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 here.

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Does marijuana have any long term effects to the body?

-smokvica, Pennsylvania

Yes- it can affect the brain leading to addiction. Smoking marijuana can also lead to cancer of the respiratory tract and lungs. Research has shown that smoking marijuana increases the likelihood of developing cancer of the head or neck, and that the more marijuana is smoked, the greater the risk.For more information about drugs, please visit

-David Shurtleff

How are Club drugs made?

-chancemeister94, Maine

Street drugs - such as club drugs - are sometimes made in filthy conditions by people who know very little about chemistry. Keep in mind that when drugs are bought on the street (or from 'friends'), they could contain anything.Some contaminants can be worse than any club drug.In one case, a contaminant in street pills that was supposed to contain an opiate actually contained a toxic chemical (MPTP) that kills dopamine neurons.People who bought the pills ended up with permanent drug-induced Parkinson's disease. You can read more about club drugs here:

-Dave McCann

Hi there, If you take drugs at a young age what is the percentage that you will still use in your adult years?

-wookiesBiffel10, Pennsylvania

Hi, great question! You would think this should be a really easy question to answer, but to find the answer (or estimate the percentage of risk) researchers would have to do a study that followed people from a young age, before they start using drugs, through the time when they start to use and then through adulthood to be able to see who is still using. That's a long and complicated study! What we do know is that the earlier you start, the more likely you are to have drug and other problems, for example, in school or with your family. And we know that different people have different risks for long term use. Better never to start! But if you do-the earlier you stop the more you can avoid addiction.

-Marsha Lopez

Hi! Do all drugs affect harmfully to the body because i hard that some doctors prescribe cocaine or such to patients for their diesease??

-11797229, Maryland

Hey Rockville High, great question! Many drugs that are abused are actually used very effectively and safely as medications - for example, morphine, prescription opioids/pain killers, ketamine, benzodiazepines, etc. When used properly, these drugs/medications pose very little danger and are quite useful for many medical reasons. That said, medications, such as prescription medications, can be used for nonmedical purposes, and when used this way, they can be abused and can lead to addiction. Cocaine is still used as a local anesthetic.Check out this site for further discussion of the science of addiction, and thanks for your question:

-Joe Frascella

hi- if you've smoked for about 20 years is your lung dark and black?

-11797229, Maryland

The answer to that question depends on how often you've smoked during those 20 years, and what you smoked. The longer and more frequent the use, the more likely that there is damage. You physician or treatment provider may be able to assess how well your lungs work and can make suggestions to help you stop smoking. The good news is that quitting (or cutting down significantly) can allow your lungs to recover. And when you recover, you can breathe better, things will smell better to you, your breath will smell better, and food will be tastier. You will also reduce your risk of getting lung cancer, emphysema, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Did you know that teens are smoking less than they used to? In fact, NIDA's Monitoring the Future Survey has found that cigarette smoking rates among youth are at historically low levels. Smoking by 12th graders in the month prior to the survey fell by 30% between 2001 and 2008. For more information about smoking, check out

-Nancy Pilotte

how dangerous is E?

-butterteer, New York

Hey thanks for the's a good one! Here's the long answer: As for ecstasy or MDMA, it primarily affects brain cells (also called neurons) that use the chemical serotonin to communicate with other neurons. Serotonin plays an important part in controlling mood, aggression, sexual activity, sleep, and sensitivity to pain. MDMA also affects the release of of two other chemicals in the brain - dopamine and norepinephrine, which can produce confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, and severe anxiety. These problems can occur right after taking the drug or, sometimes, even days or weeks after taking it. Research in animals indicates that MDMA can be harmful to the brain - one study in nonhuman primates showed that exposure to MDMA for only 4 days caused brain damage that lasted at least 6 to 7 years. Although similar damage to the brain has not been shown definitively in humans, the wealth of animal research indicating MDMA's damaging properties strongly suggests that MDMA is not a safe drug for human consumption. This is currently an area of active research. MDMA can also be dangerous to overall health and, on rare occasions, lethal. MDMA can have many of the same physical effects as other stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines. These include increases in heart rate and blood pressure - which are particularly dangerous for people with circulatory problems or heart disease - and other symptoms such as muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, faintness, and chills or sweating. In high doses, MDMA can cause hyperthermia, which can result in liver, kidney, and cardiovascular system failure, and death. MDMA can interfere with its own metabolism (breakdown within the body), therefore potentially harmful levels can be reached by repeated MDMA administration within short periods of time. Hope that helps.Check out this site for more information on ecstasy:

-Joe Frascella

how dangerous is salvia?

