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.

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Can you smoke steroids

-Smokey, Alabama


-David Shurtleff

Can you tell me what speed balls are and why they are so dangerous

-rbartlett, New Hampshire

Hello New Hampshire! Speedball is a combination of heroin and cocaine and this is a combination that can kill you. Heroin is an opiate drug that is synthesized from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of the Asian opium poppy plant. Heroin enters the brain, where it is converted to morphine and binds to receptors known as opioid receptors. These receptors are located in many areas of the brain (and in the body), especially those involved in the perception of pain and in reward. Opioid receptors are also located in the brain stem—important for automatic processes critical for life, such as breathing (respiration), blood pressure, and arousal. Heroin overdoses frequently involve a suppression of respiration. Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that not only affects your brain, but also speeds up your heart, increases your blood pressure, and heats up your brain. The combination can have fatal consequences. This link will take you to more information about the impact of drugs on the brain and body:

-Nancy Pilotte

casn your sexual oreintation be changed by using any drugs, legal or illegal?

-Zach H, Maryland

LOL! Did someone tell you that? HA! No way....just think how many people smoke and drink, did it change their orientation? Nope.

-Cindy Miner

Could marijuana make psychotic?

-Zach A, Colorado

Yes--if you take too much of it, you can have a psychotic response, which usually disappears when the drug's effects wear off. However, in some people who are genetically (or otherwise) vulnerable, marijuana use may contribute to a longer lasting psychosis. This is especially true if you start using when you are young.

-Susan Weiss

Do you know some of the prominent dangers of the drug Salvia?

-iank, New Mexico

Salvia is a mild, mind-altering herb, common to southern Mexico and Central and South America. See for some interesting facts. It is currently not linked to many health or crime effects, but perhaps effects might be detected in future research. Some early studies in animals shows that the drug in the salvia plant causes memory and learning problems.

-Dave White

do you think any of these questions are stupid?

-eat, Pennsylvania

Not stupid, but some are funnier than others :)

-Joni Rutter

Do you think meth is good for the human body?

-Jatin, New York

No, very bad in fact. See For some pretty gross pictures of the effects on the human body, see the Sara Bellum Blog.

-Jen Katt

do you think the electronic cigarette help fight addiction effectivly?

-Billy D, Maryland

Electronic cigarettes are so new to the scene that we don't have a lot of scientific data on their effects yet and we don't even know that much about what's in all of them. The ones that have been tested contain varying amounts of nicotine (in fact some e-cigs say they have nicotine but don't). The nicotine is dissolved in another chemical so that it can be heated usually by a small battery in the e-cig. There have been a few reports of e-cigarettes exploding when people use them causing some serious injuries to their hands and faces. The bottom don't know what you are getting in these don't believe the hype, hype usually means they want your money. Personally, I want to keep my money to spend on fun things, like treats for my dogs...or going to a University of Maryland basketball game!

-Cindy Miner

could weed be good for you?

-Young J, Illinois

There's some evidence that marijuana can cause pain relief in some people, but whether these supposed benefits outweigh marijuana's effects on the brain or whether they're worth the risk of becoming addicted is controversial. A recent study found that people who used marijuana as teens (but not as adults) had a slightly lower IQ as adults, long after they quit smoking it.

-Dave White

could you take a drug to stay up late

-Bontaseek, Utah

Some people take prescription stimulants to stay awake, but this isn't smart since it can cause unintended and negative side effects. Of course, caffeine is also a drug that people use to stay up--Starbucks anyone?

-Jen Katt

Dear Dr. Marsha Lopez,I love your axolotls' names!! Huge HP fan... :)and on a more serious note, what is polysubstance use?

-*DN*, North Carolina

Hey *DN* I will let my kids know you like their choice of pet name :)! You ask a fantastic question and one that we struggle with to define ourselves. Generally polysubstance use means using more than one drug (including alcohol), but whether it means co-ingestion (taking at the same time) or being a user of multiple types of drugs across one evening or other period of use or using different types of drugs at different times - all of that depends on how the researcher is defining it. What is important to know is that polysubstance use is pretty dangerous because some drugs interact with each other in ways you might not expect and these users are more likely to end up in emergency rooms with overdose and other adverse events.

-Marsha Lopez

Dear scientist, does it depend on your age for different effects of cocaine? Like for example, if a 13 year old took cocaine, what would the effects be?

-JordynB, Colorado

Hey JordynB: That's a wicked good question! (I lived in Boston for many years and haven't outgrown using 'wicked' :) One big effect is that teens are more vulnerable to becoming addicted! People who begin using drugs as young teens are at greater risk of becoming addicted compared to those who begin drug use as an adult because the teenage brain is still growing, like the rest of you! The part of the brain that controls impulses is not fully formed in teenagers. Scientists have shown that the human brain continues to develop until the age of about 25--no other organ in the human body is like this! Wowza! Check out one of our NIH scientist's work on this: Keep asking good questions and get accurate facts to make healthy decisions for your brain and body!

