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 I get addicted to caffeine?

-glenelg17, Maryland

Probably not in the sense of it interfering with your ability to perform critical roles in your life, but people who use a lot of caffeine do often have withdrawal headaches when they stop using--however, that is not the same as addiction.  

-Susan Weiss

:33 > Dear scientists, do any of you play any of the popular games like Call Of Duty: Black Ops, Amnesia, or anything of the sort?

-arsenicCatnip, Texas

I just asked the room and there were at least five people in the room who said yes :)

-Maureen Boyle

:33 > How bad can the hallucinations get when you take hallucinogenic drugs?

-arsenicCatnip, Texas

I am not sure about scientific studies on this, but people report having "bad trips" which can last for many hours and are just not fun.   From the descriptions, they sound awful and once on a "bad trip," the peron is stuck and suffers for a long time.  And the "bad trip" varies from person to person and can even be different for the same person from one use to another.

-Dave Thomas

:33 > Is catnip like marijuana fur cats or purrhaps you do not know the answer to this question?

-arsenicCatnip, Texas

Hey arsenicCatnip- let me paws for thought.... Here's what we know about catnip-- it is not addictive or psychoactive. Catnip (from the plant Nepeta cataria) DOES cause most cats to act strangely: they roll around, shake their heads, rub against things, and try to get the plant all over their bodies. Interestingly, cats are only affected when they smell it - it has NO EFFECT if they eat it. It appears that catnip has little or no psychoactive effects in people.

-Joni Rutter

A friend of mine smokes a lot of weed, and i'm trying to get him to do a lot of activities that produce a natural high in an effort to get him to turn to drugs less often (or not at all). We go rock climbing and snowboarding together, but do you have any other suggestions that you've found or believe to be more effective than any other other activities for producing a natural high?

-lc, Maryland

Hey again 'Ic' What a cool cat you are....a natural high comes from any activity that makes you feel good—but doesn’t involve drugs. So theorectically different acivities would invoke a more pleasurable response based on your own personal interests. By doing things you enjoy natural feel-good chemicals in your brain are released like dopamine, which regulates movement, emotion, motivation, and pleasure. You may want to check out this organization for more information on it:

-Bethany Deeds

a lot of my friends insist that smoking weed isn't at all bad for you. Is that really true? If it was I would think it wouldn't be illegal in many states still.

-tollestudent15, Ohio

No, it is bad for you.  Being legal does not always mean it not bad for you.  For example cigarettes and alcohol are legal but nobody disputes that they are bad for your health.  You can get more info on marijuana at:


-Dave Thomas

A lot of people say that there's a zero nicotine oil you can put in the vape pen. wouldn't that reduce the addiction rate

-Kearsarge, New Hampshire

Hi're quite busy askin the same questions this morning! Some e-cig companies do advertise that they sell e-juice with 0% nicotine, but testing of several different products reveals that that is not necessarily so...e-cigs are not currently regulated by the government, so they don't have to underg testing of its components (that just right now though).  You can't really trust what manufacturers are saying about these products.  With that being said, e-cigs do have the potential to help established adult smokers quit...but again, we don't quite know all of health impacts (whether positive or negative) of e-cigs.  

-Albert Avila

a lot of states are making marijuana legal, do you think that this trend will continue and say in like 20 years do you think that it will be legal in all states

-Red Arrow, Michigan

Hey Red Arrow!
Wow--great question.  You know, there is definitely momentum toward legalization.  What we hope will happen is that the science will help inform future policy decisions.  Some states seem keen on the extra revenue and a lot of voters feel it should be legal--but there are a lot of people that worry legalization will increase use by young people and because the teen brain is still developing and marijuana can have long term effects--it's certainly not a slam dunk decision.  20 years from now--it will certainly be different than today, but how it shapes up is anyone's guess.

-Lis Davis

About how many people die a year from drugs?

-soccergirl20, Illinois

Hi there soccergirl20.The effects of drug use can be far reaching- cardiovascular (think hearts!) disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and lung disease (among others) can impact the life expectancy of users, meaning it can lead to dying sooner than they would have otherwise.  If you're talking about overdose deaths, there were about 43,900 of those in America in 2013. A whopping 35,663 (81.1%) of those were unintentional, which shows how dangerous drugs can be. Our friends over at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have good data on this. 

For more info on overdoses, check out:

-Marsha Lopez

About how many people die annually from drug abuse?

