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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do you think Europe has the right idea for a drinking age of 18 and having parents let their kids drink in moderation?

-chenoahsmall, Vermont

In general, no. It turns out that kids not only start drinking at younger ages in European countries compared to the US, they also get drunk at earlier ages and are more likely to binge drink than teens here. In other words, European teens do not drink more moderately than teens here in the US. In fact it is the opposite. Other research tells us that kids whose parents let them drink at home are more likely to develop problems with alcohol than kids who can't drink at home. Taken together, the facts tell us that the 'European model' is not one that would produce the desired results here.

-Aaron White

Do you think everyone will try drugs at least once in their life time...even if they dont get addicted?

-chicky, Maryland

Good question. Not everyone will - but, lots of people do try drugs. The problem is we can't predict who will keep going with drug use or get addicted. And anyone who uses can get into trouble--like having an accident or having a heart attack.

-Wilson Compton

do you think smoking can affect your life span?

-958832, Maryland

We know from scientific research that the earlier you smoke or use other drugs, the more likely you are to become addicted and suffer serious social and medical consequences, like having yellow teeth, lack of physical activity, asthma and other lung problems, as well as increasing your risk for cancers. Smoking causes so many health consequences--it can certainly shorten your lifespan. So....tell your friends that smoking is not good for them! Thanks for your question. Information about smoking and prevention can be found at www.smokefree.gov.

-Joni Rutter

Do you think that the legal drinking age should be lowered to 18?

-augie117, Minnesota

The legal drinking age was raised to 21 because too many young people were being hurt by alcohol. Raising it to 21 resulted in a big reduction in the number of young people being killed in alcohol-related car crashes. The decision to raise the drinking age to 21 was made before researchers started studying the teenage brain and how alcohol effects it. Now we know that the brain keeps growing until after the age of 21 and that alcohol can damage the teenage brain. So, it turns out that a drinking age of 21 makes sense from a brain standpoint, too! For more info on how alcohol affects kids, check out: http://thecoolspot.gov/index.asp

-Aaron White

do you think that when teens see people smoking on tv or in magazines, they want to to start smoking?

-mwhite, Illinois

Great question. There has been research showing that some teens (not all) can be influenced by seeing people smoke in ads, or on tv, or in movies. Some of these researchers have also tried to understand why this happens, including understanding what is happening in the brain when teens are exposed to media with people smoking. For more information on smoking, click on: http://www.smoking.drugabuse.gov/.

-Belinda Sims

Do you think the legalization of

-avincent, Kentucky

Hello Kentucky! Drug abuse research has shown that in general if use increases, known harms (negative health consequences) can also increase. What we don't know is whether these rates of dependence will increase proportionately with a rise in use or increase or at a faster or slower rate. FYI. In the United States, a number of states have chosen to decriminalize marijuana for medical uses; however, since all other medicines must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) based on their safety and efficacy--marijuana has not met these standards. There are recognized medical benefits to some of the active ingredients in
marijuana, and scientists are making use of their knowledge about those ingredients, and the body systems that they effect, in order to develop new medications for a variety of symptoms and diseases including pain, obesity, and addiction. 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, it is unlikely that smoked
marijuanawill be developed as a medication because of its negative health effects, including the risk of addiction.Currently,the recreational use of marijuana remains illegal in all states. This link has some topline data about the increase in marijuana use in 8th, 10th and 12th graders from the latest NIDA-funded Monitoring the Future survey:
http://www.drugabuse.gov/newsroom/10/mtf10overview.html

-Bethany Deeds

Do you think the legalization of marijuana will increase peoples' use?