-Joni Rutter

Dear Scientist,What does Cocaine do to your reason time does it make it slow or fast?

-Stephanie.s, Colorado

Hi Stephanie, Thanks for your question. Cocaine is part of the drug class of stimulants, which typically would speed up reaction times and reasoning times. But, of course, despite its making you energetic, cocaine has lots of negative effects associated with it. Cocaine is powerfully addictive and also increases body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. Users risk heart attacks, respiratory failure, strokes, seizures, abdominal pain, and nausea. In rare cases, sudden death can occur on the first use of cocaine or unexpectedly afterward. For more info on cocaine, check out:

-Joe Frascella

Do all drugs get you addicted??

-Yramirez, Texas

The effects of drugs depends on your genes, environment and age. If you possess certain genes that might make you more sensitive to the rewarding effects of drugs plus family/friends that use drugs, this combination works to maintain the drug-taking behavior, making it extremely difficult to quit. Although taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction, the earlier that drug use begins, the more likely it will progress to more serious abuse, which poses a special challenge to adolescents. To find out more, go to:

-Will Aklin

do all drugs get you high?

-rcarranza, Texas

Although not all drugs get you high, most drugs of abuse are chemical substances that affect the brain, such as opioids or hallucinogens and can cause addiction and/or habituation.

Here's how: Drugs have a very clever way of hijacking your brain to make you think they are pleasurable: they cause the brain to release a substance called dopamine. But these feelings are short-lived. Dopamine--a chemical in the brain called a neurotransmitter--is closely involved in important aspects of brain function, which makes it a key player in drug abuse and addiction. Dopamine is present in certain regions of the brain that control movement, emotion, thought, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. So, all over! In fact, when you have a nice meal or listen to your favorite music, dopamine signals your brain that something important has happened that needs to be remembered--prompting you to repeat the behavior. Drugs can cause a much more powerful release of dopamine so that such natural pleasures are no longer as pleasurable, because they cannot produce the same 'high' that drug abusers remember and want to experience again. Eventually, people become focused on obtaining and using drugs at every opportunity--although recreating the initial high becomes nearly impossible. Dopamine is also involved in other brain disorders that have nothing to do with drug abuse: the tremors and other symptoms that characterize Parkinson's disease, for example, are the direct result of the loss of neurons that make dopamine. Addiction is a disease characterized by uncontrollable drug craving, drug seeking, and drug use that persist even in the face of extremely negative consequences, such as losing your job, doing poorly in school, getting arrested, or getting really sick. Addiction develops because of changes to the brain caused by drug use. Initially, all drugs of abuse, either directly or indirectly, increase the activity of dopamine in the brain's reward centers, which is what makes people feel good. However, with continued drug use and excessive activation of dopamine neurons, the brain starts to adapt to the good feeling, so more drug is needed to achieve it. This causes people to become dependent on the drug, which means they feel physically bad when it is not in their system (and go through withdrawal when they don't have it), and to seek and take the drug compulsively--without even thinking about it. Another way that drugs change the brain is to affect the ability to make decisions, such as judging what's important, what's healthy, and what's dangerous. The compulsive seeking and using of drugs even in the face of potentially devastating and deadly consequences is the essence of addiction. Do you know where you can find out everything you wanted to know about drug abuse? Click here for some drug facts! Thx for the great question!

-Joni Rutter

Do only depressed people use drugs

-Bulls23, Pennsylvania

Sometimes people who are depressed will use drugs to try to feel better, but drugs are more commonly used by people who start using the drugs to fit in or be cool. They may have friends who use drugs and pressure them to try them. But it's not a good idea to even try them once! You can get more information at:

-Dave White

do people do drugs because they feel like some thing is missing in there lives

-sparky, Maryland

People do drugs for many reasons and that's one of them. Many kids do drugs because of peer pressure - their friends are doing drugs so they feel pressured to try them. Unfortunately doing drugs won't solve any problems such as having something missing from your life! Its better to stay away from drugs and find another way to deal with any problems! For more information see:

-Aria Crump

do people do drugs to releave pain ?

-woodlandms, Illinois

I like this question! Most drug addicts are not having much fun. They tend to be suffering, and the abuse of drugs is mostly to reduce their suffering and pain, both psychological and physical.

-Dave Thomas

do people drug other people?

-HChatigny, New Hampshire

Good question. Unfortunately people do drug other people. The most common cause of this is 'date rape' this is no joke and carries the same penalty as rape. We have no real statistics, but I would guess the next reason is a type of bullying, where they drug them and then take embarrassing pictures and other similar activities.

-Richard Denisco

do people get addicted to drugs they're first time or get addicted the more times they take a drug

-hopesolo, Illinois

People dont get addicted the first time they take the drug. They have to take it several times to become addicted. However, some people require less exposure than others making them particularly more vulnerable to addiction.

