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 use drugs as a medicine?

-JLe, Texas

Sure. Just because a drug might be abused, does not mean it never can also be used as a medicine. But care is needed when a doctor prescribes these drugs and the patient also needs to be careful. Prescrition opioids are a prime example. They can help some people in pain, but they are also abused.

-Dave Thomas

Can prescription drugs taken for anxiety or depression become addictive ?

-blancoisd8, Texas

yes,they can produce addiction in those who are vulnerable.

-Nora Volkow

Can pro football players abuse steroids if they have been using it their whole career...or will it harm them in any way?

-mbanks, Texas

Hi mbanks,
Your own body produces all the steroids it needs. It needs them to regulate your growth, and for reproductive functions. The kind sometimes used by athletes are called anabolic steroids, meaning that they are similar to the male hormone testosterone. Adults and teens who use large quantities of anabolic steroids risk heart disease, and liver damage and may not reach their full height.  It also can cause aggression, male-pattern baldness (who needs that?), and shrinkage of your testicles (if you are a male).  If you are a female who is using anabolic steroids, your voice may deepen permanently, you may grow facial hair, and develop male-pattern baldness. See https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/anabolic-steroids for more info on steroids, and check out Ruben’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9Ynf2kPNIc.

-Maureen Boyle

Can rehab help a person who is really addicted to tobacco stop?

-PPham, Texas

Yes, PPham, we want all people to quit smoking. A combination of medications and behavioral rehab is the best approach to help stop smoking. There are medications to help with some addictions including nicotine/tobacco, alcohol, and opioids (e.g. heroin or pain pills). And there are also behavioral therapies to help people recover. NIDA scientists are working hard to develop better treatments to treat addictions to all types of drugs. You can learn more about effective treatment programs here:  http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/treatment

-Roger Sorensen

can second hang pot smoke eventually kill a baby

-ISmart, New Hampshire

Oh my goodness--a very bad idea to be smoking around a baby (tobacco or pot).  It's not good for the baby's lungs, and its not good parenting--especially if something unexpected happens, the parents may not be equipped to deal with it. Second hand pot smoke also delivers the main ingredient in pot (THC) to the recipient--and that also is not good for development of the nervous system. 

-Susan Weiss

Can self harm be addicting?

-unicorn, Massachusetts

Hi unicorn. It can be. People engage in self-harming behaviors as a way to deal with intense emotions. The physical hurt is a release for the emotional feelings so craving that release feeling can become an addiction. If someone is engaging in self-harming behavior, it would be important to get help from a licensed mental health professional to find other, healthier, ways of dealing with their feelings. If you want to find out about getting substance abuse or mental health treatment, call 1-800-662-HELP, 24/7. Or you can go to "http://www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov/" to find information about treatment centers in your area.

-Amy Goldstein

can sleeping pills kill you

-akhan, Texas

Sure, if one takes too many. They are depressants, which reduce breathing rate. Take too many, and breathing is reduced to such a degree that it can stop altogether. No breathing=death.

-Dave Thomas

can sleeping pills kill you?

-marshallwhited, Ohio

Yes, marshallwhited, sleeping pills can kill you. Sleeping pills are in the class of drugs known as sedatives. These drugs depress the function of the brain and nervous system. Thus, they can relax you to help you sleep. But taking too many sleeping pills can depress your nervous system too much. In particular you may stop breathing.

-Roger Sorensen

can smoking cause cancer?

-AaliyahH-FV, Georgia

Cigarette smoking accounts for about one-third of all cancers, including 90 percent of lung cancer cases. Smokeless tobacco (such as chewing tobacco and snuff) also increases the risk of cancer, especially oral cancers.

-Michelle Leff

Can smoking cause somebody to commit suicide?

-jatuchi, Texas

Hi jatuchi,
The reasons for suicide are more complicated than just one thing, like smoking. You might read about some of what we know about the factors in suicide in a booklet on suicide prevention. Hope that helps. 
 

-Charlotte Armstrong

Can smoking change the way you think in school?

-JLe, Texas

Hi Jle - some people say that smoking helps them focus more. However, there are many other downsides to smoking. Doing other activities, like eating healthy and physical exercise, are good ways to help your mental acuity. Better safe than sorry!

-Joni Rutter

Can Smoking habits be in your genes?

-Daffyduck, Illinois

Hello Daffyduck
Like other diseases, the susceptibility for one to become addicted to drugs is partly genetic. But there are environmental factors too that are important.  One's ability to resist peer pressure, for example.  The safest and best thing to do is not even experiment.  There is more information here: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/brain-and-addiction

-Roger Little

can smoking marijuana give you the same dark smoker's lung as if you were smoking a cigarette

-jamecia.T10, Georgia

Hi jamecia.T10,
Great question! The answer is, we don't know yet how harmful marijuana is for the lungs. We don't know if it causes lung cancer, for instance, because studies have shown conflicting results. It's hard to compare it with cigarettes because people who smoke cigarettes usually smoke a lot more in a day (and a year, and a lifetime) than people who smoke marijuana. But people who smoke marijuana may have more colds and lung infections than non-users, since they are still gunking up their lungs with smoke.

-Eric Wargo

Can sniffing natural products like glue give you and instant rush and if so will it really damage your body?

-precioust130, Georgia

Hi precioust130,
Glue isn't a natural product. But yes, sniffing some glues and other chemicals (like cleaners, solvents, etc.) found around the home can sometimes produce a brief rush by slowing brain function or reducing its oxygen supply. It can also dangerously affect other organs in your body. For instance, "sudden sniffing death" is when the heart stops as a result of breathing (or "huffing") some household chemicals. Very dangerous!

