem, you are not likely to seek help to solve it. In other cases, people realize they have an addiction, but cannot find somebody to treat them or their insurance does not pay for their treatment. One of the best things you can do for a friend with a serious drug problem is let them know you are there to support them. Let them know you are concerned about their drug use, and encourage them to seek help from a trusted adult—perhaps a teacher, coach, parent, or counselor can help. To get help right away go to: https://www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov/. NIDA also has great guides: https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/treatment

-Carlos Blanco

why don't people just not overdose

-gremlin7, Illinois

Hi gremlin!
Yup, it would be easy if people just did not do drugs and they would not overdose. Once one takes a drug like an opioid, its not a matter of choice. Take too much of a drug like an opioid, overdose is likely.

-Eric Murphy

why don't people seek treatment when they are addicted

-mtiemann20, Oregon

Hi! This is an important question. There are lots of reasons why people don't seek treatment, but one of the best things you can do for a friend with a serious drug problem is let them know you are there to support them. Let them know you are concerned about their drug use, and encourage them to seek help. If you feel your friend is a danger to him or herself, or to others, it is important a trusted adult right away – it could save his or her life. To get your friend help go to: https://www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov/. NIDA also has great guides: https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/treatment

-Kristen Huntley

Why don't we just send people to rehab and help them instead of throwing them in prison and ruining their lives for having drugs?

-ccochran01, Oregon

Great question! A lot of people think we should be doing this more. This is a complex question that communities across the country are struggling with right now. On one hand, sometimes people who use drugs commit crimes that hurt other people or put other people in danger when they are under the influence of drugs. On the other hand, when we put people jail or prison, they rarely get the help they need to address their drug use while they are locked up. This means that when they go back to the community, they often go back to doing the same things that led them to jail in the first place. These are complex issues, but fortunately many communities are trying to come up with better ways to deal with these issues to not only help people who use drugs, but also to make communities safer.

-Aaron White

Why has the amount of teens vaping increased significantly over the last year or two?

-Wonder women , Illinois

Hey Wonder Woman!
Good to see to see you have time to care about serious issues such as teen e-cigarette use while you are out saving the world! You're right! Vaping increased significantly between 2017 and 2018. In fact, there was a 78% increase of youth e-cigarette use among high schoolers. We are not sure why there is such a significant increase, but FDA is working on a series of actions to stop youth use of tobacco products, espcially e-cigarettes. If you would like more information about work being done around e-cigarettes check out https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/getthefacts.html or find out more information about FDA's work by visiting: https://www.fda.gov/TobaccoProducts/default.htm.

-Michael Baumann

why hasn't the federal government taken action against the states who have legalized recreational marijuana? This goes against federal law.

-Kevin, Illinois

Thanks for the question, Kevin. Unfortunately I cannot speak for the law enforcement arms of our government. I'm just a scientist trying to better understand what's happening and prevent untoward consequences :)

-Susan Weiss

why have e-cigarettes been promoted for people who want to quit smoking if they have so much nicotine in them?

-big chungus, Illinois

Good question! Some people use e-cigarettes as an alternative to combustible (ie regular cigarettes) in part because they are seen a safer from the standpoint of physical health. Although they are considered tobacco products, e-cigs do not contain tobacco or produce the same toxic combustion products, like tar, that cause lung cancer and other diseases. While e-cigarettes may be safer than regular cigarettes on balance, it doesn't mean that e-cigarettes are safe. But some studies show that some people who try vaping get introduced to nicotine and actually switch to regular cigarettes within months. Additional research is needed to understand their effects on health or if they can help people quit smoking. Public health experts are concerned that e-cigarettes may prolong addiction to nicotine and that it might serve as a gateway to kids' use of cigarettes and other dangerous toboacco products.

