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.

Download Full Year

can depression drive someone to do drugs?

-larryeast, Oklahoma

Hi larryeast. That is a great question. Yes...depression and drug use often go together, resulting in what's called a 'co-morbidity' - multiple medical/mental health conditions that are occurring at the same time. Sometimes, folks who are depressed use drugs to make themselves feel better (commonly called 'self-medicating'). This is not a good approach to treating depression. If someone is depressed and they are thinking about using drugs, this is a great opportunity for both prevention and treatment (preventing drug use and treating depression). Using drugs when depressed will only make it harder to treat a depression. So, if someone is depressed, best to seek professional help - we have many effective treatments for depression in teens. Here's a link for you to find out more about depression: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml

-Amy Goldstein

can doing drugs cause ur baby to be unhealthy?

-jordan, Ohio

Great question! It really depends on several factors, but drug exposure to a baby can cause serious damage. Prenatal exposure can affect a child and affect his or her brain and behavior development. The consequences of drug exposure can range depending on many factors. Negative consequences can be short or long term effects on the brain resulting in problems for example, in memory, attention and behavior. The effects to the baby depends on what drug, how much, and what time during pregnancy. There is an amazing amount of development going on from the moment of conception through birth, and scientists are examining exactly how drugs can affect the developing baby. Some people think that only street or hard drugs can affect the baby, but cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drug abuse such as oxycotin and vicodin also has affects. For example, smoking has been related to infant mortality, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome. And scientists are looking at how smoking might affect gene expression (how genes turn on and off) in the fetus. Pretty amazing stuff. Here's some more info on prenatal exposure: http://www.drugabuse.gov/tib/prenatal.html and http://www.nida.nih.gov/consequences/prenatal/If you know someone who needs help with an addiction, you can find a substance abuse treatment facility by calling 1-800-662-HELP or go to www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov anytime, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.

-Joe Frascella

Can drinking

-jckahn14, Indiana

Good question. Both alcohol and drugs like marijuana can cause problems with athletic performance. Marijuana can hurt your lungs and breathing--something all athletes need for peak performance. Alcohol can cause headaches and fatigue after drinking, and in the long term, heavy use of alcohol can damage the body in many ways

-Wilson Compton

can drinking a lot of

-jcarson, Illinois

Yes, it certainly can. Alcohol has powerful effects on the brain and dramatically slows brain functioning. If you drink enough alcohol, your brain can shut down as a result, sending you into a deep, coma-like state. Alcohol can also shut off vital centers in the brain we need to keep us alive, and even cause death

-Aaron White

can drinking a lot of alcohol put in a comma

-jcarson, Illinois

Yes, it certainly can. Alcohol has powerful effects on the brain and dramatically slows brain functioning. If you drink enough alcohol, your brain can shut down as a result, sending you into a deep, coma-like state. Alcohol can also shut off vital centers in the brain we need to keep us alive, and even cause death.

-Aaron White

Can drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana affect athletic performance if you are not under the influence while you are playing?

-jckahn14, Indiana

Good question. Both alcohol and drugs like marijuana can cause problems with athletic performance. Marijuana can hurt your lungs and breathing--something all athletes need for peak performance. Alcohol can cause headaches and fatigue after drinking, and in the long term, heavy use of alcohol can damage the body in many ways.

-Wilson Compton

can drinking and driving always kill you?

-brianna_m, Pennsylvania

Well, it doesn't always kill you, but it does always increase the chances that you could die or get injured yourself, or you can hurt or kill other people.

-Aaron White

can drinking and smoking cause any long term affects on your body if you do it sometimes at a young age?

-alexaandshannon, New Jersey

Hi New Egypt.Absolutely!! Did you know your brain is not fully developed and mature until you're 25 year of age!! And brain developmental factors are important in drug abuse. Since drugs can affect how the brain develops, drug use during adolescence may be particularly harmful to the still developing brain. Drug effects can be also 'cumulative' so the more and longer you use the more likely to have long-term effects- think cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Also, research shows that ealier a person starts using drugs, the more likely they are to have drug and other problems, like with family relationships, grades, etc. So the younger a person starts and the longer they continue to use drugs, the more risk for addiction and other negative effects associated with drugs of abuse. Learn more about how drugs affect a person's brain and life, click on http://drugabuse.gov/scienceofaddiction/, https://teens.drugabuse.gov/

-David Shurtleff

Can drug addictions afect you personal life?