-purple, Utah

People who abuse salvia experience hallucinations including psychedelic-like changes in visual perception, mood and body sensations, emotional swings, feelings of detachment, and importantly, a highly modified perception of external reality and the self. The long-term effects of salvia abuse have not been studied.

-Stephanie Older

How do addicts feel when they are trying to stop using drugs?


Thanks for your question. This depends a lot on the type of drug that's being abused. In the long run, addicts feel BETTER when they are off drugs, but for the first few days or weeks, they may feel much worse. Alcohol and painkillers can have a lot of uncomfortable symptoms and may need medical attention when someone quits them. These withdrawal symptoms depend on how long and how heavily someone has been using.

-Wilson Compton

how do counslors and teachers get there numbers for people who smoke and drink how do they fully now that it may be 7% or 10%? they never fully know that a kid could do drugs or drink

-BLUE055, Utah

We get information on how many people take different drugs from National surveys. There is one - the Monitoring the Future Survey - that collects information on how many students in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades abuse different drugs. It's true that some kids may not be honest in these surveys (even though they are anonymous), but since the various surveys come out with consistent results, we're pretty confident in the numbers we get.

-Gaya Dowling

How do drug tests know if you have been high or not?

-casagrannde, Arizona

Drug tests can tell if a person has or hasn't used a certain amount of a drug, but they can't tell if a person has been high or not.

-Ivan Montoya

how do drugs afect your brain

-mayhewcory, Michigan

Great question! It depends on the particular drug and the particular individual, but we do know that all drugs of affect the brain's dopamine system. This brain system is involved with reward and pleasure. Repeated use of drugs can start to change this system, causing a person to no longer be able to control their drug use. The person becomes 'driven' to take the drug, even when he/she realizes that he/she isn't able to do well in school, isn't able to enjoy the things that used to make him/her happy, and is hurting his/her relationship with friends and family. Bottom line: drugs affect the brain and brain processes (and other systems such as cardiovascular), which in turn, affects behavior.For more information about addiction and drugs, please visit

-Joe Frascella

how do drugs affect teenagers?

-brianna wilson, Virginia

This is a great question Martinsville!Teenagers are highly susceptible to the affects of drugs because as humans, our brains are still developing up to the age of 25 or so! When you are a teenager, your brain is changing a lot, and if you take drugs, they can interfere with how your brain functions and develops. It can slow your learning and ability to think and make decisions--that's never good! For the best answer and most up to date information, you should check out: It's a great website and highly interactive. It will give you information about teens and drug abuse. There's also a pretty cool video about one of the most highly abused drugs--prescription drugs, like painkillers. See

-Joni Rutter

how can i tell is some is an alcoholic?

-pancakesssss, Pennsylvania

Good question. When someone is really intoxicated, it may be pretty obvious they are using. They may smell of alcohol, have blood-shot eyes or have really slurred speech. But sometimes it is really hard to tell if someone is using drugs or alcohol. They may have mood changes (such as becoming irritable and angry for no reason). One way to find out is to ask them.

-Wilson Compton

how can people get off of drugs if they are mentally addicted to it?

-wierd123, Pennsylvania

Medications and behavioral therapy, especially when combined, can be very helpful for people who want to stop taking drugs. Easing withdrawal symptoms can be important in the initiation of treatment; preventing relapse is necessary for long-term success. Sometimes, as with other chronic conditions, episodes of relapse may require a return to treatment.