-Emily Einstein

why is a juul more popular than a cigarette

-k, Illinois

We do not know all the reasons, but there are a lot of misconceptions about vaping. Some people think it's healthier than smoking cigarettes but vape contains lots of harmful chemicals, including high levels of nicotine. Scientific studies are showing that people who use juul are more likely to smoke cigarettes than those who do not use juul. Nearly two in five 12th graders report past year use of some kind of vaping device, raising concerns about the impact on brain health and potential for addiction. Monitoring the Future Survey shows an alarming rise in teen vaping. Read more here: https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2018/12/monitoring-future-survey-results-show-alarming-rise-in-teen-vaping

-Carlos Blanco

why is alcohol a medicine?

-TY, New Mexico

Hi,
Alcohol is not a medicine. It is not prescribed by a doctor for any illness or health condition. In fact, we know that alcohol misuse can result in serious problems, both short-term and long-term, for people.
Here is a great site for teens about alcohol: www.thecoolspot.gov

-Vijay Ramchandani

Why is alcohol bad if it's legal?

-KH,

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

-Vijay Ramchandani

why is alcohol in some mouth wash?

-TY, New Mexico

Good question! Alcohol helps to kill the germs that cause bad breath and gum disease. But it isn't necessary and there are lots of mouthwash products that do not contain alcohol.

-Aaron White

Why is alcohol legal even though people die from alcohol poisoning?

-shmo, Illinois

Hi shmo,
Alcohol is not legal for folks under 21 years of age. The harmful effects of alcohol on the teen brain are well known.
In adults and teens, binge drinking - drinking too much and too quickly - can cause alcohol to accumulate in your body and increase the risk of damage to the brain, liver and other organs. Alcohol overdose (or poisoning as you call it) is a serious problem. Check out this fact sheet on Alcohol Overdose for more information.

Hope this helps!
- Vijay

-Vijay Ramchandani

why is alcohol so addicting?

-chamness_a, Oregon

Alcohol, like other drugs, can produce a temporary feeling or pleasure or euphoria. It also can temporarily reduce feelings of anxiety and worrry. Unfortunately, when the alcohol wears off, people feel worse and want to drink again. If they keep doing that, addiction can develop.

-Aaron White

why is alcohol so dangerous

-ANGEL, Illinois

Hi ANGEL,
Alcohol affects many organs - from our brain to heart to lungs to liver. In children and teenagers, the effects of alcohol on the developing brain can be particularly harmful! Check out our website The Cool Spot for more info!
Thanks!
- Vijay

-Vijay Ramchandani

Why is bad to self medicate?

-Mateo ,

Hey Mateo,
This is a good question. Self-medication is not always bad. If one has a headache and follows the instructions on the bottle, taking an aspirin is fine to do. However, self-medication with a drug like an opioid or a stimulant drug can have very bad effects. They are prescription drugs for a reason. A clinician can help understand how to use such drugs and how not to use them. Misusing prescription opioids can be very dangerous. A person self-medicating likely is not an expert on how to properly use these potentially dangerous drugs.

-Dave Thomas

Why is Big Pharma trying to make us addicted to opiods?

-DS, Illinois

Hey Donny,
It is likely not that simple. Big pharma makes prescrition opioids and they are addictive. But if used properly, they can also help people in moderate to sever pain. Thus we still need opioids, but we need to use them smarter.

-Dave Thomas

Why is cocaine so addictive?

-SebVet , Illinois

Hi SebVet! Thanks for the question! Many addictive substances increase levels of a chemical in the brain called dopamine. Circuits in the reward system use dopamine to “teach” the brain to repeat actions we find pleasurable—a process called reinforcement. When people take drugs, the brain releases a lot of dopamine, which strongly reinforces the action of taking the drug. Over time, dopamine is released less by taking the drug itself than by other activities, people, and places that are associated with drug use. This leads people to feel highly motivated to take the drug whenever they encounter those cues. Cocaine is a drug that gresatly increases the level of dopaminie in the brain.

-Heather Kimmel

Why is coffee considered a drug???