-Nora Volkow

Do people get aggressive when they get high

-redneckgirl, Maryland

Depends on the person and the drug taken. Some people get aggressive, whereas others become passive. So there is no specific answer. For more information about drug abuse and addiction go to:

-Joe Frascella

Do people get depressed when they use drugs?

-fun101, Maryland

Sometimes. Drugs can be both the cause and effect--can cause mood changes or be the effect of attempts to self-medicate feelings of sadness or emptiness--usually, in the end, only making things worse for people trying to counter these feelings.

-Jen Katt

do people get more depressed when they use drugs?

-kruiz, Texas

Many drugs with continued use have been shown to cause depression...for example, cocaine, amphetamines/methamphetamine, alcohol, ecstasy, marijuana, opioids, etc. For more information on drugs, check out:

-Joe Frascella

do people really eat faces when take bathsalts? does that make you a canable

-Shanaynay S, Missouri

Hi Shanaynay, Bath salts are bad news, but they won't make you eat faces or act like a cannibal (probably)! Some violent and cannibalistic attacks reported in the news last year were attributed to bath salts by the media before the facts were known, and those drugs turned out not to be involved. The 'face eater' in Miami turned out only to have marijuana in his system when his blood was tested. But bath salts (technically called synthetic cathinones) have powerful stimulant and hallucinogenic properties--they can cause hyperactivity and delirium and even violent psychosis in a minority of users. For more on bath salts, see Eric

-Eric Wargo

do people smoke and do drugs, because they think they are cool?

-chastings, New Hampshire

Thanks for a good question. Peer pressure does cause some people to try drugs. Drugs activate chemicals in your brain such as opioids, dopamine, serotonin, and many others. The problem is that after a while, the 'reward system' in the brain that involves these chemicals takes over and it soon becomes too hard to stop using drugs. You go from 'using drugs' to 'needing drugs.' Imagine if someone puts a plastic bag over your head, your desire for air becomes so strong that it overwhelms any other desire. That is what it is like when dopamine takes over. To find out more about drug addiction, go to:

-Richard Denisco

do people take drugs mostly cause they have depression

-fhoosein, Texas

Hey Sugar Land Middle. People begin taking drugs for lots of reasons but common ones include: they are bored and want to experience something new, they feel bad and have heard drugs can make you feel good, or their family/friends have encouraged them to use drugs. Regardless of the reason people try drugs, they have a powerful impact on the brain, body, behavior, and shoud be avoided. To learn more about drugs and teens see:

-Redonna Chandler

Do people take steriods to be stronger or faster?

-SilverDolphin13, New Jersey

Anabolic steroids, like testosterone, are used by people who want to get stronger or appear bigger or to lose weight. Although your own body produces steroids, people who abuse them are usually taken in far greater doses than those that are prescribed by doctors to treat medical conditions. But there is a down side when steroids are used for such non-medical purposes, because they disrupt the normal production and balance of hormones in the body, and can lead to a long list of alterations, such as reduced sperm production, shrinking of the testicles, male-pattern baldness and breast development in men. In the female body, anabolic steroids abuse can cause masculinization. This means that females may experience decreases in body fat, coarsening of the skin, and deepening of the voice. Women may also experience excessive growth of body hair (chest, chin, back, etc.) and lose the hair on their head. Examples of other effects are increased risk of blood clots and damage to heart muscle. Most important, with continued steroid use, some of these effects can become irreversible. Our teen site has more information on steroids: Other steroids like estrogens, progesterones, and cortisol are not anabolic and have other uses, ranging from contraception to immune suppression (such as asthma inhalers). These do not build muscle (like the anabolic steroids) and in fact, break muscle down. Your body produces all these steroids in very small amounts at times when they are needed, and they help maintain a healthy body.

-Nancy Pilotte

do people take steroids just because they want to be better at sports or is there another reason

-fhoosein, Texas

Hi fhoosein, Very interesting question. People take steroids for a variety of reasons. Some people are interested in using steroids to change their appearance especially to build muscle or loose weight. Other people take steroids to improve their athletic performance. However, there are negative consequences to taking steriods - some of them serious and permanent. For example did you know that when males take steroids they can reduce sperm production, shrink the testicles, lead to male-pattern baldness and even breast development. More information on steroids can be found at: Drug use does not solve problems or get teens what they really want or really need. And, stopping drug use once you start or become addicted is really difficult so it is best not to start. For more info and resources on youth drug use go to: this helps! Harold

-Harold Perl

do pills affect your lungs?

-thdfert, Maryland

not unless you smoke them. some pills (painkillers, tranquilizers) can suppress breathing.

-Susan Weiss

Do shrooms grow in the ground with certain bad molecules or do people put the bad molecules in shrooms?

-Spencer t, Colorado

They come fully equipped with all the chemicals they have. They usually grow in the woods, on the forest floor, or on dead tree trunks. But picking mushrooms is not for the uneducated--many are highly poisonous and can curtail your career plans.

-Nancy Pilotte