-sarahv, California

Absolutely. Drugs don't just make you high or only affect you personally. They can affect everyone around you. Think about it -- drug abuse significantly impairs your ability to make good decisions. If you do something that gets you kicked out of school, or lands you in jail, or uses up all your money, or puts you behind the wheel of a car when you have no business being there -- all of those things affect your personal life and the people around you -- in potentially very serious ways.

-Lori Ducharme

can drug make you stupitd

-58494, California

Hey Johnson Middle School, CA! Thanks for your question. Drugs can definitely make you stupid! Here's an example: marijuana intoxication can cause distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and problems with learning and memory. Research has shown that, in chronic users, marijuana's adverse impact on learning and memory can last for days or weeks after the acute effects of the drug wear off. As a result, someone who smokes marijuana every day may be functioning at a suboptimal intellectual level all of the time.

-Joni Rutter

Can drugs actually be helpful at times? If so would patients become addicted to the drugs?

-A. R, Illinois

Yes, drugs can be good or bad, depending on how they're used. Drugs that are used to treat a diagnosed medical condition, even drugs that can be potentially addictive, can be very helpful and sometimes necessary, and should not lead to addiction as long as they are taken under the care of a physician and in the amounts that are prescribed. Also, over the counter drugs are not addictive as long as they are taken for the condition they were meant for, and in the dosages described on the container.

-Jim Bjork

can drugs affect your sanity (mental health)?

-aescobar, Texas

Yes. Many people who are addicted to drugs are also diagnosed with other mental disorders and vice versa. For example, compared with the general population, people addicted to drugs are roughly twice as likely to suffer from mood and anxiety disorders, with the reverse also true. For more information, see: www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/comorbidity.html.

-Joni Rutter

Can drugs brainwash you?

-jum, Texas

Not quite sure I know exactly what you mean by 'brainwashing' you. If you are asking if drugs can affect the brain and hijack certain brain circuits, there is growing evidence that drugs can do this. It really is the process of addiction where drugs change the brain such that we are no longer in control of our behaviors. The definition of addiction is a disease characterized by uncontrollable drug craving, drug seeking, and drug use that persist even in the face of extremely negative consequences, such as losing your job, doing poorly in school, getting arrested, or getting sick. Addiction develops because of changes to the brain caused by drug use. Initially, all drugs of abuse, either directly or indirectly, increase the activity of the chemical dopamine in the brain's reward centers, which is what makes people feel good. However, with continued drug use and excessive activation of dopamine neurons, the brain starts to adapt to the good feeling, so more drugs are needed to achieve it. This causes people to become dependent on the drug, to feel bad when it is not in their system, and to seek and take the drug compulsively--without even thinking about it. Another way that drugs change the brain is to affect the ability to make decisions, such as judging what's important, what's healthy, and what's dangerous. The compulsive seeking and using of drugs even in the face of potentially devastating consequences is the essence of addiction.So I think addiction is a kind of 'brainwash'!To learn more, check out 'The Science of Addiction' at http://www.nida.nih.gov/scienceofaddiction/.

-Joe Frascella

Can drugs change the person’s character?

-Svelkova,

Yes! While people can act differently when they're actually high at the time, continuous use of some drugs like meth or ecstasy can damage brain circuits that help us keep control over our emotions, leading an addict to become really disagreeable or nasty, for example.

-Jim Bjork

can drugs effect sex?

-master, Michigan

Some drugs can. For example:anabolic steroids can lower sex drivemarijuana can lower sperm countecstasy and poppers are often abused to enhance sexual arousal.Thanks for a great question.

-Joe Frascella

Can drugs give you a stroke?