-ackbjc4, Massachusetts

Hello ackbjc4. The short answer is way too many! There were about 43,900 drug overdose deaths in America in 2013. A whopping 35,663 (81.1%) of those were unintentional. That's how dangerous drugs can be!  About  22,700 were from prescription drugs, like painkillers. (Over the past few years prescription painkillers (we call them opioids) have caused the most more death than cocaine and heroin, combined!). Our friends over at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have good data on this. One kind of shocking fact is that drug overdose was the leading cause of injury death in 2012! More than car accidents! So remember that if you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction, get help now. It could save a life.

For more info, check out:

-Marsha Lopez

about how many teenagers use drugs in america ?

-robertA, Texas

Hey there robertA. Thanks for your question!  Here's a figure from the 2014 Monitoring the Future survey showing the most commonly used illegal substances among 8th and 12th graders. For 8th graders, that's marijuana, inhalants and synthetic marijuana (yuck!). For 12th graders it's marijuana, Adderall and synthetic marijuana. Alcohol is the most use substance overall, though. You can also check out the National Study of Drug Use and Health for age ranges:


-Marsha Lopez

about how may people die from using heroin each year?

-alexisncm, Maryland

Heyyyyy there Alexisncm. Great question. According to our friends over at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3,635 died from heroin in 2012 in the 28 states they studied. It's hard to get exact numbers for things like this, so the important thing to note is that the rate of people dying from heroin overdose is on the rise. In fact, it has doubled from 2010 to 2012! Check out their report here:​

-Marsha Lopez

after a while what does weed do to your brain

-drock, Maryland

Here are some facts on marijuana.

Bottom line, looks like it can lower your IQ and change your brain in harmful ways, but we still to do more research to find out the full impact.



-Dave Thomas

After the age 21, can people drive after drinking any alcohol?

-rjin7851, Maryland

Yes, after the age of 21 it is legal to drive with a blood alcohol level up to 0.08%, which represents 3 or 4 drinks in an hour or two for a typical male or female. It is important to note that even just a drink or two, which produces a blood alcohol level of around 0.02% "(well below the legal limit), increases the risk of crashes significantly. 

-Aaron White

Can different drugs do different things. Does it affect your brain?

-KevinC, Texas

Hi Kevin, Yes and Yes. Some drugs are stimulants (methamphetamine) others are sedatives (heroin) and some are psychoactive (LSD). They affect different cells in the brain, and different brain areas and brain connectivity. What they share in common is the ability to create a sensation of pleasure or reward which reinforces and increases the desire to have more. More information is here:

-Roger Little



TY THE FLYEST- hey there...

Dogs can get high off drugs, but they can also get very sick. Dogs much prefer to be taken out for a walk instead. 


-Joni Rutter

Can doing drugs kill a baby before its born? (Not including being prematurely born)

-BallislifeMD, Maryland

We know that drugs can affect babies before they are born. Drugs are passed from mother to fetus. These include alcohol, stimulants like cocaine, and heroin as babies are born with fetal alcohol syndrome, stimulant syndrome, and heroin dependence.  We have no data on whether fetuses who die before birth did so because of drug exposure.  But it does not seem fair to expose an innocent human to these drugs.

-Nancy Pilotte

Can doing drugs trigger an underlying mental or personality disorder? And if so, which drugs are most likely to do sotion

-lc, Maryland

lc - great question! We are still sorting out the science of what comes first - mental illness or drug use, yet research is showing us that it is possible that people who develop symptoms of mental illness or disorders start taking drugs in an attempt to medicate themselves. Unfortunately, it doesn't help with the symptoms, and folks end up feeling worse. Whatever symptoms appear first, it's important to treat all mental illnesses at the same time. The best thing to do is go to a doctor who can provide treatment.
Regarding your second question, here's a link to more on which drugs can cause mental health problems:

-Denise Pintello

Can doing drugs, especially alcohol and marijuana, enhance or lead to depression at all?

-lc, Maryland

Hello 'Ic'! Thanks for your great question. Research has suggested that depressive symptoms are linked to the initiation of drug taking in adolescents. Check out this link for some information about it:

-Bethany Deeds

Can drinking underage affect the brain

-sofia12, Florida

Yes, alcohol affects every part of the brain. Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years can make an area of the brain called the frontal lobes smaller. The frontal lobes help us make decisions, think about things, and pay attention. Alcohol also can shrink the hippocampus, the area of the brain area that helps us learn and remember. Teenagers who drink a lot also have trouble with learning. We do not know yet whether these problems go away if the teenager stops drinking. It can also affect the part of the brain that controls our movement, making it more difficult to walk and focus.Teens who drink too much risk suffering lingering problems with attention and memory. 

