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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Do you get the heebie-jeebies when you try to quit drugs?

-cocainrelli, New York

Good Morning cocainrelli! Thanks for your question! Yes, many people can get the “heebie-jeebies” – also known as “withdrawal”, when they try to quit using drugs. Withdrawal happens when a person is dependent on a drug, so their body and brain have changed after repeated long-term use of the drug and their body now craves and needs the drug. When they don't have access to the drug for any number of reasons – no money, no supplier, trying to quit, etc. – they can enter withdrawal. Withdrawal effects vary for different drugs. You have probably seen heroin withdrawal on TV and in movies. It is difficult – with terrible cramping, vomiting, and inability to think about anything else but getting more drugs. Marijuana withdrawal is more subtle but can affect sleep, and mood – making people highly irritated and upset for weeks. Alcohol withdrawal is very dangerous and people can die without treatment because seizures can happen. Unfortunately, when people are in withdrawal they frequently reuse the drug to stop the withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal is one of the main reasons that people have a difficult time stopping using drugs even when they want to.

-Jeff Schulden

Do you have a backround of drugs?

-barackobama, New York
Dear Mr. President,
 
It is an honor to speak with you today!!!! 
 
I was trained as a pain researcher, and hired at NIDA since we have a pain research program.  Some medicines that are used for treating pain are also abused by people who aren't in pain.  Since working at NIDA I have picked up an understanding of drug abuse.   
 
I hope that answer your question, sir.  
 
Dave 
-Dave Thomas

do you have less chances of getting drunk if you drink on a full stomach?

-asdfghjkl, Maryland

Yes, for sure. Drinking on a full stomach can reduce the peak amount of alcohol that makes it into the body by 30%, which is a big amount. 

-Aaron White

Do you just sit at your computer and answer questions

-aram_dadourian, New York

Oh I wish my job were that easy. Today I am sitting at a computer in a large room filled with other scientists answering smart questions like yours. But this only happens one day a year. While I like being able to share all this science with kids like you, my regular job is very different. I manage a division at NIDA that supports scientists all over the world who are doing some very exciting research into how drug abuse is treated. We take research findings and "translate" them into practical steps doctors and other health providers can take to help people with addictions get better. I love my job. We need more young people like you to become interested in science...even thought about it as a career? 

-Joe Frascella

do you know what DMT is

-squallaaa, Maryland
Hi squallaaa,
Yes I do know all about DMT! It's a chemical that is related to serotonin, one of the neurotransmitters in your brain that controls mood and other things. Some hallucinogens like psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and ayahuasca (a vine used in South American religious ceremonies) contain DMT, and produce powerful hallucinogenic effects--altering a person's sense of reality. 
Great question! 
-Eric Wargo

do you personaly think the drug age should be higher lower or stay the same?

-elephant11elisa, Pennsylvania

Hello elephant11elisa, I'm assuming you mean for alcohol and tobacco since these are the only legal drugs. Personally, I think it's a good thing that you have to be age 18 to smoke tobacco and 21 to drink alcohol because they present so many health risks for young people. Better to wait and make a careful decision about use because of these health dangers.

-Marilyn Huestis

Do you remember the experiences you have when you get high? If you don't, why do people get addicted to the positive rush they get when using drugs?

-sharkesha476584, Massachusetts
Hey sharkesha476584!  Depends on the drug, how much is taken, etc., but in general, people will remember their experiences when getting high, which often is why people will take drugs again, to recapture the feelings. The positive rush is the result of the brain chemical, dopamine, that is released in the brain reward areas.  Often, the more you take the drug, the less its effect because you build up a tolerance. So users find they need to escalate the amount they take, which increases the risk of harmful effects including addiction.  
 
You can read more about this very fascinating brain pathway in The Science of Addiction, and watch videos explaining why drugs are hard to quit and how you become addicted by linking here:
 
 
 
-Joe Frascella

Do you think 12-step programs are necessary for recovery from drug or alcohol abuse?

-Kfitzy28, Massachusetts

Hi Kfitzy28.  This is a very important question.  The simple answer is that 12 step programs are not necessary for recovery.  Some people find 12 step programs helpful, but others do not.  There are many different types of treatments for drug addiction, but the best ones are those that have been proven to work through rigorous empirical scientific studies, which are called "evidence-based" treatment.  You can find out more about the different types of treatment here: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-dru...

-Steve Grant

Do you think marijuana should be legal in all states?

-lordkickbutt69, New York

Hi lord - If tobacco and alcohol are any example, marijuana should not be legal at all.  It has a lot of detrimental effects on the brain and behavior.  There are a lot of reasons to consider changing the legal penalties for using it.  But making it legal will only make it more available, and that will lead to more people becoming addicted, more traffic accidents related to its use, and more effects on the developing teenage brain.   

