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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A lot of musicians smoke and do drugs. When listening to their music, I notice how raspy their voices sound. Is this a result of doing drugs? If so, how does doing drugs affect your vocal chords?

-88l8chai, Maryland

It is is really unlikely that the drugs affect the vocal chords directly, but how people take them has a huge effect. Passing smoke over the vocal chords on the way to the lungs, whether it comes from tobacco or other smoked drugs like marijuana or cocaine, is never a good idea because these contain a lot of other contaminants, which can lead to the raspiness. We just don't know what all of them are yet. The best thing to do is to avoid smoking--the smart decision.

-Nancy Pilotte

A lot of people say when you drink alcohol, you come addicted to it. I don't think thats nessecaryly true. It does cause effect(s) and can really hurt people. But if people know what alcohol does to you, why do you think they keep doing it?

-Redneck lover<3, North Carolina

It's hard to say exactly why people do things they know are bad for them. First of all, alcohol can be addicting. It affects a part of the brain called 'the reward system.' All drugs, alcohol included, turn this part of the brain on and make people feel good for a little while. Some people keep going back to alcohol to get that feeling. Over time, their brains lose the ability to feel good without alcohol and they become addicted to it, meaning they just can't stop thinking about it or using it.Also, the earlier in life you try alcohol, the more likely you are to become addicted. That is why it is sooo important to find healthy things to turn on the reward system on and make you feel good. For some people, this can be sports, laughing with friends, or even playing an instrument. Even when people know that drinking too much can have bad consequences, they may still do it. 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.

-Shuly Babitz

About how many cigarettes do people buy a year?

-SLENDERMAN, Maryland

Hey Slenderman....check out these numbers from CDC: In 2010 in the U.S.: More than 303 billion cigarettes were purchased Approximately 122.6 million pounds of smokeless tobacco were purchased And, about 13.3 billion cigars (i.e., 12.3 billion large cigars and cigarillos; 1 billion little cigars) were purchased Those are some pretty big numbers!

-Cindy Miner

About how many people are sent to the emergemcy room because of drugs each year?

-IMS706cc, Louisiana

Great question! There were about 2.3 million drug-related emergency department visits in the US in 2010.

-Cora Lee Wetherington

About how many people die a year from drugs??????

-maguilera, Texas

According to the CDC, over 38,000 people died in 2010 due to drug overdose.

-Bethany Deeds

about how many people die from car accidents by drinking

-cquiroz, Texas

The CDC reports that in 2010, 10,228 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.

That includes about 1,900 deaths of young people under age 21.

You can learn more statistics like these at:

http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/impaired_driving/impaired-drv_factsheet.html

-Shuly Babitz

About how many people die on cars accidents by drinking alcohol?

-cquiroz, Texas

The CDC reports that in 2010, 10,228 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States. That includes about 1,900 deaths of young people under age 21. You can learn more statistics like these at: http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/impaired_driving/impaired-drv_factsheet.html http://niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/special-populations-co-occurring-disorders/underage-drinking

-Shuly Babitz

about how many people do drugs in a day?

-fhafford, New Hampshire

Nice to meet you Kingswood Regional Middle School! In 2011, among people age 12 or older, about 22.5 million used an illicit drug, 68 million used a tobacco product, and over 133 million used alcohol in the past month. For more information check out the NSDUH site.

-Bethany Deeds

about how many people do drugs in the U.S.A

-killerchef, Maryland

Hey there killerchef, thanks for your question. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health 22.6 million people over the age of 12 reported they used drugs in the month prior to being asked. 

-Marsha Lopez

About how much alcohol does it take to get drunk?

-Regina.c, Texas

That's hard to say because alcohol affects different people in different ways. Here are some of the factors that affect how quickly people get drunk:

How much alcohol you drink and how fast you drink it

Whether you have food in your stomach to slow how quickly alcohol gets into the body

How much you weigh

Whether you are male or female - girls tend to be affected more by alcohol than boys

-Shuly Babitz

about what percentage of people do drugs

-sarah_ravens39, Maryland

It depends on age. There are 2 major substance abuse studies that track the percentage of people who use drugs. The Monitoring the Future study tracks drug use among 8th, 10th and 12th graders around the US. The National Household Study of Drug Use and Health tracks drug use among youth beginning at age 12 and continues into old age. Both of these studies produce yearly reports by age on a wide variety of drugs of abuse. here are the links to those 2 studies: http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/ http://www.samhsa.gov

-Lis Robertson

According to a recent report, A-rod was found guilty of using another banned substance by the MLB. Why do athletes feel a need to use performance enhancers?

