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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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

can perks make you lose eyesight

-11147, New Jersey

Good question.

Common side effects of opioid administration include sedation, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, constipation, physical dependence, tolerance, and respiratory depression. Physical dependence and addiction are clinical concerns that may prevent proper prescribing and in turn inadequate pain management. Less common side effects may include delayed gastric emptying, hyperalgesia, immunologic and hormonal dysfunction, muscle rigidity, and myoclonus. The most common side effects of opioid usage are constipation (which has a very high incidence) and nausea. Pain Physician 2008; 11:S105-S120

-Dave Thomas

Can pot effect brain developement???

-lawlerc, Minnesota

yes because it interferes with the cannabinoid receptors in your brain that are invovled in how brain cells get connected with one another and form circuits,

-Nora Volkow

Can prescribed drugs cause depression or death?

-tammiabante, Illinois

Yes, opiate analgesics can cause death by overdose (stops your breathing).

Prescribed drugs, if used at higehr quanitities and frequency than prescribed medically, can lead to addiction and make you vulnerable to depression or what we calll the dark side of addiction.

-Nora Volkow

Can prescription drugs ever be addictive?

-meep, New York

Hi meep, yes, prescription drugs, including opioids (oxycontin, vicodin, etc), stimulants (adderall, modafinil, etc), and sedatives (Xanax, etc) can be just as addictive as street drugs. You should only take these when prescribed by a doctor and follow your doctors instructions on how to take them.

-Maureen Boyle

Can prescription drugs kill you ?

-cperez, Texas

Hey anarvaez, prescription drugs, including opioids (oxycontin, vicodin, etc), stimulants (adderall, modafinil, etc), and sedatives (Xanax, etc) can be just as addictive as street drugs and early 30,000 people died in 2015 from overdosing on prescription medications.

-Maureen Boyle

Can steroids give you achne?

-chill, Texas

most definitely, but see my video for more adverse effects :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9Ynf2kPNIc.

-Ruben Baler

Can steroids kil you?

-NBG, Other

Hey NBG- Recreational use of steroids can kill you, though the risk is very small. Other risks of steroid use are far more common. The steroids sometimes used by athletes are called anabolic steroids, meaning that they are similar to the male hormone testosterone. Adults and teens who use large quantities of anabolic steroids risk heart disease, and liver damage and may not reach their full height. It also can cause aggression, male-pattern baldness (who needs that?), and shrinkage of your testicles (if you are a male). If you are a female who is using anabolic steroids, your voice may deepen permanently, you may grow facial hair, and develop male-pattern baldness. See http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/anabolic-steroids for more info on steroids, and check out Ruben’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9Ynf2kPNIc.

-Emily Einstein

Can steroids kill you at some point.

-Cmorrissey, New Hampshire

Hey Cmorrissey- Recreational use of steroids can kill you, though the risk is very small. Other risks of steroid use are far more common. The steroids sometimes used by athletes are called anabolic steroids, meaning that they are similar to the male hormone testosterone. Adults and teens who use large quantities of anabolic steroids risk heart disease, and liver damage and may not reach their full height. It also can cause aggression, male-pattern baldness (who needs that?), and shrinkage of your testicles (if you are a male). If you are a female who is using anabolic steroids, your voice may deepen permanently, you may grow facial hair, and develop male-pattern baldness. See http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/anabolic-steroids for more info on steroids, and check out Ruben’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9Ynf2kPNIc.

-Emily Einstein

can steroids lead to abuse?

-ashleyvelasquez, California

Yes, you can become addicted to steroids when you use it outside medical indications

-Nora Volkow

Can steroids shrink parts of your body

-Billy Bob Joe, Illinois

Hey Billy Bob Joe; thanks for the question. Yes, taking anabolic steroids can enlarge muscles, but the drug can also cause a number of unwanted side effects, including increased breast size and decreased penis/scrotum size. I've attached a web link that gives information related to steroid misuse. Check it out here: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/anabolic-steroids.

-Michael Baumann

can teenagers die from smoking

-gilberto fvsu 4, Georgia

Dear gilberto fvsu 4 - thank you for writing. Absolutely! Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death of people of ALL ages. If smoking continues at the current rate among U.S. youth, 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 years of age are expected to die prematurely from a smoking-related illness. This represents about one in every 13 Americans aged 17 years or younger who are alive today.

-Heather Kimmel

can the baby get affected if the mother smokes

-AT, Texas

Yes,nicotine exposure during pregnany is harmful for the newborn. It can affect almost every organ in the body, including the brain

-Nora Volkow

Can the use of drugs lead to cancer?

-ashleya2, New York

Hey ashleya- Yes! Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death, in part because it causes cancer. Other drugs, including alcohol, marijuana, and steroids, have also been linked to a higher risk of certain kinds of cancer. Check out https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/medical-consequences-drug-abuse/cancer to find out more.

-Emily Einstein

Can the use of repeated drugs reset the brain's pleasure meter?

-Dadrian FVSU 4H, Georgia

Yes--repeated drug use tends to turn down the reward mechanisms so that what used to make you happy doesn't any more. Even the drug itself becomes less effective, and people try to take more in order to feel the way they used to. Its a vicious cycle--worth avoiding.

-Susan Weiss

Can to much caffeine be bad for you.

-Jairah S, Texas

hey Jairah S, yes it can. having too much coffee or caffeinated drinks can cause anxiety and agitation. Taking higher potency caffeine supplements can even be life threatening if you take too much.

-Maureen Boyle

can to much caffine be bad for you

-jamar, Texas

hey Jairah S, yes it can. having too much coffee or caffeinated drinks can cause anxiety and agitation. Taking higher potency caffeine supplements can even be life threatening if you take too much.

-Maureen Boyle

can u become homless if u do drug

-Cori.c, Texas

Hi Cori - unfortunately yes if a person's substance use interferes with their ability to keep their job.

-Michele Rankin

Can u live with hiv

-Iyanna@gentryjr, Texas

hey Iyanna@gentryjr, yes, there are great anti-retroviral treatments that allow people with HIV to live a long life.

-Maureen Boyle

can u please answer this question what is the difference between smoking and vaping

-brady, Nebraska

Dear brady - thank you for joining us today! Smoking involves burning the tobacco in a cigarette or cigar. Instead of actually burning (combusting) the drug, vaping raises its temperature just enough to create a mist-like vapor. It is probably safer for the lungs, which is why people like it. But vaping can be used for marijuana, nicotine, as well as many other substances. Vaping is NOT a "healthy" alternative to smoking cigarettes. We are just beginning to understand vaping but we have much more to learn. Although many of the toxic chemicals from burning cigarettes may not be present in vaping, other dangers may exist! There are many checmicals in the vaping liquid that were never meant to be inhaled. In addition, many of these liquids contain nicotine, which is very addictive.

Stay in control of your health and don't use any tobacco product!

-Heather Kimmel

can u stop doing drugs by doing more drugs like pills?

-kbloom, Texas

Hi kbloom
In a way. There are various treatments for drug addiction that involve taking medications. It's called Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT). But this should be done under medical supervision. check this out: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-dr...

-Dave Thomas