-Eric Wargo

Can some mushrooms be considered a drug?

-mkovesdvn, Texas

can some people not get addicted to drugs even if they smoke at least once a week ?

-yfeghali, Texas

Although there is some individuality in the effects of drugs, most people will become addicted if they use a drug often enough.  Using a drug once a week may not cause addiction, but someone who does that will most likely end up using the drug more frequently and then eventually become addicted.  So it’s better to stay away from drugs!   For more info on drugs see: http://www.drugabuse.gov/children-and-teens

-Nancy Pilotte

Can someone not get drunk from alcohol or liquor

-George_Jettson , Pennsylvania

While people differ in their sensitivity to alcohol, everyone who has a relatively normal human brain will get drunk from consuming any type of alcohol.

-Aaron White

can someone over dose on marijuana

-Erick mendoza, New Mexico

Hi Erick,
Yes, they can, and they'll have a very long, unpleasant experience, and may even need to go to the hospital. They won't die, though (at least not directly from the marijuana).

-Eric Wargo

Can steroids actually help your athletic performance?

-ww73, Illinois

some specific aspects of it, yes.
but there are always  adverse effects that people tend to not pay attention too much. That's unfortunate.

-Ruben Baler

can steroids destroy your reproductive system?

-angie13, Texas

Hi Angie,  That is a great question. First, f

Question: What can steroids do to your organs?
 
Answer: Steroids can have a lot of effects, but first you should know that your own body produces all the steroids it needs...and it needs them to regulate your growth, and they 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 they should.  It also can cause aggression, and if you are a female who is using anabolic (androgenic) steroids, your voice may deepen permanently, and you may grow facial hair, and develop male-pattern baldness. Oh, and yes, overuse of anabolic steroids can make a male stop producing sperm...and without sperm...well, you get the picture.  For more info, see: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/anabolic-steroids
-Nancy Pilotte

Can steroids increase a mans sex drive?

-(), Michigan
 
Anabolic steroids can be legally prescribed to treat conditions resulting from steroid hormone deficiency, such as infertility, delayed puberty, as well as for diseases that result in loss of lean muscle mass, such as cancer and AIDS.  But most people naturally produce all the steroidsthey need in exactly the amounts needed to maintain good health.  And although steriods are important for normal functioning, there can be too much of a good thing.  When people take steroids in doses of 100 times or more than they need, their own steroid production shuts down because it senses there are already enough out there. The high doses of steroids can have numerous negative effects, including negatively affecting the ability to get and maintain an erection...and sperm production shuts down too.  Fortunately, these effects can be reversed with quitting.  For more information, see https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/anabolic-steroids
-Nancy Pilotte

Can steroids kill you ?

-jsanchez, Texas

yes by producing heart insufficiency

-Nora Volkow

can tar from cigarettes cause cancer?

-klebbie, Texas

The short answer is yes.  But I should explain what the word "tar" really means when we talk about cigarettes.  In this context tar is not the stuff used to pave the roads!  When researchers study cigarette smoke they use the big smoking machines that collect all the chemicals on a piece of filter paper that would be inhaled by a smoker.  All those chemicals look like a big black gooey gob so they actually kind of look like tar....  There are lots of chemicals in tobacco smoke that have been shown to cause cancer....so yes the "tar" in cigarette can cause cancer

-Cindy Miner

can tar from cigarettes cause cancer?

-klebbie, Texas

yes.  For more info on tobacco and cigarettes, visit: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes

-Nancy Pilotte

Can tar give you cancer?

-ahernandez, Texas

Hi ahernandez, yes, several chemicals in cigarettes can lead to cancer, including tar. Here is a wiki page on it:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tar_(tobacco_residue)

-Joni Rutter

Can teens get drunk faster than adults?

-atekrouri, Texas

Often times yes simply because we tend to be smaller than adults when we're teens. Smaller bodies mean more alcohol gets to the brain. Learn more about how drinking affects teens

-Aaron White

Can the amount of drugs affect the sperm to the reproductive system?

-PSwidrak, New Hampshire

Yes, especially the use of anabolic androgenic steroids like testosterone.  Mega-doses that most people use to build muscle actually decrease sperm production and testicular size.  For more info see: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/anabolic-steroids

-Nancy Pilotte

Can the baby of a pregnant woman be born addicted if the mother was addicted to drugs?

-Cookie P. JR, Illinois

Hi Cookie P.JR.  Yes, sadly this can happen. You might have heard of "crack babies" or babies born with "neonatal abstinence syndrome."  These are caused by the mother using cocaine or heroin, respectively. You can learn more in our Substance Use in Women DrugFacts and our Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome infographic. 

-Joni Rutter

Can therapy help you stop doings drugs ?

-MTrevino, Texas

Hi MTrevino:

Yes!

There are medications to help with some addictions including nicotine/tobacco, alcohol, and opioids (e.g. heroin or pain pills). And there are also behavioral therapies to help people recover. But addiction is often a lasting condition, like heart disease or diabetes; there are treatments that help someone live a healthy, productive life but there is no cure. NIDA scientists are working hard to develop better treatments to treat addictions to all types of drugs. You can learn more about effective treatment programs here:  http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/treatment

-Michelle Leff

can tobacco affect any part of the body on the outside? (skin, hair, etc.)

-jle, Texas

Absolutely. Tobacco affects many parts of the body. Skin is less elastic and becomes more wrinkled when someone smokes and the lustre of hair diminishes. It's amazing that tobacco harms not just the lungs but MANY parts of the body.

-Wilson Compton

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