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Transcript for 2011 Chat Day

The transcript is in reverse chronological order (earlier questions are at the bottom of this page)

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 sfelder - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: do rehab treatments raeally work

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: In addition to stopping drug abuse, the goal of treatment is to return people to productive functioning in the family, workplace, and community. According to research that tracks individuals in treatment over extended periods, most people who get into and remain in treatment stop using drugs, decrease their criminal activity, and improve their occupational, social, and psychological functioning.

Unfortunately, when relapse occurs many deem treatment a failure. This is not the case: successful treatment for addiction typically requires continual evaluation and modification as appropriate, similar to the approach taken for other chronic diseases. For the addicted patient, lapses to drug abuse do not indicate failure—rather, they signify that treatment needs to be reinstated or adjusted, or that alternate treatment is needed.

For more information, see www.drugabuse.gov/PODAT/faqs.html#faq3.
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 kmassey - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: What is the best way for someone to quit using drugs?

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: 
I would encourage them to stop using drugs by having them become aware of the negative consequences drug use has on their brain and bod.  You can refer them to: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/index.php .  If they are unable to stop using drugs talk to them about treatment. 

When someone has a drug problem, it's not always easy to know what to do.  If your friend is using drugs, encourage them to talk to a parent or another trusted adult such as a favorite teacher or a school guidance counselor.  If they don't feel comfortable doing that, they can use anonymous resources, such as SAMHSA's crisis line (1-800-273-TALK) -- they help people with lots of different problems.  Or if they're ready to think about treatment, your friend can check SAMHSA's Treatment Facility Locator for programs in your area (http://www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov -- there are programs out there just for adolescents.  You can also contact these resources yourself and get advice on how to help your friend.

Since you've asked this question, you probably already know that right now it's really important to be a good friend -- that means finding ways to offer advice without being judgmental, showing support by listening, and finding ways to offer help when they're ready to receive it.  Thanks for your question.  I hope this helps.

More information about drug treatment can be found at: http://www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov .  Take care of yourself and remember you can't make your friend stop using drugs - you can only support them. 


For more information on treatment, check out:http://www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ or 1-800-662-HELP, where you can find private and confidential help 24/7.
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 sshs12 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: how much does it take to over dose on weed

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Too many factors to say for sure.  How pure is the sample?  Is the user experienced such that their body is accustomed to it?
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 cperez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: what if u catch your cousin doing drugs what should u do

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Hi - great question.  If you know someone who is using drugs and want to help them stop, it's not always easy to know what to do.  You can inform yourself with the harmful effects of drug abuse and addiction (see http://teens.drugabuse.gov/) and then try to encourage him or her to talk to a parent or another trusted adult, like a school guidance counselor, minister, friend, or family member.  If your cousin doesn't feel comfortable doing that, they can use anonymous resources, such as SAMHSA's crisis line (1-800-273-TALK) -- they help people with lots of different kinds of problems.  Or they can contact the Treatment Referral Helpline (1-800-662-HELP).  Or you can contact these resources yourself for advice on how to help your cousin. 

Because you've asked this question, you probably already know that right now it's really important to be a good friend/cousin that is not judgmental -- you don't want to make your friend to feel like they're being judged, you can show support by listening, and find ways to offer help when they're ready to receive it.  Good luck and I hope this helps.
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 pwillis - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Can you by the 'magic' mushrooms at the grocery store?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Nope.  The mushrooms that contain psilocybin are not found in grocery stores.  Sorry!
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 jmontenegro - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Can pain killers affect your health?

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Yes they can. Opioids (such as the pain relievers OxyContin and Vicodin), central nervous system depressants, are the most commonly abused prescription drugs. Did you know that in 2006, prescription pain medications, like Vicodin, were involved in more overdose deaths that heroin and cocaine

For more facts about drugs, read NIDA’s booklet made for teens---called Drugs: Shatter the Myths. You can find it (and even order it for free) at http://drugfactsweek.drugabuse.gov/booklet.php

Explore what happens when teens use prescription drugs such as pain killers here: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/peerx/choose-your-path/
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 master - Rochester Adams High School, Michigan: do teens smoke more in highschool or in college?

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: Hi, what a good question!  According to the 2010 Monitoring the Future Study, about 19% of high school seniors and 16% of college students report they are current smokers.  So overall they're pretty similar---most people who smoke start in high school so if you can avoid it in high school it would be a smart heath strategy!
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 harry.h - Dulles Middle School, Texas: Can marijuana be put in a drink and have the same effects?

Expert Icon Dave White: Ingesting marijuana still produces a 'high' as with smoking.  However, it takes longer to get into your system and since you don't know how much you're getting, it could ultimately be more dangerous and cause more paranoia and psychosis, as some emergency room reports have indicated.
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 Brian N - Johnson Middle School, California: Why do people do drugs?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Thanks for your question.  People say they use drugs because they think it will be 'fun.'  Some say they use them to relieve stress. Either way, drugs have a very clever way of hijacking your brain mechanisms to make you think they are pleasurable: they cause the brain to release a substance called dopamine. But these feelings are short-lived. Dopamine--one of many known brain neurotransmitters--is intimately involved in important aspects of brain function, which makes it a key player in drug abuse and addiction. Dopamine is present in regions of the brain that control movement, emotion, thought, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. In fact, when you have a nice meal or listen to your favorite music, dopamine signals your brain that something important has happened that needs to be remembered--prompting you to repeat the behavior. Drugs can cause a much more powerful release of dopamine so that such natural pleasures can no longer compete, because they cannot produce the same 'high' that drug abusers remember and seek to repeat. Eventually, people become focused on obtaining and using drugs at every opportunity--although recreating the initial high becomes nearly impossible. Dopamine is also involved in other brain disorders that have nothing to do with drug abuse: the tremors and other symptoms that characterize Parkinson's disease, for example, are the direct result of the loss of neurons that make dopamine.

Addiction is a disease characterized by uncontrollable drug craving, drug seeking, and drug use that persist even in the face of extremely negative consequences, such as losing your job, doing poorly in school, getting arrested, or getting sick. Addiction develops because of changes to the brain caused by drug use. Initially, all drugs of abuse, either directly or indirectly, increase the activity of the chemical dopamine in the brain's reward centers, which is what makes people feel good. However, with continued drug use and excessive activation of dopamine neurons, the brain starts to adapt to the good feeling, so more drug is needed to achieve it. This causes people to become dependent on the drug, to feel bad when it is not in their system, and to seek and take the drug compulsively--without even thinking about it. Another way that drugs change the brain is to affect the ability to make decisions, such as judging what's important, what's healthy, and what's dangerous. The compulsive seeking and using of drugs even in the face of potentially devastating consequences is the essence of addiction.
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 pwillis - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Why do people do drugs to relive stress when there are other unharmful ways to do so?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Because drugs can act FAST to the brain-- and predictably-- for people experienced with them.  They do so even at the risk of becoming addicted, unfortunately.
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 fkhan - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: does treatment really work or can a person go crazy agin

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Drug and alcohol treatment do really work.  Quitting using alcohol and drug abuse/addiction can be very difficult, but treatment is quite effective.

If you know someone that has a drug problem, it's not always easy to know what to do.  If your friend is using drugs, encourage him or her to talk to a parent or another trusted adult such as a favorite teacher or a school guidance counselor.  If they don't feel comfortable doing that, they can use anonymous resources, such as SAMHSA's crisis line (1-800-273-TALK) -- they help people with lots of different problems.  Or if they're ready to think about treatment, your friend can check SAMHSA's Treatment Facility Locator for programs in your area (http://www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov -- there are programs out there just for adolescents.  You can also contact these resources yourself and get advice on how to help your friend.

Since you've asked this question, you probably already know that right now it's really important to be a good friend -- that means finding ways to offer advice without being judgmental, showing support by listening, and finding ways to offer help when they're ready to receive it.  Thanks for your question.  I hope this helps.
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 UMaD BrO? - The Blake School, Minnesota: are you getting tired of answering questions?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: It's both tiring and invigorating!  I've been here since 8 AM and it is now 5:58!!  Thanks for asking your questions--it was a lot of fun.
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 cngo - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: how crazy can you get from using drugs?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Depends on the drug. Some hallucinogens are the worst.  Lots of news stories on suspects high on PCP (phencyclidine) wrestling 8 cops etc.  However, in terms of causing radical personality change, many drugs could do that, such as in the process of addiction.
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 37331 - Johnson Middle School, California: what do drugs do to people

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Thanks for your question.  We have some great research to answer this. Drugs affect the brain and body. Even occasional or experimental drug use can be dangerous, since drugs can have unexpected adverse health effects even with one use. And drugs affect your ability to exert good judgment--making it more likely that you might engage in risky behaviors that can have serious consequences, such as driving while intoxicated. Prolonged drug abuse can cause all sorts of medical problems--like lung cancer, heart disease, liver disease, and addiction. When someone is addicted to drugs, they become the most important thing in that person's life, causing them major problems at school, home, and work.
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 120136 - Francis Scott Key Middle School, Maryland: what type of drugs are their?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: Lots.

Check out this site:
www.teens.drugabuse.gov, a Website for teens with information on the science behind drug abuse, facts on drugs, questions and answers, real stories and interactive activities.
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 echan - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Are some prescription medicines harmful to your body?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Yes, most drugs have side effects that could cause a lot of problems to the body, or even kill if taken in large amounts.  Even Tylenol could permanently damage the liver if overdosed.  Also anti-cancer drugs can have severe side effects, such that the only reason people take them is that they will die from the cancer otherwise!

The other risk in all this is ADDICTION, where someone who uses drugs for fun or to treat pain loses control over the drug, and can't keep himself or herself from stopping looking to get the drug and use it.
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 mhernandez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: is meth illegal

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: Yes, unless it is prescribed by a doctor. 
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 efeliciano - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Why do you think drugs make you feel better when there is something wrong?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Good question! Drugs have a very clever way of hijacking your brain mechanisms to make you think they are pleasurable: they cause the brain to release a substance called dopamine. But these feelings are short-lived. Dopamine--one of many known brain neurotransmitters--is intimately involved in important aspects of brain function, which makes it a key player in drug abuse and addiction. Dopamine is present in regions of the brain that control movement, emotion, thought, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. In fact, when you have a nice meal or listen to your favorite music, dopamine signals your brain that something important has happened that needs to be remembered--prompting you to repeat the behavior. Drugs can cause a much more powerful release of dopamine so that such natural pleasures can no longer compete, because they cannot produce the same 'high' that drug abusers remember and seek to repeat. Eventually, people become focused on obtaining and using drugs at every opportunity--although recreating the initial high becomes nearly impossible. Dopamine is also involved in other brain disorders that have nothing to do with drug abuse: the tremors and other symptoms that characterize Parkinson's disease, for example, are the direct result of the loss of neurons that make dopamine.

Addiction is a disease characterized by uncontrollable drug craving, drug seeking, and drug use that persist even in the face of extremely negative consequences, such as losing your job, doing poorly in school, getting arrested, or getting sick. Addiction develops because of changes to the brain caused by drug use. Initially, all drugs of abuse, either directly or indirectly, increase the activity of the chemical dopamine in the brain's reward centers, which is what makes people feel good. However, with continued drug use and excessive activation of dopamine neurons, the brain starts to adapt to the good feeling, so more drug is needed to achieve it. This causes people to become dependent on the drug, to feel bad when it is not in their system, and to seek and take the drug compulsively--without even thinking about it. Another way that drugs change the brain is to affect the ability to make decisions, such as judging what's important, what's healthy, and what's dangerous. The compulsive seeking and using of drugs even in the face of potentially devastating consequences is the essence of addiction.
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 SSHS22 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: Besides actual drugs, what else can you get 'high' of off?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: 'high' is a funny term, but you can get kicks from all sorts of things. Gambling, the internet...
You can absolutely get a natural high by doing things that you enjoy, such hanging with friends and eating great foods (but not too much).  You may also want to consider exercising (believe it or not!). Studies have shown that exercise releases endorphins in the brain, which produce a sense of euphoria (well being). So, participating in a sport is an excellent way to boost your mood.
One of the great things about natural highs--besides the fact that they don't put you at risk for addiction and other bad consequences--is that they don't have 'aversive' side effects or withdrawal effects. For example, stimulants make people high, but they also make people nervous, edgy, and sometimes paranoid. Opiates cause physical discomofort and blah feelings as they leave the body. With natural highs, you just get the high--well, maybe some sore muscles the next day.

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 fort settlement - Ft. Settlement Middle School, Texas: How does alcohol affect the brain exactly?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Every organ in the body is affected by alcohol. This is particularly true for the nervous system, which includes the brain. Alcohol has both short-term and long-term effects on the brain. In the short-term, such as during a night of drinking, alcohol can do the following:

1. Frontal lobes - Alcohol turns off the frontal lobes, which are important for making good decisions and controlling our urges to do things that could ultimately be very bad for us. This increases the odds of getting into fights, getting injured, and taking dangerous risks.
2. Hippocampus - Alcohol suppresses the hippocampus, which is the brain area that makes our  memories. As a result, many people wake up the next day after drinking and have trouble remembering things that they did the night before.
3. Amygdala - The amygdala is in charge of warning us when we are in danger by making us feel afraid or anxious. Alcohol suppresses the amygdala, which makes it easier for us to do thing that normally would make us feel anxious or afraid. This increases the chances we will get hurt or do things we will regret.
4. Cerebellum - The cerebellum plays a big role in balance and walking. Alcohol impairs these abilities.
5. Brain stem - The brain stem contains areas important for keeping us alive. If these areas are shut off, such as by high levels of alcohol consumption (i.e., alcohol poisoning) we can die.

Alcohol also has long-term effects on the brain, particularly during the teen years. The teenage years are a very important time for development of the brain. The thinking parts, memory parts, and feeling parts are all changing when we are teenagers. Alcohol can interfere with these important changes and actually shrink the thinking and memory parts.

Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years can make an area of the brain called the frontal lobes smaller. The frontal lobes help us make decisions, think about things, and pay attention. Teenagers who drink a lot have problems with these things. Alcohol also can shrink the hippocampus, the area of the brain area that helps us learn and remember. Teenagers who drink a lot also have trouble with learning. We do not know yet whether these problems go away if the teenager stops drinking.

For weeks and months after a teenager stops drinking heavily, these parts of the brain still struggle to work correctly. It's not clear whether the brain ever fully heals itself. In addition, drinking at a young age makes it more likely to become an alcoholic later in life. So, drinking when we are young could have lots of negative effects on the brain!
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 xiomara - Rockville HS, Maryland: is marijuana addictive?

Expert Icon Gaya Dowling:  That's a great question. Despite what many people think, marijuana is indeed addicitve. Approximately 9% of people who smoke marijuana eventually become addicted to it--moreso when they start as teens. People can also experience a number of withdrawal symptoms (signifying addiction) when they try to quit, including irritability, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, and mood swings.  The effects can last several weeks but will eventually get better.  For more information check out this link: http://www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/Marijuana.html and our updated teen booklet on marijuana: http://www.drugabuse.gov/MarijBroch/teens/.
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 fort settlement - Ft. Settlement Middle School, Texas: How did people come to know about mushrooms as a drug?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Probably trial and error by people. Probably lots of error since many many types of mushrooms are toxic and can be fatal, and there is really only a few species of mushrooms that can get you high.
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 sn - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Why do people make and advertise things that could kill you like ciggarettes?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Good question.  I wish they wouldn't.  We just have to be smart about what we read--don't believe everything! For more information on tobacco/nicotine addiction, go to: www.nida.nih.gov/DrugPages/Nicotine.html.
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 sparikh - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: is there a drug that can make your brain work 100 % of time

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Ah, you don't need any drugs to make your brain work 100% of the time...it already is!  Your brain is always working, doing many things to keep you alive and functioning...even when you sleep. Never underestimate your brain's power!  Keep it healthy...
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 cramirez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: What percent of people live from mixing drugs and over doseing them?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi,
You can find the information on the DAWN survey at the SAMHSA website!
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 wramirez - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: why do drugs tear families apart?

Expert Icon Cora Lee Wetherington: Drug use can affect people in so many ways.  It can affect their mental health, their phyical health, the ability to do well in school, their ability to function in the jobs, it can land them in prison, and it can kill. And it can seriously impair their relationships with those they love most.  Drug addiction does not just affect the addicted individual.  It affects their family also.  People can become devasted by seeing how drugs are affecting a family member they love dearly. It can be very difficult to cope with an addicted family member.  This is why treatment is so important, not only for the addicted person but also for the family members.  There are many support groups for family members and often addicted individuals and their family can benefit from family therapy. 
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 mthomas - Riverside Junior High, Kansas: How can behavior therapy help treat drug addiction?

