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 marijuana help you with medical problems

-kyle, Texas

Hey kyle, Marijuana for medical use has been in the news a lot lately. The marijuana plant has not been approved by the FDA for the treatment of any medical condition. There is early research suggesting that some of the active ingredients in marijuana, like THC and cannabidiol (CBD), may potentially help treat things like epilepsy, cancer, obesity, or addiction. Scientists are studying these ingredients to try to develop new medications. A pill form of THC (an active ingredient in marijuana) is already available for certain conditions, such as nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy and weight loss in patients with AIDS. However, smoked marijuana is unlikely to be an ideal medication because of its negative health effects, including the risk of addiction and the damage that smoking can do to the lungs.

-Maureen Boyle

Can marijuana help you with PTSD. please answer ( I need the extra credit)

-Zach Lipson, New York

That is a great question. The short answer is no. But there are some studies going on to see if some of the chemicals in marijuana might make a difference.

-Josh Gordon

Can marijuana make you less smart?

-mvarghese, Texas

Yes, particualrly if you smoke regulalrly during adolescence

-Nora Volkow

Can marijuana permanently affect your learning skills?

-aluo, Texas

Hi aluo,
Great question. There's some reason to believe that if you use marijuana heavily in your teens, it can permanently affect your ability to think and learn. This is why we at NIDA are so concerned about teen marijuana use. Your brain is precious, so don't do anything to compromise it!

-Eric Wargo

Can Marijuana that isn't mixed with any chemicals or laced with anything still kill you, if over used. Such as Medical Marijuana?

-Dr.Swag26, Illinois

Hi Dr.Swag26, while overdosing on marijuana doesn't cause death many people end up in the emergency department after taking too much marijuana or high potency forms of marijuana. Overdoses can cause severe anxiety, paranoia, and even psychosis.

-Maureen Boyle

Can marijuana use help for people who are addicted to much stronger drugs, such as heroin or cocaine?

-trlsb, Illinois

So far, there is no evidence to support this.

-Susan Weiss

Can medical marijuana help someone with severe anxiety and/or depression?

-Clueless , New York

People sometimes say they are using marijuana for that purpose, but so far, there's very little research to support this claim, and marijuana may make things worse in the long run. It can increase the risk of suicidal thinking and attempts, and may also worsen at least some forms of anxiety and depression--especially with chronic use. We need more research to help us better understand what marijuana or its ingredients may be useful for--but so far, the main health problems that have some evidence behind them are nausea, spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, and some pain conditions.

-Susan Weiss

Can medication meant for depression stop depression? Is it possible to get rid of depression?

-tammiabante, Illinois

Depression medications can certainly do a great job in treating the symptoms of the disorder, but they don't necessarily stop it entirely. However, depressive symptoms can go away or become more manageable, and often medication and/or talk therapy can help this process.

-Susan Borja

can medicine have the same effects as drugs?

-cmorales, Texas

I think you're asking about what you've heard out there about the similarities, or differences, of what people call "drugs" compared to "medicines." There is some overlap, especially in the opioids areas. We have a very large opioid overdose problem in our country. Opioid analgesics (pain medicines) are often life-saving medications that, if not used appropriately, can cause great harm, up to and including death by overdose. see https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/misuse-prescript....

-Dave Thomas

Can meditation help with addiction?

-St Francis 2017, Minnesota

Hi St Francis. Brain scientists have gotten really interested in the effects of meditation on the brain. A recent study of “beginner” meditators by a Harvard researcher found that 8 weeks of training in techniques like mindfulness meditation and yoga increased gray matter in brain regions involved in memory, learning, emotion, breathing, and motor control. Many scientists have been looking at the potential role for meditation in helping to treat addiction and many have reported finding meditation and mindfulness incredibly valuable at helping with drug addiction. One study among smokers found that a short course of training in mindfulness meditation led to significant spontaneous reductions in measures of smoking in a group of young adults. More research is needed, but it's definitely promising! Read more at: https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/latest-science/meditation-smoking-reduction and https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/art-meditation-focusing-your-brain.

-Jeff Schulden

can mental abuse effect your physical form

-ajstarr02, Texas

Good question! I would have to say yes. But how? There are several ways. First, abuse causes stress; stress causes the release of various hormones, like cortisol, and cortisol can have all sorts of effects on your body, like causing you to gain weight, changing the structure of your brain, changing the way your organs and muscles work. Second, abuse can increase the chances you will develop a mental illness like depression or PTSD. These can have effects on cortisol also, and they can also cause symptoms like changes in sleep or appetite that can affect your body.

-Josh Gordon

Can mixing different drugs kill you?

-vha, Texas

Yes mixing drugs is particualrly dangerous because you unbalance the physiology of your body even more than doing them by themselves. For example, heroin and alcohol both exacerbate respiratory depresssion and their combination can be lethal.

-Nora Volkow

Can mixing drugs kill you?

-ijiwani, Texas

yes and there are some mixtures that are particualrly dangerous

aclohol and cocaine
alcohol and opiates (heroin vicodin)
heroin and benzodiazepines

-Nora Volkow

can molly kill you

-elizabeth123, Massachusetts

Hi Elizabeth123 - actually it can. Molly is a common name for MDMA which can cause problems with the body’s ability to control temperature, particularly when it is used in active, hot settings (like dance parties or concerts). On rare occasions, this can lead to a sharp rise in body temperature (known as hyperthermia), which can cause liver, kidney, or heart failure or even death.

