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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Can you tell me what the percentages of middle school teens in the U.S. that are using alcohol or marijuana? Aren't the majority NOT using these substances?

-jojo, Massachusetts

Hi, jojo, great question and you are correct!  The majority of teens are not using alcohol, marijuana, or drugs of any kind.  Between 60 and 70% of 8th graders haven't ever used alcohol, cigarettes, or other drugs, according to the national Monitoring the Future survey. If we're talking about using in the month prior to the survey, that number jumps to 80-90%.  The same study reported 6.5% of 8th graders reported using marijuana and almost 10% had consumed alcohol in the past month.  For more stats, go to www.monitoringthefuture.org
 

-Marsha Lopez

Can your kids get problems if you smoke weed then have a kid?

-con bon , New Jersey

Hey con bon -- Not to get too much into the weeds, but yes!  If mom or dad has used drugs, the kid may be more vulnerable. BUT.....while genes play a big role, they are only part of the picture. Other factors, like having friends who don't use drugs, or being involved in sports and other recreational activities, also affect your risk of trying drugs and of becoming addicted. Researchers are trying to find the genes that make you vulnerable or resistant to addiction, in order to find ways to improve treatment and prevention approaches.  Want more information on genes, addiction, and teens? Check out: https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/genetics and http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/real-teens-ask-addiction-hereditary/

-Joni Rutter

can your teeth fall when you smoke a lot?

-ahernandez, Texas

Hello ahernandez
No, it will only make them turn yellow. It will also oyour chances of getting many different cancers, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and chronic lung conditions.
There is more information here: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes
 

-Roger Little

cheapest drug? most expensive drug?

-tmoorf6930, Michigan

Hey there tmoorf6930. Great question, but it's a tough one to answer. It depends on a lot of different variables like, what country are we talking about? how is the drug made? how far does the drug need to travel to get to a user? what are the local drug laws? The Canadian Website O.Canada has rounded up data from the United Nations, the White House, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to create "http://wpmedia.o.canada.com/2014/10/drugprices_ig.jpg" to give you some answers. There's also an interactive map, "http://o.canada.com/business/interactive-what-illegal-drugs-cost-on-the-..."

-Marsha Lopez

Chris N. IMS, KS- How can beer make you fall over?

-AMY KARR, Kansas

Alcohol interferes with a brain area called the cerebellum, which normally helpes us maintain good balance and posture.

-Aaron White

Christian Sims-Calera High School: How many drinks does it take for you to get alcohol poisoning?

-gniven, Alabama

Good question. That's something that would depend on how old the person is, their size, whether they are used to drinking alcohol, and other factors. It's important to recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning. Critical signs of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Mental confusion
  • Stupor
  • Coma
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow or irregular breathing
  • Hypothermia (low temperature)
  • Bluish skin color
  • Paleness

If you think someone you know may be experiencing alcohol poisoning, make sure to get help immediately. You can call 911.
You can learn more about alcohol poisoning at: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/AlcoholOverdoseFactsheet/Overdose...

 

-Aaron White

could a baby in the womb get high by their mother smoking

-NikeriaT125, Georgia

Hi NikeriaT125,
Every drug a pregnant woman takes also reaches her baby. The ways in which the baby can be affected depends on the drug the mother takes, how much she uses, and when in pregnancy she uses. But the good news is that the sooner a pregnant woman stops using drugs, the better the results for her baby. You can read more at http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/using-drugs-when-pregnant-harms-baby.

-Maureen Boyle

Do you know what the first drug known to man is??

-GMarie14, Michigan

alcohol

-Nora Volkow

Do you think fast food is equivalent in harmfullness to drugs?

-fdang, Texas

they are different. Fast foods are not good for you and can lead to compuslive overeating and obesity. Drugs of abuse, on the other hand, affect your brain and cannot only make you addicted but can affect your intelligence and mood.

-Nora Volkow

Do you think marijuana has any medical benefits?