-Steve Gust

Do you think people in the army that has fought and seen alot and been threw use drugs to deal with all what is going on mentally in the war

-ericwoods5, Mississippi
Hello, ericwoods5, I appreciate your concern about our service members' health in times of conflict.  Overall drug use is lower in the U.S. military than in the civilian population, but alcohol, tobacco and prescription drug use are higher among men and women in military service.  As you suggested, those with multiple deployments and exposure to combat are at the greatest risk for developing substance use problems such as smoking, heavy drinking, and are more likely to be prescribed pain medications (nearly 4 million prescriptions in 2009) which can be addictive. If you or someone you know could be suffering from a substance abuse problem, 

call 1-800-662-HELP, 24/7 or go to http://www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ to find information about treatment centers in your area.

-Marsha Lopez

do you think pills are okay to be taken for depression?

-#hella, California

Hi Hella--that's a good question and one that a lot of people ask!  Research studies suggest that both antidepressant medications and specific forms of counseling or talk therapy can help people with depression.  Some studies suggest that a combination of medication and counseling/therapy works best for many people.  We know that certain kinds of therapy have been shown to work in research studies.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT (which helps people change their thoughts and behavior), and Interpersonal Psychotherapy or IPT (which focuses on difficulties in relationships) both can help.  Just like different people experience depression differently, responses to treatment can be different and sometimes it takes a while to find a treatment that is a good match.  For more information about treatments for depression: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml#part6. Here's more on depression and teens: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml.

-Joel Sherrill

Do you think that celebrities influence teen's views on drugs?

-#FreeBieber, New York
Hi FreeBieber. Good question. I am interested in what you and your friends think about this. My answer: I think youth tend to believe things as they are portrayed in music videos and in the media. The problem is that drug use is often glamorized and glorified and the "truth" about the consequences and realities of drug use are not portrayed accurately. I wish more celebrities would help spread the word and portray the negative affects and realities of drug use and also portray healthy alternatives and a healthy lifestyle. I also think that peers can help influence teen views on drugs. So, you and your friends can play an important role in sharing the facts on drugs and drug use with your friends and encouraging your friends to not start using drugs. For more information on drugs and their effects go to teens.drugabuse.gov.
 
 
-Jacqueline Lloyd

do you think that people arrested for DUI should be forgiven easily?

-sampugliese, New York

That's a tough question. We know that strict laws prevent people from drinking and driving and reduce the number of repeat offenders. So, forgiving them easily probably would be a very bad thing and would lead to more drunk driving deaths.

-Aaron White

Do you think that when Colorado legalized marijuana for medical reasons that other states will.

-Hamlet, Pennsylvania
Hi Hamlet,
Actually, Colorado even legalized marijuana for recreational use, so the interesting question is whether people will still try to get "medical marijuana" in that state now. But yes, it looks like more states might legalize medical marijuana. So far, 20 states have done so, and it's on the ballot in more.
Great question! 
-Eric Wargo

Do you think the pot is not legal, because the government has no way of taxing it?

-jstreet, Vermont
Hi jstreet,
thanks for the thoughtful question. We know that teens have a lot of questions about marijuana. Right now the federal government has not made the drug legal. However, two states (Washington and Colorado) have made it legal and this presents a difficult legal question about which law---state or federal---should rule.  In the meantime, those states will tax the sales of marijuana and many people are watching to see if there will be more health problems in the states that decided to legalize it. While the lawyers and legislators argue this debate, public health experts are hoping teens will stay away from marijuana because research shows it can harm the developing brain. 
-Susan Weiss

do you think they should band beer and not weed because more die a year of drinking but you dont really hear of people dying of weed

-suicide silence, New Mexico

Interesting question. It's not a question we can answer but one that you, as a member of the next generation of leaders, can decide!

-Aaron White

Does marijuana really destroys your brain cells ? when the scientists tested the monkeys they put a mask full of smoke without breathing for 5 min

-David, Texas
David,
That is a VERY important question. Right now, marijuana is being made legal in many states for medicinal purposes, and in some states for recreational purposes.   We need to know if it will hurt people's brain, and if so, in what ways.  We are increasing research in the impact of marijuana so we can understand the impact of marijuana on the brain and the entire body.  
 
As for the study you describe, obviously not having air will cause brain damage, but I'm betting that the experiment involved putting a mask on and giving the monkeys a mix of marijuana smoke and regular air. This would be a way of testing how marijuana impacted the brain and other organs too.  
Dave 
-Dave Thomas

Does marijuna affect the brain cells? How? Does it hurt the brain?

-adf91, Pennsylvania
Hey adf91!  You get a gold star for this question--good job.  Marijuana affects brain cells in a few different ways. It can certainly hurt the brain, but the damage may not be observable.  We know that there are certain receptors in the brain called cannabinoid receptors (CB receptors) that are important for neuronal connections (how the brain is "wired").  When the active ingredient in marijuana (THC) binds to those CB receptors, it can hijack the neurons and cause them to deviate from their normal connections--the neurons can go "haywire".  
 
If you'd like to know more about how marijuana affects the brain, visit the NIDA for teens drug fact website and find "what are the short-term effects of marijuana use" and "what are the long-term health effects of marijuana use."  https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/marijuana 
 
The effects of marijuana on the brain is still an active area of research, so stay tuned!
-Joni Rutter

Does mixing alcohol with another drink, like iced tea or fruit punch, make it not as strong as to drinking it by itself?

