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 people sneak drugs into your food or drink with out you knowing or tasting it?

-monkeylover123, Illinois

Yes--in fact, there are several drugs that are considered 'date rape' drugs that can be put into a person's drink without their knowing it--examples are GHB and rohypnol. You should always be careful when in a public place or a party to keep an eye on your drink. For more information on these drugs, please see:

-Susan Weiss

can perscription drugs harm you?

-oelmore, Texas

All prescription drugs have side effects. Some of them, especially painkillers, connect with certain molecules in the brain. For painkillers like oxycodone, the body can develop 'tolerance' to the drug over time, where it takes more and more pills to get the same effect, and this is what can really cause the slide into addiction. It's still a bit of a mystery why most people can quit, but some unfortunate people get hooked on them, and scientists are working to discover why!

-Dave White

Can pharmicutical drugs effect your physical appearance?

-parisp, New Mexico

Hmmm, that depends. I guess if they become addicted--that is the drug 'takes over' their life--so that they compulsively seek and use the drug despite the consequences, they could easily let their appearance go. Also, some prescription drugs can cause weight loss and other physical changes.

-Jen Katt

Can pot or heroine do damage to your liver?

-johnson, Pennsylvania

Both drugs can have negative effects on the body. Heroin can cause liver damage among a long list of other harmful effects. Its better to stay away from both drugs! You can find more information at:

-Dave White

can second hand smoke kil someone

-trealbert, Oklahoma

Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by the smoker. When you stand near a smoker or go to a restaurant or home where smoking is allowed, you breathe secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is dangerous. Over time, secondhand smoke causes death and disease in kids and adults—even if they do not smoke.

Secondhand smoke causes cancer. It has more than 50 chemicals that are known to cause cancer in adults. Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer in people who have never smoked themselves. Secondhand smoke causes heart disease. Even a short time in a smoky room has immediate harmful effects on the body. Breathing secondhand smoke makes it more likely that you will get heart disease, have a heart attack, and die early. Secondhand smoke can cause breathing problems, like coughing, extra phlegm, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Because their bodies are growing, the poisons in secondhand smoke hurt babies and young kids more than adults.

Babies whose mothers smoke while pregnant are more likely to die from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) than babies who do not breathe secondhand smoke. Kids whose parents smoke around them get bronchitis and pneumonia more often. Secondhand smoke causes kids who already have asthma to get more frequent and severe attacks.

Check out a fact sheet the National Cancer Institute put out to learn more: NCI Factsheet, Secondhand Smoke: Questions and Answers

-Cindy Miner

Can sharpie fumes get you high and how long does it usually take to get high off it?

-Wrestler1237, New Jersey

Yes, Sharpies have a volatile chemical that if inhaled can cause a brain effect and high. The inhalants represent a very dangerous class of drugs. Specifically, inhalants are chemical vapors that people inhale on purpose to get “high.” The vapors produce mind-altering, and sometimes disastrous, effects. These vapors are in a variety of products common in almost any home or workplace. Examples are some paints, glues, gasoline, and cleaning fluids. Many people do not think of these products as drugs because they were never meant to be used to achieve an intoxicating effect. But when they are intentionally inhaled to produce a “high,” they can cause serious harm. Although inhalants differ in their effects, they generally fall into the following categories: Volatile Solvents, liquids that vaporize at room temperature, present in: • Certain industrial or household products, such as paint thinner, nail polish remover, degreaser, dry-cleaning fluid, gasoline, and contact cement • Some art or office supplies, such as correction fluid, felt-tip marker fluid, and electronic contact cleaner Aerosols, sprays that contain propellants and solvents, include: • Spray paint, hair spray, deodorant spray, vegetable oil sprays, and fabric protector spray Inhalants often contain more than one chemical. Some chemicals leave the body quickly, but others stay for a long time and get absorbed by fatty tissues in the brain and central nervous system. One of these fatty tissues is myelin, a protective cover that surrounds many of the body's nerve fibers. Myelin helps nerve fibers carry their messages to and from the brain. Damage to myelin can slow down communication between nerve fibers. Long-term inhalant use can break down myelin. When this happens, nerve cells are not able to transmit messages as efficiently, which can cause muscle spasms and tremors or even permanent difficulty with basic actions like walking, bending, and talking. These effects are similar to what happens to patients with multiple sclerosis—a disease that also affects myelin. Hope this helps and for more information on inhalants, check out:

-Joe Frascella

Can sniffing nailpolish or permanent marker make you get high?