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Great question!  Behavioral treatments have been shown to be quite effective at treating drug addiction.  We are developing many different behavioral treatment approaches that will be effective and implementable - now even computerized.  The particular techniques vary within the different approaches of behavioral treatment and are usually dependent on the particular kind of problem.  Common approaches include keeping a diary of significant events and associated feelings, thoughts and behaviors; questioning and testing cognitions, assumptions, evaluations and beliefs that might be unhelpful and unrealistic; gradually facing activities which may have been avoided; and trying out new ways of behaving and reacting.  Relaxation, mindfulness, and distraction techniques are also commonly included. In very general terms, these approaches give the individual strategies for effectively dealing with their addiction and the associated symptoms (for example, with cravings, obsessive thoughts).

To find information on treatment programs, go to: http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/
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 cperez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: what is the worst drug

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: This is a tough one...Scientists are reluctant to rank drugs on a scale of 'worse-ness.' The drug that is used by a person is the worst--so it's a case-by-case basis.  The reason for this vague answer is because people are different, and addiction has many sides to it that make a person vulnerable, such as genetics (e.g., genes that metabolize drugs can be different across people), environmental (e.g., drug availability; parents using drugs/tobacco/alcohol) and developmental (e.g., age--the younger you are when you try a drug, the more likely you are to abuse it), all of which play important and changing roles in determining how a person becomes addicted.

No matter what, all drugs are bad for your body.  For more information on specific drugs and their actions on your body, see: www.drugabuse.gov/scienceofaddiction/health.html.
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 Wclimo - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: why does alcohol mess up liver?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Drinking is really hard on the liver. It's hard to say how long it will take for a person who drinks heavily to experience liver failure since this all varies from person to person.

What we do know is that heavy drinking - even for just a few days at a time - can cause fat to build up in the liver. This condition, called steatosis, or fatty liver, is the earliest stage of alcoholic liver disease and the most common alcohol-induced liver disorder. The fat build-up makes it harder for the liver to operate and leaves it open to developing dangerous inflammations, like alcoholic hepatitis.

For some, alcoholic hepatitis does not present obvious symptoms. For others, though, alcoholic hepatitis can cause fever, nausea, appetite loss, abdominal pain, and even mental confusion. As it gets worse, alcoholic hepatitis makes the liver get dangerously big, and causes other problems like jaundice, bleeding, and difficulties getting bleeding to stop (clotting).

Another liver condition associated with heavy drinking is fibrosis, which causes scar tissue to build up in the liver. Alcohol changes the chemicals in the liver needed to break down and remove this scar tissue. As a result, your liver doesn't work very well.

If you continue to drink, this excessive scar tissue builds up and creates a condition called cirrhosis, basically causes the liver to slowly shut down and stop working.
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 sparikh - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: why do people start to use drugs

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Thanks for your question.  There are many reasons that people start experimenting with drugs. Research has shown that drug use is about 50% genetic and 50% environmental and other factors.  So, they may have been from a family of drug users, or they are around environments that encourage drug use. For example, if people see other people doing it, they might think it's cool. For smoking, stress is a common reason why many people say they smoke. What they may not know, though, is that drugs are addictive--once you start, it is VERY difficult to stop.  And, it's not cool.  For more information, see: www.drugabuse.gov/tib/genetics.html and http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/real-teens-ask-addiction-hereditary/. And general information on addiction:  www.nida.nih.gov/scienceofaddiction/.

 
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 aromero - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: if you mixed all kinds of alchohol what woulyou get ? and what would happen if you drank it?

Expert Icon Aaron White: The kind of alcohol in the beverages people drink is all the same. So the effects wouldn't be different by mixing differet types of drinks. It would just taste weird.
You can learn more here:
http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/
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 cramirez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: How does heroin shrink parts of your brain?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Probably because the heroin molecule binds with (attaches to) specialized matching molecules on or inside of nerve cells, that in turn triggers a series of events in the cell, to tell it to either shrink or self-destruct (a process called apoptosis).  However, at this point, because brain scans are of healthy living people, we don't know what is going on at the microscopic level.  We would need to take brain slices of deceased users to investigate that, which is complicated....
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 harry.h - Dulles Middle School, Texas: can all drugs kill you?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Yes.  Even water can kill you.  The dose makes the poison.  All drugs can kill you at a given dose.  Check this out: less than a drop of nicotine will kill you on the spot.  It is one of the most toxic substances known!  For more information, see: http://drugabuse.gov/researchreports/nicotine/consequences.html.
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 Nittany Lions - Rockville HS, Maryland: When people have cancer, did they use medical marijuana to help them feel not suffering from cancer/

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: Marijuana is not an approved medicine--only the FDA can approve medicines and marijuana has not met the standards required for approval.  These are rigorous clinical trials for its safety and benefits to treat a condition relative to its risks.  However, marinol is an approved medication that contains THC marijuana's active ingredient in pill form.  It is used for treating nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy and extreme weight loss associated with AIDS.  Scientists are studying other ingredients in marijuana or other ways to affect the system that marijuana acts on for possible effects on pain, obesity, addiction and other problems. 
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 scnawrot - Cathedral High School, Indiana: What is considered to be an alcoholic?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Only someone trained to evaluate a person's drinking habits can tell for sure whether they are addicted. In general, a teenager is more likely to become addicted to alcohol if they have a family history of alcoholism (meaning they have parents or siblings with alcohol problems), start drinking at younger ages or have problems with depression or anxiety. 

According to the National Library of Medicine, people who are addicted to alcohol tend to have the following issues:
  • Craving - a strong need to drink
  • Loss of control - not being able to stop drinking once you've begun
  • Physical dependence - withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating or shakiness after stopping drinking
  • Tolerance - the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to get 'high'
These problems and behaviors can cause tremendous difficulties for individuals and families.
If you know someone who might have any of these characteristics, it's important to tell an adult you trust so they can get help. 

To learn more, check out: http://www.thecoolspot.gov/real_life2.asp

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 cperez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: is heroina plant like marijuana

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Good question.  Kind of.  Heroin is a chemical version of opium, which come from the sap (milk) of the poppy.  Marijuana is generally the leaf of the cannabis plant with no additional chemical modification or extraction.
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 IMS712 - Iberia Middle School, Louisiana: how can drinking alcohol harm or affect your childs growth?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Drinking can affect children in many ways:

During pregnancy
Drinking while you are pregnant can seriously affect a baby's development. A range of problems, the worst of which is called fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) can result. Babies born with FAS are not addicted to alcohol themselves, but they do have smaller brains, abnormal facial features, and often have life-long learning and behavioral problems. It is the leading preventable birth defect associated with mental and behavioral impairment in the United States today.

As a child
Having parents who are alcoholics does increase your chances of becoming an alcoholic at some point. In general, a child with close relatives who are alcoholics are twice as likely to become an alcoholic than a child without alcoholic relatives. 
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 cacrowe14 - Cathedral High School, Indiana: How much alcohol does it take to die?

Expert Icon Aaron White: That can be hard to predict exactly. In general, a blood alcohol level above 0.30% is considered potentially fatal.  Here's an example: In the last month, several teenagers, mostly college students, died from alcohol poisoning with blood alcohol levels around 0.35%, as compared to the legal limit of 0.08%. For a healthy, 140 pound female, reaching this level would require around 10 drinks in a 2 hour period, or around 13 drinks in 2 hours for a 160 pound male. It is important to point out than having any alcohol at all can increase the chances of dying from injuries, such as falls, drownings or car crashes. 

If you drink enough alcohol, parts of the brain that are important for keeping us alive can shut down. Then, the heart can stop beating and we can stop breathing. In essence, it's like alcohol flips a switch and shuts the body off.

Here are some of the factors that influence how fast people get drunk: 
  1. How much alcohol they drink and how fast they drink it
  2. Whether there is food in the stomach to slow how quickly alcohol gets into the body
  3. How much they weigh
  4. Whether they are male or female -- females tend to be affected more by alcohol than males
Getting drunk faster also makes drinking more dangerous. Drinking quickly can turn off the brain's memory centers and cause 'blackouts', or an inability to remember what you did while drinking. Getting drunk faster can make it more likely that the vital centers in the brain will be shut off.
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 kmassey - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: What is Ecstacy exactly?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Hey Kmassey:  Ecstasy, also known by its chemical name methylenedioxymethamphetamine (or MDMA, for short), is a type of amphetamine, but it also produces effects similar to some hallucinogens. MDMA affects the brain by increasing the activity of at least three neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers of brain cells): serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. MDMA causes these neurotransmitters to be released from their storage sites in neurons, resulting in increased neurotransmitter activity. We know from studies in animals that MDMA can produce long-lasting damage to serotonin neurons. Serotonin is important in regulating mood, sleep, body temperature, pain and other critical functions. In fact, some of the medications used to treat depression directly target this system. From imaging the brains of people, we find that there are changes in this system too, but we do not know how long those changes last. People who abuse MDMA tend to get depressed or anxious and to have trouble remembering recent events. These effects can be short-lived or longer-lasting depending on how much drug is used, how often, and whether or not other drugs are also being abused (marijuana is fairly common in MDMA users). Some people who use MDMA also have other difficulties with their abilities to make decisions and with their sleeping patterns. Of course, you will likely suffer more severe problems if you use MDMA often or in large amounts.
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 srose - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: how long does it take to recover from drugs and you want to stop

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi and thanks for the question. It really depends on the drug and how long it has been taken for. There is not one answer, but usually the worst of the withdrawal is over in a week. The treatment locater on the SAMHSA.gov website has places where someone can find places to get help.
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 nlp14 - Cathedral High School, Indiana: What type of alchohol has the highest effect?

Expert Icon Aaron White: A single serving of beer, wine or liquor contains the same amount of alcohol. So they would all have the same effects if you drank the same number of servings of each.
You can learn more about how much alcohol different drinks contain here: http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/
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 kmassey - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Is snorting cocaine worse for your body than smoke it?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Probably not.  Actually smoking cocaine is more risky, because it causes the brain to get the drug and the 'hit' and high faster.  This will in turn help the brain associate what's in the scene around the user with the drug high, and increase the risk that the person will get addicted.

Repeated intranasal cocaine can damage the membranes of the nose though.  However, I think the addiction risk is worse.
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 paul b - MillSprings Academy, Georgia: What percentage of teens AND adults either smoke or use illegal drugs?

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: hi Paul! Thanks for your question!   According to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health about 9% of Americans ages 12 and older reported current (past month) drug use and 27% were current users of tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars, pipe, smokeless) in 2010. In the same survey, 10% of youth ages 12-17 reported current use of an illicit drug and 11% current use of tobacco products.
Moderator Icon Thank you all for your outstanding questions!  We are working hard to answer them.  We encourage you to learn more about NIDA on our website: http://www.nida.nih.gov/nidahome.html.
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 sn - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: lets say I was a drug adict and I have been on drugs since I was 10, how dose my future look?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: Let's say, hypothetically, you should look for some sort of treatment.

To find a substance abuse treatment facility locator, call 1-800-662-HELP or go to www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov anytime, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.

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 sn - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: if I was on drugs and i needed help because I am trying to stop but didn't know how to ask what shoud I do?

Expert Icon Dave White: You're very brave to ask this.  If you need help with an addcition, you can get it by calling 1-800-662-HELP or going to http://www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov/.  You can also tell a trusted adult who can assist you in finding help.
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 lruiz - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: what does the national institute on drug abuse do ?

Expert Icon Gaya Dowling: We support most of the world's research on the health effects of drugs of abuse, including tobacco, illegal and prescription drugs, how to prevent their use, and how to treat people who become addicted. We also take that the results of that research and help to educate people like you about what drugs do to the brain and body to help you make healthy decisions for your own life. Thanks for asking.
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 dkreidie - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: can marijuana kill you?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: yup, in time. 
It is unhealthy to smoke marijuana, and the more you smoke the more unhealthy it is. The smoke in marijuana has many of the same chemicals present in tobacco smoke. In terms of composition it is comparably dangerous and hazardous to your respiratory health.
Marijuana also affects attention and slows reflexes, which can increase your chances of being in a car wreck. About 14 percent of people who died in fatal car wrecks in one recent year had marijuana in their blood.
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 dstanley - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: What in an ADHD person makes it ok (i mean like doesnt have a bad effect) when they take meth (in their ADHD medicine)

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi. Meth is not an ADHD medication. ADHD medication does have a stimulant in it but if taken as directed it is safe. But it must be taken by the person that it is prescribed for and in the amount prescribed. We have more information on our web site you might find interesting: http://www.drugabuse.gov/infofacts/ADHD.html.
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 mwise - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: what are some of the worst drugs and can i please get a little discription of each because i was doing reaserch and i was realy interesting

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Some drugs have essentially zero history of people actually dying from an acute overdose.  Cocaine, heroin, and alcohol though (just to name a few, and especially in combination) are particularly deadly culprits.  Ecstasy is also particularly dangerous because it's known to cause brain damage.

Consider also that people can still indirectly die from drug use if they're driving while drunk or high or otherwise doing stupid, dangerous Darwin Award stuff....
Here are a couple of links to what science has to say about these drugs-- what they do, and their dangers: http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugpages/ and http://teens.drugabuse.gov/.
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 emendoza - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: can lsd kill you?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: You bet.  You can overdose, or it can cause you to do something stupid that could get you killed.  It has unpredictable psychological effects. People can experience delusions and visual hallucinations that can be frightening. In fact, 'bad trips' can include terrifying thoughts and nightmarish feelings of anxiety and despair that include fears of insanity, death, or losing control. For more information about LSD, visit NIDA's website at www.nida.nih.gov/DrugPages/ACIDLSD.html.
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 iwhite - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: How does smoking marijuana affect you and your daily life?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Smoking marijuana on a regular basis can have a big effect on your daily life.  You will find that it is harder to pay attention to things, and that your memory is not as sharp as it had been.  You may find that you start oversleeping, have difficulty waking up in the morning, or take a lot of naps.  And worse, you may find that smoking marijuana becomes an increasingly important part of your life, and that you stop doing other things like sports, playing in a band, or even videogames because you spend more and more of your time high on marijuana and not really doing anything else.  That's a pretty big effect on your daily life.
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 ltrevino - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: how many teens smoke every year

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: Hey, ltrevino , thanks for your question. According to the 2010 Monitoring the Future Study, about 7% of 8th graders, 14% of 10th graders, and 19% of high school seniors in the US reported they were current smokers (in the past month). That means about 80% don't smoke! 
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 echan - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: if a family member doesn't go to those places that help you quit smoking, how can you help them?

Expert Icon Dave White: It's great that you want to help your family member quit smoking (cigarettes presumably).  Both medications and behavioral strategies (like counseling) are used to treat nicotine addiction. For more information see: http://www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/Nicotine.html.
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 sw00p - Cathedral High School, Indiana: what long term affect does alchool have on a persons body

Expert Icon Aaron White: Every organ in the body is affected by alcohol. This is particularly true for the nervous system, which includes the brain. Alcohol has both short-term and long-term effects on the brain. In the short-term, such as during a night of drinking, alcohol can do the following:

1. Frontal lobes - Alcohol turns off the frontal lobes, which are important for making good decisions and controlling our urges to do things that could ultimately be very bad for us. This increases the odds of getting into fights, getting injured, and taking dangerous risks.
2. Hippocampus - Alcohol suppresses the hippocampus, which is the brain area that makes our  memories. As a result, many people wake up the next day after drinking and have trouble remembering things that they did the night before.
3. Amygdala - The amygdala is in charge of warning us when we are in danger by making us feel afraid or anxious. Alcohol suppresses the amygdala, which makes it easier for us to do thing that normally would make us feel anxious or afraid. This increases the chances we will get hurt or do things we will regret.
4. Cerebellum - The cerebellum plays a big role in balance and walking. Alcohol impairs these abilities.
5. Brain stem - The brain stem contains areas important for keeping us alive. If these areas are shut off, such as by high levels of alcohol consumption (i.e., alcohol poisoning) we can die.

Alcohol also has long-term effects on the brain, particularly during the teen years. The teenage years are a very important time for development of the brain. The thinking parts, memory parts, and feeling parts are all changing when we are teenagers. Alcohol can interfere with these important changes and actually shrink the thinking and memory parts.

Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years can make an area of the brain called the frontal lobes smaller. The frontal lobes help us make decisions, think about things, and pay attention. Teenagers who drink a lot have problems with these things. Alcohol also can shrink the hippocampus, the area of the brain area that helps us learn and remember. Teenagers who drink a lot also have trouble with learning. We do not know yet whether these problems go away if the teenager stops drinking.

For weeks and months after a teenager stops drinking heavily, these parts of the brain still struggle to work correctly. It's not clear whether the brain ever fully heals itself. In addition, drinking at a young age makes it more likely to become an alcoholic later in life. So, drinking when we are young could have lots of negative effects on the brain!
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 cperez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: does it take long to become addict

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: This is a tough one...Scientists are reluctant to give a timeline for addiction to take hold because it depends on the drug and the person. Addiction has many sides to it that make a person vulnerable, such as genetics (e.g., genes that metabolize drugs can be different across people), environmental (e.g., drug availability; parents using drugs/tobacco/alcohol) and developmental (e.g., age--the younger you are when you try a drug, the more likely you are to abuse it), all of which play important and changing roles in determining how a person becomes addicted.

We know this, though.  Once you try drugs, you are at a much higher risk of becoming addicted.
Moderator Icon  Sadly, more than 30,000 people die each year by suicide. In 2007, suicide was the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. If you or a friend are ever in crisis call the suicide prevention number 24 hours a day: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Suicide and suicidal behavior are not normal responses to stress or a bad situation.
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 zpacker - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: It it true if you drink and smoke you lungs won't turn black?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Who told you that?  You better find some friends you can trust.  Your lungs will turn black if you smoke.  Period.


Here is a picture from the National Cancer Institute. This shows a smoker's lung, which looks black because of the particulates inhaled from the toxic chemicals in cigarettes.
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 Sabrina - North Ridgeville Middle School, Ohio: Is it worse to snort, smoke, or inject?

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: Injecting is worse--in part because of the link to infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis; followed by smoking and snorting.  This is based on how quickly a drug would get to the brain, which contributes to its addictiveness.
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 jvu - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: About how many years does it take for you to stop taking a drug?

Expert Icon Dave White: Hi, jvu.  Many people struggle with drug addiction, but with proper treatment, quitting is an achievable goal.  How long it takes will depend on a number of factors, including what drugs someone is taking, how much they're taking, and for how long. See http://www.drugabuse.gov/scienceofaddiction/index.html for more info.
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 sfelder - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: what is spice a.k.a k2

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Spice/K2 is the latest fad drug that is being used. It is a herbal mixture that appears to contain some chemicals that are similar to THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) and other stuff that looks to me like oregano. Other names for “Spice” include K2, fake marijuana, Yucatan Fire, Skunk, Moon Rocks, and others. While Spice products are labeled “not for human consumption” they are marketed to people who are interested in herbal alternatives to marijuana. Although Spice products do contain dried plant material, chemical analyses of seized Spice mixtures have revealed different things---including the presence of synthetic compounds and potentially harmful heavy metal residues.

Presently, there are no studies on the effects of Spice on human health or behavior, and there is no scientific data regarding their toxic effects in humans. A variety of mood and perceptual effects have been described, and patients who have been taken to Poison Control Centers in Texas report symptoms that include rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion, and hallucinations.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently banned five synthetic cannabinoids by placing them in Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I status means that the substance is considered to have a high potential for abuse and no known medical benefits; and as such, it is illegal to possess or sell products that contain the substance. This ban went into effect December 2010, and will continue for one year while the DEA continues to gather information about the chemicals.

A number of States have also instituted bans on Spice and Spice-like products and/or synthetic cannabinoid-containing products, and many others are considering legislation forbidding the sale or possession of Spice.

Hope this helps.
Moderator Icon  Binge drinking means drinking so much within about 2 hours that the amount of alcohol in your blood, also called blood alcohol concentration (BAC), reaches 0.08g/dL, which is considered legally intoxicated.
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 sshs12 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: why do people die from drinking and driving?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Drinking just a little bit of any kind of alcoholic beverage can seriously impact your ability to drive. Alcohol impacts the part of your brain that controls your motor coordination, your ability to make fast and precise movements, and your vision - all necessary for you to drive safely. In addition, alcohol can impair your judgement, and makes you more likely to take risks like driving through a yellow or red light and driving faster than the posted speed limit. Alcohol also makes people sleepy and increases the chances of falling asleep while driving. Each year, more than 10,000 people die in car crashes due to drinking and driving.

In short, alcohol + driving = bad news!! 
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 sshs - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: why do drugs come with so many side affects?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Every drug has side effects.  It is the job of the Food and Drug Administration to evaluate the scientific data that shows how much of a beneficial effect a drug has and how many side effects a drug has, and whether a drug can be prescribed by doctors.  Every drug approved by the FDA has a label what lists the side effects of the drug.  Next time you get a prescription from your doctor read the label to see not only what side effects the drug produces but also how frequent those effects are. Abused drugs are no different - they also have side effects in addition to their other harmful effects 
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 KAng - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: which drug is worse alcohol or smoking?Smoking right?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi and thanks for asking. Any smoking is bad for a person and can cause damage. Low dose alcohol for adult--2 drinks for men or one drink a day for women--can have health benifits. but in excess it can cause many medical problems including death. I hope that answers your question. 
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 zpacker - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: If you know someone use tabacco what can i do to help them?

Expert Icon Dave White: As you know, nicotine is highly addictive, and long-term exposure increases your risk of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and other illnesses.  The good news for people with nicotine addiction is that help is available. Both medications and behavioral strategies (like counseling) are used to treat nicotine addiction. For more information see: http://www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/Nicotine.html.
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 J Nguyen - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Can people be hallucinated when taking hallucinogens?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Dude, what does hallucinated mean? Here's some information on how to learn more about hallucinogens:  http://teens.drugabuse.gov/mom/mom_hal1.php.  Research shows that, for example, 'shrooms have a substance called psilocybin in them, which is an hallucinogen.  These hallucinogens have been linked to negative physical and psychological consequences.  The physical effects appear about 20 minutes after ingestion and last about 6 hours.  These effects include nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, drowsiness, and lack of coordination.  People say that the hallucinations they experience are indistinguishable from reality.  They usually have panic attacks and psychosis...doesn't sound good to me!
Some hallucinogens come from plants. Mescaline comes from a cactus called peyote. And certain mushrooms, also known as “magic” mushrooms, are hallucinogens.  But many hallucinogens are chemicals that don’t occur in nature. Some examples are:
  • LSD, also called acid
  • MDA, also called the “love drug,” related to the stimulant amphetamine
  • MDMA, known as ecstasy, also related to amphetamine
  • PCP, often called angel dust
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 THC isaddictive - Bishop Hall Charter School, Georgia: Many of my students claim that marijuana is harmless and not addictive. Could you explain the process of how marijuana is addictive?

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: THC--the active ingredient in marijuana is what makes it addictive.  There are receptors in the brain (and the body) where THC acts, and these are found in many areas of the brain, which explains its varied effects--on memory, coordination, and on mood. THC receptors are also in the reward system, and like other drugs of abuse marijuana increases dopamine.  This is what makes it pleasurable and what makes people want to take it again and again. Like most drugs, not everyone who uses it will become addicted.  The same could be said for heroin and nicotine--but no one would question their addictiveness.  There are risk factors that make someone vulnerable to becoming addicted to any drug--early use, frequent use (25-50% of daily marijuana users become addicted), genes, family circumstances, etc.  I hope this helps--please check out our marijuana for teen brochure http://www.nida.nih.gov/MarijBroch/teens/  and other resources on our website for more information about marijuana:
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 sshs12 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: what can coain do to your brain?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: It can cause lesions or small areas of damage to white matter, the fiber bundles that transmit information between our neurons.  In addition, it can cause shrinkage in gray matter in certain areas.  Finally, since it causes a sudden increase in heart rate and blood pressure, it could actually cause a stroke.  On a more subtle level, it can change how the brain communicates with itself, as found in scans of brain activity when people are just vegging out.
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 Tinkerbell97 - Totino-Grace High School, Minnesota: why is red wine better for you?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Red wine contains high levels of a compound called resveratrol, which is good for the heart.
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 sshs3 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: What are the side effects of useing staroids?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: There are many.  Here's one that most people don't know...steroids cause testicles to shrink!!  For more information on steroids, see: www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/Steroids.html.
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 pwillis - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Would docters prescribe prescription drugs that are dangerous to you?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi and thanks for the question. Prescription medications are not dangerous if taaken as prescribed and by the person they are prescribed for. The problems you are hearing about are because people are abusing the medicine. We have a website that you might find interesting: http://www.teens.drugabuse.gov/peerx/.
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 dpb101 - Cathedral High School, Indiana: how long after drinking is a breathalizer valid?

Expert Icon Aaron White: It takes roughly 1.5 hours for the body to get rid of one serving of alcohol. So a breathalyzer should be able to detect alcohol for at least 1.5 hours times the number of drinks a person consumed (e.g., 10 drinks times 1.5 hours equals 15 hours before the breathalyzer would show 0.00).
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 cngo - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: what is worse? nicotine or cocaine?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: They are both bad. Here's a long answer but I hope it helps.

Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant that directly affects the brain. It is one of the oldest known psychoactive substances. Coca leaves, the source of cocaine, have been chewed and ingested for thousands of years, and the purified chemical, cocaine hydrochloride, has been an abused substance for more than 100 years. Cocaine belongs to a class of drugs called 'stimulants,' because they usually make you feel euphoric, energetic, hyperstimulated, and mentally alert. The high from snorting may last 15 to 20 minutes, while smoking may last 5 to 10 minutes. Cocaine can also make you feel hypersensitive to touch, sights, and sounds. Some cocaine abusers report feelings of restlessness, irritability and anxiety. Some of the immediate effects after using cocaine include constricted blood vessels, dilated pupils, increased heart rate and blood pressure. Heavy doses can lead to violent behavior and users may experience tremors, vertigo, muscle twitches, and paranoia. As a user begins to increase the dose and/or the frequency of drug taking the duration and intensity of the high may lessen, and once it is over, users can feel very tired and depressed. Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug, and while it can make you feel high when you first use it, addiction is a very real albeit unpredictable possibility. Naturally, the wisest move is never to start. See www.drugabuse.gov/ResearchReports/Cocaine/Cocaine.html for more information.

Nicotine is the primary addictive component in a cigarette.  Each cigarette contains about 10 milligrams of nicotine. Because the smoker inhales only some of the smoke from a cigarette, and not all of each puff is absorbed in the lungs, a smoker gets about 1 to 2 milligrams of the drug from each cigarette. Although that may not seem like much, it is enough to make someone addicted.  So why is it addictive? With each puff of a cigarette, a smoker pulls nicotine and other harmful substances into the lungs, where it is absorbed into the blood. It takes just 8 seconds for nicotine to hit the brain. Nicotine happens to be shaped like the natural brain chemical acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is one of many chemicals called neurotransmitters that carry messages between brain cells. Neurons (brain cells) have specialized proteins called receptors, into which specific neurotransmitters can fit, like a key fitting into a lock. Nicotine locks into acetylcholine receptors, rapidly causing changes in the brain and body. For instance, nicotine increases blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration (breathing). Nicotine also attaches to acetylcholine receptors on neurons that release a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is released normally when you experience something pleasurable like good food, your favorite activity, or the company of people you love. But smoking cigarettes causes neurons to release excess dopamine, which is responsible for the feelings of pleasure. However, this effect wears off rapidly, causing people who smoke to get the urge to light up again for another dose of the drug.
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 Brian N - Johnson Middle School, California: Why is marijuana used so commonly?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Because it can be home-grown, and is sometimes considered medically beneficial.  Also, compared to other, harder drugs, it is not nearly as dangerous in terms of dying from an overdose, although there are a fair number of car accident fatalities where marijuana was involved.
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 lbatrez - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: Why are drugs so addicting? why is it hard to get out of it ? can we get cancer from it ?

Expert Icon Dave White: lbatrez, virtually all abusable drugs legal and illegal can be addicting because they 'highjack' the reward pathways of the brain.  They initially make people feel good but with repeated use, the effects are much less, and more and more drug is needed to produce the same high as at first. At this point the person is addicted--and addicted people do drugs not to feel good anymore, but just to feel normal. It's very hard to stop on your own when this happens, because withdrawal can cause painful physical and psychological effects (see http://www.drugabuse.gov/scienceofaddiction/index.html for more). As far as getting cancer, you're definitely more suceptible to getting cancer if you smoke cigarettes than if you don't.  Thanks for your question.
What is Rohypnol?
The correct answer is: C. A date rape drug. It is a kind of drug called a benzodiazepine that is used as a “date rape” drug. If it is dropped into your drink you might be awake but will not remember anything, and you could be helpless against a sexual attack. You should always be careful when out with people you do not trust or know well.

http://www.drugabuse.gov/infofacts/Clubdrugs.html
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 kgonzales - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: why is the drinking age 21? Does it have a different effect on adults?

Expert Icon Aaron White: The US created the 1984 law raising the minimum legal drinking age to 21 because too many young people were getting hurt by drinking alcohol. Raising it to 21 helped to significantly reduce the number of young people killed in alcohol-related car crashes.  By contrast, kids drink more heavily in places like Europe and Australia, where the drinking age is lower than 21.

For more info on how alcohol affects kids, check out: http://thecoolspot.gov/index.asp
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 kgonzales - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: is it legal for children to take pain killers?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi and thanks for the question. Children get pain and require pain medications. It is just important to take them as the doctor prescribes--in that case they are safe and legal.
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 kbyers - Cathedral High School, Indiana: Is there a chance, if so what %, of becoming an alcoholic if a family member was an alcoholic?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Having a close family member who is an alcoholic increases the odds of becoming an alcoholic. How much it increases the odds depends on a variety of factors, including what age you start drinking yourself (younger age = greater risk).
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 iofoegbu - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Do Inhalants causes brain seizure?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: I'm not sure about brain seizures, but here's want I do know about inhalants. They seem harmless, but they can actually be quite dangerous. 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. The lungs absorb inhaled chemicals into the bloodstream very quickly, sending them throughout the brain and body. Within minutes of inhalation, users feel 'high.' The effects are similar to those produced by alcohol and may include slurred speech, lack of coordination, euphoria, and dizziness. The high usually lasts only a few minutes. With repeated inhalations, many users feel less inhibited and less in control. Some may feel drowsy for several hours and experience a lingering headache.  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.

Inhalants also can damage brain cells by preventing them from receiving enough oxygen. The effects of this condition, also known as brain hypoxia, depend on the area of the brain affected. The hippocampus, for example, helps control memory, so someone who repeatedly abuses inhalants may lose the ability to learn new things or may have a hard time carrying on simple conversations. If the cerebral cortex is affected, the ability to solve complex problems and plan ahead will be compromised. And, if the cerebellum is affected, it can cause a person to move slowly or clumsily.

Inhalants can be addictive. Long-term use can lead to compulsive drug seeking and use, and mild withdrawal symptoms. For more information, go to: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_inhale1.php.
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 Dulce - Johnson Middle School, California: what could happen if you do drugs while being preg

Expert Icon Cora Lee Wetherington: Hi Johnson Middle School. We had similar questions about drug use during pregnancy today.  We do not know if a baby in the womb gets high when the mom smokes marijuana, but we do know that the active ingredient in marijuana does get into the baby's brain where it can affect the baby and later during childhood and longer. Illegal drugs used during pregnancy, such as cocaine and marijuana, have been associated with a variety of adverse effects, though more research is needed to draw causal connections. Effects may be subtle and generally range from low birth weight to developmental deficits affecting behavior and cognition. For example, impaired attention, language, and learning skills, as well as behavioral problems, have been seen in children exposed to cocaine and marijuana, all of which can affect success in school.  So, although we do not know whether a baby gets high when the mom uses illegal drugs during pregnancy and when she smokes during pregancy, the baby is at risk for unwanted outcomes during development.  Here's a link that talks about risks of prenatal drug exposure: http://www.drugabuse.gov/tib/prenatal.html
Hope this is helpful!

Moderator Icon  Drug addiction can be treated with behavioral-based therapies in which people learn to change their behavior; and, for addiction to some drugs, such as tobacco, alcohol, heroin, or other opiate drugs, medications can help. Treatment will vary for each person, depending on the type of drug(s) being abused and the person’s specific circumstances. To find treatment programs, check out this website: www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov
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 scnawrot - Cathedral High School, Indiana: If you consume alcohol once a week when you are a teen, what does that do to your body?

