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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'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

after you snort cocaine can you smell anymore?

-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

agood placeto beginis the

-substance abuse prevention and treatment,

Web site, www.samhsa.gov

-Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s

Aisha kenmore do the drug laws differ from state to state and if so, why?

-pdoug, Virginia

Hello - and thanks for your question. I Don't know that I can really answer the question about 'why' the laws regarding illicit drugs differ from state to state. What I do know is that the legal consequences for posession of drugs differs by type of drug, amount, and where you are when you get caught. Here are the Federal penalities for cocaine and for marijuana https://www.dea.gov/druginfo/factsheets.shtml. My advice - don't possess or use drugs and then you don't need to worry about legalities.

-Redonna Chandler

Alcohol kills more people than any other drug...why is it legal?

-DjChop, Pennsylvania

That's a complicated question. In the early 20th century, alcohol was banned all together. While that strategy (called 'Prohibition') did save some lives, it wasn't considered a success in general and alcohol was made legal again. In addition, many people use alcohol responsibly and enjoy it for a wide range of purposes, including celebrations and religious ceremonies. The government can regulate - but not prevent - people from using alcohol in those ways. The exception is the legal drinking age of 21. Making it illegal for people under 21 to drink alcohol has proven to be important for reducing alcohol-related deaths, including from traffic crashes, in young people.

-Aaron White

are you more likely to do drugs if you go to public school or are home schooled but do a lot of outside activities?

-isheahan, New Hampshire

This is a little complicated. I don't think that we have research to answer this question one way or the other. You could speculate that a person in a regular school setting may be exposed to more opportunities for getting pressured by peers to use drugs or to have access to drugs than a person in a home school setting where a parent is present throughout the day. But there are a lot of adults monitoring what goes on during the school day and parents are often monitoring after school so it could go either way.

-Belinda Sims

are you most likely to get a disease(cancer and other things) if you start to drink at a young age , lets say 13 or 14?

-acastro, Texas

That's a tough one and we really don't know the answer yet. However, we do know that heavy drinking during the adult years increases the chances of getting cancers of various types, particularly for women, and that starting to drink at a young age, like 13 or 14, is associated with a much higher risk of drinking heavily during the adult years. So, if you look at it this way, getting started young could indirectly increase your odds of developing cancer at some point in life.

-Aaron White

As a health teacher, what curriculums would you suggest for the middle school aged student when talking to them about drugs

-rbartlett, New Hampshire

Thanks so much for asking! We have a special section on our Web site for middle school and other teachers---just click on
http://www.drugabuse.gov/parent-teacher.html. We are especially proud of the Brain Power curriculum and the Mind Over Matter series starring 'Sara Bellum' which targets this age group. Please note you can order these materials free of charge from NIDA---the Web site will show you how. While we of course want to educate this age group about drugs, we also want to stress the importance of keeping the brain healthy. They will need it!

-Carol Krause

As a health teacher, what curriculums would you suggest for the middle school aged student when talking to them about drugs, alcohol, and tobacco?

-rbartlett, New Hampshire

Thanks so much for asking! We have a special section on our Web site for middle school and other teachers---just click on http://www.drugabuse.gov/parent-teacher.html. We are especially proud of the Brain Power curriculum and the Mind Over Matter series starring 'Sara Bellum' which targets this age group. Please note you can order these materials free of charge from NIDA---the Web site will show you how. While we of course want to educate this age group about drugs, we also want to stress the importance of keeping the brain healthy. They will need it!

-Carol Krause

As a health teacher. What things do you feel are the most important to address with the middle school aged students to help them learn to make informed decisions about not using drugs?

-rbartlett, New Hampshire

Hello. Thanks for this very good question. It is important to make sure that youth receive information that is developmentally appropriate. It is important for youth to know that drug use is not the norm (everyone is NOT doing it). It is important for youth to know the effects of drugs on the brain and body and how drugs effect their decisions and behaviors. It is important for youth to acquire skills to be able to make good healthy decisions about drug use and other risk behaviors (e.g., communication, decision making and drug refusal skills). Following are some key principles for prevention programs in schools: Programs should focus on children’s social and academic skills, including enhancing peer relationships, self-control, coping, and drug-refusal skills. If possible, school-based prevention programs should be integrated into the school’s academic program, because school failure is strongly associated with drug abuse. Integrated programs strengthen students’ bonding to school and reduce their likelihood of dropping out. Other types of interventions include school-wide programs that affect the school environment as a whole. All of these activities can serve to strengthen protective factors against drug abuse. (See examples of school-based programs in Examples of Research-Based Drug Abuse Prevention Programs.)For information on priniciples of prevention in Drug Abuse Prevention Programs, see: http://www.drugabuse.gov/prevention/applying.html. In addition, a fun curriculum for teachers to use with middle school students can be found here: http://www.drugabuse.gov/brain-power. Other information for teachers generally may be found here: http://www.drugabuse.gov/parent-teacher.html

-Jacqueline Lloyd

as some people abuse prescription drugs, is there a limit of how much prescription drugs you can get by prescription?

-clorenzi, Illinois

For some prescription medications, there are limits on how many a physician may prescribe. For the most controlled medications, the limit is generally enough to last a patient 30 days. But for some medications, there is no legal limit on the number, and physicians may prescribe a 90 day supply (or even longer).