-avincent, Kentucky

Hello Kentucky! Drug abuse research has shown that in general if use increases, known harms (negative health consequences) can also increase. What we don't know is whether these rates of dependence will increase proportionately with a rise in use or increase or at a faster or slower rate. FYI. In the United States, a number of states have chosen to decriminalize marijuana for medical uses; however, since all other medicines must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) based on their safety and efficacy--marijuana has not met these standards. There are recognized medical benefits to some of the active ingredients in marijuana, and scientists are making use of their knowledge about those ingredients, and the body systems that they effect, in order to develop new medications for a variety of symptoms and diseases including pain, obesity, and addiction. 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, it is unlikely that smoked marijuana will be developed as a medication because of its negative health effects, including the risk of addiction.Currently,the recreational use of marijuana remains illegal in all states. This link has some topline data about the increase in marijuana use in 8th, 10th and 12th graders from the latest NIDA-funded Monitoring the Future survey: http://www.drugabuse.gov/newsroom/10/mtf10overview.html

-Bethany Deeds

doe sniffing sharpies kill brain cells? like forreal?

-p3nqu1n,

Not sure about actually killing neurons, but repeated or long-term use can cause damage (some permanent) to brain cells and their myelin that could result in tremors, difficulty walking, solving complex problems, and remembering things.See this webpage for more information: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/real-teens-ask-can-inhaling-sharpie-markers-make-you-high/.

-Jim Bjork

Does

-Allison, Indiana

Yes, it does. Heavy drinking - even for just a few days at a time - can cause fat to build up in the
liver. This condition, called steatosis, or fatty
liver, is the earliest stage of alcoholic
liverdisease and the most common alcohol-induced
liverdisorder. The fat build-up makes it harder for the
liverto operate and leaves it open to developing dangerous inflammations, like alcoholic hepatitis.For some, alcoholic hepatitis does not present obvious symptoms. For others, though, alcoholic hepatitis can cause fever, nausea, appetite loss, abdominal pain, and even mental confusion. As it gets worse, alcoholic hepatitis makes the
liverget dangerously big, and causes other problems like jaundice, bleeding, and difficulties getting bleeding to stop (clotting).Another
livercondition associated with heavy drinking is fibrosis, which causes scar tissue to build up in the
liver. Alcohol changes the chemicals in the
liverneeded to break down and remove this scar tissue. As a result, your
liverdoesn't work very well.If you continue to drink, this excessive scar tissue builds up and creates a condition called cirrhosis, basically causes the
liverto slowly shut down and stop working.A variety of complications, including jaundice and diabetes, and even
livercancer, can result as cirrhosis weakens
liverfunction

-Aaron White

Does adderall stunt growth?

-Kai D, Pennsylvania

Good question. Research has shown that the stimulants used to treat ADHD can reduce growth is some people. It's uncertain whether taking time off the medication (such as during the summer) can help to reverse this effect. That's one of the reasons why doctors are careful to prescribe these medications only to people who definitely need them.

-Wilson Compton

does age affect how your body reacts to drugs?

-sshs18, Nevada

Yes, age does affect the way drugs and medicines act in the body. Unfortunately, most studies of medicines are conducted in adults, so we don't know exactly all the ways age can change the way a medicine works. We do know that older people may inactivate or absorb drugs at a different rate, making it likely that they would need more or less than a younger adults. And the brains of children and teens are still developing, and we don't know how drugs may impact brain development. If you look on the package of prescription or over-the-counter drugs (like cold medicine), you will often see that the different amounts are recomended for different ages. We do know that harmful drugs, like marijuana or cocaine, can have a strong effect on young people because their brains are still developing.

-Steve Grant

do steroids cause a big CHANGE in your life in the future?

-37516, California

it surely does in some people who became dangerously aggressive or depressed as a result of their chronic anabolic steroid abuse.

-Ruben Baler

Do steroids eventually killl you over time?

-Jim Bob N, Pennsylvania

Hi Jim Bob. This is a tough question because we don't really have the answer yet. Some investigators believe that steroids cause cancer, but there is actually little proof of this. Steroids can clearly mess up your development, especially when used during the teen years when sexual maturation is taking place. Also, you know that aggression is a major issue with steroid use - this can result in risky behavior that could endanger you. But if I had to give an answer right now, I think most people would say that steroids don't directly kill you over time, but why risk your life if all the answers aren't in yet?