Expert Icon Aaron White: For teenagers, even moderate consumption of alcohol appears to be harmful. Research shows that having alcohol during the teen years increases the odds of becoming an alcoholic at some point in life. This happens even if you drink at home with your parents. In fact, research in Europe, the US and Australia indicates that teens who are allowed to drink at home even while being supervised by parents are more likely to binge drink (drink enough over about 2 hours to get very drunk) outside of the home. It isn't clear how much alcohol is needed to directly damage the brain during the teen years, but it is probably more than the amount of alcohol considered to be moderate for adults (no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 for men). Even if the brain is spared from being damaged by moderate consumption during the teen years, the risk of becoming an alcoholic is increased significantly.
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 Sweetheart101 - Swanson Middle School, Virginia: how does drinking alcohol and using drugs change a kid's life?

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Great question!  Drinking alcohol and using drugs can have significant negative effects on your brain, your body, your behavior, and your health.  Also, keep in mind that it is illegal to take alcohol and drugs.  Your brain is developing still and drugs/alcohol can affect the normal development of your brain.  You want to do all that you can to keep your brain healthy!

Drug and alcohol use can result in addiction to these substances, which can lead to lots of problems and truly change your life, and keep you from achieving all those goals that you might have or want to have.

For more information on drugs and alcohol check out:  http://teens.drugabuse.gov/ and http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/.
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 sparikh - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: why is the smell of gasoline so addictive

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Yuck, to tell you the truth, I don't like the smell of gasoline at all.  If I spill even a drop on my clothes when filling up my car, I get a bad headache.  But some people do like 'huffing' gasoline and other volatile chemicals (like glue or paint thinner) because it makes them dizzy and disoriented, and they consider that to be getting 'high'.  Unfortunately, inhalants are one of the types of drugs that really do kill brain cells and cause long term brain damage. 
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 noahsark - Cathedral High School, Indiana: My parents both dont drink. Am i less likely to drink than my friends whos parents both do?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Statistically, yes.
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 cramirez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: How do hallucinogens effect us?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Hey...thanks for your question.  Here's some information on how to learn more about hallucinogens:  http://teens.drugabuse.gov/mom/mom_hal1.php

Some hallucinogens come from plants. Mescaline comes from a cactus called peyote. And certain mushrooms, also known as “magic” mushrooms, are hallucinogens.  But many hallucinogens are chemicals that don’t occur in nature. Some examples are:

  • LSD, also called acid
  • MDA, also called the “love drug,” related to the stimulant amphetamine
  • MDMA, known as ecstasy, also related to amphetamine
  • PCP, often called angel dust
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 nlp14 - Cathedral High School, Indiana: What type of alcohol damages your brain the most?

Expert Icon Aaron White: All drinks containing alcohol have both short-term and long-term effects on the brain. In the short-term, such as during a night of drinking, alcohol can do the following:

1. Frontal lobes - Alcohol turns off the frontal lobes, which are important for making good decisions and controlling our urges to do things that could ultimately be very bad for us. This increases the odds of getting into fights, getting injured, and taking dangerous risks.
2. Hippocampus - Alcohol suppresses the hippocampus, which is the brain area that makes our  memories. As a result, many people wake up the next day after drinking and have trouble remembering things that they did the night before.
3. Amygdala - The amygdala is in charge of warning us when we are in danger by making us feel afraid or anxious. Alcohol suppresses the amygdala, which makes it easier for us to do thing that normally would make us feel anxious or afraid. This increases the chances we will get hurt or do things we will regret.
4. Cerebellum - The cerebellum plays a big role in balance and walking. Alcohol impairs these abilities.
5. Brain stem - The brain stem contains areas important for keeping us alive. If these areas are shut off, such as by high levels of alcohol consumption (i.e., alcohol poisoning) we can die.

Alcohol also has long-term effects on the brain, particularly during the teen years. The teenage years are a very important time for development of the brain. The thinking parts, memory parts, and feeling parts are all changing when we are teenagers. Alcohol can interfere with these important changes and actually shrink the thinking and memory parts.

Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years can make an area of the brain called the frontal lobes smaller. The frontal lobes help us make decisions, think about things, and pay attention. Teenagers who drink a lot have problems with these things. Alcohol also can shrink the hippocampus, the area of the brain area that helps us learn and remember. Teenagers who drink a lot also have trouble with learning. We do not know yet whether these problems go away if the teenager stops drinking.

For weeks and months after a teenager stops drinking heavily, these parts of the brain still struggle to work correctly. It's not clear whether the brain ever fully heals itself. In addition, drinking at a young age makes it more likely to become an alcoholic later in life. So, drinking when we are young could have lots of negative effects on the brain!
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 ggaibort - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: how can you sniff drugs up you noise?? doesn't it burn your nostrils??? whaat does it do to your brain

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Hey Ggaibort:  Believe it or not, people do sniff drugs.  Nasty.  Not only does it burn your nose, you may experience loss of smell, a chronically runny nose, nosebleeds, hoarseness, and problems swallowing.   
And, we have some great research to answer how drugs affect the brain and body. Even occasional or experimental drug use can be dangerous, since drugs can have unexpected adverse health effects even with one use. And drugs affect your ability to exert good judgment--making it more likely that you might engage in risky behaviors that can have serious consequences, such as driving while intoxicated. Prolonged drug abuse can cause all sorts of medical problems--like lung cancer, heart disease, liver disease, and addiction. When someone is addicted to drugs, they become the most important thing in that person's life, causing them major problems at school, home, and work.
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 jum - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Can drugs brainwash you?

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Not quite sure I know exactly what you mean by 'brainwashing' you.  If you are asking if drugs can affect the brain and hijack certain brain circuits, there is growing evidence that  drugs can do this.  It really is the process of addiction where drugs change the brain such that we are no longer in control of our behaviors. 

The definition of addiction is a disease characterized by uncontrollable drug craving, drug seeking, and drug use that persist even in the face of extremely negative consequences, such as losing your job, doing poorly in school, getting arrested, or getting sick. Addiction develops because of changes to the brain caused by drug use. Initially, all drugs of abuse, either directly or indirectly, increase the activity of the chemical dopamine in the brain's reward centers, which is what makes people feel good. However, with continued drug use and excessive activation of dopamine neurons, the brain starts to adapt to the good feeling, so more drugs are needed to achieve it. This causes people to become dependent on the drug, to feel bad when it is not in their system, and to seek and take the drug compulsively--without even thinking about it. Another way that drugs change the brain is to affect the ability to make decisions, such as judging what's important, what's healthy, and what's dangerous. The compulsive seeking and using of drugs even in the face of potentially devastating consequences is the essence of addiction.

So I think addiction is a kind of 'brainwash'!

To learn more, check out 'The Science of Addiction' at http://www.nida.nih.gov/scienceofaddiction/.
PollI think drug users are losers.
59% - Yes
32% - No
10% - Maybe
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 hmdowns14 - Cathedral High School, Indiana: How many teens smoke/drink in the USA?

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: Hi, thanks for your question.  According to the 2010 Monitoring the Future Study, about 7% of 8th graders, 14% of 10th graders, and 19% of high school seniors in the US reported they were current smokers (in the past month). That means about 80% don't smoke! In the same study 14% of 8th graders, 29% of 10th graders, and 41% of high school seniors reported they were current drinkers and about 5% of 8th, 15% of 10th, and 27% of 12th graders reported they had been drunk in the past month.
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 jburleson - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: what does pain killlers really do for you ?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Hi, and thanks for the question, which I will answer in the context of abusing pain killers.  Many people think that since pain killers are from a legal drug store they are safer. While the dose is more stable with prescription medications, unfortunately more people are now dying from prescription drugs than street drugs. So it is not really true that they are safer, since more people are dying from them. Please take a look at our web site: http://drugabuse.gov/drugpages/prescription.html.
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 elizabethg - M.R. Wood Center for Learning (alternative school), Texas: why is alcohol legal if it is poison and toxic to your body?

Expert Icon Aaron White: That's a complicated question. In the early 20th century, alcohol was banned all together. While that strategy (called 'Prohibition') did save some lives, it wasn't considered a success in general and alcohol was made legal again. In addition, many people use alcohol responsibly and enjoy it for a wide range of purposes, including celebrations and religious ceremonies. The government can regulate - but not prevent - people from using alcohol in those ways. The exception is the legal drinking age of 21. Making it illegal for people under 21 to drink alcohol has proven to be important for reducing alcohol-related deaths, including from traffic crashes, in young people.
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 cheercats123 - north carroll middle, Maryland: i have been reading and some people think drinking and drugs are all funny i know they are not being serious but this is a shout out to say its not cool at all!!!!

Expert Icon Gaya Dowling: Thanks for the shout out!
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 jvu - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: if u used a drug before you were pregnant and stopped using the drug when you had a baby,would it affect the child from the past years?

Expert Icon Cora Lee Wetherington: Hey jvu  from  Sugar Land Middle School.  We do know that using drugs during pregnancy may have harmful effects on the unborn baby and on the developing child.  But, the good news is that if a women stops using drugs as soon as she learns she's pregnant, that reduces the liklihood of harmful effects effects occurring.  It is important that she needs to stop as soon as possible because the sooner she stops, the less likely her baby will be harmed.  And if she has trouble stopping, she should talk to her doctor.  To find a substance abuse treatment facility locator, call 1-800-662-HELP or go to www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov anytime, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.
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 kaiwen - North Ridgeville Middle School, Ohio: Do all drugs have a chance to kill you?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Some drugs have essentially zero history of people actually dying from an acute overdose.  Cocaine, heroin, and alcohol though (just to name a few, and especially in combination) are particularly deadly culprits.

Consider too, though that people can still indirectly die from drug use if they're driving while drunk or high or otherwise doing stupid, dangerous Darwin Award stuff....
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 ckelly - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: My grandfather caught pneumoniaand he has alchoholism. He also smokes. He hasnt stopped either one. How can I help him?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Wow, what a difficult position to be in. It might be helpful for you to find an adult that you trust and talk with them about this. To learn more about how to help someone you care about, check out: http://www.thecoolspot.gov/real_life2.asp
Moderator Icon  For more information on teens and alcohol go to http://www.thecoolspot.gov/index.asp.
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 kdawg - Middlebury Union High School, Vermont: what are the major drugs used by teens?

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: Hi, thanks for asking.  The most popular drug used in high school is alcohol, which has been used by two thirds of high school seniors in the past year, followed by tobacco, according to the University of Michigan's annual Monitoring the Future survey. Marijuana use is third, reportedly used by about one third of high school seniors in the past year.   Opioids (such as the pain relievers OxyContin and Vicodin), central nervous system depressants (e.g., Xanax, Valium), and stimulants (e.g., Ritalin, Adderall) are the most commonly abused prescription drugs, which rank after marijuana.  Did you know that opioid painkillers act on the same sites in the brain as heroin? This is one reason why they can be so dangerous when abused.
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 aescobar - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: can drugs affect your sanity (mental health)?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Yes. Many people who are addicted to drugs are also diagnosed with other mental disorders and vice versa. For example, compared with the general population, people addicted to drugs are roughly twice as likely to suffer from mood and anxiety disorders, with the reverse also true. For more information, see: www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/comorbidity.html.
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 aromero - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: how many babies die from alchohol being drank in their moms stomach?

Expert Icon Aaron White: That is very hard to know. What we do know is that drinking while you are pregnant can seriously affect a baby's development. A range of problems, the worst of which is called fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) can result. Babies born with FAS are not addicted to alcohol themselves, but they do have smaller brains, abnormal facial features, and often have life-long learning and behavioral problems. It is the leading preventable birth defect associated with mental and behavioral impairment in the United States today.
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 zpacker - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: It there a reason kids use drugs?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Thanks for your question.  There are many reasons that kids start experimenting with drugs. Research has shown that drug use is about 50% genetic and 50% environmental and other factors.  So, they may have been from a family of drug users, or they are around environments that encourage drug use. For example, if kids see other people doing it, they might think it's cool. What they may not know, though, is that drugs are addictive--once you start, it is VERY difficult to stop.  And, it's not cool.  For more information, see: www.drugabuse.gov/tib/genetics.html and http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/real-teens-ask-addiction-hereditary/. And general information on addiction:  www.nida.nih.gov/scienceofaddiction/.

 
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 kgonzales - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: if pain killers are a drug, why are they perscribed? also are other illigal drugs prescribed?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Pain killers are prescribed because when they are used as directed, they help people manage their pain.  Unfortunately, people may disregard their doctor's orders and use the drugs in an inappropriate way.  Prescription drug abuse is when someone takes a medication that was prescribed for someone else or takes their own prescription in a manner or dosage other than what was prescribed. Abuse can include taking a friend's or relative's prescription to get high, to treat pain, or because you think it will help with studying. 

Many people think that since they are from a legal drug store they are safer. While the dose is more stable with prescription medications, unfortunately more people are now dying from prescription drugs than street drugs. Please take a look at our web site: http://drugabuse.gov/drugpages/prescription.html.

While marijuana is not an FDA-approved medicine, some states have legalized its medical use.

Check out this site:  http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/prescription-drug-abuse-whats-the-big-deal/  (ps...that's me in the video, and I did my own stunts!)
Moderator Icon  Risk factors for attempted suicide by youth include depression, alcohol or other drug-use disorder, physical or sexual abuse, and disruptive behavior.
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 jum - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Is drinking too much in one day, but you hardly drink a bad thing? Or is drinking a few bottles almost daily worst?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Any amount of drinking can be dangerous for teenagers and drinking for anyone under age 21 is illegal. Underage drinking can also result in problems like: 
 
  1. Legal trouble
  2. Car crashes and other accidents
  3. Negative effects on the brain and its development
  4. Making bad choices and engaging in risky behavior
  5. Starting to drink before age 21 increases the risk of developing alcoholism later on

The brain is changing in very important ways during the teenage years and alcohol can interfere with brain development. Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years can make the area of the brain called the frontal lobes smaller. The frontal lobes help us make decisions, think about things and pay attention. Teenagers who drink a lot have problems with these things. Alcohol also can shrink the hippocampus, the area of the brain area that helps us learn and remember things. Teenagers who drink a lot also have trouble with learning. We do not know yet whether these problems go away if the teenager stops drinking.

Drinking at a young age makes it much more likely a person will develop alcoholism later in life. It's really important to wait as long as possible to drink alcohol, or to avoid it altogether. To learn more about how alcohol can affect kids, check out: http://www.thecoolspot.gov/
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 pjacobs - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: can someone tell me the risks of takeing the drug called acid

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Acid is one of the street names for LSD (d-lysergic acid diethylamide), which can distort perceptions of reality and produce hallucinations; the effects can be frightening and cause panic. It is sold as tablets, capsules, liquid, or on absorbent paper. LSD is one of the most potent mood-changing chemicals. It was discovered in 1938 and is manufactured from lysergic acid, which is found in ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and other grains. We don't have much evidence of addiction.  The risk with hallucinogens is more about their unpredictability.  Under the influence of hallucinogens, people see images, hear sounds, and feel sensations that seem real but do not exist. These drugs can also produce rapid, intense emotional swings and result in fear and anxiety, which can be terrifying to people! LSD can also cause psychosis (visions or illusions) or flashbacks (sudden memories) even a while after the drug is taken. 

Hallucinogens cause their effects by disrupting the interaction of nerve cells and the neurotransmitter serotonin. The effect can last as little as several hours and and as long as days, months, or years after taking the drug.

Learn more about hallucinogens at http://drugabuse.gov/infofacts/hallucinogens.html.
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 sn - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Why do people do dugs if they know that they will get very ill or maybe even die

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: This is what addiction IS!  People using because they can no longer help it, even if on some level they know it's getting really bad for them!

Drugs of abuse are molecules that bind or cling to certain molecules on the surface of brain cells (or inside cells), like a key might fit snugly into a lock. They tend to fit because they happen to be shaped like molecules our brains normally have floating around.  In other words, drugs really don't target 'parts' of the brain like different lobes, per se.  They target these receptor 'lock' molecules, where some brain regions (like those associated with reward or pleasure) have unusually high concentrations of certain types of locks.

