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.

You searched for tolerance and dependance and addiction. Showing 1 to 30 of 2090 questions.
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Do certain people really have a higher tolerance to addiction, or is that just a myth?

-Kearsarge , New Hampshire

No, no, no.  Not a myth.   Whether one becomes addicted to drugs can depend on all sorts of factors, including their genetics, environment and developmental history.  Some people are more vunerable to addiction and some are less vunerable.  But it is hard to tell who might be more likely or less likely to become addicted, so if you abuse drugs, you are really taking your chances!!!

-Dave Thomas

WHRMS93 Why does nicotine cause addiction and how

-Maryjo, New Jersey

The most addictive chemical in cigarettes is nicotine. Studies show that nicotine acts on brain reward pathways—the brain circuitry that regulates feelings of pleasure. A key brain chemical involved in mediating the desire to consume drugs is the neurotransmitter dopamine, and research has shown that nicotine increases levels of dopamine in the reward circuits. Cigarette smoking produces a rapid distribution of nicotine to the brain, with drug levels peaking within 10 seconds of inhalation. However, the acute effects of nicotine dissipate quickly, as do the feelings of reward, which causes the smoker to continue dosing to maintain the drug’s pleasurable effects and prevent withdrawal. For more information on nicotine check out NIDA's website -

-Kevin Walton

Is a marijuana addiction bad? and what effects does it cause a person?

-mick004, Pennsylvania

Yes-- it disrupts a person's life making it hard for them to fulfill their responsibilities or achieve their goals.  It also affects motivation (to do anything besides take more marijuana).  And its not easy to quit, even with treatment.   

-Susan Weiss

How can having and addiction and then recovering from it affect you later in life, are the things that happen as bad as if you had never recovered?

-Gloria_V, Maryland

If you had an addiction and you have a strong support system you might be able to recover and lead a completely normal life. However if you dont have such a support system or are not engaged in school or a job..., this can impair you throughout your life.  

-Nora Volkow

Do you think that the media has a positive or negative effect on drug use and addiction?

-Kearsarge , New Hampshire

Hi Kearsarge,
Great, great question. I think the media has a mostly negative effect on drug use and addiction, in all kinds of ways: It tends to glamorize drug use, both by showing it as cool in movies and by constantly reporting on celebrities who do drugs and act wild. Even when news stories are about celebrities in rehab, it still makes people think that drugs are a part of living a glamorous life. 
There are other ways, too: The media tends to perpetuate myths about addiction, such as that it's a matter of willpower and not a brain disease.
Also, some people think that the media itself, just by promoting constant distraction and need for constant stimulation, makes us vulnerable to abusing substances too--that's more speculative, but worth thinking about.
What do you think?

-Eric Wargo

What is the cycle of addiction and how does it apply to those who become dependent on chemical substances?

-Mr. T, Pennsylvania

this is very good question, but the answer would have to be too long for this space. please check out this link with more cool information about addiction .

-Ruben Baler

Can my body build a tolerance to drugs?

-alicia, Ohio

Fantastic question, Alicia! I assume your talking about drugs that can be abused.  Yes, most people do develop a tolerance to drugs - that means after a person uses a drug for a while, it takes MORE drug for the person to feel the same effect. This is why people who are addicted need more and more of a drug just to feel normal.
Want to know how many teens are using drugs? Check out this infographic:

-Dave Thomas

can my body build up a tolerance to drugs?

-joe45, Maryland

Hi Joe45,
Yes, most people do develop a tolerance to drugs - that means after a person uses a drug for a while, it takes MORE drug for the person to feel the same effect. This is why people who are addicted need more and more of a drug just to feel normal.
Want to know how many teens are using drugs? Check out this infographic:

-Michelle Leff

I once overdosed on my hookah pen and my parents caught me, now I need to find help to get over my addiction. Any Advice?

-me123wj, Maryland

Hi me123wj... I'm sorry you found the hard way that smoking hookah can produce an overdose. Although some people don't know it, science shows that smoking hookah can deliver large amounts of nicotine to the brain and produce very uncomfortable effects such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, palpitations and feeling that you can't control yourself.

I don't think there are programs specifically for hookah addiction, but it's basically a form of nicotine or tobacco addiction. So, I suggest that you contact a tobacco quit lines quit. These are free and should be very helpful:

You've already taken the most important step--seeking help. Good luck.

-Ivan Montoya

how would you tell someone that they need help with there addiction and what would be a good way to approach the situation?