-pokemonmaster, Vermont

yes

-Nora Volkow

Can drugs in general cause physical and self-control diseases such as anorexia and bullimia?

-Andrew, Ohio

We don't know of evidence linking drug use to anorexia or bulimia.

-Nora Volkow

can drugs kill people?

-Sweetheart101, Virginia

Yes. Cocaine and stimulants can increase heart rate and blood pressure to cause heart attacks and strokes. Heroin and alcohol (and especially a combination of the two) can cause the brain to stop telling the chest to breathe, and people die from overdose for that reason.Finally, driving while intoxicated kills a LOT of people, as another example of how drugs kill.

-Jim Bjork

Can drugs kill sperm cells and vaginal areas?

-leapfrog33, Pennsylvania

Drugs can definitely affect sperm cells and the uterus. They can reduce fertility and affect hormones that are important for reproduction, and certainly affect the ability of sperm to travel, but I don't remember reading that they actually kill the cells. Drugs can still disrupt normal function even if cells aren't killed. Drugs never have one effect, in almost all cases they affect normal function as well. It is important to consider all effects when making an informed decision about using drugs or not. Thanks for your question!

-Marilyn Huestis

can drugs kill u or can they make u go mental

-AliciaT, California

Yes, drugs can be very dangerous and can result in significant negative medical and health consequences, and also can result in death. As for affecting your mental health, certainly drugs are capable of producing psychological, psychiatric and neurologic problems such as psychosis, paranoia, hallucinations, panic attacks, seizures.For more information on the effects of drugs, check out 'Drugs, Brains, and Behavior - The Science of Addiction' at http://www.drugabuse.gov/scienceofaddiction/. Additional resources can be found on NIDA's website, www.drugabuse.gov.

-Joe Frascella

'Bath salts' have just been banned for a year in the United States. What can these chemicals do to the human body and brain?

-shannonl, Ohio

Good question.Unfortunately people are ingesting bath salts searching for a high, but many are finding serious consequences! Bath salts contain chemicals similar to ectascy, amphetamine and cocaine, which are associated with bad side effects like dangerously elevated blood pressure and heart rates, there have been reports of people becoming so agitated that their muscles started to break down, releasing chemicals that led to kidney failure. So, while it seems like bath salts woudn't pose any harm, used in the wrong way, it can be seriously dangerous stuff!

-David Shurtleff

1. What is the percentage of people who overdose on drugs per month? 2. Can prescription drugs cause hallucinations? 3. What percentage of teens use prescription drugs?

-koster, Iowa

Over a thousand people die each month in the US from prescrition pain killer overdoses. Halucinations are rare from prescription opioids. NIDA puts out a publication that answers a lot of questions about teen drug use. Check it out! http://monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/mtf-overview2010.pdf

-Dave Thomas

a good place to begin is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Web site, www.samhsa.gov

-substance abuse prevention and treatment,

Web site, www.samhsa.gov.

-Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s

a lot of people need mental help right?

-cnunez, Texas

hi cnunez: It's true: mental disorders are pretty common, and over their lifetime, many people struggle with these problems and need help. In fact, mental illnesses are not as rare of some people think. About 20% of youth will have at least one type of mental illness in their lifetime. But the good news is that we have good treatments for the mental health problems that affect children, teens, and adults. Depending on the person and the problem, these treatments can include specific talk therapies (psychotherapies), medications, or a combination of treatments. So when someone is struggling, it's important for them to talk to a professional as early as possible to get help. Mental illnesses are real and can be treated. They are not often something a person can just snap out of. Some people do not get help because they are embarrassed or afraid to. However, getting help for mental issues is really no different than seeking help for a medical condition like diabetes. If you or someone you know needs help go to http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/getting-help-locate-services/index.shtml for information on who to talk to and how to find help in your area. 