-Marilyn Huestis

do steroids have the same effect as drugs if very addicted

-golfer50, Nebraska

Hi Nebraska,Drugs have different effects on the body, but drug dependence or addiction may be similar in an individual's behavior around the time they spend getting and using the drug, and alienating family, friends, and colleagues. When addicted, an individual loses control over their drug habit - it takes over their life and becomes the most important goal, over other aspects that used to be important to them. So yes, they can have this same effect, but the areas of the brain that the drug works on and the acute and long-term effects on the body can be different. Steroids definitely can produce dependence and addiction. You can find more info on steroids and its effects on the body and brain at https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/anabolic-steroids. Thanks for your question!

-Marilyn Huestis

do teens smoke more in highschool or in college?

-master, Michigan

Hi, what a good question! According to the 2010 Monitoring the Future Study, about 19% of high school seniors and 16% of college students report they are current smokers. So overall they're pretty similar---most people who smoke start in high school so if you can avoid it in high school it would be a smart heath strategy!

-Marsha Lopez

Do teens start smoking weed because they think its cool?

-WhoIsThis, Indiana

Teenagers start using marijuana for many reasons, including trying to 'fit in' or 'be cool'. In fact, one of the biggest risk factors for using marijuana is having friends who use marijuana. Peer pressure to use drugs can be strong among youth, but standing up against peers who use drugs can help prevent the onset of drug use. Also, hanging out with a different group of friends who do NOT use drugs can be a really smart alternative. Thanks for your question!

-Kevin Conway

Do we know what kind of drug the Viking berserkers used in the middle ages, and is there a drug like that nowadays?

-InquisitiveMind, Massachusetts

Thanks for teh intersting question.you are in luck becauise i am also an expert on ancient drugs of war (just kidding) The berserks were the most feared and vicious fighters among the Vikings. They were really 'out there' when it came deviant behaviors, and lived well beyond what was accepted norm among Viking-tribes. For example, whenever there was a fight at hand, they would get themselves into this wild frenzy, partly by self-hypnosis but also partly by consuming wild berries and other toxicological plants. As a result, they would reportedly cause the 'berserks' run right at the front of the war-mobs, only dressed in a few loose pieces of fur, besmeared with dirt and blood, sometimes donning animal-masks. I can imagine they were a really frightening sight to any soldier standing on the other side of the warline. Unfortunately, we don't have any reliable information about the active ingredients in the potions that these Viking potions contained, but some berries do have psychoactive properties.

-Ruben Baler

Do you believe that drug use is more effected by genetics or lifestyle? in other words, nature versus nurture?

-95golfer, New York

Hey, 95golfer...this is a great question. The answer is that it is both nature AND nurture. Research has shown that drug use is about 50% genetic and 50% environmental and other factors. For more information, see: www.drugabuse.gov/tib/genetics.html and http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/real-teens-ask-addiction-hereditary/.

-Joni Rutter

Do you change when you take drugs, like do you act different?

-Bethanne C, Iowa

Yep, a change in behavior and personality are common among individuals that are doing drugs. For example, they can stop participating in activities they used to enjoy, start hanginng around different friends, become mood and more. Also, drugs can make people behave in erratic ways, for example, PCP use can lead to really erractic behavior, rapid speech, aggression or intense sweating. Want to know more about the effects of drugs? Go to our site! There's lots of good info! http://www.nida.nih.gov/drugpages/; http://teens.drugabuse.gov/

-David Shurtleff

Do you experience withdrawl from

-Ashton, Indiana

That is a great question. Yes, in fact you can experience withdrawal which makes it very hard to quit. The signs of withdrawal are irritability, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, and importantly--strong cravings for the drug, which is what can make it hard to stop. The symptoms are worst the first week after you stop

-Christine Colvis

Do you experience withdrawl from marijuana?

-Ashton, Indiana

That is a great question. Yes, in fact you can experience withdrawal which makes it very hard to quit. The signs of withdrawal are irritability, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, and importantly--strong cravings for the drug, which is what can make it hard to stop. The symptoms are worst the first week after you stop.

-Christine Colvis

Could someone get high off of second-hand smoke?

-Batman, Pennsylvania

Do you mean a 'contact high' from second hand marijuana smoke?? If so... the answer is yep! If you breath enough of the second hand smoke, the active ingredients of MJ like THC get to the lung and to the brain. It can also get into your hair, etc. So...don't hang around folks that are smoking...especially if you have to take a pee test any time soon!!!

