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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Why is xanax addictive?

-chomer, New York

It's a benzodiazepine drug, and its addictive effects are similar to those of alcohol.  

-Nora Volkow

Why isn't Meth illegal if it does so much damage to you?

-kyliej, Connecticut

Hi! Methamphetamine use is illegal unless it is prescribed by a physician for use to treat specific ailments. 

-Jack Stein

why isnt smoked marijuana a safe medicine

-prettygirl13, New York
Hi prettygirl13,
Great, great question. There are lots of reasons. First, the marijuana plant has hundreds of chemicals--unlike any actual medicine. Some of those chemicals are dangerous, and you don't know how much of them you are getting from a particular plant. Also, it's impossible to know the dose in a particular joint, because potency varies from plant to plant. The THC in marijuana causes lots of mind-altering effects that can make it dangerous to take if you're going to be driving or making decisions. Also, smoking hurts the lungs.
Fortunately, scientists are studying how to take the beneficial chemicals in marijuana and make actual medicines from them, without these bad properties. 
-Eric Wargo

why isnt there prevention for it?, New Jersey
There are drug abuse prevention programs, many of them with evidence that they work. I'm in the prevention research branch at NIDA and we support scientists around the country who are trying to determine the best ways to prevent drug abuse as well as how to get programs that work put into use by schools and communities. Learn more about our research branch here
-Belinda Sims

why people smoke/drink alcohol/do drugs if they know it's dangerous

-nekoC, New York

Because its pleasurable and our brain wants to repeat behaviors that activate pleasure centers in the brain (that is how we are hard wired in order to feed and survive). If food did not activate pleasure centers, you would not eat and then die.

-Nora Volkow

Why should people remain abstinent from drugs?

-helenson15, New York

Great question. I hope my answer helps. Staying abstinent is the best way to ensure that you keep your body healthy and your mind strong. Your brain continues to develop throughout your teen years into your early twenties, and drugs of abuse directly effect brain function. Did you know that starting to use drugs in the early teen years is related to increased risk for addiction? Finally, the only way to be certain that you won't become addicted is to be abstinent. Addiction can be life changing--affecting your ability to keep friends and become the person you dream of becoming.

-Aria Crump

Why shouldn't i do drugs everyone else is!

-Kellers Class, Texas
Hi Kellers Class
It may seem to you that everyone is using drugs but in actuality it is a relatively small proportion of youth who use illegal drugs and inappropriate use of prescription drugs.  More youth drink alcohol and smoke nicotine products that they usually get from older kids,  or  from unguarded supplies at home.  I am attaching information on how to connect to the Monitoring the Future Survey.  This will give you a lot more information, by age, geographic local (rural, urban) and drug.  I hope this helps you to see that not everyone is using drugs, although I wish it was lower.  Perhaps you could do a survey in your school as a project.  You could find out what is actually happening at your school and compare it to the MTF figure.  Ask your teacher to help you read the MTF site... luck
-Lis Robertson

why some people become so violent when drink alcohol?

-yesicast, Maryland

Good question. The reason for this is not entirely understood, but it probably has to do with the fact that alcohol interferes with the part of the brain responsible for helping us make good choices and control our urges. Also, alcohol interferes with the part of the brain that warns us when we're about to do something dangerous. Those two things can make it more likely that someone will become violent when they are drunk.

-Aaron White

why some people become so violent when they drink alcohol?

-yesicast, Maryland

Good question. The reason for this is not entirely understood, but it probably has to do with the fact that alcohol interferes with the part of the brain responsible for helping us make good choices and control our urges. Also, alcohol interferes with the part of the brain that warns us when we're about to do something dangerous. Those two things can make it more likely that someone will become violent when they are drunk.

-Aaron White

Why wine doesn't it make you really drunk?

-hellow kitty, New York

Hmm. Well, it does for most people. A glass of wine contains the same amount of alcohol as a beer or a shot. 

-Aaron White

Why won't the government stop tobacco selling in the US?

-Dixie + Chester, Maryland
Good question! It would save a lot of lives, but bit tobacco companies have a lot of influence and money invested in keeping cigarettes legal! The good thing is that cigarette use is going down, and that partly because of new laws regulating who is allowed to buy cigarettes, how they can be advertised and more.  Learn more about the effects of cigarettes and see other questions from teens like you!
-Dave Thomas

will you go craze if you take meth

-Allen12, Maryland
Good question, Allen12...but hard to answer definitely!  Meth affects the brain and in some users, psychiatric problems have been shown - specifically, it can change brain structure and how the brain functions, which can lead to aggression, violence, psychotic behavior, memory loss, and changes in your movement or motor system. Like other stimulants, meth can affect your appetite and sleep.  It is hard to predict which negative effects will occur, so it is much safer and healthier to avoid it.
-Joe Frascella

Will you remember the experiences you have when you get high? If you don't, then why do people get addicted to drugs for that positive rush they feel?