-El Diablo, Pennsylvania

Dear El Diablo (great name) Athletes sometimes take drugs because they think it will improve their performance (steroids, for example). And in fact they can improve some types of performance -- in the short run, but at a big cost. Not only is it cheating--as I'm sure you've heard a lot about lately, especially since Lance Armstrong confessed to using performance enhancers throughout his cycling career--but there are also serious health risks associated with taking these drugs. With steroids, they have to be taken at very high doses, which can put people at risk for heart disease, cancer, and other health problems. Also, because steroids are similar to the male sex hormone testosterone, they can wreak havoc on your body's sexual characteristics. In females, steroids can lower their voice, cause hair growth in places you wouldn't want it, and produce severe acne. In males, they can actually be feminizing; and in all youth it can't stunt your growth. And that's just the short list. Liz

-Lis Robertson

According to my mom, my dad is a drug addict and that's part of the reason they broke up. Should I feel ashamed? People say I should but for some reason I don't

-MangoAndGrape, Illinois

Dear MangoAndGrape, I agree with you - you should not feel ashamed about your dad's drug addiction. You are not responsible for your father's behavior or his condition. Good luck.

-Michelle Leff

adhd and add are the same thing so then why do they catagorize the drugs seperatly???

-Jelly2013, Texas

Hi Jelly2013. ADD stands for 'attention deficit disorder' and ADHD stands for 'attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.' the terms are used pretty much interchangeably. ADHD essentially has 2 general sets of signs or symptoms. The first set involves inattention--like trouble paying attention, concentrating or staying focused. The other set involves behavior, or hyperactivity-- like trouble sitting still or feeling unusually fidgety and sometimes impulsive. In general, whether a person has more trouble with attention or with hyperactivity, the drugs that are used are essentially the same. Most are drugs from the 'stimulant' type, but some other types of drugs are also used. Just as not all individuals experience the same symptoms, not all individuals have the same response to the same drug. So it is important to see a health professional first to determine whether you have ADHD/ADD and then to explore treatment options. For more on ADHD/ADD, visit: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml.

-Joel Sherrill

Are you guys screening questions so as to maintain a consistent message?

-thesupersam, Indiana

what is our consistent message? no, we are not.

-Susan Weiss

are you scientists

-My Name Is, Maryland

Yup, most of us here are. Some of us have laboratories Others just help promote good science. And we even do chat day once a year. Pretty fun job.

-Dave Thomas

Aren't some prescription drugs and illegal drugs the same?

-SynGatesA7X7, New Jersey

Great question- yes!! Pain medications such as Vicodin and heroin are similar in that they are both 'opioids'. Prescription pain medications can cause addiction and death, just like heroin, if they are used in ways or amounts not prescribed by a physician. Check out this link for more information about prescription drugs - http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/prescription-drugs and http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/commonly-abused-drugs/commonly-abused-prescription-drugs-chart

-David Shurtleff

Around how many crashes a day are cause by people who drink and drive?

-fun101, Maryland

The CDC reports that in 2010, 10,228 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.

That includes about 1,900 deaths of young people under age 21.

You can learn more statistics like these at:

http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/impaired_driving/impaired-drv_factsheet.html

http://niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/special-populations-co-occurring-disorders/underage-drinking

-Shuly Babitz

At what age do most people start their drug addictions?

-webmd3, Maryland

Hi webmd3, Most people who develop drug problems become addicted in their late teens or early adulthood. Eric

-Eric Wargo

at what age do people get addicted the fastest?

-erodriguez, Texas

Mid-to-late adolescence. This is an age that is behaviorally associated with risk-taking in general, and several research studies show that the earlier in life a person starts to regularly use alcohol or other substances, the more likely it is that the person will lose control of taking the drug in the future. The frontal lobe of the brain, which is responsible for critical thinking and the inhibition of compulsive behaviors, is not fully developed at this age, which also contributes to the vulnerability at this developmental stage.

-Dave White

At what age does your matabalism start to slow down?

-ROCKET, North Carolina

This is a great question, ROCKET! Really, it would depend on a lot of factors. In terms of metabolic rate, once you reach adulthood, it would potentially depend on several diverse factors such as your gender, diet and - most importantly - the level of regular physical activity. A person's resting metabolic rate generally is responsible for accounts for ∼60–75% of daily energy expenditure. Keep up your exercise!

-Kris Bough

At what age is it easiest to get addicted to drugs?

-ck1216, Maryland

Hello there Walter Johnson HS! There is evidence that adolescents may be especially prone to developing substance use disorders and addiction. For example, adolescents may be more sensitive to the reinforcing effects of nicotine in combination with other chemicals found in cigarettes, thus increasing susceptibility to tobacco addiction. There is some evidence that another chemical found in cigarettes called 'acetaldehyde' also increases nicotine’s addictive properties in adolescents, but not adults. A recent study also suggests that specific genes may increase risk for addiction among people who begin smoking during adolescence. You might find this website interesting: www.teens.drugabuse.gov.

-Kris Bough

AWGUIBARG!!! WHAT KIND OF DRUG IS BATHSALTS???!?!?!?!