Medications offer help in suppressing withdrawal symptoms during detoxification. However, medically assisted detoxification is not in itself 'treatment' - it is only the first step in the treatment process. Patients who go through medically assisted withdrawal but do not receive behavioral or other therapy show drug abuse patterns similar to those who were never treated. In behavioral therapy, typically, patients learn strategies to control urges to take drugs and avoid situations that make them want to take drugs.

Medications can be used to help re-establish normal brain function and to prevent relapse and diminish cravings. Currently, we have medications for opioids (heroin, morphine), tobacco (nicotine), and alcohol addiction and are developing others for treating stimulant (cocaine, methamphetamine) and cannabis (marijuana) addiction. Most people with severe addiction problems, however, are polydrug users (users of more than one drug) and will require treatment for all of the substances that they abuse.

Have you seen the Sara Bellum Blog? It has all the latest information on drugs and drug abuse, and you can comment on what's written. Check it out at

Also, did you know you can send us questions about drugs anytime of the day on our Teen Web site? It might take a few days, because our scientists are pretty busy - but real questions will get real answers!

-Kristen Huntley

How can taking ritalin affect you if you have not been prescribed ritalin?


Dear Freeman-Jones,Yes, Ritalin affects the brain and behavior and should only be taken while under the care of a physician. Ritalin is a stimulant prescribed for people with ADHD. As seen with amphetamines, including Adderall, numerous studies have shown its effectiveness when used as prescribed. When it is abused, however, methylphenidate can lead to many of the same problems seen with other stimulants. More information about prescription drug abuse can be found at More information about the consequences of stimulant abuse can be found at: .Hope this helps and thanks for your question.

-Redonna Chandler

How can teens support a friend who has gone through drug/alcohol rehabilitation?

-sclionsteach, Pennsylvania

There are lots of ways that you can support your friend. The fact that you're asking this question shows me that you are a caring friend, and that is probably the most important way you can support him/her. Another way is to help your friend avoid situations where there's a possibility that the friend could relapse and go back to using-like going with your friend to places that are as drug- and alcohol- free rather than to parties where drugs will likely be. Good luck to you and your friend.

-Lisa Onken

How can you tell if someone is high?

-YANKEES24, Arizona

For some people, smoking marijuana makes them feel good. Within minutes of inhaling, a user begins to feel "high," or filled with pleasant sensations. The main chemical in marijuana--called THC--triggers brain cells to release the chemical dopamine. Dopamine creates good feelings, but only for a short time. After the initial high from the dopamine, marijuana can affect your memory, judgment, perception, and coordination. Under the influence of marijuana, you could fail to remember things you just learned, watch your grade point average drop, or crash a car. When your judgement is impaired from being high, you might make bad choices. Check this out:

-Cheryl Boyce

how can you tell that someone is using marijuana?

-shawla, Washington

The most accurate way is a urine test. With marijuana if the person is smoking heavily the urine can stay positive for a month. Behavioral ways are the appearance of the 'Demotivational Syndrome' where the person loses interest in activities, spends much time sleeping, poor grooming, and poor grades.

-Richard Denisco

How can you tell when you need to stop a drug? how far

-shleberity, New York

You should not need to use drugs in order to enjoy life in the first place. In fact, life is much more fun without drugs, which give you an easy escape but an escape that is of short duration and leaves you feeling worse, once you stopped.

-Nora Volkow

how can you useing a drug affect how you play a sport

-skyler13, Michigan

Many drugs can impact a person's coordination and spacial perception, both of which are key to succeeding at many sports. Our website for teens has more information on how specific drugs can impact the body

-Anna Staton

How come Keith Richards is still living even though he did tons of drugs?

-Gary, Virginia

That's a good question. The effects of drugs are unpredictable. No one wants to become addicted or have an accident and end up ruining their life. But some people who use drugs will have terrible things happen to them. That's one of the bad things about drugs--the uncertain outcomes. Go to: for more information.

-Wilson Compton

how come people know drugs can kill them ,but they use the any ways?