-Milgatroid, Massachusetts
Hi Milgatroid,
Great question!
Will you remember? Maybe, maybe not--it really depends on the drug and on the particular circumstances. But you probably don't need to remember the experience consciously to still get addicted. Yes, it's partly trying to recreate the rush. But addiction is also partly because areas of your brain start to expect the drug, and you feel bad if you don't take it.
Check out our page on addiction and how it works. The videos are pretty cool!--
-Eric Wargo

With drugs that make you hallucinate, what kinds of things do people see?

-2050719, Texas
Hi 2050719, It's different for each person and each drug. People often report seeing insects or animals, being in frightening situations, and seeing colors and people in distorted ways. Actually, it can be almost anything that is not real. Many people find the experience very uncomfortable because they are not in control of their feelings. Thanks for your question!
--Every day you don't use drugs you are a prevention campaign!-- 
-Marilyn Huestis

Would a drug cause a allergic reaction?

-Radog, New York

Hi Radog - yes, absolutely.  Many drugs can cause an allergic reaction, both legal drugs and illegal drugs. There is no easy way to predict who will have an allergic reaction, but if you have one and have difficulty breathing, develop a sudden skin rash, or have a sudden fever or chills you should see a doctor right away!

-Steve Gust

would cofee be considered a drug because its addicting?

-student 007, Maryland

Hi student 007--Sort of.  Repeated use of caffeine, the drug in coffee, can cause dependence and some people that give up drinking beverages with it or reduce their intake can have withdrawal.  It doesn't cause addiction--because there is a lot more to being addicted than just wanting the drug or feeling the need for it.    

-Lis Davis

Would Mental Health and Illness be the main cause of drugs and alcohol?

-AshleyP-P2, Texas
Hello there AshleyP-P2!  Thanks for the interesting - and actually, complicated question! The short answer is no, mental illness is not the main cause of substance abuse, yet it may contribute. At NIMH, we are finding that symptoms of mental illness can emerge during childhood and adolescence. Sometimes, these symptoms can be confusing and difficult to deal with, so some folks try drugs and/or alcohol to feel better (temporarily). NIDA has a great resource to check out: which might provide additional info. 
-Denny Pintello

would my girlfriend remember what happened last night if we were both high

-damn #5, New York

I would hope so!

-Joe Frascella

Would taking a drug cause a black out?

-Radog, New York

Hi Radog - many drugs can cause blackouts. Certainly alcohol, but also many others, such as sleeping pills or other types of drugs. If you want to ask about substance abuse treatment for yourself or someone you care about, call 1-800-662-HELP 24/7.  Or, you can go to

-Steve Gust

Would the amount of people taking drugs decrease if their was less peer pressure?

-friendlyperson1, New York
Hi Friendly person, I'm friendly too!
I would say yes ---but it is complicated because the reason any one person uses drugs is a combination of factors such as: family dynamics,  personality, how they react to stress, knowledge about drugs, etc. They might want to feel better, or do better in school and they mistakenly think it will help.  Certainly for youth who would not otherwise use drugs, peers can  play a huge role.  Also for kids who lack in self-confidence or the skills to say no to drug offers, peers can play a significant role in starting to use drugs.  If a friend wants you to try a drug are they really a friend? It might seem like everyone is doing it---especially when there are so many drugs on TV, movies and in popular music. But in fact, most kids don't use drugs---We actually have scientific surveys that show this. Maybe the non-users just don't talk about it as much as drug users do. 
-Lis Robertson

Would you get arrested if you were drunk driving?

-carlyjustdance, Maryland

Absolutely. For adults, driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08%, which would happen if a typical person had about 4-5 servings of alcohol in a few hours, is illegal in every state. For people under 21, it is illegal to drive after drinking any alcohol. It is important to know that even one serving of alcohol can make it more dangerous to drive. 

-Aaron White

WWhy does alcohol make you throw up?

-Afroman, New York

Two reasons. Sometimes people throw up after drinking because the alcohol irritates their stomachs and makes them feel full, bloated, and nauseous. Other times it's because a part of the brain that monitors the blood for toxins detects high levels of alcohol and the brain triggers vomiting to try to get rid of any remaining alcohol that might be in the stomach.

-Aaron White

y do men prodouse less sperm after smoking marijuana

-master gamer, Pennsylvania

Hello master gamer, I know that the sperm that men produce do not fertilize eggs as well as when marijuana is not used. The sperm's motility (it's ability to move toward the egg) is also affected by marijuana. Thanks for your question.

-Marilyn Huestis

yo what if one of your prescribed meds makes you have hallucinate??????????

-krista, Texas

Hey Krista!  Pleeease talk today with one or your parents and your doctor who prescribed yours meds. This is a serious side effect - so please, promise me that you'll do this right away. Your doctor will adjust the meds ASAP.

-Denny Pintello