-aysia.rogne, Montana

Hello Aysia
Coffe works to keep us alert because it contains caffeine. Caffeine is the active drug in coffee because it enters the brain and binds to specific receptors where it affects cellular processes and ultimately behavior. The fact that something is called a drug, doesn't make it good or bad. Drug is actually a generic, neutral term referring to a specific chemical compound or agent that can target a specific site or process in a living organism. So, yes, caffeine is definitely a drug. Incidentally, people can become dependent on caffeine and suffer withdrawal effects (like headaches) when trying to quit, but not addiction, which is compulsive use in spite of catastrophic consequences, like losing a job or a child's custody.
thanks for the question.
best of luck to you

-Ruben Baler

Why is heroin so addictive?

-Chungus, Illinois

Hi Chungus,
Good question. In a way, heroin (and some other drugs of abuse), "highjack" brain's reward system. One's attention becomes focused on getting the next drug high, rather than the fun of life. And if one tries to stop using, they can go through withdrawal, with is very unpleasant and can last for days. Ones feels bad without heroin and does not feel good unless they have it. Addiction is awful and difficult to escape. But there is hope with treatment.

-Dave Thomas

Why is heroin so cheap compared to weed? (or any drug)

-Mad, Maryland

Hi Mad,
Good question!!! I think it is kind of complicated. But part of the answer is that that although heroin and marijuana are both potent, marijuana is bulkier. Thus, MJ is more expensive to transport and more difficult to conceal. These factors contribute to MJ being more expensive. Related to this, heroin is increasingly being spiked with fentanyl, which is VERY potent and very easy to transport and conceal. And that is a BIG problem, since fentanyl is so powerful. More people are overdosing and dying from fentanyl than any other drug!

-Marsha Lopez

why is it easy for some kids to get drugs

-KH, New Hampshire

Hi Konner - thanks for your question.This has been a long term issue - drugs and alcohol have been way too available, but we do see some hopeful changes. You might be interested in results from this year's Monitoring the Future Study that tracks teenager drug use and attitudes in the USA: https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2018/12/monitoring-future-survey-results-show-alarming-rise-in-teen-vaping And I think communities can do their part in urging stores not to sell to underage youth and in reminding families not to give drugs or alcohol to teens. Here's some general information about preventing drug use in teens that may be useful:https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/treatment/what-to-do-if-you-hav...

-Susan Weiss

why is it easy to get drugs and alcohol nowadays?

-TSoberanis, Illinois

Hi TSoberanis - thanks for your question. This has been a long term issue - drugs and alcohol have been way too available, but we do see some hopeful changes. You might be interested in results from this year's Monitoring the Future Study that tracks teenager drug use and attitudes in the USA: https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2018/12/monitoring-future-survey-results-show-alarming-rise-in-teen-vaping And I think communities can do their part in urging stores not to sell to underage youth and in reminding families not to give drugs or alcohol to teens. Here's some general information about preventing drug use in teens that may be useful:https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/treatment/what-to-do-if-you-hav...

-Wilson Compton

Why is it known that mariijuana is a gateway drug when doctors prescribe it too people.

-Haylie Mata, New Hampshire

Hi, use of any drug increases your chances of misusing other drugs and becoming addicted. This includes marijuana. In some states, physicians can prescribe marijuana, but it is never safe for teens to use it because your brain is still developing until your mid-20s. See these easy-to-understand videos on how anyone can become addicted, and why drugs are so hard to quit: https://easyread.drugabuse.gov/

-Emily Jones

Why is it legal to buy recreational weed in Canada at age 18, but in the united states its legal to buy at the age of 21. When reading online it says that our minds are not fully developed until around the age of 21. But it contradicts itself when you can buy it at age 18. So i am confused why the age is different in different countries.

-ManBehindScreen, Illinois

That's a great question, ManBehindScreen. Different countries have different approaches to drug policy. NIDA supports research to understand how drugs affect the developing brain and to provide a basis for evidence-based policy making. You're right that the human brain is not fully developed until a person is in their twenties. In fact, brain development may not be complete until a person reaches the mid-twenties. Research indicates that early drug use (includign marijuana use) may alter the brain's reward system putting teens at higher risk of using other drugs and increasing the risk for addiction later in life. For more information aout how marijuana can affect your brain click HERE.

-Marsha Lopez