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 is it so easy for teens to get drugs?

-lll,

Great question. Lots of things contribute the the availability of drugs. Sometimes people keep old bottles of prescrpition drugs and teens can access medicine cabinets. Alcohol and ciggarettes are legal and even though there are laws restricting teens from purchasing these drugs, they are available in homes and in some cases easy obtained by teens purchasing with fake ID's. Some illegal drugs are more readily available in communities than others and marijuana is legal for different purposes - medical use or recreational use - which makes it more available for teens to access. So, even though drugs may be available, make smart choices for your health, your brain, and your future!

-Redonna Chandler

why is it so easy to get juuls

-Natalie , New Hampshire

Hey there,

Juuls and e-cigarette use is on the rise among teens. In fact, between 2017 and 2018 the number of teens vaping increased 78%. FDA is working to help prevent teen vaping and protect the public from the dangers of all tobacco products. FDA finalized a rule to regulate all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. This means that, like all other tobacco products, you must be at least 18 or older to buy them. In some places, the minimum age to buy is even older, such as 19 or 21.

-Suzanne Lim

why is it so hard to avoid being peer pressured into doing drugs or drinking alcohol?

-bear, Oregon

Hello bear! This is an important question - some situations can be really hard to deal with. This website talks about some of the difficulties of peer pressure, and has some useful ideas that could be helpful.... Kristen

Check out https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/. We hope you find this resource useful!

-Susan Weiss

Why is it that some people react faster to drugs than others?

-gjaylin, Illinois

Great question! Lots of things can cause a person to react faster or slower to drugs. For example alcohol often "hits" lighter people faster than heavier people because it takes more alcohol to get the same effect. Everyone's body metabolizes (breaks down) drugs at different rates too. So if your body breaks down a drug slower than someone else, you might react to the drug more quickly. Whether or not you are a man or woman can also lead to differences in reaction to drugs because of differences in weight and muscle mass.

-John Satterlee

Why is it that you have to be 21 to buy alcohol, but only 18 to buy weed and other drugs like it?

-chamness_a, Oregon

The brain is still developing until the mid 20s and alcohol can damage the brain and alter how it develops during this time.

-Aaron White

Why is marijuana considered a "gateway" drug?

-nursedawn, Maryland

Good morning, nursedawn. Thank you for the question. Marijuana is sometimes called a gateway drug because people who use "harder" drugs often started with marijuana. Sometimes, alcohol and tobacco are included in this category for similar reasons. While most teens who use marijuana do not go on to use other drugs, early use of drugs like marijuana can increase a person's later risk for substance use, and risk for developing a substance use disorder. Here are some resources that you may find helpful listed below.
https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-gateway-drug
Marijuana: Facts for Teens booklet: www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-facts-teens/letter-to-teens

-Belinda Sims

Why is marijuana considered a dangerous drug if no one has ever died of an overdose?

-Anelson22, Oregon

It poses other risks, especially to teens. Its addictive, it affects how you think and learn, it can cause mental health problems (even psychosis in vulnerable individuals). and some people do die from marijuana because it increases the risk fo car crashes (especially if combined with alcohol).

-Emily Einstein

Why is marijuana considered bad if no one has died from it?

-LB, Illinois

Hi LB!! There are no reports of people fatally overdosing (dying) on marijuana alone; however, there are many ways to measure harm from drug use. People can feel some very uncomfortable side effects, especially when using marijuana with high THC levels. There are reports of marijuana users seeking treatment in emergency rooms, reporting unease and shaking, anxiety, paranoia, or hallucinations, and in rare cases, extreme psychotic reactions. Marijuana use can also increase risks for accidents and injuries, and puts some people at an increased risk of psychosis. Marijuana disrupts memory and so can interfere with users' ability to learn in school. Marijuana use by teens can interfere with normal brain development. About 17 percent of teens who use marijuana daily become dependent such that they find it hard to stop using when they want to.

-Michele Rankin

why is marijuana considered more dangerous than alcohol if no one has died from marijuana and alcohol is one of the leading causes of death

-Anelson22, Oregon

They are different and have different risks. Marijuana can kill if you drive afterwards, but the effects of alcohol are greater than marijuana on driiving (although the combination is worse than either alone). The other risks for marijuana are addiction, psychosis (in people who are vulnerable), problems with memory, motivation, and suicidal ideation. I think the one factor that makes marijuana a big concern is that we understand how it works and it directly acts on systems that are involved in brain development. But that is not to say that marijuana is more or less dangerous than alcohol. Its just different and we don't really know the full extent of its harms. Alcohol has been legal for a long time, is widely used at all ages for long periods of time so we have a much better understanding of its long term consequences.

-Jinhee Lee

Why is marijuana legal in some countries?