Many of these drug molecules have a positive effect, like relieving pain, by interfering with the pain system of the brain, or can improve attention in focus for people whose brains aren't 'tuned' well. The risk in all this is ADDICTION, where someone who uses drugs for fun or to treat pain loses control over the drug, and can't keep himself or herself from stopping looking to get the drug and use it. Over time, the brain can form powerful associations between things we see in the environment that lead to experiencing drugs and alcohol, and ultimately the high. This is especially true for nicotine in cigarettes or heroin.  Most people who regularly use drugs or alcohol can stop themselves at some point and walk away from it. However, depending on the drug, a fraction of people who use it repeatedly will ultimately lose control, and it will truly wreck their life- either permanently, or the drugs will leave people in a useless fog for many years, until they can get themselves together. This happened to some close relatives of mine.  Scientists are hard at work trying to understand what is going on in the brain that causes it to lose control and just seek drugs on autopilot.

There are lots of different kinds of treatments for drug abuse and addiction, and some work better than others. Research has shown that some treatments successfully help people stop using drugs, and also help to solve other problems that tend to go along with drug abuse. It's hard to say why some celebrities keep going back to treatment. What we do know is that people who finish a treatment program that uses evidence based practices tend to have a much better chance of staying off drugs for good--but that often involves major changes in lifestyle -- changing where you hang out and who you hang out with. If people aren't willing to make those changes, they can easily fall back into using drugs. And even those people who do become abstinent can remain at risk for relapse for a very long time, and may require ongoing support from community groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, or multiple rounds of drug treatment.

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 jbarajas - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: do children with marijuana addicted parents ever get hurt by them ?

Expert Icon Cora Lee Wetherington: Hi Golder Prep HS.  We do not know if marijuana-addicted parents are more likely to hurt their chilren, but we do have scientific evidence to suggest that effective parenting could be impaired in marijuana-addicted parents.  For example, we know that marijuana intoxication can cause distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and problems with learning and memory. Research has shown that in people who've used for a long time, marijuana's adverse impact on learning and memory can last for days or weeks after the short-term effects of the drug wear off.  As a result, someone who smokes marijuana every day may be functioning at a sub-optimal intellectual level.  So, if you know someone whose parents are addicted to marijuana, encourage them to talk to another trusted adult (a coach, a teacher, a clergyman, another adult relative) to get guidance about how to help the parents.  We have a lot of general information about marijuana abuse and addiction.  Start with our teen site at http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_mj1.php
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 Avela - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: What does acid affect?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Hallucinogens like acid (LDS) have a range of chemical structures, but they are all similar in that they interact with a specific site (known as a receptor) in the brain that is impacted by a neurotransmitter that is normally produced by brain. This neurotransmitter is called serotonin. These drugs are dangerous because the effects are highly variable and unpredictable. Some people do have severe adverse experiences when they take these drugs, even if they have taken them before and not had a problem.  These experiences can be so terrifying to some people that they can be haunted them for a long time.
Moderator Icon  When the chat is over, we will post the transcript (be patient---it will take a week or two.) You will be able to search the transcript for your school’s name (or your user name) to see if your questions got answered!
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 noahsark - Cathedral High School, Indiana: Can you be addicted to alcohol at age 15?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Yes! Absolutely. Only someone trained to evaluate a person's drinking habits can tell for sure whether they are addicted. In general, a teenager is more likely to become addicted to alcohol if they have a family history of alcoholism (meaning they have parents or siblings with alcohol problems), start drinking at younger ages or have problems with depression or anxiety. 

According to the National Library of Medicine, people who are addicted to alcohol tend to have the following issues:
  • Craving - a strong need to drink
  • Loss of control - not being able to stop drinking once you've begun
  • Physical dependence - withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating or shakiness after stopping drinking
  • Tolerance - the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to get 'high'
These problems and behaviors can cause tremendous difficulties for individuals and families.
If you know someone who might have any of these characteristics, it's important to tell an adult you trust so they can get help. 

To learn more, check out: http://www.thecoolspot.gov/real_life2.asp

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 JohnG - M.R. Wood Center for Learning (alternative school), Texas: how do shrooms effect your body and brain long term?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Because some species of mushrooms secrete or produce a molecule called psilocybin.  This molecule affects the brain chemical system that uses serotonin.  In this way, psilocybin is like a form of LSD-- a hallucinogen.  Long-term damage appears to be minimal in the research literature. However, too much of it can cause panic attacks, especially if taken by accident or otherwise unexpected. Other reactions reported in research studies include violence, aggression, homicidal and suicidal attempts, nasty hallucinations, and convulsions.
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 jgaray - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: I have never touched a drug or a beer bottle in my life!! but am affraid of someone offering me some one day,what shall i do than besides say no?

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Wow, what a great question!  First, I would say that you might want to educate yourself as to the harmful effects of drugs, how they can interfere with what you do and want to achieve in your life, given the possibilities that drug use can lead to addiction.  I guess I would suggest that you convince yourself of the harmful effects of drugs/alcohol, keeping in mind that it is illegal to use.  Then I think the answer of saying no will be easier.  You might want to practice ways of avoiding drugs and friends who might want to force you to join them in this behavior. Also keep in mind that all drugs of abuse and alcohol affect your brain that is still developing.  Do all that you can to keep your brain healthy.  You will be happy that you did!!!  It IS cool to be drug and alcohol free.  Lots of really cool people do not use.

Thanks for this thoughtful and important question.  For more information on drugs, check out: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/.
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 aromero - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: why are people using drugs secretly?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Most likely because they are using drugs that are illegal or misusing drugs that are legal. So they could get arrested, get in trouble in school, or punished by their parents if they are caught.   Even if a person is taking a drug prescribed by a doctor, they may feel embassed about having to take that drug.  Unfortunately, when a person hides the fact that they are taking a drug they are reducing their communication with family and friends, who are in the best position to help them if they have a problem.
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 echan - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Does using too much pain killers kill you?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: The most powerful pain killers are prescription opioids.  Taking to much can cause depression in breathing, to the point where one stops breathing.  Thus, yes, they can kill you, especially if used not as your doctor advised. 
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 redskins1993 - Boiling Springs HS, Pennsylvania: Why is it that Marijuana is illegal but alcohole is not? i feel like people can controle themselfs alittle better being high on Marijuana than being drunk.

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: Unfortunately, we already have 2 major legal causes of premature death and disability--tobacco and alcohol.  Adding a third one--marijuana--will not help the problem; it will just add to it. Many people already use marijuana and alcohol together, and there's no research to suggest that people would stop using alcohol if marijuana were more available.  Also, there are risks of using marijuana: it can be addictive--someone who uses it a lot can find themselves not able to give it up even when they want to and realize its messing up their lives.  About 1 in 6 teen marijuana users become addicted, and 1 in 4 if you use it every day or nearly every day; it can make people less interested in things that used to be important. And because it affects how you think and remember things, and your coordination, you may lose your competitive edge--in sports and in school.  And of course smoking anything is not good for the lungs. And, although people don't overdose on marijuana--they do get into car wrecks--almost 14% of people fatally injured in car wrecks test positive for marijuana, often in combination with alcohol or other drugs.  For more info on mj, check out: http://www.nida.nih.gov/MarijBroch/teens/
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 egrimes - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Could your brain actually be slowly disintegrated? Cuz everyone says drugs kill brain cells.

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Some drugs do kill brain cells, such as volitile chemicals found in glue and other inhalants, but the bigger problem is that drugs that people take to get high can lead to long term changes in the the way that brain cells function.  Recent research has found that there can be profound changes to the structure and function of the brain cells, including changes in the expression of genes.  We don't know how long these changes last when you stop taking drugs or even what all of these changes do to overall brain function.  So while drugs may not kill brain cells, they do change brain cells and probably not for the better.
Which is about the same size as our brain?
The correct answer is: D. Two fists together. Weighing about 3 pounds, the brain is made up of many parts that all work together as a team, each with a specific and important job to do. To get an idea of how big your brain is, make two fists and hold them together, knuckles facing each other, with the heels of your palms touching. More information on the brain and what drugs do to it can be found at http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_brain1.php
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 kmoore - Kingswood Regional Middle School, New Hampshire: I know my dad is smoking. But he wont admit it what should i do????

Expert Icon Dave White: It's commendable that you want to help your dad quit smoking. It sounds like he's trying to protect you from worrying about him.  You need to be open and honest with him.  Overcoming nicotine addiction can be difficult, but people are doing it every day.  I'm sure he'll be successful with your help and encouragement and by letting him know that help is available. For information on tobacco addiction, see this link: http://smoking.drugabuse.gov/.
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 oawelton - GMG Community School, Iowa: What is the most popular drug in high school?

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: Hi, oawelton , thanks for asking.  The most popular drug used in high school is alcohol, which has been used by two thirds of high school seniors in the past year, followed by tobacco, according to the University of Michigan's annual Monitoring the Future survey. Marijuana use is third, reportedly used by about one third of high school seniors in the past year.   Opioids (such as the pain relievers OxyContin and Vicodin), central nervous system depressants (e.g., Xanax, Valium), and stimulants (e.g., Ritalin, Adderall) are the most commonly abused prescription drugs, which rank after marijuana.  Did you know that opioid painkillers act on the same sites in the brain as heroin? This is one reason why they can be so dangerous when abused.
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 cperez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: is it just as bad too od on prscibed drugs than marijuana

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: Death is a fairly common effect of overdosing on prescription opioids, as they can stop one's breathing.  Death is not common with marijuana overdose, but the risk of psychotic reactions goes up with higher doses.  I suggest avoiding overdosing on anything!!! 
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 spartangirl - Middlebury Union High School, Vermont: how much brain damage can be inflicted from bathtub cleaning solutions?

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: If you are asking about cleaning solutions, that would be categorized as the class of abused drugs known as inhalants. 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:  http://www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/Inhalants.html.
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 sshs25 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: what do you see when hallucanating

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: I've never been detached from reality, so I wouldn't know, personally.  I can say that drug folklore indicates that individual responses to LSD and other hallicinogens can vary greatly, both within individuals and between people (e.g. a 'bad trip').  People sometimes report religious experiences like seeing God.
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 Kazeez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: how long does it take to get drunk

Expert Icon Aaron White: That's just so hard to say. Here are some of the factors that influence how fast people get drunk:

 1. How much alcohol they drink and how fast they drink it
 2. Whether there is food in the stomach to slow how quickly alcohol gets into the body
 3. How much they weigh
 4. Whether they are male or female -- females tend to be affected more by alcohol than males

Getting drunk faster also makes drinking more dangerous - and makes it more likely for the person to throw up. Drinking quickly can turn off the brain's memory centers and cause 'blackouts', or an inability to remember what you did while drinking. Getting drunk faster can make it more likely that the vital centers in the brain will be shut off.
For more information on safe drinking limits for adults, and how much alcohol is contained in single drink, please check out: http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/
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 iwhite - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: Do drugs cause permanent damage to your body even after you have quit?

Expert Icon Dave White: iwhite, this is an important question.  The use of some drugs can definitely cause long-term health problems and permanent damage to your body.  For example, using inhalants chronically can cause serious damage to vital organs including the heart, kidneys, and liver.  They can also cause a permanent change or malfunction of the perihperal nerves, called polyneuropathy (see http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/word-of-day-polyneuropathy/).  Stimulant drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine can damage brain cells, sometimes permanently (see http://www.drugabuse.gov/scienceofaddiction/index.html). My advice is to avoid using drugs in the first place!
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 jprice - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: My daddy uses tobacco and one time i threw it all away and got a whoopin. i thought it was fuuny so i was laughing while he was totally serious?... i was like wow is that bc of his addiction? is it that serious all i could do was laugh .

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Hey Jprice.  Good for you, but you might consider other ways to deal with your dad's cigarette addiction.  Drugs can cause people to act in funny ways when they don't get their fix.  Check out this site for some advice on helping your dad quit: www.smokefree.gov/.
Moderator Icon  By age 18, more than 70 percent of teens have had at least 1 drink.
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 egrimes - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: How many people are answering these questions?

Expert Icon Gaya Dowling: Throughout the day, we've had about 50 people helping to answer your questions.
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 Saparicio - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Can you go blind by drinking?

Expert Icon Aaron White: That does not often happen from drinking normal beverage alcohol, also known as ethyl alcohol. However, if one accidently consumed methyl alcohol, also known as 'wood' alcohol, blindness can result.
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 fc bobcats - First Colony Middle School, Texas: Has the number of people who abuse drugs increased or decreased in the past 5 years? and why?

Expert Icon Cora Lee Wetherington: Hey First Colony Middle School - thanks for the question!  We fund the annual Monitoring the Future Survey (MTF) that has measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes among adolescent students nationwide since 1975. Daily Marijuana use increased among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders from 2009 to 2010. Among 12th graders it was at its highest point since the early 1980s at 6.1%. In 2012, steady declines in cigarette smoking appear to have stalled in all three grades after several years of improvement on most measures.After several years of decline, current and past year use of Ecstasy has risen among 8th and 10th graders. This link will take you to the MTF web page where you can look at the press release with the latest data and if you want, you can even link to the complete survey (charts and all!): http://www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/MTF.html  For information about drug use among ages 12 and older, our sister agency (SAMHSA) released the latest data in September. This link will take you to the press release that highlights the findings and mentions that illicit drug use has increased from 2008 to 2010, helped by an increase in marijuana use especially among young adults: http://www.samhsa.gov/newsroom/advisories/1109075503.aspx
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 J Nguyen - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Can many of the prescription drugs kill you?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: Most of the prescription opioids can.  They are strong pain killers, but the can also kill you if you take too much or in a way they are not suppose to be taken.  Always follow your doctor's instructions!
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 aromero - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: is there such thing as a sleeping drug and can it kill you?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi and thanks for the question. There are sleep medications which now are very safe if taken as directed. If they are taken in large amounts they can slow breathing and cause death. It only takes 3 minutes of not breathing to cause fatal brain damage.
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 haven14 - Pekin Community School, Iowa: How do you get to be addicted to alcohol.

Expert Icon Aaron White: Alcohol becomes addicive primarily because 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, craving it or using it.  According to the National Library of Medicine, people who are addicted to alcohol tend to have the following issues:
  • Craving - a strong need to drink
  • Loss of control - not being able to stop drinking once you've begun
  • Physical dependence - withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating or shakiness after stopping drinking
  • Tolerance - the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to get 'high'
These problems and behaviors can cause tremendous difficulties for individuals and families.

You can read more about this at: http://vsearch.nlm.nih.gov/
 
Also, the earlier in life you try alcohol, the more likely you are to become addicted to alcohol. This is why it is soooo important to find healthy things that turn the reward system on and make you feel good. For some people, this might be sports, laughing with friends or even playing an instrument.
PollI think drug users are cool.
15% - Yes
78% - No
8% - Maybe
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 ctran - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Should you hold your breath around people who smoke?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: I do if I can keep on going past them, but mostly because they stink.  Reducing my exposure to their cancer-causing chemicals is a bonus.  Recent research shows that even second-hand smoke can cause chemical changes in the brain in a form a little weaker than actually puffing a cigarette directly.
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 kevin123 - Cathedral High School, Indiana: On average, how much time does it take for the affects of alcohol to kick in?

Expert Icon Aaron White: That depends on how fast someone drinks, how much they drink and whether there is any food in the stomach. In general, the highest level of alcohol in the blood occurs roughly 45 minutes after consuming a serving, but the effects can kick in after even just a few minutes as the alcohol begins to get into the blood and goes to the brain. 
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 sshs12 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: how does marijuana afect your memory

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: 'THC', tetrahydrocannabinol, is the active molecule in Marijuana.  This molecule is very similar in shape to a set of molecules that naturally float around in the brain.  These molecules fit into 'receptors' on brain cells, like a key into a lock.  While THC can make people feel high, it has a downside too.  A part of the base of the brain called the hippocampus, which helps form memories and remember them, has a very large number or concentration of these 'locks'- - this means that when people smoke pot, they're especially disrupting this region of the brain, and therefore memory.  THC also causes changes in the brain's gray matter. When pot users try to perform a memory task while their brain is getting scanned, it shows that they have to use different and more parts of the brain to get the task done, as though their stoned brains need to work harder.  Some of these problems can get better when people stop using.
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 sshs18 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: have any of you scientists peeple ever been so high that you didn't remember what you did the day before and then a few weeks later some random chick showed up at your house and says you were married to her? im not just bein cute, i relly want to know!

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: We scientist people are busy doing research, so we generally don't get into situations where 'random chicks' show up and claim marriage.  Besides, our spouses would really be upset!! 