-vlennon08, Pennsylvania

Hi and thanks for your question. It's great that you want to help your friend. The best way to  approach them is to just let them know about your concern and how their drug use is affecting their behavior and your friendship.  All you can do is be supportive and listen. If they ask about getting substance abuse or mental health treatment, they can call 1-800-662-HELP, 24/7. Or you can go to to find information about treatment centers in your area. Good luck and I hope your able to help your friend!

-Jessica Cotto

I have cancer and i take Oxycodone for medication, but i have started to get an addiction to it how can u help?

-rfyrfydfgfhedhu, Massachusetts

If you have pain and your doctor has prescribed oxycodone for it and you feel you are becoming addicted, you need to tell your doctor so he can prescribe a different medication that can help control the pain but will protect you from getting addicted.

-Nora Volkow

My 3 of my uncles died from alcohol and most of my family drinks and are addicted does that mean I'm in danger of addiction?

-Jane Doe, Maryland

Yes, it could. Research suggests that peole with a family history of alcoholism are much more likely to develop alcoholism, too, particularly if they start drinking while they're still teens.

-Aaron White

Can drugs effect your body and brain and also alcohol?

-KevinC, Texas

Great question Kevin,
Absolutely, drugs and alcohol (which, by the way, is a drug) affect many parts of your body and brain. In fact, that is exactly how drugs work, both illegal and legal drugs, by affecting your brain and body. Some of those effects may be beneficial and other harmful. The good effects is the reason why a doctor will prescribe a drug, and the bad effects is why it is important to read the label and talk to the doctor about how the drugs are affecting you. On the other hand, illegal drugs have been determined to have severe bad effects--not only addiction, but damage to many organs and tissues in the body. Excessive alcohol use can damage the liver--a disease called cirrhosis; stimulants can lead to heart problems, and smoking can damage the lungs. Here's more facts from our website:

-Steven Grant

What causes addiction?

-shaun kamal, Texas

Hi Shaun,

That's a great question, and we don't have a complete answer yet. Check out the link that explains factors that increase the risk for addiction: I hope this is helpful, Shaun. 

-Steven Grant

Are nicotine and caffeine similar?

-NateDoGG, Ohio

Hi NateDoGG (see how I kept the correct capitalization?? It's the details that count).  Nicotine and caffeine are both stimulant drugs, so they both increase heart rate, jitteriness, etc.  In the brain, they act through different mechanisms, but they both end up affecting the dopamine system, so there is a convergence.  Both can cause addiction.  Both are legal (although nicotine is only legal for adults).  Both can adversely affect the developing brain, so think before downing those three Red Bulls or smoking cigarettes!

-Cindy Miner

is addiction a disease?

-Graciela, Ohio

Hello Graciela,

That is a great question, addiction is a disease.  How it affects people depends on genetics (do other people in the family suffer from it), and environment, things like stress or ability to access health care. Many people do not understand this and think people who suffer from addiction are somehow weak-willed and lack self-control. We know that addiction has a biological basis having to do with the way drugs affect the brain and like other disease, with treatment, people get better.

-Nora Volkow

Is drug addiction genetic?

-Doratheexplorer, Ohio

Hi Doratheexplorer! Great question!  Research is showing that there can be clear genetic effects in addiction.  Of course, many other factors are involved, but we know that genetics can play a key role in addiction. Check out this video to learn about the connection between genetics and nicotine addiction:

-Joseph Frascella

How and why can drugs alter your mood and behavior so drastically?

-mnmcastle, Maryland

Great question, mnmcastle!  Drugs of abuse get into the brain, alter the brain chemistry, and interact with the brain's reward pathway. These direct effects on brain processes, especially when repeated through continued use, can alter your mood, and change your behavior quite drastically. If you want to learn more, check out

-Joseph Frascella

why do people smoke and drink

-kl, Texas

Smoking and drinking are different from other forms of drug use because they are legal for adults in the United States. For this reason, there are many cultural reasons why people smoke and drink, along with not understanding that these legal drugs can still be dangerous. At the level of brain function, alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs all act on the brain’s reward circuitry. In the short term, this can cause pleasurable feelings, and in the long term it can lead to addiction. It’s important to point out that alcohol and tobacco are not legal for teenagers, whose brains are still developing and therefore more vulnerable to drug effects.

