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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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:

-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 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: Here's more on depression and teens:

-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
-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 activity affect the rate at drugs work?

-green59, Maryland

Hi green59!  Good question!  It kind of depends on the drug, but in general, the more active you are the more your heart is pumping and therefore, the quicker the drug gets through your blood and to your brain, which is where drugs have their main effects.    There is a lot of information about the health effects of drugs on NIDA’s teen site here:

-Joe Frascella

Does Alchol Cause problems ?

-Lerbon Kenny, New York

Yes, it certainly can! Alcohol contributes to all kinds of diseases and injuries. For instance, the CDC reports that in 2010, 10,228 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.

That includes about 1,900 deaths of young people under age 21.

You can learn more statistics like these at:

-Aaron White

Do steroids make you skinny?

-drugsr4thugs, New York
Hey there. 
Anabolic steroids do a lot of things to people, but I have never heard about them making you skinny.  They are used to promote muscle growth, but they do a lot of other nasty things.  They are especially bad for growing bodies.  You can read about it at the attached link.
-Dave Thomas

Do steroids make your testicles swell?

-zdiddy, Maryland
Hey Zdiddy- they can do the opposite- SHRINKAGE (called testicular atrophy)!! Check out for more info.
-Jack Stein

Do teens start using drugs more in early, middle, or late teen years?

-YouthSource, Washington
Hey, YouthSource, great question! Thankfully most teens don't start using drugs at all, but if they do the percentage of teens starting to use drugs increases as they get older.  For example, among those who hadn't used before, nearly 12% of 16-17 year olds started using drugs in 2012, compared to 3% of 12-13 year olds. Science has shown that the earlier a person starts using drugs the more likely s/he is to get addicted and suffer major social and medical problems, so while we don't want any teens to start using drugs, it's more harmful if they do when they're younger. To learn more about the health effects of drugs, visit NIDA’s teen site here: 
-Marsha Lopez

do the effects of drugs affect family members?

-student 007, Maryland
Hey Spy Guy - Drug abuse and addiction can definitely affect a drug user's family.  Usually the effects have to do with the drug user's time spent getting intoxicated or recovering from the intoxication.  A family's resources may be diverted to support the drug user's habit.  Often times addiction also causes poor decision-making, erratic mood swings, and other irresponsible behavior that can definitely affect a family's well-being and stability.  These effects can be temporary or long-lasting.
Thanks for asking this important question.  Here are some resources:

If you want to ask about getting substance abuse or mental health treatment, call 1-800-662-HELP, 24/7. Or you can go to to find information about treatment centers in your area.

-Michelle Leff

do weed effect your teeth

-flygirlniya, Maryland
Hi flygirlniya,
Interesting question. I suppose if you smoke enough, it might turn your teeth yellow like cigarettes do. And it might make you less motivated to brush! 
-Eric Wargo

Do you answer questions from around the world?

-Student6372, Maryland

Most of our questions come from the good ol' USA but right now some of our scientists are answering questions from American students in Rome,Italy! 

-Ruben Baler

Do you consider alcohol a drug?

-SquishyMuffins, Massachusetts

Yes for sure. A drug is a substance that alters how we think, feel, function and behave. Alcohol is a very powerful drug. 

-Aaron White

Do you drink beer before liquor or liquor before beer; and what are the effects of each?

-mchammy, Maryland
There's an old myth that drinking one type of alcohol before the other is better. In reality, alcohol is alcohol. Whether it comes from liquor, beer or wine, alcohol shuts down various parts of the brain and makes it harder to walk, talk, think and make decisions. You can learn more about how alcohol affects your body here:
-Aaron White

Do you feel that it is more dangerous to... Drive buzzed/Drive wile texting/or drive high? I know that they are all bad, but as a SADD member trying to impact teen students, which is the worst?

-Dave-C, Pennsylvania

sorry--i don't know how to rank those--you're right--they are all dangerous and cause accidents.  One other point to make is that combining alcohol and marijuana is worse than either one alone.  In general, alcohol is the most common substance found in drivers who are in accidents, but that's probably because it's most commonly used, and texting may be more difficult to identify as a cause.

-Susan Weiss

Do you forget things after using marijuana the same way you do when you're drunk?

-Not a Drug Guy, California
Hey Not a Drug Guy - I like that - be smart and keep it that way!  Way to go!
Marijuana has clear effects on memory; alcohol also can affect one's memory when drunk.
If you would like to learn more about marijuana's effects, go to: 
For more on alcohol check out: 
-Joe Frascella

do you get diaria from weed

HI Ralf - I haven't heard of that being a specific effect of marijuana, but it does have lots of bad effects. It can increase heart rate and blood pressure. It can cause anxiety and confusion. It can cause impaired thinking that can lead to traffic and other accidents. Please take a look at this website for a more comprehensive overview of the effects of marijuana:
-Steve Gust

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 Thomas

could steroids be considered drugs

-softball37, Maryland

They are and can produce addiction

-Nora Volkow

dave thomas youve got a lot of balls kudos bro

-snailpenis, Maryland

TY sir!

-Dave Thomas

David from WJ what happens to kids that have ADHD when they smoke.

-david, Maryland

hi David.  Well, smoking isn't good for anyone, of course!  In addition to all the health problems associated with smoking in general, cigarettes include nicotine, which is a drug with it's own effects.  Some people think smoking is calming, but Nicotine can be a stimulant that can affect people differently.  Adding it to the mix with ADD/ADHD and the medications that are used to treat ADD/ADHD can just make things more complicated.  

-Joel Sherrill