-rsm123,

It's complicated, but its not legal anywhere for youth because of the risks to brain development, academic achievement, and mental health, among others. There are economic reasons (e.g., states and countries are hoping for taxes and revenue); there are social injustice reasons--in this country, marijuana's illegality has harmed people of color more than others.

-Susan Weiss

why is marijuana not illegal in all states

-TH, Montana

Actually marijuana is still illegal at the federal (national) level, meaning it's still illegal in all states. While many states have legalized it for medical and/or recreational use, it's still technically a federal offense to possess marijuana. The federal government has decided not to actively pursue and arrest users in most states where it's legal, but that could change.

-Dave Thomas

why is marijuana not legal in all states

-AW, Montana

Thanks for the question. Marijuana remains illegal at the fedeal level and states across the country have takend different approaches to legalization with some states legalizing adult use, some legalizing medical use, and some allowing both. For the last few years, the Department of Justice has said it won't focus on enforcing Federal marijuana laws when state laws allow for possession of small amounts of marijuana and would give states the flexibility to test new policies for both ‘medical' and recreational use of marijuana. Whatever happens, public health experts are worried that these changing policies could lead to more use among teens. Regular marijuana use as a teen may harm the developing brain – making learning and memory worse – and can impair the ability to drive safely (especially when combined with alcohol).

-Kristen Huntley

Why is marijuana so bad, if you cannot overdose on it?

-Chelsea Trump, New Jersey

Hello ChT.
Such a great question. It is true that there are no consistent reports of lethal MJ overdoses. However, today's marijuana is more potent than it used to be and MJ users have been showing up in emergency rooms, especially after eating MJ products (like brownies) with high levels of THC (the active ingredient in MJ). But overdosing on a drug is not the only negative effect we should worry about. For a young person like you, the more likely consequences are that marijuana can impair your thinking (in the short term) and upset the development of your brain (in the long run).
Please respect your brain (is the only one you'll ever have) :)
Thanks for your interest and Good luck!

-Ruben Baler

Why is meth popular in Montana?

-CM, Montana

The popularity of drugs in different areas can sometimes just be the result of what drugs are most available.

-Emily Einstein

Why is MJ a Schedule one drug

-tschaidhef25, Oregon

Schedule I means that it has a high potential for abuse and no known medical use. And while its true that synthetic versions of THC (the ingredient in the plant that makes you high) or components of the plant [e.g. cannabidiol (Epidiolex)] have been approved by the FDA, to date the plant itself has not been approved as a medication to treat any illness.

-Susan Weiss

Why is mj a schedule one drug

-Kermit the toad, Oregon

Schedule I means that it has a high potential for abuse and no known medical use. And while it is true that synthetic versions of THC (the ingredient in the plant that makes you high) or components of the plant [e.g. cannabidiol (Epidiolex)] have been approved by the FDA, to date the plant itself has not been approved as a medication to treat any illness..

-Shwe Gyaw

why is pcp so dangerios

-DW, New Hampshire

HI DM - we don't hear too much about PCP these days because most teens now realize it is a pretty disastrous drug to take. PCP is a synthetic drug sold as tablets, capsules, or white or colored powder. It can be snorted, smoked, or eaten. Developed in the 1950s as an IV anesthetic, PCP was never approved for human use because of problems during clinical studies, including intensely negative psychological effects.

This drug's effects are very unpredictable. For example, it may make some people hallucinate and become aggressive, while others may become drowsy and passive. In some cases, police have ended up shooting people who are on PCP because they are impossible to control and often act violent. It is not known as a terribly addictive drug, which could be because its effects are so extreme.

-Suzanne Lim

Why is red bull so dangerous when you mix it with alcohol. Also why is the cannabis liquor not permitted in some countries yet cannabis is.

-Farkas,

Mixing alcohol and caffeine can be dangerous. Although caffeine is a stimulant and alcohol is a depressant, taking them together does not cancel out their individual effects. So drinking caffeine does not reduce alcohol's sedation effects. As a result, you may feel more awake, drink for a longer time, and think you are less drunk than you are. This can be very dangerous. People who consume alcohol with energy drinks are three times more likely to binge drink than those who do not.

-Marsha Lopez

Why is smoking bad?

-jamyia, Illinois

Cigarette smoking can harm nearly every organ (or part) of your body. Cigarette smoke contains 7,000+ chemicals, many of which are toxic, including more than 70 that can cause cancer.

-Suzanne Lim

why is smoking crack seen as cool?

-El Jeff, Illinois

Hello El Jeff,
I assure you that most people do not think smoking crack is cool. Peer pressure can be a major factor in teens choosing to try drugs. Crack is incredibly addictive and is very dangerous. People with unknown heart conditions have died using crack cocaine. I hope you find the people who realize how dangerous and uncool crack, or any other dangerous drug, really is. For more information about drugs and their risks, see: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/

-Dave Thomas

why is smoking marijuana deemed bad if its also used for medicinal/ calming purposes?