-Aaron White

can drug addiction be over come on your own or do you need help?

-BryceR, Texas

Hi BryceR,

You have probably heard that some people who smoke can quit "cold turkey". These people have extremely high will-power. Unfortunately, these poeple are few and far between. Once you become addicted to alcohol or drugs, it is very hard to quit on your own. We are doing  research to develop and improve behaviroal and medicine treatments to help addicted people stop using. A combination of both treatments has been shown to be the best approach for treating addiction.

If you know anyone who wants to quit taking drugs, here is a website that gives information on local treatment programs throughout the Nation:

-Roger Sorenson

can drugs affect my cell division process

-Fallout, Michigan

Hi Fallout - Gold star question!  In general, addiction researchers study effects of drugs on the brain, and mature neurons don't divide.  However, some reports found that a byproduct of cocaine metabolism hinders the development of new nerve cells by interfering with a specific protein, cyclin A, which regulates cell division. More research needs to be done on this question to understand the effects of other drugs of abuse.  I hope you become a scientist, Fallout, and try to help us figure this out!

-Joni Rutter

Can drugs affect personality?

-Jju, Maryland

Hello Neighbors from Maryland!  As a result of decades of scientific research, we know that addiction is a disease that affects both the brain and behavior. Here is an example--Marijauna. Long-term use of this drug can  lead to a series of attitude and personality changes, known as “amotivational syndrome.” This syndrome is characterized by a diminished ability to carry out long-term plans, a sense of apathy, decreased attention to appearance and behavior, and decreased ability to concentrate for long periods of time. These changes can also include poor performance in school.
Here's a link for more information:

-Bethany Deeds

Can drugs affect your eye sight?

-AlynaG, Texas

Hi Alyna! Drugs can certainly affect your perception of sight. Hallucinogenic drugs (LSD, peyote, etc) can make you see things that aren't there, for instance. There is also some evidence that cocaine use can contribute to developing glaucoma, an eye disease that affects sight. For instance, one study showed former cocaine users were found to develop glaucoma on average 20 years earlier than non users, even if they no longer took the drug.

-Joseph Frascella

Do people get addicted to the act of doing drugs/ getting high, or the actual drug/inhalant itself?

-tollestudent15, Ohio

Hello Tolles Career Student! This is a fantastic question. Part 1 (the act): There are many reasons why people take (and continue) drugs. Some of the reasons are that it will help them perform better in schools or sports, they are stressed out about life and want a release, they feel peer pressure and they think it will make them feel good. Drugs aren't going to solve these problems though. Part 2 (actual drug): The addictiveness of a particular drug would vary based on factors like how it effects the brain and the severity of withdrawal symptoms. 

-Bethany Deeds

Do people get addicted to the cigarette gum that is supposed to help them stop smoking?

-christina brown, Connecticut

They need the gum to feel normal but in general don't become addicted to it.  

-Nora Volkow

do people get high just to fell better about something in the past

-dvaughnte gildo, Texas

Great question, dvaughnte gildo! Yes, sometimes people try drugs in order to mask feelings they don't want to feel. Another reason people try drugs is peer pressure. Other teens have this same question. Check out this blog post to read more:

-Joseph Frascella

do people give real drugs to dogs

-seahawks boss 1, Georgia

It's happend before, unfortunately. In dogs and cats poisoned by marijuana, clinical signs may be seen within 3 hours, and include severe depression, walking as if drunk, lethargy, coma, low heart rate, low blood pressure, respiratory depression, dilated pupils, hyperactivity, vocalization and seizures. Vomiting is often seen with dogs despite the “anti-emetic” (anti-vomiting) qualities of THC.  See our teen blog about this.

If your dog or cat eats any drug, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline immediately for life-saving treatment advice.

-Joni Rutter


-minimi, Maryland

Sure, there are bathtub chemists that can make some drugs at home.   But if you are asking whether our bodies can make drugs, the answer is also sure. Many drug of abuse mimic the chemicals that our brains make and that are important for the brain to work.  However, the brain uses these chemicals in small amounts and in precise areas of our brains.  In contrast when drugs are ingested and abused, they are often in much higher concentrations and go all over the brain. The result is abnormal brain function....   


-Dave Thomas

Do people still use Opium today?

-TDG4802, Maryland

hi TD.
absolutely. If you are really interested in this topic, check out this world health organization report. 

thanks for the question

-Ruben Baler