-David Shurtleff

could you die from drinking alchohol?

-aromero, Texas

Yes. If you drink enough alcohol, parts of the brain that are important for keeping us alive can shut down. Then, your heart will stop beating and you can stop breathing. In essence, it's like alcohol flips a switch and shuts the body off. You can also die from injuries sustained while doing dangerous things while drinking.

-Aaron White

could you say childern useing useing illegal drugs is just from bad parenting?

-Mr.flopicuse, New York

Unfortunately, there's no simple answer to your question. Kids use drugs for lots of reasons. Parenting has a big impact on the risk of drug use in kids but it's not the only reason. For example, parents can model (or not) drug use behavior and they can carefully (or not) supervise their kids' activities. Another major risk factor for drug use in kids is having friends who use drugs. So, it is likely that both parenting and peer influence play significant roles in drug use among kids.

-Kevin Conway

Could your brain actually be slowly disintegrated? Cuz everyone says drugs kill brain cells

-egrimes, Texas

Some drugs do kill brain cells, such as volitile chemicals found in glue and other inhalants, but the bigger problem is that drugs that people take to get high can lead to long term changes in the the way that brain cells function. Recent research has found that there can be profound changes to the structure and function of the brain cells, including changes in the expression of genes. We don't know how long these changes last when you stop taking drugs or even what all of these changes do to overall brain function. So while drugs may not kill brain cells, they do change brain cells and probably not for the better.

-Steve Grant

couldn't you blame the government for bringing wide spread drug use tot he united states? amphetamines were given to fighter pilots on long bombing runs, and MKULTRA brought

-saltybeefstick, Pennsylvania

i don't think so

-Ruben Baler

Cynthia-From Kenmore: What makesdrugs addicting?

-pdoug, Virginia

What's up Kenmore!!The short answer is Dopamine!! Most drugs of abuse directly or indirectly target the brain's reward system by flooding the brain with dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, motivation, feelings of pleasure and addiction. When a person takes drugs, brain circuits that use dopamine are over stimulated (over stimulated in fact) and is what a person feels is the 'rush' associated with taking drugs. This 'rush' is what makes people repeat the behavior (drug use) and over time, this abnormal stimulation of the brain can lead to 're-wiring' the brain in a way that leads to addiction-not good!

-David Shurtleff

darric from kenmore: Is there a medical need for drugs like

-pdoug, Virginia

There is certainly a medical need, especially for the treatment of pain. However, marijuana is not a good medicine, even if it is not smoked, for several reasons--its a
plantthat contains many chemicals (over 400), some with unknown health effects; the ingredients vary from
plantto
plant--medicines need to be able to have precisely controlled ingredients--so doctors know how much to prescribe and side effects can be prevented; marijuana's effects on your ability to think and remember make it not ideal. Scientists are however interested in some of marijuana's ingredients that may have possibilities as medicines but with less risks than marijuana itself. See
http://www.drugabuse.gov/MarijBroch/teens/

-Susan Weiss

darric from kenmore: Is there a medical need for drugs like marijuana? Is there a way other than smoking it it that it can be taken?

-pdoug, Virginia

There is certainly a medical need, especially for the treatment of pain. However, marijuana is not a good medicine, even if it is not smoked, for several reasons--its a plant that contains many chemicals (over 400), some with unknown health effects; the ingredients vary from plant to plant--medicines need to be able to have precisely controlled ingredients--so doctors know how much to prescribe and side effects can be prevented; marijuana's effects on your ability to think and remember make it not ideal. Scientists are however interested in some of marijuana's ingredients that may have possibilities as medicines but with less risks than marijuana itself. See http://www.drugabuse.gov/MarijBroch/teens/

-Susan Weiss

define mushrooms

-gracem, Pennsylvania

Hi Grace,Mushrooms are fungi that grow on the ground or on tree bark. But you probably already knew that! Some mushrooms are good to eat, some are poisonous and can kill you, and some have a psychoactive compound called psylocibin in them. When people talk abut using 'shrooms, those are the ones they are using.

-Nancy Pilotte