-Wilson Compton

At what age do people become vulnerable to become addictive to drugs?

-acahill, Illinois

Addiction can begin at any age and the earlier someone starts using drugs, the more likely they are to become addicted. Most addiction starts during teen years and recent research has taught us a lot about brain development during adolescence. This is a major time for brain growth and change and drug use may be particularly risky for those who start early.

-Wilson Compton

At what age do the students get influenced to take drugs and what motivates them to do so?

-vaidehi, Georgia

Hello! Individuals who use drugs often have their first use of drugs (onset) in adolescence. The earlier a person begins to use alcohol, tobacco or other drugs the more likely they are to progress to abuse and addiction later on. There are a number of factors that may increase the chances that a young person will use drugs. We call these risk factors. Risk factors may come from one or more sources, including social, environmental, or biological factors, and often more than one risk factor will be present. Just because someone has a risk factor it does not mean that they will use drugs. Youth also have many protective factors in their lives--things that reduce the likelihood of using drugs that could also be social (e.g., positive peer relationships), environmental (e.g., caring and supportive family), or biological (e.g., good self-control). But using drugs can have a lot of negative consequences including losing friends, not doing well in school, getting in trouble with the law, and other problems, too. Here are some websites you may be interested in.https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/,  http://drugfactsweek.drugabuse.gov/booklet.php

-Belinda Sims

Before I was born, my Pap smoked for twenty years and told me that he just quit without taking any medicane or having any help. Is it possible to smoke for that long and just quit?

-Emily C, Pennsylvania

It is possible to quit 'cold turkey,' as they say. I'm glad your Pap was able to do it. My Pap was too. He had to get lung cancer to make him quit, but he was one of the lucky ones. His lung cancer was cured, although by removing part of his lung. He just turned 80! There are many people who need help quitting, though. For more information on how to quit, see: www.smokefree.gov.

-Joni Rutter

Besides actual drugs, what else can you get 'high' of off?

-SSHS22, Nevada

'high' is a funny term, but you can get kicks from all sorts of things. Gambling, the internet...You can absolutely get a natural high by doing things that you enjoy, such hanging with friends and eating great foods (but not too much). You may also want to consider exercising (believe it or not!). Studies have shown that exercise releases endorphins in the brain, which produce a sense of euphoria (well being). So, participating in a sport is an excellent way to boost your mood.One of the great things about natural highs--besides the fact that they don't put you at risk for addiction and other bad consequences--is that they don't have 'aversive' side effects or withdrawal effects. For example, stimulants make people high, but they also make people nervous, edgy, and sometimes paranoid. Opiates cause physical discomofort and blah feelings as they leave the body. With natural highs, you just get the high--well, maybe some sore muscles the next day.

-Dave Thomas

Besides peer pressure, whyy do some people do drugs even though they know what happens to them?

-annemarie.p, Texas

Hello Annemarie--great question, IMO really gets to the 'heart of the matter.' What could be a big reason for you (like peer pressure) may not be the main reason for someone else (an escape from a stressful lifestyle). People start using drugs for a variety of different reasons, but absolutely NONE are worth the consequences of substance use addiction. Here is a great series on our teen site that will give you information about various drugs of abuse. If you have the facts, you will be better able to make healthy decisions about drug use and abuse: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/mom/

-Bethany Deeds

By using drugs to feel better about oneself make you an addict or even an abuser?

-Krazy Panda, Minnesota

Hello Minnesota! I went to Hopkins high! You're technically a drug abuser once you start using drugs so much you start neglecting important things like schoolwork, and start blowing off people who you used to care about. Once you can't stop yourself from seeking out and using drugs, and lose interest in everything else that used to give you a lot of pleasure, then you're an 'addict.' Being an abuser or addict really doesn't have anything to do with why you're using drugs. Abuse and addiction are more about the CONSEQUENCES of drug use getting to be really bad.

-Jim Bjork

can

-adison_s, Pennsylvania

The FDA, which approves all therapeutic drugs in the US has not approved marijuana for the treatment of any disease or condition. That's because it hasn't been proven safe and effective in carefully controlled studies with patients. Marijuana is not likely to become a medicine 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; and finally, anything thats smoked is bad for the lungs. 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/

-Christine Colvis

can 1 beer decrease your smartness

-ZaCh!, Ohio

It is possible that it could for at least a few minutes. In some lab tests, we have detected memory and other impairments in people who have very low blood alcohol concentrations - maybe the result of just one beer.

-Aaron White

Are teens today having more problems with drug addictions than in the past?

-larlhamc, Ohio

I would say that the answer to this question is, 'Yes.' While people may state that we have better ways to collect information about use (about everything!) and better means of publicizing that information, it is also true that availability of different prescription drugs (used for non-medical purposes), and illicit substances has increased; and the types of 'drugs' abused has increased.

-Michelle Leff

Are there any countries that allow weed? And why?

-Que?, New York

Hello Skaneateles High School! Thanks for the thoughtful question....The legality of cannabis (aka, weed) has been the subject of debate for many decades and in different societies. Different societies decide to control drugs through varied ways (how is supplied/cultivated, how it can be possessed or not, how it can be sold, etc.). Some countries that have decided to decriminalize cannabis--an example is the Netherlands. However, in the majority of countries cannabis remains illegal. For more information on marijuanahere is a link to our teen web pages: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_mj1.php

-Bethany Deeds

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