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 here.

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:33 > Dear scientists, do any of you play any of the popular games like Call Of Duty: Black Ops, Amnesia, or anything of the sort?

-arsenicCatnip, Texas

I just asked the room and there were at least five people in the room who said yes :)

-Maureen Boyle

:33 > How bad can the hallucinations get when you take hallucinogenic drugs?

-arsenicCatnip, Texas

I am not sure about scientific studies on this, but people report having "bad trips" which can last for many hours and are just not fun.   From the descriptions, they sound awful and once on a "bad trip," the peron is stuck and suffers for a long time.  And the "bad trip" varies from person to person and can even be different for the same person from one use to another.
Dave

-Dave Thomas

:33 > Is catnip like marijuana fur cats or purrhaps you do not know the answer to this question?

-arsenicCatnip, Texas

Hey arsenicCatnip- let me paws for thought.... Here's what we know about catnip-- it is not addictive or psychoactive. Catnip (from the plant Nepeta cataria) DOES cause most cats to act strangely: they roll around, shake their heads, rub against things, and try to get the plant all over their bodies. Interestingly, cats are only affected when they smell it - it has NO EFFECT if they eat it. It appears that catnip has little or no psychoactive effects in people.

-Joni Rutter

A friend of mine smokes a lot of weed, and i'm trying to get him to do a lot of activities that produce a natural high in an effort to get him to turn to drugs less often (or not at all). We go rock climbing and snowboarding together, but do you have any other suggestions that you've found or believe to be more effective than any other other activities for producing a natural high?

-lc, Maryland

Hey again 'Ic' What a cool cat you are....a natural high comes from any activity that makes you feel good—but doesn’t involve drugs. So theorectically different acivities would invoke a more pleasurable response based on your own personal interests. By doing things you enjoy natural feel-good chemicals in your brain are released like dopamine, which regulates movement, emotion, motivation, and pleasure. You may want to check out this organization for more information on it: http://naturalhigh.org/

-Bethany Deeds

a lot of my friends insist that smoking weed isn't at all bad for you. Is that really true? If it was I would think it wouldn't be illegal in many states still.

-tollestudent15, Ohio

No, it is bad for you.  Being legal does not always mean it not bad for you.  For example cigarettes and alcohol are legal but nobody disputes that they are bad for your health.  You can get more info on marijuana at: http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/marijuana

Dave

-Dave Thomas

A lot of people say that there's a zero nicotine oil you can put in the vape pen. wouldn't that reduce the addiction rate

-Kearsarge, New Hampshire

Hi Kearsarge...you're quite busy askin the same questions this morning! Some e-cig companies do advertise that they sell e-juice with 0% nicotine, but testing of several different products reveals that that is not necessarily so...e-cigs are not currently regulated by the government, so they don't have to underg testing of its components (that just right now though).  You can't really trust what manufacturers are saying about these products.  With that being said, e-cigs do have the potential to help established adult smokers quit...but again, we don't quite know all of health impacts (whether positive or negative) of e-cigs.  

-Albert Avila

a lot of states are making marijuana legal, do you think that this trend will continue and say in like 20 years do you think that it will be legal in all states

-Red Arrow, Michigan

Hey Red Arrow!
Wow--great question.  You know, there is definitely momentum toward legalization.  What we hope will happen is that the science will help inform future policy decisions.  Some states seem keen on the extra revenue and a lot of voters feel it should be legal--but there are a lot of people that worry legalization will increase use by young people and because the teen brain is still developing and marijuana can have long term effects--it's certainly not a slam dunk decision.  20 years from now--it will certainly be different than today, but how it shapes up is anyone's guess.

-Lis Davis

About how many people die a year from drugs?

-soccergirl20, Illinois

Hi there soccergirl20.The effects of drug use can be far reaching- cardiovascular (think hearts!) disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and lung disease (among others) can impact the life expectancy of users, meaning it can lead to dying sooner than they would have otherwise.  If you're talking about overdose deaths, there were about 43,900 of those in America in 2013. A whopping 35,663 (81.1%) of those were unintentional, which shows how dangerous drugs can be. Our friends over at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have good data on this. 

For more info on overdoses, check out: http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates

-Marsha Lopez

About how many people die annually from drug abuse?

-ackbjc4, Massachusetts

Hello ackbjc4. The short answer is way too many! There were about 43,900 drug overdose deaths in America in 2013. A whopping 35,663 (81.1%) of those were unintentional. That's how dangerous drugs can be!  About  22,700 were from prescription drugs, like painkillers. (Over the past few years prescription painkillers (we call them opioids) have caused the most more death than cocaine and heroin, combined!). Our friends over at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have good data on this. One kind of shocking fact is that drug overdose was the leading cause of injury death in 2012! More than car accidents! So remember that if you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction, get help now. It could save a life.