-nathans, Maryland

Short answer - yes. Nail polish and permanent makers contain solvents that when inhaled can make you high. For more information on inhalants see:

-Redonna Chandler

Can some depressants make you more depressed?

-lhub3, Illinois

Hi Ihub3, good question. Just as there are many signs and symptoms of depression, and not everyone will have all of the same symptoms, there are also many different side effects with medications, and not every person has the same reactions. If you are taking a medication to treat depression and you are still feeling depressed or feeling even worse, it is very important to talk to the doctor who provided the medication. It could be that the depression is actually worse, or it could be that the medication has some side effects. In either case, you don't wan't to make changes to your medication without talking to your doctor first. So talk it through with your doctor as soon as possible!

-Joel Sherrill

Can someone become blind in any way by doing drugs?

-Prettyme, Georgia

Hi Prettyme. The answer depends on the drug and what happens when you are under the influence of the drug. Some drugs have direct effects on the retina, which is the part of the eye that processes visual information. Some people actually put drugs in their eyes thinking that the drug will get into the brain faster, only to find out that they have damaged their cornea or other part of their eyes. People under the influence of drugs may engage in risky or dangerous behavior that can lead to accidents that involve injury to their eyes. For lots of information on drug abuse, check our teen site at:

-Steve Grant

Can someone die from smoking once?


Probably not, if you just try it once. I know I tried a cigarette once...hated it, and I'm still around. But some people can't stop at just one...that's where you get into trouble. If you continue to use, you are exposing yourself to all the chemicals in smoke that can lead to cancer, pulmonary problems and lead to a lifetime of addiction.

-Cindy Miner

Can steriods cause strokes?

-foconnor, Texas

You can think about a stroke as the result of blockage in a blood vessel that deprives an area of the brain of its blood supply. Steroids are small hormones that don't cause strokes by themselves, but they can lead to the formation of blood clots that can break free from the blood vessel wall and get stuck somewhere else, often in the brain and voila! -- a stroke. The steroids that are most apt to cause a stroke are the gonadal steroids, androgens, estrogens, and progesterone. Blood clots are more easily formed in smaller vessels; smoking reduces the diameters of blood vessels and can increase the chances that clots stimulated by steroids can occur.

-Nancy Pilotte

Can steriods Make you sterral or shrink your "package"?

-Water_Bra, Utah

Hi water-bra Abuse of anabolic steroids can definitely shrink your package. the ridiculously high level of testosterone messes up the hormonal balance and, paradoxically, your body reacts by producing more estrogen (the female hormone) OUCH!!!!! This is what causes your testicles to shrink and over the long run it can cause infertility. I would strongly recommend to stay away from steroids, it's just not worth it. good luck. You can get more information at:

-Dave White

can steroids affect your appearence

-jwilliams, Texas

You bet, and it doesn't necessarily mean you will be transformed from an UGLY ducking to a beautiful swan. Steroid use can cause major physical harm including liver damage, jaundice, fluid retention, high blood pressure and increases in 'bad' cholesterol. Also, males risk shrinking of the testicles, baldness, breast development, and infertility. Females risk growth of facial hair, menstrual changes, male-pattern baldness, and deepened voice. Teens risk permanently stunted height, accelerated puberty changes, and severe acne. Check this site out for more info:

-Redonna Chandler

Can steroids make you abusive?

-dino13, Texas

Abuse of anabolic steroids may lead to aggression and other psychiatric problems. Although many users report feeling good about themselves while on steroids, extreme mood swings can also occur, including manic-like symptoms and anger (“roid rage”) that may lead to violence. Researchers have also observed that users may suffer from paranoid jealousy, extreme irritability, delusions, and impaired judgment stemming from feelings of invincibility.

-Jen Katt

can taking crack make you mad and depresses???

-iam awesome, Illinois

Yes. Crack, a form of cocaine, can change your mood in many different ways, including making you very depressed, anxious, obsessive, and paranoid. It does so by changing specific brain chemicals. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek treatment from a healthcare professional by calling 800-662-HELP. Or call 800-273-TALK if you are feeling depressed and need to talk to someone right away.