-Joel Sherrill

A question was asked 'Is

-ImNotAPanda, Pennsylvania

Yes, for teenagers, even moderate consumption of alcohol appears to be harmful. Research shows that having alcohol during the teen years increases the odds of becoming an alcoholic at some point in life. This happens even if you drink at home with your parents. In fact, research in Europe, the US and Australia indicates that teens who are allowed to drink at home even while being supervised by parents are more likely to binge drink (drink enough over about 2 hours to get very drunk) outside of the home. It isn't clear how much alcohol is needed to directly damage the brain during the teen years, but it is probably more than the amount of alcohol considered to be moderate for adults (no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 for men). Even if the brain is spared from being damaged by moderate consumption during the teen years, the risk of becoming an alcoholic is increased significantly

-Aaron White

A question was asked 'Is Alcohol Bad For You.' and your responce didnt fully explain everything. Does alcohol bad for you even in moderation?

-ImNotAPanda, Pennsylvania

Yes, for teenagers, even moderate consumption of alcohol appears to be harmful. Research shows that having alcohol during the teen years increases the odds of becoming an alcoholic at some point in life. This happens even if you drink at home with your parents. In fact, research in Europe, the US and Australia indicates that teens who are allowed to drink at home even while being supervised by parents are more likely to binge drink (drink enough over about 2 hours to get very drunk) outside of the home. It isn't clear how much alcohol is needed to directly damage the brain during the teen years, but it is probably more than the amount of alcohol considered to be moderate for adults (no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 for men). Even if the brain is spared from being damaged by moderate consumption during the teen years, the risk of becoming an alcoholic is increased significantly.

-Aaron White

About how long does it take to quit and recover from using drugs?

-cthompson, Pennsylvania

It depends on what they are addicted to. If marijuana users quit, it's often in their twenties after starting in their teens (so 10+ years to get around to quitting). Older age and marriage are predictive of quitting. But plenty of people remain addicted or frequent users of marijuana into older adulthood. Very few seek formal treatment. Stimulant and heroin users quit later and often heroin users remain on methadone (a treatment medication) or go back to using heroin. It can be a lifelong battle. Technically, it takes only one day to quit cold turkey, but fixing all the damage to relationships, employment history, and educational history can take a very long time and in some cases be insurmountable. Some people remain in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or NA (Narcotics Anonymous) type groups their entire lives or cycle through patterns of recovery and relapse. Most people who quit drugs do it without formal treatment but these people usually have less severe and shorter use histories.

-Jim Bjork

about how many childeren use alchol or drugs?????

-harry.h, Texas

The Monitoring the Future Study is a survey conducted by the University of Michigan every year where they ask 8th, 10th, and 12th graders about their drug use behavior and attitudes. In 2010, around 20% of 8th graders, 32% of 10th graders, and 39% of high school seniors reported they had used some type of drug in the past year (includes any use of marijuana, inhalants, LSD, other hallucinogens, crack, other cocaine, heroin, narcotics other than heroin, amphetamines, sedatives (barbiturates), or tranquilizers not under a doctor’s orders). In the same study 29% of 8th graders, 52% of 10th graders, and 65% of high school seniors reported having used alcohol at some point in the past year and about 12% of 8th, 30% of 10th, and 44% of 12th graders reported they had been drunk in the past year.

-Marsha Lopez

About how many years does it take for you to stop taking a drug?

-jvu, Texas

Hi, jvu. Many people struggle with drug addiction, but with proper treatment, quitting is an achievable goal. How long it takes will depend on a number of factors, including what drugs someone is taking, how much they're taking, and for how long. See http://www.drugabuse.gov/scienceofaddiction/index.html for more info.

-Dave White

after you snort

-ZaCh!, Ohio

Hey ZaCH! Not only may you experience loss of smell, but also a chronically runny nose, nosebleeds, hoarseness, and problems swallowing. Also, chronic users of cocaine can become malnourished due to the drug's ability to decrease appetite. But I wouldn't ingest cocaine -- period. It could cause severe bowel gangrene due to a reduction in the flow of blood to the intestines. That's nasty! If someone were to inject it, they could experience severe allergic reactions, increased risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis and other blood-borne diseases. For more information on cocaine, see:
www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/Cocaine.html

-Joni Rutter

Pages