For more info, check out: http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates

-Marsha Lopez

about how many teenagers use drugs in america ?

-robertA, Texas

Hey there robertA. Thanks for your question!  Here's a figure from the 2014 Monitoring the Future survey showing the most commonly used illegal substances among 8th and 12th graders. For 8th graders, that's marijuana, inhalants and synthetic marijuana (yuck!). For 12th graders it's marijuana, Adderall and synthetic marijuana. Alcohol is the most use substance overall, though. You can also check out the National Study of Drug Use and Health for age ranges: http://www.drugabuse.gov/national-survey-drug-use-health

 

-Marsha Lopez

about how may people die from using heroin each year?

-alexisncm, Maryland

Heyyyyy there Alexisncm. Great question. According to our friends over at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3,635 died from heroin in 2012 in the 28 states they studied. It's hard to get exact numbers for things like this, so the important thing to note is that the rate of people dying from heroin overdose is on the rise. In fact, it has doubled from 2010 to 2012! Check out their report here: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6339a1.htm#Tab​

-Marsha Lopez

after a while what does weed do to your brain

-drock, Maryland

Here are some facts on marijuana.  http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/marijuana

Bottom line, looks like it can lower your IQ and change your brain in harmful ways, but we still to do more research to find out the full impact.

Dave

 

-Dave Thomas

After the age 21, can people drive after drinking any alcohol?

-rjin7851, Maryland

Yes, after the age of 21 it is legal to drive with a blood alcohol level up to 0.08%, which represents 3 or 4 drinks in an hour or two for a typical male or female. It is important to note that even just a drink or two, which produces a blood alcohol level of around 0.02% "(well below the legal limit), increases the risk of crashes significantly. 

-Aaron White

Are their more alcoholics than Drug users in the u.s?

-that kid, Pennsylvania

There are more alcohol users than drug users, for sure. However, there are more drug users than alcoholics. 

-Aaron White

Are there any advantages to using marijuana?

-Kearsarge, New Hampshire

Marijuana for medical use has been in the news a lot lately. There are recognized medical benefits to some of the active ingredients in marijuana. Scientists are studying those ingredients, and the body systems that they affect, 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.  Scientists are also studying ways to use CBD, an ingredient in marijuana that might have some benefits, but does not cause the “high”, for diseases including childhood epilepsy.  However, smoked marijuana is unlikely to be an ideal medication because of its negative health effects, including the risk of addiction and the damage that smoking does to the lungs.

-Maureen Boyle

are there any campaigns to make tobacco products illegal yet? because if there are i'd love to be a part of it

-Fredoinnacut, Maryland

In 2010, the US Food and Drug Administration was granted the authority to regulate cigarettes, roll-your-own and smokeless tobacco the goal is to reduce the disease and death caused by use of tobacco products, not to make them illegal. In fact, the law passed by Congress says that we cannot ban tobacco products.  

-Cindy Miner

are there any common ingredients in popular dugs that may lead to addiction

-becky, Florida

There are different types of drugs that have multiple related products. For example, the opioids are drugs similar to morphine but can be in multiple forms such as heroin, oxycontin, fentanyl, etc. Another example is the group of cannabinoids which are drugs similar to marijuana. All drugs that cause addiction do so by affecting the brain, and although drugs have chemical differences, they all cause addiction by hijacking the brain's natural communication processes. There's detailed information here: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/brain-and-addiction
 

-Ivan Montoya

Are there any differences between rolling weed in a joint to smoke it, or putting it in a bowl to smoke it?

-kearsarge, New Hampshire

Yeah, one way requires a bowl. Kearsarge I hope you become a scientist when you graduate...fun questions from you. Seriously, the psychoactive effects are the same, but you are inhaling burning paper when you roll it. Smoke has irritative effects on the mouth, throat, and lungs.  

-Joni Rutter

are there any good addictions?

-toasterfork, New Hampshire

Generally, to be addicted means you are no longer in control of your behaviors, and you cannot stop, despite the fact that these actions could be harmful. So let's say there are many great behaviors that we can engage in over and over, but let's not become addicted to anything!

-Joseph Frascella

Are there any helpful drugs?

-0444442, Florida

Hi there,
There are plenty of helpful legal drugs but I'm guessing that you mean illegal drugs.   Although some drugs of abuse may have some helpful properties (say they can wake you up), on balance, they are dangerous, especially the way they are taken when they're abused.

-Dave Thomas

Are there any legal drugs aside from medical marijuana?