-axg, Maryland

Dear axg,
There are many medications that are really helpful in the right circumstances but can be misused or cause addiction. Many of the pills that some people misuse (like opioids, stimulants or sedatives) are very effective medications but are also a big problem in the wrong hands. While we need more research, cannabis may have some medical uses but it can also be addictive and can cause other harms. Here's a link to our website that has some information you may find helpful: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana-medicine

-Wilson Compton

why is smoking weed bad

-swe, Illinois

Hey SWE!

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. Short-term effects of marijuana use include euphoria, distorted perceptions, memory impairment, and difficulty thinking and solving problems. https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/history-of-cannabis-part-1 Research shows that about one in six of those who start marijuana use as a teen will become addicted. That doesn't sound harmless to me!

Marijuana: Facts for Teens booklet: www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-facts-teens/letter-to-teens

-Dave Thomas

why is the alcohol age 21 but in other countries it is younger?? maybe if the age were lower kids wouldn't get wasted and blackout every time they get a chance to drink

-swe, Illinois

It turns out that teenagers in the US drink less than teenagers in Europe, including in France and other countries with lower drinking ages. And alcohol use has decreased a lot among teens in the US over the last few decades. Also, college students who are old enough to buy alcohol legally (age 21+) drink much more than students who are underage. In other words, there is no reason to think that lowering the drinking age would reduce alcohol use by people under 21. Evidence suggests that it may even increase alcohol use.

-Roger Little

why is the legal age to buy alcohol 21 but you can by weed at 18?

-chamness_a, Oregon

Thanks for the question chamness_a. The states where marijuana is legal have different regulations, but in all states in which recreational marijuana is legal, the minimum age to purchase recreational marijuana is 21.

-Marsha Lopez

why is tobacco allowed when it causes more deaths then almost any other drug?

-Blackdrian, Arizona

Hi Blackdrian.

Thanks for your question.

Turns out that under federal law, cigarettes and other tobacco products can't be banned by agencies like FDA.

What we are trying to do is use the tools of regulation to prevent young people from every starting to use a tobacco product, and figure out how to reduce the harms of the products for those who continue to use them.

But you are right, the disease and death caused by tobacco use is enormous...almost 500,000 Americans die prematurely every year from tobacco use.

-Mitch Zeller

Why is vaping bad

-EvAn MaYnArD, Maryland

Hi EvAn MaYnArD.

No teen should vape. You should know that vape products contain nicotine and the nicotine in these products can be addictive.

Were you aware that a teen who tries an e-cigarette is more likely to try a regular cigarette?

So there are real risks linked to vaping. And lots of teens wrongly assume the products carry no risk at all.

Check out our website for more cool information: https://therealcost.betobaccofree.hhs.gov/gm/hacked-ends.html

-Mitch Zeller

Why is vaping bad for you? Is it worse than normal cigarettes?

-eb21, Maryland

Hey there eb21.

The problem with vaping and teens starts with nicotine.

Vape products contain nicotine and the nicotine can be addictive.

Also, a teen who vapes is more likely to try a regular cigarette compared to a teen who doesn't vape at all.

We've learned from our research that lots of teens aren't even aware of the fact that vapes can contain nicotine.

Check out our website for more cool info: https://therealcost.betobaccofree.hhs.gov/gm/hacked-ends.html

-Mitch Zeller

why is vaping bad? or what are the effects for it

-Sanchez_151431, California

Hey there Sanchez_151431.

Here's what we know.

Teens shouldn't use any vaping product. They contain nicotine and nicotine is addictive. And a teen that tries an e-cigarette is more likely to try a cigarette.

Researchers are still studying the long-term health effects of vaping.

-Mitch Zeller

Why is vaping on the rise

-Chungus, Illinois

You are absolutely right, the Monitoring the Future Survey shows an alarming rise in teen vaping: https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2018/12/monitoring-futur...

There are many reasons driving the popularity of vaping, particularly among teens. These include that it's a new, technology-based device; kids are curious about it; it's easily accessible; widely promoted on social media; and has many enticing flavors; among others. But make no mistake -- it is a tobacco product, and therefore likely contains nicotine (the addictive chemical in tobacco) among other harmful chemicals. The research is still going on, but some studies show that kids who vape are at increased risk for starting to smoke cigarettes. And for smokers who want to quit, it is not clear whether vaping helps them quit or whether vaping allows smokers to continue to use tobacco where smoking is not permitted. Stay tuned -- more research on this is coming out soon!

-Tisha Wiley

why is vaping on the rise?

-Danny Devito, Illinois

Hi Danny Devito -
You're right! Vaping is on the rise. Between 2017 and 2018 there was a 78% increase of youth e-cigarette use among high schoolers. 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.

-Suzanne Lim