-zamirdoughty, Pennsylvania

Perhaps people are just thinking 'in the moment' when they are using drugs, and not thinking about the possible consequences that may occur as a result of using them. For example, a person is not going to die from smoking one cigarette, however, it is very easy to get addicted to them and there are huge health consequences. And once you become dependent or addicted, it isn't so easy to stop. The definition of drug addiction: a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. For more information about addiction, take a look at The Science of Addiction on our web site. Go to and click on Drugs, Brains and Behavior: The Science of Addiction at the upper right of the home page.

-Eve Reider

How come people that end up in the hospital from taking drugs and they are put up for treatment, but when they live and get back home they still end up tkeing drugs or cutting them selves?

-tatertot, Virginia

Great question! It depends on the drug. Some drugs are out of your system really quickly but after someone has been using drugs, they may have cravings or urges to use for a long time. These memories for drugs can be really difficult to control. Withdrawal symptoms may only last a few days or weeks but memories for drugs can last a long time. We're working hard to come up with better treatment for people with addiction. Right now, we know that treatment is helpful but it's impossible to predict ahead of time who will respond to which treatment. The important point is that even when someone relapses, they should not give up hope. Rather they need to go back to treatment or modify their current treatment. In fact, setbacks are likely. Even people with diabetes may go off their diet or miss an insulin injection, and their symptoms will recur - that's a cue to get back on track, not to view treatment as a failure. So the key is to try different approaches until we figure out which approach works.

-Wilson Compton

How come steroids can kill you and are any of them safe?

-lexipop14, Virginia

Steroids are safe if used for a medical condition and under a doctor's supervision. However, there have been reports of people that have been driven to commit suicide as a result of depression allegedly caused by chronic abuse of anabolic steroids. This is mostly based on case reports though and there are no studies that can establish a causal relationship between the two. Other types of death, as a result of anabolic steroids, follow a similar story. For example, it would be very hard to pin down a car accident to roid rage, although we can reasonably hypothesize that such cases exist.

-Ruben Baler

How come there aren't many rehab or drug helping facilities in the US where the most drug use happens? & if so, how come nobody knows about them?

-isabel0894, Maryland

i wish i could give you an answer other than because people don't realize how badly we need these facilitites and that funding them should be a national priority.

-Nora Volkow

How common is it for teens to become addicted to alcohol if using at a young age?

-whitings class, New York

Ten percent of those that use alcohol early on in their lives will become addicted to it.

-Nora Volkow

How could you best help a friend who is living in a home with someone having an addiction problem?

-dkenney, Michigan

Thanks for your question. Dealing with parental drug abuse is tough and I know this from first hand experience. When I was living with a father who had a drinking problem I needed friends I could talk to that would maintain my confidence. You can provide support to your friend by listening and helping make sure she isn't impacted negatively by her parent's drug use. For example, when my father would drink I would make sure I didn't ride with him in the car and arranged for friends or their parents to take me places. That is a very tangible way you can help your friend. Also, I talked with my school guidance counselor and participated in a local Al-Anon program for teens (Alateen) whose parents used drugs. There I found additional support on how to deal with my father's drug use from people having the same experience. You might provide your friend with access to more information including: information on how to help someone stop using drugs see: or call 1-800-662-HELP, where you can find private and confidential help 24/7, and for more information about Alateen see:

-Redonna Chandler

how bad is a monster energy drink for you?

-mers, Oregon

Energy drinks generally contain the same amount of caffeine as a strong cup of coffee (or expresso coffee). Very high amounts of caffeine can produce anxiety and even heart problems. So think of an energy drink as just a different form of coffee.

-Steve Grant

how bad is the drug addiction in the united states?

-brianna, Virginia

In 2008, an estimated 22.2 million persons aged 12 or older were classified with substance dependence or abuse (meaning they were addicted to a substance) in the past year. That's about 8.9 percent of the population aged 12 or older.

-Anna Staton

How can cocain kill you

-BabyGurl, Maryland

Thanks for your question. Cocaine usually makes the user feel euphoric and energetic, but 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 afterwards. You can find more info about cocaine on our web pages. Go to, click on the Drugs of Abuse drop down menu and select cocaine.

-Brian Marquis