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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: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 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:

-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:


-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'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:

-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:

-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:


-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:​

-Marsha Lopez

after a while what does weed do to your brain

-drock, Maryland

Here are some facts on 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 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 you happy about how many questions are being asked today?

-eechase17, Minnesota

Yes, we're thrilled to be getting so many questions! Hope you're having fun and learning a lot!

-Maureen Boyle

Are you seeing a nationwide increase in heroin use? If so is this related to any particular age group?

-jmetcalf, Iowa

Hi, jmetcalf, although heroin use has increased since the early 2000s, despite recent media attention heroin we are not seeing a nationwide increase in use.  According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about one tenth of a percent (0.1%) ages 12 or older were current heroin users in 2013 which is similar to those in 2008 to 2012. 

-Marsha Lopez

Around what age do kids start using cocaine?

-p.g.goalie, Maryland

Thanks for writing p.g.goalie!  According to a national survey, the mean age of initiation among teens who started using drugs prior to the age of 18 was about 16 years old. You can find more information at

-Mary Kautz

At what age do people start drinking illegally?

-heyncms, Maryland

Well, drinking under the age of 21 is illegal in the US. On average, the typical person in the US has their first drink at age 17.

-Aaron White

at what age do people usley start smoking

-cassidyb, Texas

Hi, cassidyb, I'll give you a couple of numbers to answer this one.  According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among kids who initiated before they were 18 years old, the average age of starting to use illicit drugs was around 15 years old.  Among those who initiated between ages 12 and older, the average age was 20 years old.

-Marsha Lopez

at what age is the most common age for someone to start drugs?

-MeganS, Texas

Hi, MeganS, According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among kids who initiated before they were 18 years old, the average age of starting to use illicit drugs was around 15 years old.  Among those who initiated between ages 12 and older, the average age was 20 years old.

-Marsha Lopez

At what level of alcohol intake would you get alcohol poisoning?

-curious Lion, Kansas

It's tricky to know how many drinks a particular person would have to consume to suffer from alcohol poisoning because it depends on how much a person weighs, whether they are male or female, whether they ate food before drinking alcohol, and other factors. For example, college students who died from alcohol poisoning had blood alcohol levels around 0.35% as compared to the legal limit of 0.08%. For a 155 lbs person, it would take approximately 12 drinks in an hour or two to produce a blood alcohol concetration of 0.35%. It's quite possible someone could die from alcohol poisoning even below this level. If you think someone you know may be experiencing alcohol poisoning, make sure to get help immediately. You can call 911. You can learn more about alcohol poisoning and overdoses at:

-Aaron White

At what point does drugs affect us ? Is it a rate away thing or a later affect?

-Kearsarge, New Hampshire

Hello Sarge--

All drugs of abuse have an immediate and long-term effects.  Usually people use drugs to get the immediate effect and feel the "high." Then, depending on the drug, people get habituated and then they can become addicted. Some drugs like nicotine and heroin and pain killers are highly addictive. Some people say that they just took a few doses of prescription painkillers and they became addicted very quickly. So, the best thing to do is to avoid trying drugs because you never know if you have the predisposition of getting addicted. 

-Ivan Montoya

Be honest, how many people have asked a question relating to breaking bad? (the show aint even that good)

-HrantJamgochian, Maryland

A lot!

-Maureen Boyle

Besides brain damage what is wrong with using weed?

-lilly boladian, Michigan

Lilly Boladian...C'mon.  Isn't brain damage enough?  

-Joni Rutter

Can a animal die from drugs, Pennsylvania

Good morning, -- Certainly. So can humans.

-Joni Rutter

Are steroids addictive? Because professional players, some stack up around 5 charges. So, you would think they would stop.

-mmorelli, Pennsylvania

Hi Morelli
Even though anabolic steroids do not cause the same high as other drugs, steroids are reinforcing and can lead to addiction. Studies have shown that animals will self-administer steroids when given the opportunity, just as they do with other addictive drugs. People may persist in abusing steroids despite physical problems and nega-tive effects on social relationships, reflecting these drugs’ addictive potential. Also, steroid abusers typically spend large amounts of time and money obtaining the drug—another indication of addiction.
good luck

-Ruben Baler

are steroids bad for u

-jacob, Massachusetts

Hi Jacob and Cyrus Pierce Middle School! Steroids can have a lot of effects, but first you must know that your own body produces all the steroids it needs...and it needs them to regulate your growth, and are critical for reproductive function.  People who use large quantities of steroids (often to help build muscle or control weight) risk heart disease, liver damage (even in young people), and may stop growing tall earlier than you should.  It also can cause aggression and male-pattern baaldness (who needs that?), and if you are a female who is using anabolic (androgenic) steroids, your voice may deepen permanently, grow facial hair, and develop male-pattern baldness. Oh, and by the way, exercise has been shown to build muscle better than steroids...

-Nancy Pilotte

Are steroids in Asthma medication different form just "regular" ones?

-donuts160, Michigan

hello donuts

totally different. Anabolic steroids are synthetic substances related to the male sex hormones (androgens). They promote growth of skeletal muscle (anabolic effect) and the development of male sexual characteristics (androgenic effects). Corticosteroids or glucocorticoids, often just called "steroids", are drugs closely related to cortisol, a hormone which is naturally produced in the adrenal cortex (the outer layer of the adrenal gland) and have anti-inflammatory effects.

-Ruben Baler

Are the cigarette companies lying about tobacco?

-curious Lion, Kansas

It's simple...tobacco companies have highly addicting products (nicotine being the main addicting drug) and lots of $$ is made from the sale of tobacco products.  They are now disclosing more about what is in their products.  Check out:

-Kevin Walton

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