-\.=., Massachusetts

This is a Frequently Asked Question: Why is weed illegal if it is a medicine? 
Marijuana for medical use has been in the news a lot lately. The marijuana plant has not been approved by the FDA for the treatment of any medical condition. There is early research suggesting that some of the active ingredients in marijuana, like THC and cannabidiol (CBD), may potentially help treat things like epilepsy, cancer, obesity, or addiction. Scientists are studying these ingredients to try to develop new medications.   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, smoked marijuana is unlikely to be an ideal medication because of its negative health effects, including the risk of addiction and the damage that smoking can do to the lungs.

-Maureen Boyle

Do you think people would continue to use cigarettes if nicotine was removed from them?

-FSCAA, Delaware

Excellent question FSCAA!! Best one yet. We think that people would not use cigarettes as much if nicotine was removed. A recent study shows that cutting the amount of nicotine in cigarettes leads to a reduction in the amount of cigarettes smoked per day, decreased nicotine dependence, and reduced cravings. Check out the summary here:"http://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2015/10/reducing-nico...".There are a lot of scientists hard at work to help answer this question!!

-Joni Rutter

Do you think there will be a cure for people that has diseases from drugs and alcohol?

-fdang, Texas

yes, we re woking on it :)

-Nora Volkow

Do you watch breaking bad?

-fluffygod, Texas

I did! Did you?

-Joni Rutter

Couldn't legalizing and taxing marijuana generate significant revenue?

-detraviousk, Georgia

That's a question that still is being looked into in localities and states where legalization has occured. NIDA is funding a number of research studies to better understand the impact of changing marijuana policies. Keep tracking information at drugabuse.gov

thanks

Dr. J for Dr. L who's snowbound today!

-Michelle Leff

Currently, which age group of people are the ones consuming more drugs?

-Jessica L, New Mexico

Good question, Jessica L - Here are the latest statistics on drug use for Americans age 12 and older: www.drugabuse.gov/national-survey-drug-use-health.  More specific information can be found here - http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FRR1-2014/NSDUH-FRR1-2014.pdf

-Marsha Lopez

do a lot of teens drink when they are still in high school

-Abigaila, New Mexico

By age 15, about 35 percent of teens have had at least 1 drink.
By age 18, about 65 percent of teens have had at least 1 drink.
In 2014, 8.7 million young people ages 12–20 reported that they drank alcohol beyond "just a few sips" in the past month.

Another way to think about these numbers is: Only about 1 out of 10 kids ages 12 to 17 drank alcohol in the past month. So MOST – about 9 out of 10 – did not drink alcohol. This information comes from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH, 2014)
 

http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets

-Aaron White

Do adults above 30 abuse drugs or kids under 19, or from 20 to 30

-Mahats, Massachusetts

Thanks for your question, Mahats - unfortunately people in all of these age groups use drugs, according to national surveys. For example, Figure 3 in this link shows past month marijuana use among people aged 12 or older by age group: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FRR1-2014/NSDUH-FRR1-2014.pdf
 

-Marsha Lopez

do people drink alcohol for enjoyment

-ennisisd, Texas

People drink alcohol for a lot of different reasons. Some people may get messages from movies, TV, and our general culture that drinking can make you feel "cool." Others may feel that they can escape problems in their life by drinking. But they cannot - drinking only makes any problems you already have much worse. And there's nothing cool about throwing up in a garbage can or wrecking a car.
Learn more about why alcohol is dangerous for kids under age 21 and how you can resist the peer pressure to drink at: http://www.thecoolspot.gov/index.asp 

-Aaron White

do people ever die of weed overdose

-laqueefa, New Jersey

Hi laqueefa,
No. They just feel really terrible for a while and may have to go to the emergency room. 

-Eric Wargo

do people get addicted that fast..? to where you would rather buy meth then pay you're bills? and is it really that easy to get a hold of?

-aranaa, New Mexico

Hi Aranaa. Some people get addicted very quickly. For many substances, it takes years to develop addiction but for some drugs, like methamphetamine, tobacco and cocaine, many develop addiction within the first few months.

-Wilson Compton

Do people go through withdrawal when they stop smoking?

-rm, Massachusetts

Yes, they can. This usually depends on how much they've smoked and for how long.  Withdrawal symptoms from cigarette smoking can include irritability, attention and sleep problems, and increased appetite.