-Anto Bonci

Can taking more than 1 drug at a time make it worse? like can they have bad effects if they are put together or used together?

-monkeylover123, Illinois


-Nora Volkow

can tobacco effect someones personality?

-tarbuck, North Carolina

Sure can! Tobacco contains the chemical nicotine, which is very addicting. It's one of the reasons people keep smoking even though most don't want to. And have you ever met someone who is trying to quit? They can be very moody, agitated...not like themselves at all. That is what experts call withdrawal!

-Cindy Miner

Can tobacco give you a type of mental illness?

-Prettyme, Georgia

I don't think there is any evidence in the scientific literature that tobacco can give you a mental illness. What we do know is that people with certain mental illnesses smoke at much higher rates than people without mental illness. For example I've seen reports that anywhere to 60-80% of people with schizophrenia smoke. Compare that to the about 20% of all adults who smoke. But let me be clear there is NO evidence that smoking will give you schizophrenia. What is likely happening is that schizophrenics are smoking to ease some of their symptoms...or self-medicate as we say in science speak!

-Cindy Miner

Can too much alcohol cause someone to pass out

-fatpanda22, Illinois

Yes, it certainly can. Alcohol poisoning occurs from a single episode of drinking way too much and it can cause you to pass out. Even if you have stopped drinking or pass out, alcohol in the stomach and intestine can continue to enter your blood stream and circulate throughout your body. Make sure you are aware of the critical signs of alcohol poisoning, which can include: Mental confusion Stupor Coma Vomiting Seizures Slow or irregular breathing Hypothermia, or 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.

-Shuly Babitz

Can we die when we smoke marijuana ?

-Max, Maryland

Lots of great questions from Walter Johnson High School this morning. I am hoping that dying from marijuana is not your goal! As far as I know, no one has actually died from smoking marijuana directly. But this drug can slow your reaction times a lot, and people who drive after or while smoking this are more likely to get into accidents, and some auto accidents have been known to be fatal. Operating heavy machinery under the influence of marijuana is also very risky. Here is more info about marijuana from our teen site:

-Nancy Pilotte

Can we just simply annihilate illegal drugs?

-VictorP, New Mexico

wouldn't that be nice!

-Joni Rutter

can weed be useful ??

-Young J, Illinois

Dear Young Junior, What an interesting question to ask. Medicines must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) based on their safety and efficacy--marijuana has not met these standards. There are recognized medical benefits to some of the active ingredients in marijuana, and scientists are making use of their knowledge about those ingredients, and the body systems that they effect, in order to develop new medications for a variety of symptoms and diseases including pain, obesity, and addiction. 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. For more information check out our teen website HERE.

-Bethany Deeds

Can weed change your sexual orientation?

-123456789, Maryland

123456789 where did you hear this? There is no evidence showing that marijuana can change anyone's sexual orientation. Here's what weed can do: Like most other drugs, marijuana affects the parts of the brain that allow us to make plans, solve problems, and make decisions. So while experiencing the effects of marijuana or other drugs you might make decisions you wouldn't if you were sober, including decisions about sex that you might not make if you were not high. This does not mean your sexual orientation is 'changed', just that your decision-making was altered while under the influence of marijuana. Marijuana alters brain chemistry in ways that can have both short term and long term effects. In the short term--marijuana can cause someone to do something dangerous when they are high--like driving and getting into an accident, or not studying and having their grades drop, or seeing their athletic performance decline, and getting kicked off a team. But in the longer term marijuana is addictive. Repeated drug use changes the brain (and the body) and could one day lead to addiction and other serious medical consequences. Interestingly, one of our researchers surveyed people that had used marijuana regularly for many years. The marijuana users reported diminished life satisfaction and more physical and mental health problems, which they attributed to the marijuana. They also had poorer academic and job outcomes and lower salaries than a group of adults from comparable backgrounds who did not smoke marijuana. So don't believe just what you see on the outside--some of these changes take time to happen, and some people are more vulnerable to problems associated with drug abuse than others. We don't know all the reasons why, but genetics and a host of other factors--age of first use, other mental health problems, stress, family difficulties, peers that use drugs--all contribute to someone's likelihood of becoming addicted or developing other health problems because of repeated drug use. You can get the facts about marijuana at or

-Joni Rutter

can weed kill you if you smoke a lot of it?