-iloveschool77, Pennsylvania
Yes, if the other drink doesn't contain any alcohol, then adding alcohol to that drink will dilute the alcohol and make the new drink less strong. Here is one way to think about it:
A can of beer (12 oz) and a shot of vodka (1.5 oz) contain exactly the same amount of actual alcohol. But, in the shot, the alcohol is concentrated in a smaller volume of liquid so it's much "stronger". Importantly, the effects of alcohol on your body, including your brain, don't depend on drinking strong drinks. In other words, a person who drinks beer instead of shots can get just as drunk and suffer the same impairments.  
You can learn more about the effects of alcohol at: http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/
-Aaron White

Does mj contain nicotine?

-felisa.holden, Virginia

no

-Nora Volkow

does molly without a doubt make you sweat?

-tmac316, Maryland
Molly or MDMA typically affects the body's ability to self regulate body temperature, and Molly is often used at raves where people are dancing for hours in crowded, hot places.  Given the drug's effects combined with physical activity like dancing, Molly tends to make people sweat, become dehydrated, and overheated.
 
For more information on MDMA, check out: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/mdma-ecstasy-or-molly
-Joe Frascella

Does nationality effect vonerability to drugs?

-Kim Jong Un, New York

Way cool question, Kim Jong Un. Genes and environment are both important things to consider in terms of one's vulnerability.  For example, the Irish are known for alcoholism, but not all Irish are alcoholics.

Did you know that drug abuse is about 50% genetic and 50% environmental?  That means that when we study drug abuse, we have to consider both nature and nurture.  And, what I think is most interesting about genetics of drug abuse is that even if you have "bad genes" the environments you are in can override the genetics- cool!  
 
Keep up the good work in school, and check out our drug facts to get the most accurate information to make healthy decisions for your brain and body!
-Joni Rutter

does nicotine have any other effects than being addictive

-The Next, New York

Thanks for your question - Here's some info on nicotine: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/tobacco-addiction/nicotine-addictive

-Cindy Miner

Does non-alcoholic beer have negative side effects?

-Gambit, Maryland

Probably not except for the calories. Legally, non-alcohol beverages are allowed to contain up to 0.5% alcohol, which is about the amount that might be present in fruit juice as a result of natural fermentation. A standard beer contains 5% alcohol, ten times the amount that can be present in non-alcoholic beverages. So, non-alcohol beverages aren't entirely non-alcoholic, but do not contain a significant amount of alcohol. 

-Aaron White

Does one just inject or ingest the milky sap from the seed pod of the opium poppy plant for a high?

-xander, New York
Hi xander, You are right that the opium poppy plant contains morphine and other opiates. If you ingest the milky sap you would feel the effects. Effects would be less than if you injected the sap or smoked it. Injecting such a complex mixture could be very dangerous because of the other components in the plant and the thickness of it. 
  
-Marilyn Huestis

Does pot effect your behavior?

-1203, Maryland

The short answer -- yes, pot affects your behavior.  Studies have shown a connection between regular marijuana use and increased rates of anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia, a very serious mental illness. Marijuana’s impact on learning and memory can last for days or weeks after the other side effects wear off. Did you know that if you use marijuana as a teen, your IQ level could actually drop as an adult? See our marijuana fact sheet:  http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana and our book for teens: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-facts-teens

-Joe Frascella

Does rehab treatment really help people who are addicted?

-Bob the Builder, New York
Yes.  In terms of rehab, medication and behavioral therapy are important tools to help people who use drugs. Helping people understand the reason why they use drug and help them develop alternative healthy behaviors is essential. Additionally, helping people who use drugs involves a focus on all aspects of a person's life including, medical, mental health, and social aspects--all important to achieve a drug-free lifestyle.
 
 
 
 

To find general information on substance abuse prevention and treatment, a good place to begin is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Web site, www.samhsa.gov. -Will Aklin

Does smoking marijuana allow you to concentrate more?

-Adamson14, Texas

while you are intoxicated with marijuana you will be less able to concentrate and to learn

-Nora Volkow

Does smoking relieve stress?

-l3bron, New York
Nicotine is a stimulant in the brain, it wakes it up and gets it more excited.  However, outside the brain it tends to have a calming effect.  Thus, some people smoke during stress to calm themselves down.   
 
Still, smoking is very dangerous, and there are many safer ways to relieve stress (taking a few deep smoke-free breaths, going for a walk, taking a hot bath...).  
-Dave Thomas

Does smoking weed have effect on your ability to get pregnant

-Kieandra Kessay, Arizona

This is an important question. Yes, smoking weed can affect your ability to get pregnant. It turns out that there are receptors for marijuana in the sperm and in the lining of the uterus. If you smoke marijuana it can affect the ability of the sperm to swim to the egg and if the egg is fertilized it can affect the ability of the egg to attach to the uterus. But even more importantly, if you smoke weed while you are pregnant it can affect your baby's development.  Recent research suggests smoking marijuana also contributes to stillbirth. Babies and weed don't mix well.

-Marilyn Huestis