-BurningChicken, Oklahoma

'Bath salts' actually refer to mixture of drugs, all of which have stimulant-like properties, such as mepehdron and cathinone that make you feel high and energized but can also lead to paranoia. Some of these drugs also have hallucinogenic properties. If you are interested to learn more about so called 'bath salts' and their effects please read on: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/synthetic-cathinones-bath-salts.

-Nora Volkow

both my grandfather and my father have a chewing tobacco problem... does it mean i have a good chance of getting addicted, too?

-hnllzforevs, Maryland

We know that addiction can run in families. Sometimes you will hear that its all genetic, or its all the environment. Well its not one or the other, both genes and environment contribute to someones risk of getting addicted. But don't mistake that for fate. Plenty of people grow up in families that have addiction problems among their parents and grandparents, doesn't mean you will. You might be at greater risk, but you are in charge of your choices, you can control your future. I grew up with parents and siblings with severe drug and alcohol problems and both my parents smoked. Fortunately, I did not repeat those mistakes in my own life!

-Cindy Miner

are steroids bad for you long term

-Cat boy, Illinois

There is a downside when steroids are used for such non-medical purposes, because they disrupt the normal production and balance of hormones in the body, and can lead to a long list of alterations, such as reduced sperm production, shrinking of the testicles, male-pattern baldness and breast development in men. In the female body, anabolic steroids abuse can cause masculinization. This means that females may experience decreases in body fat, coarsening of the skin, and deepening of the voice. Women may also experience excessive growth of body hair (chest, chin, back, etc.) and lose the hair on their head. Examples of other effects are increased risk of blood clots and damage to heart muscle. Most important, with continued steroid use, some of these effects can become irreversible.

-Dave White

Are steroids just for show or are they actually for strength and does your area get smaller than usual or is it just your downer part of your body?

-jadams, Texas

I think you are asking about what are called anabolic steroids. Your own body actually produces all the steroids you will need to help you develop from a child to an adult. The anabolic steroids are special because they important in making muscles grow (anabolic means 'to build up') and they include testosterone and similar steriods. These are used by people who want to get stronger or appear bigger or to lose weight. Although your own body produces steroids, people who abuse them are usually taken in far greater doses than those that are prescribed by doctors to treat medical conditions. But there is a down side when steroids are used for such non-medical purposes, because they disrupt the normal production and balance of hormones in the body, and can lead to a long list of problems, such as reduced sperm production, shrinking of the testicles, male-pattern baldness and breast development in men. In the female body, anabolic steroid abuse can cause masculinization. This means that females may experience decreases in body fat, coarsening of the skin, and deepening of the voice. Women may also experience excessive growth of body hair (chest, chin, back, etc.) and lose the hair on their head. Examples of other effects are increased risk of blood clots and damage to heart muscle. Most important, with continued steroid use, some of these effects can become irreversible. Our teen site has more information on steroids:https://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_ster1.phpOther steroids like estrogens, progesterones, and cortisol are not anabolic and have other uses, ranging from contraception to immune suppression (such as asthma inhalers). These do not build muscle (like the anabolic steroids) and in fact, break muscle down. Your body produces all these steroids in very small amounts at times when they are needed, and they help maintain a healthy body.

-Nancy Pilotte

are street drugs worse than pirscirtion

-chicken, Iowa

Not necessarily, it depends on how they're taken. Since prescription drugs act on the same receptors in the brain as illicit street drugs, people who abuse prescription drugs can experience similar effects, even overdose.

-Jen Katt

Are the new electric cigarettes harmful to your health?

-mrg, Oklahoma

They can be. There have been a few reports of e-cigs exploding in peoples faces when they use them....Electronic cigarettes are so new to the scene that we don't have a lot of scientific data on their effects yet and we don't even know that much about what's in all of them. The ones that have been tested contain varying amounts of nicotine (in fact some e-cigs say they have nicotine but don't). The nicotine is dissolved in another chemical so that it can be heated usually by a small battery in the e-cig. The bottom line....you don't know what you are getting in these products...so don't believe the hype, hype usually means they want your money.

-Cindy Miner

Are there any countries where drugs are legal for non-medical uses? If so, please specify. D. Gionis

-Regina.c, Texas

The most liberal drug policies currently are in Portugal, which has decriminalized drug use--meaning the people don't go to jail for having small amounts of drugs on them for personal use. However, someone caught with drugs must still appear before a panel of people including a psychologist, social worker, and legal advisor to determine whether they need treatment or some sort of brief counseling to help them stop using drugs.

-Susan Weiss

Are there any drugs that can be dangerous to your health in prescription drugs?

-ncayon, New Hampshire

Yes, Rx drugs contain ingredients that can cause serious health problems if abused. For example, prescription painkillers like OxyContin can depress breathing; and prescription stimulants like Adderall, if abused, can cause strokes. See http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-over-counter-medications for more.

-Jen Katt

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