Some drugs can cause memory impairment.  For a list of commonly abused drugs and their effects, go to www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/DrugsofAbuse.html.
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 aescobar - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: can prescription drugs kill you?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Certain ones, absolutely.  For example, certain anti-anxiety drugs, when taken in large doses, especially in combination with alcohol can depress the brain's circuit telling the body to breathe, causing death. 
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 AliciaT - Johnson Middle School, California: can drugs kill u or can they make u go mental

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Yes, drugs can be very dangerous and can result in significant negative medical and health consequences, and also can result in death.  As for affecting your mental health, certainly drugs are capable of producing psychological, psychiatric and neurologic problems such as psychosis, paranoia, hallucinations, panic attacks, seizures.

For more information on the effects of drugs, check out 'Drugs, Brains, and Behavior - The Science of Addiction' at http://www.drugabuse.gov/scienceofaddiction/.  Additional resources can be found on NIDA's website, www.drugabuse.gov.
Moderator Icon  The effects of LSD (acid) are pretty scary! LSD produces unpredictable psychological effects, with 'trips' lasting about 12 hours. With large enough doses, users experience delusions and hallucinations. Physical effects include increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure; sleeplessness; and loss of appetite.  Learn more about LSD here: http://www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/ACIDLSD.html
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 Allthatremains - Conestoga Valley High School, Pennsylvania: How many people abuse Oxycontin a year and How many people die from abuse a year...Please answer this is for a project

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: Hello, Allthatremains , let's get this project done!  According to the 2010 National Survey of Drug Use and Health, fewer than 1% of Americans ages 12 and older reported nonmedical use of  OxyContin® in the past year and 0.2% reported they were current users (past month).  That translates to about 1,869,000 people and 564,000 people, respectively. Abot 4 in ten high school seniors say they have abused Oxycontin. The number of new nonmedical users of OxyContin® in 2010 aged 12 or older was 598,000, with an average age at first use of 22.8 years among those aged 12 to 49. Oxycontin belongs to a class of drugs called opioids. Vicodin also is an opioid. Together---there are more overdose deaths from Oxy and Vicodin than from heroin and cocaine combined!---about 15,000 deaths.
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 SSHS22 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: what is worse to the body & brain...Ecstasy or Acid?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Ecstasy is worse.  Some research indicates it can permanently damage the neurons in the brain that communicate using serotonin, in a brain system that helps us feel happiness.  As a result, even former ecstasy users can have problems with depression even after they stop using.  Acid (LSD) does not have that severe a damage profile, but I think it could still cause lapses in orientation and judgement that could get someone in a bad situation.
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 SSHS#9 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: How much do you need to drink to have alchohol poisoning?

Expert Icon Aaron White: That can be hard to predict exactly. In general, a blood alcohol level above 0.30% is considered potentially fatal.  Here's an example: In the last month, several teenagers, mostly college students, died from alcohol poisoning with blood alcohol levels around 0.35%, as compared to the legal limit of 0.08%. For a healthy, 140 pound female, reaching this level would require around 10 drinks in a 2 hour period, or around 13 drinks in 2 hours for a 160 pound male. It is important to point out than having any alcohol at all can increase the chances of dying from injuries, such as falls, drownings or car crashes. 

If you drink enough alcohol, parts of the brain that are important for keeping us alive can shut down. Then, the heart can stop beating and we can stop breathing. In essence, it's like alcohol flips a switch and shuts the body off.

Here are some of the factors that influence how fast people get drunk: 
  1. How much alcohol they drink and how fast they drink it
  2. Whether there is food in the stomach to slow how quickly alcohol gets into the body
  3. How much they weigh
  4. Whether they are male or female -- females tend to be affected more by alcohol than males
Getting drunk faster also makes drinking more dangerous. Drinking quickly can turn off the brain's memory centers and cause 'blackouts', or an inability to remember what you did while drinking. Getting drunk faster can make it more likely that the vital centers in the brain will be shut off.
Moderator Icon  Marijuana is linked to problems in school. Marijuana’s negative effects on attention, memory and learning can last for days and sometimes weeks- especially if you smoke often.
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 Nikki_04 - Pekin Community School, Iowa: If people fall asleep drunk, how many people actually wake up in the morning.

Expert Icon Aaron White: That's tough to estimate. We only know about the cases where people actually die from drinking too much. We don't know how many people go to bed drunk but wake up just fine the next day. We do know that if a person drinks alcohol shortly before going to bed, the alcohol in their stomach can continue to be absorbed while they are sleeping and the amount of alcohol in their bodies will keep going up. So, it is possible to go to sleep after drinking and then die from alcohol poisoning in your sleep. Indeed, in 1999, something similar to this happened to a student at Duke University. Rahim Bathe went out with his friends and drank a bunch of alcohol right before heading home to bed. After he put himself to bed, the alcohol in his stomach was absorbed and his blood alcohol concentration reached a dangerous level. He threw up while sleeping but, because his brain was so impaired by the alcohol, he did not wake up. He inhaled the vomit and nearly drowned in it before eventually coming to and sitting up. Unfortunately, the vomit he did inhale caused an infection in his lungs. He died in the hospital a week later.
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 jburleson - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: what is hallucinogens made with ?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Hallucinogens have a range of chemical structures, but they are all similar in that they interact with a specific site (known as a receptor) in the brain that is impacted by a neurotransmitter that is normally produced by brain. This neurotransmitter is called serotonin. These drugs are dangerous because the effects are highly variable and unpredictable. Some people do have severe adverse experiences when they take these drugs, even if they have taken them before and not had a problem.  These experiences can be so terrifying to some people that they can be haunted them for a long time.
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 awesome - Pekin Community School, Iowa: Why does Alcohol affect peoples driving so badly?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Drinking just a little bit of any kind of alcoholic beverage can seriously impact your ability to drive. Alcohol impacts the part of your brain that controls your motor coordination, your ability to make fast and precise movements, and your vision - all necessary for you to drive safely. In addition, alcohol can impair your judgement, and makes you more likely to take risks like driving through a yellow or red light and driving faster than the posted speed limit. Alcohol also makes people sleepy and increases the chances of falling asleep while driving. Each year, more than 10,000 people die in car crashes due to drinking and driving.

In short, alcohol + driving = bad news!! 
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 sshs - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: hi my name is devan and i was wondering why alcohol is so addictive?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Alcohol addiction has a lot to do with how alcohol 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, craving it or using it.  According to the National Library of Medicine, people who are addicted to alcohol tend to have the following issues:
  • Craving - a strong need to drink
  • Loss of control - not being able to stop drinking once you've begun
  • Physical dependence - withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating or shakiness after stopping drinking
  • Tolerance - the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to get 'high'
These problems and behaviors can cause tremendous difficulties for individuals and families.

Also, the earlier in life you try alcohol, the more likely you are to become addicted to alcohol. This is why it is soooo important to find healthy things that turn the reward system on and make you feel good. For some people, this might be sports, laughing with friends or even playing an instrument.
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 iofoegbu - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: What is cocaine

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Cocaine is a type of drug called a 'stimulant'.  It increases the amount of a chemical (neurotransmitter) called dopamine that neurons use to communicate with each other. These dopamine neurons are concentrated in the reward centers of the brain--this can result in a 'high' or improved mood, but can also lead to addiction over time, and people can feel depressed when they don't have cocaine in their system.
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 naynay25 - Pekin Community School, Iowa: Is it true that methane is more addicting than alcohol?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Most likely no. Methane is a colorless, odorless gas given off by animals and other sources in nature and contributes to global warming. I can't imagine that someone could become addicted to methane.
Moderator Icon  A 2010 study found that a small percentage of high school students abuse OxyContin- 2% of 8th graders, 5% of 10th graders and 5% of 12th graders. However, OxyContin abuse can lead to dangerous addiction for those who use.
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 kieras - Johnson Middle School, California: what is the most harmful drug in the world

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: Tobacco is the deadliest drug -- 440,000 deaths each year in the United States. Take a look at our web site for more information about the dangers of tobacco. We have more info. about nicotine online on our teen site -- go to http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_nicotine1.php. This site contains a lot of info. about drug abuse and addiction and includes some neat games and interactives, so take a look at the whole site -- teens.drugabuse.gov.  Many drugs that don't kill you, mess up your life in general.  Thus, depending on how you define 'worst' the answer changes...  Bottom line, they all are bad for various reasons...
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 cramirez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Can drugs make you a schitzophrnic while messing up your mind in the process?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: This is a very controversial question.  These drugs are often called psychotomimetic because they produce effects that seem similar to psychotic disorders, such as delusional thinking or sensory distortions.  However, further studies found that the effects of these drugs are different in many ways from pscychotic disorders. But what is most dangerous about these drugs is that the effects are unpredictable.  Some people have severe adverse reactions when they take these drugs, even if they had taken them before and not had a problem.  These experiences can be so terrifying to some people that they can be haunted by them for a long time.
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 120136 - Francis Scott Key Middle School, Maryland: why do people need to smoke?

Expert Icon Dave White: 120136 sounds like a Van Halen album (look it up).  OK, maybe not.  Anyway, many people start smoking for reasons like peer pressure or to try something new, or often because they grew up around a lot of smoking.  After people smoke for a while, they become dependent on cigarettes and have a really hard time quitting. As you know, smoking is really bad for your health and very $$-so best not to start.  See http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/tag/smoking/ for more...
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 denise - Johnson Middle School, California: wat can drugs do to you? can drugs kill you

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: Yes, abusing drugs can kill you.  Smoking cigarettes results in close to half a million deaths a year.  Abusing prescription opioids accounts for nearly 15,000 deaths a year.  The list goes on and on!!!!

www.teens.drugabuse.gov, a Website for teens with information on the science behind drug abuse, facts on drugs, questions and answers, real stories and interactive activities.
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 yvigil - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: When you drink and do drugs at the same time, is that worse than cocaine?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Hey Yvigil.  It depends.  Drinking and drugs are certainly a bad combination.  For example, mixing alcohol with certain medications can result in very serious health effectsCocaine alone is bad, too -- and it can be even more dangerous if combined with alcohol. According to data from the 2009 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), almost one million emergency department visits involved an illicit drug. Cocaine alone was involved in 422,896 ED visits. Alcohol (either alone or in combination with other drugs) was involved in 658,263 of all drug abuse emergency department visits. Better to just say away from them altogether.
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 M kamal - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: if one person uses a drug is it possible for the whole family to be affected

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: You bet.  Especially drugs that are smoked.  People can be affected by second-hand smoke.
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 jdorado - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: if you drink alcohol everyday will it affect ur brain and nervous system? ☺

Expert Icon Aaron White: It certainly can. In the long-term, alcohol can damage the brain, particular if the person drinking is under the age of 21. The teenage years are a very important time for brain development. The thinking parts, memory parts, and feeling parts are all changing when we are teenagers. Alcohol can interfere with these important changes and actually shrink the thinking and memory parts.

Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years can make an area of the brain called the frontal lobes smaller. The frontal lobes help us make decisions, think about things, and pay attention. Teenagers who drink a lot have problems with these things. Alcohol also can shrink the hippocampus, the area of the brain area that helps us learn and remember. Teenagers who drink a lot also have trouble with learning. We do not know yet whether these problems go away if the teenager stops drinking.

For weeks and months after a teenager stops drinking heavily, these parts of the brain still struggle to work correctly. It's not clear whether the brain ever fully heals itself. In addition, drinking at a young age makes it more likely to become an alcoholic later in life. So, drinking when we are young could have lots of negative effects on the brain!
Many teens abuse prescription drugs. How do most get them?
The correct answer is: B. They get them from a friend or relative. Most high school seniors who abused prescription drugs got them for free from a friend or relative; very few get them from the Internet.
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 Thursty - GMG Community School, Iowa: Can you get drunk quicker if you mix alchohols

Expert Icon Aaron White: In general, no. All alcoholic beverages contain the same key ingredient -- ethyl alcohol.
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 haven14 - Pekin Community School, Iowa: Is alcohol good for you.

Expert Icon Aaron White: First of all, if you're under age 21, drinking is not good for you and it is illegal. Even moderate consumption of wine (up to 1 drink per day for women or 2 for men) can affect your brain development, and may also increase your risk of having alcohol-related problems later in your life. For people 21 and older, moderate consumption of wine appears to be okay and might even help the heart stay healthy. Drinking at levels beyond moderation, however, increase the risk of cancers and other diseases.
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 albertot - Johnson Middle School, California: why do people smoke

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: They often start in order to fit in socially, because friends and others around them all do.

They keep smoking in part because for some people it soothes their nerves, and for schizophrenics, nicotine can make their disordered minds work more clearly.

All too often, people keep smoking even though they would rather not, because they are addicted to smoking.  Over time, the brain can form powerful associations between things we see in the environment that lead to experiencing cigarettes or alcohol, and ultimately the high or other mood effect. This is especially true for nicotine in cigarettes or heroin.

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 sshs12 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: is people adicded to acid

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Hallucinogens like LSD, mescaline and psilocybine ('shrooms) work by interacting with a site in the brain (known as a receptor) that is impacted by a chemical (known as a neurotransmitter) that is normally produced by brain. This neurotransmitter is called serotonin. While hallucinogens like psilocybine and LSD do not lead to addiction in the usual sense, for one thing the body becomes tolerant to these drugs very quickly so you can't take them every day, or even every week, some people do have severe adverse experiences when they take these drugs.  These experiences can be so terrifying to some people that they can be haunted them for a long time.
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 isalgado - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: Is it true that marijuana can prevent breast cancer?

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: there is no evidence for that.
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 cramirez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Why does cocaine make your heart beat faster than a normal heart beat?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Hey cramirez -- AGAIN.  You are on fire with the questions.  Good job. Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant that directly affects the brain. Some of the immediate effects after using cocaine include constricted blood vessels, dilated pupils, increased heart rate and blood pressure. Heavy doses can lead to violent behavior and users may experience tremors, vertigo, muscle twitches, and paranoia. 

Cocaine belongs to a class of drugs called 'stimulants,' because they usually make you feel euphoric, energetic, hyperstimulated, and mentally alert. The high from snorting may last 15 to 20 minutes, while smoking may last 5 to 10 minutes. Cocaine can also make you feel hypersensitive to touch, sights, and sounds. Some cocaine abusers report feelings of restlessness, irritability and anxiety. As a user begins to increase the dose and/or the frequency of drug taking the duration and intensity of the high may lessen, and once it is over, users can feel very tired and depressed. Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug, and while it can make you feel high when you first use it, addiction is a very real albeit unpredictable possibility. Naturally, the wisest move is never to start.

For more proof, just check out this story . . . Leonard Kevin 'Len' Bias (November 18, 1963 – June 19, 1986) was a first team All-American college basketball player at the University of Maryland. He was selected by the Boston Celtics as the second overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft on June 17, but died two days later from cardiac arrhythmia (a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat) induced by a cocaine overdose. He is considered by some sportswriters to be one of the greatest players not to play at the professional level. Cocaine can definitely kill you.

See http://www.drugabuse.gov/ResearchReports/Cocaine/Cocaine.html for more information.
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 master - Rochester Adams High School, Michigan: can drugs effect sex?

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Some drugs can. For example:
anabolic steroids can lower sex drive
marijuana can lower sperm count
ecstasy and poppers are often abused to enhance sexual arousal.

Thanks for a great question.
Moderator Icon  Heading to college? Learn the facts about drinking in college here:
http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/StatsSummaries/snapshot.aspx
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 Ashton E - M.R. Wood Center for Learning (alternative school), Texas: will making marijuana legal help our us econimy

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: Probably not.  Whatever economic gains might come will be offset by the health and other costs that will result from the increased availability and use of marijuana.  These are difficult calculations to make, and there remains a lot of disagreement about the numbers.  As a public health agency, we at NIDA are especially worried about the effects on young people--who's brains are still developing and who need to be at their best to succeed in school and thereafter.  More marijuana availability, and even less perceived risk associated with its use could have serious consequences--we're still learning what early exposure to marijuana does to brain development and to vulnerability to other drug taking as well. 
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 Saparicio - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: what kind of birth defects would kids have if the parent drinks?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Drinking while you are pregnant can seriously affect a baby's development. A range of problems, the worst of which is called fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) can result. Babies born with FAS are not addicted to alcohol themselves, but they do have smaller brains, abnormal facial features, and often have life-long learning and behavioral problems. It is the leading preventable birth defect associated with mental and behavioral impairment in the United States today.
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 J Nguyen - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Can you die insanly with heroin?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: You can definitely die from heroin if you take a high dose.  For more information on heroin, go here: www.drugabuse.gov/infofacts/heroin.html.
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 jjean - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: is nicatine more addictive than junkfood

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: It’s hard to answer this question directly.  It is not generally thought that junk foods are necessarily addictive, although there is growing evidence that for some people certain foods can be 'addictive'.  We do know that nicotine is a very addicting drug and the use of nicotine in cigarettes and other tobacco products kills more people than any other drug. For more information on smoking and nicotine, check out this link: http://www.smokefree.gov/.
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 harry.h - Dulles Middle School, Texas: DMS, Sugar Land Middle Is it illegal for a parent to give their child alcohol?