-sdiaz, Texas

Marijuana is one of the most commonly used recreational drugs in the US and around the world. A marijuana overdose can occur when a person takes too much of the drug, often due to the inhibited reasoning that marijuana can cause. Marijuana overdose results in a variety of symptoms that may or may not appear in an individual user, including: Feelings of paranoia or fear Nausea and vomiting An increased heart rates Hallucination and disorientation Marijuana overdose is not thought to cause serious symptoms that can result in the death of the user, and in fatal cases, death is usually due to other drugs or medical conditions of the patient. The few cases in which marijuana overdose was named as the primary cause of death are highly contested and controversial. At levels where death due to an overdose of THC (the primary active chemical in marijuana) is thought to be possible, a user would have to take enormous amounts of the drug, far past what is taken for recreational purposes. Of course, smoking marijuana while driving or operating dangerous machinery can result in accidents that lead to death. Hopes this helps. For more information go to:

-Joe Frascella

can weed make you more hormones?..........!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-scouttheplayer, Iowa

Hi scouttheplayer actually, this is a very good question: Endocannabinoids (which are the molecules in our bodies that can be hijacked by the active ingredient in marijuana) act as a major neuromodulatory system in a variety of physiological and behavioral functions. Three major lines of evidence suggest that the endocannabinoid system interacts with gonadal hormones. First, the endocannabinoid system is implicated in behaviors and physiological functions that are known to be regulated in part by gonadal hormones. Second, receptors and metabolic enzymes of the endocannabinoid system are localized extensively on structures in the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. Third, changes in levels of gonadal hormones alter endocannabinoid signaling. So, THC can in theory perturb a number of hormonal systems and in fact there is evidence that chronic or heavy use of marijuana can negatively affect fertility. be smart and stay safe, ruben

-Ruben Baler

Are there any types of drugs that are impossible to quit?

-jlouis, Texas

Nope - treatment can help people addicted to different types of drugs quit. Some people are able to decide to stop taking drugs and quit on their own with the support of family and friends. Some participate in 12-step programs like AA or NA and others need to participate in treatment where they learn how to live without drugs. There are different types of treatment. Medication can help some people with their drug problem. Behavioral treatments help people learn new skills to cope with stress and problems, deal with urges and cravings to use drugs, develop a support system of people who don't use drugs, and increase their motivation to stop using drugs. For specific information about treatment approaches, visit: For assistance locating treatment programs in your area see:

-Redonna Chandler

Are there effect of alcohol abuse other than death and liver damage?

-Coach, North Carolina

Yes, there are a whole range of negative effects you can experience while drinking. With just a little alcohol in your system, you may notice impaired balance and muscle coordination, which will make it more difficult to walk and drive a car. As you drink more and you have more alcohol in your bloodstream, you can experience impaired judgment and difficulty making good choices. You may also have difficulty controlling urges, making it more likely that you will do something dangerous. You can also experience impaired memory -- waking up the next day and not being able to remember what you did while you were drinking. Still more alcohol can cause potentially fatal side effects, including difficulty breathing, low heart rate, and loss of consciousness.

-Shuly Babitz

Are there hazards with e-cigarettes? My friend says they are good for his lungs because they have glycerol

-Andrea B, Hawaii

Really? He thinks inhaling glycerol vapors into his lungs is good for him? Hey ask him the definition of gullible? E-cigs are pretty new to the marketplace and in some of the limited testing of them, scientists have found that they don't always contain what they claim to. Many do contain nicotine, and some that claim to have nicotine don't, and then another chemical to help vaporize the nicotine so it can be inhaled. Remember nicotine is addictive, so these are just another delivery device for nicotine. There are no standards out there for how these are made, so your friend has no idea what he is actually inhaling in those devices. Don't believe the hype of the companies, the bottom line is they just want to make a profit off of gullible people....

-Cindy Miner

are there new drugs created everyday?

-sbarton, New Hampshire

Hello sbarton at Kingswood Regional Middle School! YES! We have experts at NIDA whose primary job is track these emerging drug trends and collaborate with scientists across the nation who are identifying them. Some newer ones are K2/spice, saliva, and bath salts. Click on this link if you'd like to read more about them.

-Bethany Deeds

Are there really any advantages to taking drugs?

-Biebersgurl, Texas

Not really, unless they are prescribed by your doctor! For specific drugs, you can go here to learn more:

-Joni Rutter