-Michele Rankin

can my dog get second-hand high

-Gage L., Pennsylvania

it certainly can.

-Ruben Baler

can one become addicted to advil

-kristinaz, New York

kristinaz - nope

-Maureen Boyle

Can one get addicted to cough syrup?

-mpalmer, New Hampshire

Hi mpalmer - it is possible. When abused, promethazine-codeine cough syrup presents a high risk of fatal overdose due to its effect of depressing the central nervous system, which can slow or stop the heart and lungs. Mixing with alcohol greatly increases this risk. Promethazine-codeine cough syrup has been linked to the overdose deaths of a few prominent musicians. You can learn more here: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cough-cold-medicine-abuse

-Michele Rankin

can one tab of acid kill you

-dorayme, Alabama

Yes. If that tab of acid is actually LSD, the greatest risk of death would be due to injury or accident. Tabs of acid may also contain other synthetic hallucinogens, such as NBOMe, which have been associated with overdose death. For more information about hallucinogens, check out https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/hallucinogens.

-Emily Einstein

Can one-time moderate use of cocaine lead to permanent brain damage, loss of memory or any other effects?

-eadams, Maine

Hi Eadams,
It is possible to suffer negative effects from one-time use of cocaine. Cocaine 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 afterwards. Check out information on our website about cocaine: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine

-Anto Bonci

Can over consumption of alcohol cause hallucinations? Can we also die due to overdrinking of alcohol?

-Yooooooooooo, Maryland

Yes, during severe withdrawal from alcohol people can experience hallucinations. Alcohol certainly can kill if someone drinks too much. Alcohol shuts down vital brain centers that control breathing and other functions, directly causing death.

-George Koob

can over the counter drugs be addictive?

-cookie3, New York

Good morning, cookie3, that is a really good question. There are lots of over the counter products that may not necessarily be addictive but can be habit forming or can be harmful when taken in doses greater than what is directed. One example is cough medicine containing dextromethorphan (DXM) which contains ingredients that can be psychoactive in high doses, but quite often these medicines contain other ingredients that are dangerous in high doses. You can read more about this at https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cough-cold-medicine-abuse

-Marsha Lopez

Can overdose of steroids be fatal?

-Summit11363, New Jersey

That would be very rare

-Ruben Baler

can peer pressure kill you

-Tyrese FVSU 4_H, Georgia

Hi Tyrese,
Peer pressure can kill you if your peers are doing stupid and dangerous things, yes! Be a leader, not a follower. :-)

-Eric Wargo

Can people die over the years of second-hand-smoking?

-Russian@BMS, Texas

Dear Russian@BMS - yes, people can get sick from secondhand smoke. More than 41,000 people who don't smoke in the United States die every year from diseases caused by exposure to secondhand smoke, even if they themselves dont't smoke. No one should be exposed to secondhand smoke if they can help it!

-Heather Kimmel

Can people get addicted to drugs after one use?

-dmallo, Texas

Hi dmallo - absolutely. An individual's risk for addiction is affected by their genes, their environment, their current health and many other things. Some people are particular vulnerable to the addictive properties of drugs and a single use can send them down this path.

-Michele Rankin

Can people get addicted to drugs once they try it? If yes, then why?

-Brooke B, Pennsylvania

Dear Brooke,
Although we know what happens to the brain when someone becomes addicted, we can’t predict how many times a person must use a drug before that happens. The only way to be sure that a person will never become addicted to a drug if they don’t use it.

There are many things that influence whether a person will become addicted. Their biology (a person’s genes) and their environment – like whether their friends or family use drugs or if they have positive influences like sports or music – play a role. We also know that the younger someone is when they start to use drugs or alcohol, the more likely they are to become addicted. If you don’t use before your brain is fully developed (in your early 20s), your risk for addiction is MUCH lower!

-Michelle Leff

Can people get overdoes on their medication?Lynn98

-Lynn98, Texas

Hey Lynn98, yes, actually about 16,000 people died in 2015 from overdosing on prescription pain relievers (opioids).

-Maureen Boyle

Can people on drugs kill a whole town in cold blood?

-CC, Indiana

Hi CC,
Hopefully not. But some drugs can increase people's risk of violence or aggression. Alcohol is one such drug, and violent or suicidal behavior has been reported in people on "bath salts" (synthetic cathinones) and K2/Spice products (synthetic cannabinoids).

-Eric Wargo

can people vape weed? and why are drugs illegal?

-Matthew G, Texas

Yes, extracts of marijuana or high THC concentrates can raplace nicotine in an e-cigarette be vaped.
The question of drug legality is a complex one. Different countries handle this question differently, but i think it is fair to say that policy makers are mostly concerned with promoting and preserving the health of the public, particularly the most vulnerable or at risk populations., like adolescents, the elderly, and mentally ill or decision impaired individuals.

-Ruben Baler

Can people who are addicted not be addicted after awhile?

-Natalie, Texas

Yes, if someone is addicted to a drug they can get treatment and eventually stop using the drug. But it's better not to start using! For more info on drug abuse and treatment, see:https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/treatment/what-to-do-if-you-hav...

-Will Aklin