Expert Icon Aaron White: The laws vary greatly from state to state, but in most states, this is illegal. There are about 16 states that do allow parents to serve alcohol to their underage children. Check out this map to learn more about the laws in your state:

http://www.alcoholpolicy.niaaa.nih.gov/Furnishing_Alcohol_to_Minors.html
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 sshs18 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: does age affect how your body reacts to drugs?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Yes, age does affect the way drugs and medicines act in the body.  Unfortunately, most studies of medicines are conducted in adults, so we don't know exactly all the ways age can change the way a medicine works.  We do know that older people may inactivate or absorb drugs at a different rate, making it likely that they would need more or less than a younger adults.  And the brains of children and teens are still developing, and we don't know how drugs may impact brain development.  If you look on the package of prescription or over-the-counter drugs (like cold medicine), you will often see that the different amounts are recomended for different ages.  We do know that harmful drugs, like marijuana or cocaine, can have a strong effect on young people because their brains are still developing.
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 cherrera - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: HOW LOG DOS IT TAKE TO GET ADDICTION TO DRUGS

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: This is a tough one...Scientists are reluctant to give a timeline for addiction to take hold because it depends on the drug and the person. Addiction has many sides to it that make a person vulnerable, such as genetics (e.g., genes that metabolize drugs can be different across people), environmental (e.g., drug availability; parents using drugs/tobacco/alcohol) and developmental (e.g., age--the younger you are when you try a drug, the more likely you are to abuse it), all of which play important and changing roles in determining how a person becomes addicted.

We know this, though.  Once you try drugs, you are at a much higher risk of becoming addicted.
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 ckelly - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: My grandpa has alchoholism and smokes. He was fired for drinking and driving with me in his car. How can I help him?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi and thanks for the question. It is really hard when someone you care about is hurting themselves. You can help him by getting him to get help. It would be great if you could talk to a responsible adult at school or in the family. There is a treatment locater on the SAMHSA.gov website where he could get help: http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov. He could also go to a 12-step group or AA to get help. Best wishes to you and grandpa.
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 rachel - Johnson Middle School, California: what could drugs do to u?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork:  Hi!  Thanks for writing!

Drugs (of abuse) are molecules that bind or cling to certain molecules on the surface of brain cells (or inside cells), like a key might fit snugly into a lock. They tend to fit because they happen to be shaped like molecules our brains normally have floating around. Many of these drug molecules have a positive effect, like relieving pain, by interfering with the pain system of the brain, or can improve attention in focus for people whose brains aren't 'tuned' well. Some drugs, like cocaine or methamphetamine or other strong 'stimulants' can increase heart rate suddenly, however, putting the user at risk of heart attack or stroke. Most drugs and certainly alcohol, actually changes the structure and shape of parts of the brain, and can even shrink them! The other serious risk is ADDICTION, where someone who uses drugs for fun or to treat pain loses control over the drug, and can't keep himself or herself from stopping looking to get the drug and use it. Over time, the brain can form powerful associations between things we see in the environment that lead to experiencing drugs and alcohol, and ultimately the high. This is especially true for nicotine in cigarettes or heroin. The body suffers too, as people stop taking care of themselves in other areas (like diet) as their lives become all about getting the next hit of drug or alcohol. Most people who regularly use drugs or alcohol can stop themselves at some point and walk away from it. However, depending on the drug, a fraction of people who use it repeatedly will ultimately lose control, and it will truly wreck their life- either permanently, or the drugs will leave people in a useless fog for many years, until they can get themselves together. This happened to some close relatives of mine. Not worth the risk, I say!
Moderator Icon  Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the U.S. Short-term effects of marijuana use include euphoria, distorted perceptions, memory impairment, and difficulty thinking and solving problems.
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 iwhite - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: What drugs can make you extremely sick?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Actually, most of them, if you take more than your body can handle.  Cocaine is particularly dangerous because it is a stimulant that increases heart rate and blood pressure and could cause a heart attack or stroke.  Heroin and alcohol, especially in combination, could cause problems by depressing the respiratory system, causing the brain to stop telling the lungs to breathe. These are just a couple of examples.
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 ckelly - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: My mom smokes secretly but I know she does. I want to talk about it with her, but I dont have the guts. How can I help her?

Expert Icon Dave White: So, what is your mom smoking?  Cigarettes or marijuana?  Either way, it's fantastic that you want to help your mom stop smoking. Smoking puts your mom at risk for cancer and many other things she really doesn't want...but studies have shown that when someone stops smoking, their health risks rapidly decrease--sometimes to levels as if they had never smoked.  Overcoming nicotine or marijuana addiction can be difficult, but with help and encouragement, and by letting her know that help is available, she can definitely do it. For tobacco addiction, see this link: http://smoking.drugabuse.gov/.  
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 cngo - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: what is the strongest pain killer and what effects can happen if you overdose?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi and thanks for the question. There are many strong pain medications and it depends on the dose or amount you take. Morphine is the standard medication that all medications are compared to. Some more powerful medications are oxycodone, fentanyl and dilaudid to name a few. If you overdose, you can stop breathing. It only takes 3 minutes to become brain dead; and you can die.  You might be interested in our website: http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugpages/prescription.html.
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 120136 - Francis Scott Key Middle School, Maryland: what makes people do drugs

Expert Icon Gaya Dowling: People tend to begin taking drugs for a variety of reasons: to feel good (most abused drugs produce intense feelings of pleasure), to feel better (because they think it will make them feel less anxious, depressed, or stressed), to do better (because they think it will improve concentration or athletic performance), or because they are curious and want to fit in. At first, people may perceive what seem to be positive effects with drug use. They also may believe that they can control their use; however, drugs can quickly take over their lives. Over time, if drug use continues, pleasurable activities become less pleasurable, and drug abuse becomes necessary for abusers to simply feel 'normal.' Drug abusers reach a point where they seek and take drugs, despite the tremendous problems caused for themselves and their loved ones.
Moderator Icon  We are getting thousands of questions from teens all over the country and outside the U.S. We are working as fast as we can to answer them---so please be patient! If your questions don’t get answered while you are waiting you will be able to search the transcript for your school’s name (or your user name) to see if your questions got answered! The transcript will be posted in about a week.
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 KAng - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: it you smoke a lot of time in a day how many brain cells would be lost or damaged?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: This is not really known.  What we DO know is that when pregnant women smoke tobacco, the babies frequently have smaller brain size than normal, and also show a greater likelihood of having behavior problems as young children. But we don't know why this is- whether neurons die, or they just fail to grow as they should. Serious stuff.  As for people damaging their OWN brain by smoking, brain scan studies comparing smokers with non-smokers show that certain parts of the brain have different shapes or thickness of gray matter in smokers, and also the white matter, which is like the superhighway of nerve cells connecting to one another.

Honestly, the greater risk is probably cancer than lost neurons.  Also, as adults age, they naturally lose neurons over the lifespan.
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 Bethanne C. - Pekin Community School, Iowa: Why do people think its cool or good for them if they smoke or do drugs, if it kills them?

Expert Icon Cora Lee Wetherington: Hi Bethanne in Iowa.  I think you are correct that many people start smoking or using drugs because they they think it's cool or may help them in some way.  And you know, in short run, smoking or using drugs can have effects that people like, and not just the highs they produce. Both, for example, might make someone feel less stressed or may make them fit in better with a certain group of people. But, as you know, even in the short term, drugs can kill such as through accidents or overdoses. Far too often, people do not think about the consequences that drugs can have because they are focusing on the short-term benefits.  That's why Chat Day and the drug abuse information found on NIDA website is so imporant.  And for smart people like you, it is important for you to share this information with your friends and loved ones who need the facts. Check out our site for teens (including the newest part of that site that covers prescription drug abuse that's called PEERx).  www.teens.drugabuse.gov and www.teens.drugabuse.gov/peerx/
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 Hellothere - Rockville HS, Maryland: why doesn't the government ban smoking, if they know it's killing people?

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: I wish they would.  They are making efforts though. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was given regulatory authority over the tobacco industry--that means they can begin to set policies that will reduce the harmfulness of tobacco products.  It's just beginning, but we can hope that eventually we will see a world without tobacco and nicotine addiction and all the resulting illnesses and suffering that goes with it. 
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 rachel - Johnson Middle School, California: why could drug make your breath smell bad?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: I do not know about all drugs, but smoking really makes one's breath stink.  I think the concept is, stinky in-stinky out.  That is not scientific, sorry, but that is the basic idea...
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 1234 - GMG Community School, Iowa: I'm from Iowa, and here is my question: What is the most widely used drug in the United States?

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: Hello, Iowa!  The most commonly used drug in America is alcohol, with more than half of Americans ages 12 and older asked in the National Survey of Drug Use and Health reporting they currently drink alcohol.  If you are asking about illicit drugs, the most commonly used is marijuana, with about 7% responding they currently use (past month) marijuana.
What drugs are associated with risky sexual behavior that could lead to HIV infection?
The correct answer is: E. All of the above. All drugs of abuse can affect judgment and decision-making, which can lead to risky behaviors like having unprotected (or even non-consensual) sex. This puts people at risk for acquiring HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases. Check out NIDA's Learn the Link site at http://hiv.drugabuse.gov/english/learn/overview.html
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 pwillis - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: If somone is using a sharpie around you and you can smell it , does it still kill your brain cells?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Probably not. Your nose is very sensitive and can detect very small amount of chemicals.  In fact, the nose is so sensitive precisely so that you get an 'early warning' when there may be something harmful in the environment.  If the smell bothers you, though, just move away.
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 avazquez - Johnson Middle School, California: how do steriods work

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are synthetically produced variants of the naturally occurring male sex hormone testosterone. “Anabolic” refers to muscle-building, and “androgenic” refers to increased male sexual characteristics. “Steroids” refers to the class of drugs. These drugs can be legally prescribed to treat conditions resulting from steroid hormone deficiency, such as delayed puberty, as well as diseases that result in loss of lean muscle mass, such as cancer and AIDS.

Some people, both athletes and non-athletes, abuse AAS in an attempt to enhance performance and/or improve physical appearance. AAS are taken orally or injected, typically in cycles rather than continuously. “Cycling” refers to a pattern of use in which steroids are taken for periods of weeks or months, after which use is stopped for a period of time and then restarted. In addition, users often combine several different types of steroids in an attempt to maximize their effectiveness, a practice referred to as “stacking.”

The immediate effects of AAS in the brain are mediated by their binding to androgen (male sex hormone) and estrogen (female sex hormone) receptors on the surface of a cell. This AAS–receptor complex can then shuttle into the cell nucleus to influence patterns of gene expression. Because of this, the acute effects of AAS in the brain are substantially different from those of other drugs of abuse. The most important difference is that AAS are not euphorigenic, meaning they do not trigger rapid increases in the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is responsible for the “high” that often drives substance abuse behaviors. However, long-term use of AAS can eventually have an impact on some of the same brain pathways and chemicals—such as dopamine, serotonin, and opioid systems—that are affected by other drugs of abuse. Considering the combined effect of their complex direct and indirect actions, it is not surprising that AAS can affect mood and behavior in significant ways.

Hope this is helpful.  For a good description of steroids, check out:  http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_ster1.php
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 Stegmann - GMG Community School, Iowa: What drugs are more abused than others?

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: Thanks for your question!   According to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health about 9% of Americans ages 12 and older reported current (past month) drug use in 2010.  After alcohol, which more than half the population uses, marijuana is the most frequently used drug, used by about 7%, followed by psychotherapeutics, cocaine and hallucinogens (see table below).


Figure 2.2
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 srose - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: what effects do alcohol have on babies when the parents drink

Expert Icon Aaron White: Drinking can affect children in many ways:

During pregnancy
Drinking while you are pregnant can seriously affect a baby's development. A range of problems, the worst of which is called fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) can result. Babies born with FAS are not addicted to alcohol themselves, but they do have smaller brains, abnormal facial features, and often have life-long learning and behavioral problems. It is the leading preventable birth defect associated with mental and behavioral impairment in the United States today.

As a child
Having parents who are alcoholics does increase your chances of becoming an alcoholic at some point. In general, a child with close relatives who are alcoholics are twice as likely to become an alcoholic than a child without alcoholic relatives. 
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 schuett30 - GMG Community School, Iowa: what percent of the population does smoke weed?

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: According to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health about 7% of Americans ages 12 and older report they currently (past month) smoke weed.
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 augie117 - The Blake School, Minnesota: Do you think that the legal drinking age should be lowered to 18?

Expert Icon Aaron White: The legal drinking age was raised to 21 because too many young people were being hurt by alcohol. Raising it to 21 resulted in a big reduction in the number of young people being killed in alcohol-related car crashes. The decision to raise the drinking age to 21 was made before researchers started studying the teenage brain and how alcohol effects it. Now we know that the brain keeps growing until after the age of 21 and that alcohol can damage the teenage brain. So, it turns out that a drinking age of 21 makes sense from a brain standpoint, too! For more info on how alcohol affects kids, check out: http://thecoolspot.gov/index.asp
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 cramirez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: How can telling someone you care and wish they would stop taking tobacco get them to stop?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi and thanks for the question-- that is a tough situation.  Please see our site that has much information and will be a great starting point for you: www.smoking.drugabuse.gov.
Moderator Icon  According to a 2010 study, 13.8% of 8th graders drank alcohol in the past month.
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 Julie - North Ridgeville Middle School, Ohio: What is LSD

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: LSD is shorthand for 'Lysergic acid diethylamide,' also called 'acid.'  LSD is a type of drug called a hallucinogen, and works in part by stimulating the brain's serotonin chemical system to bring about visions and other experiences that aren't real. For some interesting facts about hallucinogens, visit http://teens.drugabuse.gov/mom/mom_hal1.php.
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 KAng - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: what makes people throw up when the drink?

Expert Icon Aaron White: It appears that alcohol triggers vomiting in two different ways. One is by irritating the stomach. There also is an area of the brain that monitors the contents of the blood for toxins. If the level of alcohol in the blood reaches a high enough level, the area triggers vomiting. Regardless of which way vomiting is triggered, it is an indication that the body feels threatened by the high level of alcohol in the system and is trying desparately to get rid of the alcohol to protect itself.
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 khalls - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: what makes drugs so attracting to try it for the first time?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: It depends.  For some kids, it's about trying to be cool and 'fit in' with their friends who are either trying out drugs or even using them regularly.  This is especially true for smoking.  Young people with histories of behavior problems, may have 'impulsive' or sensation-seeking personalities, and are at particular risk for trying drugs, using drugs regularly, and eventually becoming addicted to drugs.
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 kgonzales - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: what is it in 'shrooms' (mushrooms) when you somke it is addicting

Expert Icon Steve Grant: 'shrooms are a specific species of mushroom that contain the chemical psilocybin.  Psilocybin produces effects similiar to LSD. It interacts with a type of receptor in the brain that is impacted by a neurotransmitter that is normally produced by brain. This neurotransmitter is called serotonin. You can either smoke or eat these drugs - but either way they are harmful.  While hallucinogens like psilocybine and LSD do not lead to addiction in the usual sense, for one thing the body become tolerant to these drugs very quickly so you can't take them every day, or even every week, some people do have severe adverse experiences when they take these drugs.  These experiences can be so terrifying to some people that they can be haunted them for a long time.
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 choan - Johnson Middle School, California: when people try to stop using drug, they just contiued to use drug why do they do that.

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Hiya.  Drugs of abuse are molecules that bind or cling to certain molecules on the surface of brain cells (or inside cells), like a key might fit snugly into a lock. They tend to fit because they happen to be shaped like molecules our brains normally have floating around.  In other words, drugs really don't target 'parts' of the brain like different lobes, per se.  They target these receptor 'lock' molecules, where some brain regions (like those associated with reward or pleasure) have unusually high concentrations of certain types of locks.