-Lericia, Maryland

Sure, there are a number of legal drugs that are abused.  The most often abused prescription drugs are opioids - medicines that are used to treat pain.  Note that about 17,000 people overdose and die from prescription opioids each year!  It is quite an epidemic.   

Dave

-Dave Thomas

Are there any long term risks of marijuana?

-kearsarge, New Hampshire

Kearsarge--you are on a roll! Yeah, research shows that it can make you dumber...regular marijuana use as a teen may harm the developing brain, lower IQ, and seriously impair the ability to drive safely, especially when combined with alcohol.  Longer term affects, like cancer and heart disease are certainly possible, too. Here's some more info.: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/can-smoking-marijuana-actually-lowe...

-Joni Rutter

Are there any medically beneficial effects of marijuana?

-Anonymous, Ohio

we are studying the potential medicinal benefits of marijuana and its chemical components...although some believe there are benefits, more studies are needed to confirm this.

-Maureen Boyle

Are there any negative long-term effects of doing shrooms very infrequently (once or twice a year)?

-person, Maryland

Well...the psychoactive ingredient in mushrooms is psilocybin, which is chemically similar to LSD. The effects you would get would depend on the dose you were taking (and there is no way to know that), with higher being worse.  Psilocybin is known to produce altered states of perception, nervousness and paranoia. Seems to me that even one or twice a year might be too much to maintain good health.  And good health is kind of necessary to keep you active and happy, don't you agree?  You can find more information at NIDA’s teen site here: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts.

-Nancy Pilotte

Are there any particular alcholhols that are the absolute worst for your body ?

-Kaitlin A, Texas

Hi, Kaitlin. There is no "worst" alcohol -- All alcohol can have negative effects for teens. There's an old myth that drinking one type of alcohol before the other is better. In reality, alcohol is alcohol. Whether it comes from liquor, beer or wine, alcohol can shut down various parts of the brain and make it harder to walk, talk, think and make decisions. It can also interfere with the development of your brain. You can learn more about how alcohol affects your body here: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.htm

-Aaron White

Are there any professional purposes for marijuana?

-Somebody, Maryland

Good question, Somebody.  At the moment, there are a few medicinal uses for certain components of the marijuana plant.  Marinol and Dranabinol are drugs that act like certain chemicals from the marijuana plant.  There are other chemicals from the marijuana plant that are under investigation for other medicinal uses, but we all want to be certain that they are safe and effective! Here's some more info: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana-medicine

-Joni Rutter

Are there any really dangerous drugs that a lot of people don't know about, but still kills a lot of people?

-Dale Cooper, Maryland

Hi, Dale, that's a good but challenging question! All drugs affect the brain but in differently, and the effects of a drug can be so different for different people that what's harmless for one could be extremely dangerous for another. Having said that, some drugs, like meth, heroin and many synthetics (which come laced with toxic chemicals) are notoriously harmful to your health. Bottom line- all drugs are potentially dangerous especially to a developing brain.

PS: our brains are developing until our mid 20s! So choose to live a healthy, drug-free life for your own health's sake. 
 

-Marsha Lopez

Are there any statistics or studies which show that marijuana is harmful when used casually?

-lackofagoodname, Maryland

There are a few recent brain imaging studies that suggested occasional use can alter the volumes of different brain structures.  But these data are still preliminary  (very small numbers of subjects)  Most of the research showing effects are in  people who use the drug regularly and started as teens.  This is a very important question that we hope to study in the near future.

-Susan Weiss

Are there any studies or research that point to possible long-term negative side effects of using ADD/ADHD meds in children (i.e. prescribed)?

-BarrieUSDean, Maryland

hi--this is a great question!  The research is somewhat mixed, but in general, we know that effective treatment for ADHD can help, not just with symptoms, but also with daily functioning, including social functioning with friends and families, and functioning at school.  So if a kid gets good treatment, they are more likely to get along with family and friends and do better at school, and later, more likely to succeed with college or jobs.  So for many people, the long-term benefit outweighs the negative side effects.  When people are treated with medication for ADHD, it's important to work closely with the doctor to discuss the balance of positives and side effects. Sometimes when there are side effects, adjusting medications or changing medications can help. 

-Joel Sherrill

Are there certain drugs that enhance sexual performance or pleasure? (Other than viagra and female-viagra)

-Lanthirey, Maryland

Hi Lanthirey,
A type of inhalants called amyl nitrites can enhance sexual pleasure--they were popular in the sexually liberated 1970s. Alcohol often increases sex drive but decreases performance. Stimulant drugs sometimes increase sex drive, but some like meth often have the opposite effect. 
Eric

-Eric Wargo

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