-Joni Rutter

do people normally stop smoking if they get emphysema

-akavanaugh, Texas

Great question akavanaugh. You would think that people quit smoking when they get ill but many do not. They are so addicted that they keep smoking anyway. In fact, the definition of addiction is compulsive drug use despite the harmful consequences. It is especially sad that emphysema may keep getting worse even if someone quits smoking.  The key idea is not to start smoking and to quit as quickly as possible.  Quitting smoking saves lives,

-Wilson Compton

Do people really abuse cough syrup?

-anon, Texas

Hi, anon, I know it's hard to believe but yes, people do!  Dextromethorphan is often therapeutically used as a cough suppressant, but in high doses can act as a dissociative hallucinogen, and there are some cough medicines that contain codeine, which is an opioid medication (same class of drugs as heroin). None of this is safe for your body or your brain, so only use these medicines as they're intended. Here's some more information for you about these: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cough-cold-medicine-abuse

-Marsha Lopez

do people stop doing cocain if they get sick from it

-akavanaugh, Texas

Hey akavanaugh. I hope that they don't even try to use cocaine. Unfortunately, cocaine is very addictive. Stimulants such as cocaine cause the body’s blood vessels to narrow, constricting blood flow, which forces the heart to work harder to pump blood through the body. The heart may work so hard that it temporarily loses its natural rhythm. This is why there have been many cases of people dying suddenly from heart attacks after using cocaine. http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/stimulants. So even though we know that cocaine use can cause serious illness and even death, those individuals who are addicted to cocaine will continue to use this drug.

-Roger Sorensen

do people use drugs or acohol more?

-ennisisd, Texas

Hi ennisisd - thanks for joining the Chat today. Here's what we know about commonly used drugs - The most common substance used by teens is alcohol. Almost 40% of high school seniors reported using alcohol in the past month. The most common illicit drug used by teens is marijuana. Both alcohol and marijuana can have negative effects on teenage brains that are still developing, especially when they are used heavily or often, so that's a big concern. Here are the latest rates of teen drug use from our Monitoring the Future Survey (of 8th, 10th and 12th graders). https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/monitoring-future

-Marsha Lopez

Do people who have been clinically diagnosed with depression have a higher risk of trying deadly drugs?

-blancoisd8, Texas

Hi blancoisd8, 
People with depression may use drugs in an effort to make themselves feel better. Lots of drugs or substances can be deadly if used in a dangerous way. That's one reason why seeking help for depression is important. 

-Charlotte Armstrong

Do small amount of tobacco make you pass out?

-sethm123, Georgia

I suppose it's possible.  More commonly, thougth, when nicotine enters the body, it initially causes the adrenal glands to release a hormone called epinephrine (adrenaline). The rush of adrenaline stimulates the body and causes an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing.

Even smoking just a little bit opens the door to addiction and smoking-related diseases. In fact, research shows that just a few cigarettes now and then can lead to cravings and other symptoms of addiction in some teens.

-Joni Rutter

Do some mental health issues come from traumatic experiences as a child?

-LBolton, New Hampshire

Hi LBolton.   That is a good question.  Yes - traumatic experiences can lead to mental health issues.  The tricky question is figuring out for who.   Some people who experience a traumatic experience (which could be anything from being in a car accident to witnessing something violent) go on to develop a mental health problem, while others demonstrate what's called resilience, and do not.  Researchers are working to understand these different groups so that we can develop better ways to prevent mental health issues among people who have traumatic experiences as children.  

-Amy Goldstein

do any drugs attack your blood cells

-Aali, Texas

Not that we know of

-Nora Volkow

Do bath salts turn you into a zombie?

-fluffygod, Texas

I think you are referring to reports from the news of people "acting like zombies" from "bath salts." Sorry to dash your hopes--they aren't really "zombies." In fact, the people those news articles referred to when tested did not have "bath salts" in their body, but unfortunately the media acts as if these drugs can turn a person into a "zombie." In 2015, 1 percent of 12th graders reported past year use of bath salts. That statistic is more frightening than zombies!!

-Joni Rutter