-Michelle Rankin

Obviously, no drugs are good drugs. But since marijuana is not physically addictive and you cannot overdose on it, would you argue that it is not as dangerous as everyone makes it out to be? (and the addiction rate is only about 10%)

-wjgirl, Maryland

Hey wjgirl-- Actually, in some people marijuana can cause a mild withdrawal syndrome.  Lots of marijuana users report sleep problems, cravings, etc. And, as you point out, about 10% of users become addicted.  Did you know that out of the 8,000 or so venomous snake bites in the US, 5 are fatal (that's 0.000625%).  I still wouldn't want to take the chance.  

-Joni Rutter

Why are there so many drugs?

-Allie and Nessa, Ohio

Hi Allie
interesting question
the fact is that there are gazillions over gazillions of molecules out there, even if, by chance, a negligible portion of those molecules happens to be able interact with a subset of pleasure related molecules in the brain, that would translate into thousands upon thousands of potentially addictive drugs. Even if humans cross paths with a tiny fraction of those that is still many hundreds of drugs 
makes sense?  

-Ruben Baler

What drugs affect brain development and how?

-sesmith17, Minnesota

Your question is a terrific one, and it is one that we are very interested researching. We know that the teen brain is going through large changes, and we certainly know that drugs of abuse can affect brain processes. Drugs can have long-lasting effects if taken during development, and we do know that the earlier drugs are experimented with and taken, the greater the likelihood that addiction can occur. One study showed that teens who used marijuana a lot lost an average of 8 IQ points by the time they were adults. Depending on the drug, some findings have shown effects on the structure and others on the normal functioning of the brain.  We also know that the longer one takes drugs, the greater the chance of causing negative effects. Thanks for asking.

-Joseph Frascella

do cocaine and chocolate have a connection?

-Christina Brown, Connecticut

Cocaine and chocolate do not affect your body in the same way.  Though chocolate can be hard to resist--and both stimulate the reward center in your brain, "death by chocolate" is just a fancy dessert and not a reality.  Cocaine can lead to addiction which is a brain disease. Repeated drug use can reset the brain’s pleasure meter, so that without the drug, you feel hopeless and sad. Eventually, everyday fun stuff like spending time with friends or playing with your dog doesn't’t make you happy anymore. Stimulants like cocaine cause the body’s blood vessels to narrow, constricting the flow of blood, 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. 

-Nora Volkow

How can you get rid of addiction?

-Kenny N, Texas

Hey Kenny N! Thanks for your question. Becoming addicted is a process and so is treating it! Here is a link that talks about the steps to overcoming addiction:

-Bethany Deeds

Whats the difference between crack and cocaine

-ccampb3596, Maryland

DrugFree--That's good!

Cocaine and crack are both drugs that come from the  coca plant but differ in their chemistry. 

Cocaine is a white powder that's usually snorted. Crack is a form of free-base cocaine that is solid and people smoke it. Their effects on the brain are similar and they both can be highly addictive.

-Ivan Montoya

why do people get addiction to drugs

-justinC, Texas

Hello JustinC
No one sets out to be addicted to drugs. Drugs cause addiction by, first, giving a person feelings that make him/her keep on taking more, and second, by causing him/her to focus so much on taking the drug that he/she loses pleasure and interest in other activities. These things happen because drugs alter the way brain cells communicate with each other. You'll find a fuller explanation of how these things happen here:
Fortunately, with treatment, people can recover from addiction.

-Roger Sorenson

If alcohol and drugs are so dangerous and addictive WHY ARE THEY STILL BEING MASS PRODUCED!?

-Michael Oduro, Maryland

Quite simply, supply and demand. As long as people want to purchase and use alcohol and other drugs, someone will make them and sell them.

-Aaron White

mixing drugs and alcohol can kill you?


Hi Grettelo. Depending upon how much of each is used and for how long, mixing drugs and alcohol can kill.  There is no safe limit. Don't do it. Learn more about overdose deaths at

-Cora Lee Wetherington

how to control a drug addiction

-mainz4life , California

Thank you for your message on how to control drug addiction. I hope to offer a few pointers on how to control drug addiction. The 100% best way is to not experiment or use drugs at all. The best way to control or get help is to seek help from a treatment professional. A commonly used approach to help with drug addiction is cognitive-behavior therapy or CBT, which helps people understand the reasons why they use drugs and develop healthy strategies and alternative behaviors that do not rely on addiction. I hope this response is helpful and look forward to your questions next year!

-Will Aklin

If drugs and alcohal are so bad and illegal why are THEY STILL BEING MASS PRODUCED!?!

-Michael Oduro, Maryland

Quite simply, supply and demand. There are people who make and sell drugs, including alcohol, because other people want to purchase and use them. 

-Aaron White