Many of these drug molecules have a positive effect, like relieving pain, by interfering with the pain system of the brain, or can improve attention in focus for people whose brains aren't 'tuned' well. The risk in all this is ADDICTION, where someone who uses drugs for fun or to treat pain loses control over the drug, and can't keep himself or herself from stopping looking to get the drug and use it. Over time, the brain can form powerful associations between things we see in the environment that lead to experiencing drugs and alcohol, and ultimately the high. This is especially true for nicotine in cigarettes or heroin.  Most people who regularly use drugs or alcohol can stop themselves at some point and walk away from it. However, depending on the drug, a fraction of people who use it repeatedly will ultimately lose control, and it will truly wreck their life- either permanently, or the drugs will leave people in a useless fog for many years, until they can get themselves together. This happened to some close relatives of mine.  Scientists are hard at work trying to understand what is going on in the brain that causes it to lose control and just seek drugs on autopilot.

There are lots of different kinds of treatments for drug abuse and addiction, and some work better than others. Research has shown that some treatments successfully help people stop using drugs, and also help to solve other problems that tend to go along with drug abuse. It's hard to say why some celebrities keep going back to treatment. What we do know is that people who finish a treatment program that uses evidence based practices tend to have a much better chance of staying off drugs for good--but that often involves major changes in lifestyle -- changing where you hang out and who you hang out with. If people aren't willing to make those changes, they can easily fall back into using drugs. And even those people who do become abstinent can remain at risk for relapse for a very long time, and may require ongoing support from community groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, or multiple rounds of drug treatment.
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 cramirez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Why can pain killers be addictive? and How come? .

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi and thanks for the question. The medications have addicting properties. This is minimized by taking the medication only when prescribed and as prescribed. Check out our website: http://www.teens.drugabuse.gov/peerx/.
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 ckelly - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Is marijuana addicting?

Expert Icon Dave White: Hi ckelly, this is a very important question.  Despite what many people think, marijuana is indeed addicitve. Approximately 9% of people who smoke marijuana eventually become addicted to it--moreso when they start as teens. People can also experience a number of withdrawal symptoms (signifying addiction) when they try to quit, including irritability, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, and mood swings.  The effects can last several weeks but will eventually get better.  For more information check out this link: http://www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/Marijuana.html and our updated teen booklet on marijuana: http://www.drugabuse.gov/MarijBroch/teens/.
Moderator Icon  You have heard about binge drinking---but do you really know what that means? We have alcohol experts on the chat who can answer your questions about it.
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 ctran - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: if you eat cough drops for fun, is it bad for you?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: These are a lot of types of cough drops.  I would check the package and not eat more than they recommend.  Why not just eat candy for fun??? I mean yesterday WAS Halloween!!!
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 120136 - Francis Scott Key Middle School, Maryland: what part of smoking makes your lungs black.com

Expert Icon Gaya Dowling:  Lung cancer

Here is a picture from the National Cancer Institute. This shows a smoker's lung, which looks black because of the particulates inhaled from the toxic chemicals in cigarettes.
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 fc bobcats - First Colony Middle School, Texas: How many people under the age of 18 die each year from using drugs?

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: I can tell you that about 10 people out of every 100,000 people in the U.S. under the age of 24 die from drug overdoses. So in a city of a a million people, 100 people under the age of 24 will die from overdoses. But that doesn't even count the number of people who take drugs and drive, killing themsleves and other people, or get into fights while high and kill someone.
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 SSHS6 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: how much alcohol can you consume before it makes you die?

Expert Icon Aaron White: That can be hard to predict exactly. In general, a blood alcohol level above 0.30% is considered potentially fatal.  Here's an example: In the last month, several teenagers, mostly college students, died from alcohol poisoning with blood alcohol levels around 0.35%. For a healthy, 140 pound female, reaching this level would require around 10 drinks in a 2 hour period, or around 13 drinks in 2 hours for a 160 pound male. It is important to point out than having any alcohol at all can increase the chances of dying from injuries, such as falls, drownings or car crashes. 

Here are some of the factors that influence how fast people get drunk: 
  1. How much alcohol they drink and how fast they drink it
  2. Whether there is food in the stomach to slow how quickly alcohol gets into the body
  3. How much they weigh
  4. Whether they are male or female -- females tend to be affected more by alcohol than males
Getting drunk faster also makes drinking more dangerous. Drinking quickly can turn off the brain's memory centers and cause 'blackouts', or an inability to remember what you did while drinking. Getting drunk faster can make it more likely that the vital centers in the brain will be shut off.

For more information on safe drinking limits for adults, and how much alcohol is contained in single drink, please check out: http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/
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 harry.h - Dulles Middle School, Texas: DMS Sugar Land, TX -Are some people more prone to become alcoholics than others? Please explain.

Expert Icon Aaron White: Yes, absolutely. Here are the key risk factors:

Having a family history - Both the genes related to having a family history of alcohol use and being raised in a home where you see others drinking increases your risk for alcohol problems.
Starting to drink early - Someone who has their first drink at age 14 is around twice as likely to become an alcoholic at some point in life as someone who starts drinking at 18.
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 samantha - North Ridgeville Middle School, Ohio: whats the best way to stop yourself from doing drugs?

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Brief answer is to understand that drugs can be quite harmful to your body, brain, and overall health (for information about the dangers of drug abuse see www.teens.drugabuse.gov).  Also understand that repeated use of drugs can result in addiction, which is a changed brain...a brain disease.  With addiction, it is very difficult to control one's drug use, which can have severe negative consequences, both medically and legally.  If stopping is difficult, I would suggest that you seek help, as it is often very difficult to stop without some help.
Because talking with someone about their drug use can be difficult, you may want to seek the support of a trusted adult - teacher, coach, parent, etc.  Remember, you can't make your friend stop using drugs - you can only provide them with support and let them know you care.

For more information on facts on drugs, real stories, and interactive activities check out www.teens.drugabuse.gov. If you need help with an addiction, you can find a substance abuse treatment facility by calling 1-800-662-HELP or go to www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov anytime, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.
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 KAng - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: why do the drugs affect our teeth too?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: Methamphetamine is well know to have a very awful impact on people's teeth.  It reduces the amount of saliva around your teeth - causing what is often called 'meth mouth' (google it- totally gross!). For more information on meth and other drugs, check out the Sara Bellum blog at www.teens.drugabuse.gov/blog.
PollI know someone who started smoking and wishes he could quit.
57% - Yes
31% - No
12% - Maybe
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 WATERBOY1169 - Rochester Adams High School, Michigan: What 'research' proves that Marijuana is addictive?

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: Well for one thing, the numbers of people who are in treatment for marijuana addiction--about 350,000 in 2009.  Among youth, more than 2/3rd of those in treatment are there for marijuana addiction.  But there's more, marijuana has similar effects on the reward system of the brain as other abused drugs; and long term users experience a withdrawal syndrome when they quit--making it hard to quit.  Still, not everyone who uses becomes addicted--some people are more resilient.  But the same could be said for heroin, and no one would question its addictiveness.
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 sexygirl123 - GMG Community School, Iowa: what percent of teens have tried drugs?

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: Good question. According to the University of Michigan's 2010 Monitoring the Future survey around 29% of 8th graders, 41% of 10th graders, and 50% of high school seniors reported they have tried drugs (includes any use of marijuana, inhalants, LSD, other hallucinogens, crack, other cocaine, heroin, narcotics other than heroin, amphetamines, sedatives (barbiturates), or tranquilizers not under a doctor’s orders) at least once in their lifetime. Is that more teens than you were expecting or fewer?
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 mhernandez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: can you be addicted to pain killers that are over the counter

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi and thanks for the question. None of the pain medications sold over the counter in the US are addictive. They can cause other problems if not taken as directed.  Some countries sell weak codiene pills which can be addictive--but these are not sold in the US.
NIDA's teen prescription drug site might be interesting: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/peerx.
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 iwhite - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: What is the average amount of deaths of teenagers, who do drugs, over the past year?

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: We don't quite keep statistics that way but I can tell you that about 10 people out of every 100,000 people in the U.S. under the age of 24 die from drug overdoses. So in a city of 500,000 people, 50 people under the age of 24 will die from overdoses. But that doesn't even count the number of people who take drugs and drive, killing themsleves and other people. Plus--- it doesn't count people who get into fights while high and kill someone with a gun, a knife or with thier fists etc.Those are harder statistics to get.
Moderator Icon  To find a substance abuse treatment facility locator, call 1-800-662-HELP or go to www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov anytime, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.
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 sambw1996 - The Blake School, Minnesota: What triggers someone to experiment with drugs or alcohol?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Thanks for your question.  There are many reasons that people start experimenting with drugs. Research has shown that drug use is about 50% genetic and 50% environmental and other factors.  So, they may have been from a family of drug users, or they are around environments that encourage drug use. For example, if people see other people doing it, they might think it's cool. For smoking, stress is a common reason why many people say they smoke. What they may not know, though, is that drugs are addictive--once you start, it is VERY difficult to stop.  And, it's not cool.  For more information, see: www.drugabuse.gov/tib/genetics.html and http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/real-teens-ask-addiction-hereditary/. And general information on addiction:  www.nida.nih.gov/scienceofaddiction/.

 
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 harry.h - Dulles Middle School, Texas: Does smoking destroy brain cells?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: When pregnant women smoke tobacco products, the babies frequently have smaller brain size than normal, and also show a greater likelihood of having behavior problems as young children. But we don't know why this is- whether neurons die, or they just fail to grow as they should. Serious stuff.  As for people damaging their OWN brain by smoking, brain scan studies comparing smokers with non-smokers show that certain parts of the brain have different shapes or thickness of gray matter in smokers, and also the white matter, which is like the superhighway of nerve cells connecting to one another.
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 sierrap - Einstein High School, Maryland: What is the difference between ecstacy and meth?

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Methamphetamine is a stimulant that has its main effects in the brain. The effects of meth on the brain can lead to memory loss, learning impairment, movement disorders, and addiction. Use of crystal meth can lead to cardiac (heart) and neurological damage. Behaviorally, meth can lead to aggression, violence, and psychotic behavior. For more information, please visit: http://drugabuse.gov/ResearchReports/Methamph/Methamph.html.

Ecstasy, a drug which has both stimulant and psychedelic properties, is often taken for the feelings of well-being, stimulation, and the distortions in time and sensory perceptions that it produces. MDMA first became popular in the 'rave' and all-night party scene because it allowed users to have increased energy and endurance, so people use this drug to dance all night.  However, there are some negatives that one must be aware of relative to the rave scene...and that is, the drug can result in dehydration, exhaustion, and hyperthermia (increased body temperature) that can be fatal.

Hope this helps.  There is certainly much more information on MDMA/ecstasy at: http://www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/MDMA.html
Moderator Icon  When the chat is over, we will post the transcript (be patient---it will take a week or two.) You will be able to search the transcript for your school’s name (or your user name) to see if your questions got answered!
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 nicole - Johnson Middle School, California: how does weed affect your body

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Thanks for your great question.  Marijuana, like most other drugs, affects the parts of the brain that allow us to make plans, solve problems, and make decisions. It 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 read more about marijuana at www.nida.nih.gov/MarijBroch/teens/ or http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/marijuana.
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 avazquez - Johnson Middle School, California: where do u find drugs so i can avoid those places

Expert Icon Steve Grant: I'm not going to tell you, because you already are successfully avoiding those places <grin>.  Seriously, you should avoid associating with other kids who use drugs, including any parties that they may have. 
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 cramirez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: I know nicotine in tobacco is more addictive than heroin and cocain but what exactly is the reason for this?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Hey cramirez.  Great question -- you know your stuff!  Each cigarette contains about 10 milligrams of nicotine. Because the smoker inhales only some of the smoke from a cigarette, and not all of each puff is absorbed in the lungs, a smoker gets about 1 to 2 milligrams of the drug from each cigarette. Although that may not seem like much, it is enough to make someone addicted.  So why is it addictive? With each puff of a cigarette, a smoker pulls nicotine and other harmful substances into the lungs, where it is absorbed into the blood. It takes just 8 seconds for nicotine to hit the brain. Nicotine happens to be shaped like the natural brain chemical acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is one of many chemicals called neurotransmitters that carry messages between brain cells. Neurons (brain cells) have specialized proteins called receptors, into which specific neurotransmitters can fit, like a key fitting into a lock. Nicotine locks into acetylcholine receptors, rapidly causing changes in the brain and body. For instance, nicotine increases blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration (breathing). Nicotine also attaches to acetylcholine receptors on neurons that release a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is released normally when you experience something pleasurable like good food, your favorite activity, or the company of people you love. But smoking cigarettes causes neurons to release excess dopamine, which is responsible for the feelings of pleasure. However, this effect wears off rapidly, causing people who smoke to get the urge to light up again for another dose of the drug.

Nicotine may be the primary addictive component in tobacco but it’s not the only ingredient that is biologically important. Using advanced neuroimaging technology, scientists have found that people who smoke have a significant reduction in the levels of an enzyme called monoamine oxidase (MAO) in the brain and throughout the body. This enzyme is responsible for the breakdown of dopamine, other neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation, and in a variety of bodily functions. Having lower amounts of MAO in the brain may lead to higher dopamine levels and be another reason that people who smoke continue to do so—to sustain the pleasurable feelings that high dopamine levels create.
Moderator Icon  About 80% of 12th graders don’t use cigarettes, and about 91% of 12th graders don’t use smokeless tobacco.
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 Bethanne C. - Pekin Community School, Iowa: Do more people prefer to drink, wine or beer?

Expert Icon Aaron White: In the US, people prefer beer, then wine, then liquor.
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 fc bobcats - First Colony Middle School, Texas: Can you become blind or deaf with an overdose of drugs?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Overdoses of drugs taken to get 'high' don't cause blindness or deafness, but more typically produce death by supppressing breathing, or by causing heart attacks or stroke. Some medications that are used to treat diseases can produce hearing and vision impairments, but physicians are trained to manage those risks. 
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 ladyraider24 - Sidney High School, Nebraska: I have a friend who likes to drink alcohol with his step brother just to do it for fun. Is their a possiblity that him and his step brother could become addicted? They are both under age.

Expert Icon Aaron White: A good but tricky question. There really isn't a specific amount of alcohol a person has to drink to become addicted, and only someone trained to evaluate a person's drinking habits can tell for sure whether they are addicted. In general, a teenager is more likely to become addicted to alcohol if they have a family history of alcoholism (meaning they have parents or siblings with alcohol problems), start drinking at younger ages or have problems with depression or anxiety. 

According to the National Library of Medicine, people who are addicted to alcohol tend to have the following issues:
  • Craving - a strong need to drink
  • Loss of control - not being able to stop drinking once you've begun
  • Physical dependence - withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating or shakiness after stopping drinking
  • Tolerance - the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to get 'high'
These problems and behaviors can cause tremendous difficulties for individuals and families.
If you think your friend or his step-brother might have any of these characteristics, it's important to tell an adult you trust so they can get help. 

To learn more about how to help a friend, check out: http://www.thecoolspot.gov/real_life2.asp
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 rileymcd - Fairview ed Center, Minnesota: can you grind up marijuana and inject it into your bloodstream?

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: why would you want to?  that can only be bad.
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 harry.h - Dulles Middle School, Texas: What is in glue that makes it an inhalant

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Usually a chemical called Toluene, which can be found in model airplane glue, for example.  Huffing is dangerous though, due to all the chemicals being snorted, not just the ones that might give someone a high. Repeated or long-term use can cause damage to the brain (some permanent) that could result in tremors, difficulty walking, solving complex problems, and remembering things.

See this webpage for more information: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_inhale1.php.
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 lruiz - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: what is vicodin ?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: Vicodin is a combination of two analgesic products hydrocodone and acetaminophen and is used to relieve moderate to severe pain.  Hydrocodone is an opioid, and a strong a pain killer, but opioids also have abuse and addiction potential. All opioids should only be used as prescribed by a doctor. 
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 aescobar - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: If you are addicted to something can you stop without help or do you really need it?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi and thanks for the question. It often depends on the drug and how long you have been using or have been addicted. In general, it is a much easier road to travel to get help. Help has many forms from AA or 12 step groups to formal treatment. You will be evaluated and get the level of help you need. On the SAMHSA website there is a treatment locater that will help someone find a treatment evaluation: http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/.
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 wramirez - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: does doing drugs affect your intelligence?

Expert Icon Dave White: Hey wramirez, doing drugs can definitely affect different aspects of brain function.  For example, marijuana use can impair short-term memory and cause problems with thinking and problem-solving. You can still be intelligent, but drugs can definitely keep you from fulfilling its potential.
Moderator Icon  Some people mistakenly believe that “everybody’s doing it” and use that as an excuse to start using marijuana themselves. Well, they need to check the facts, because that’s just not true. According to a 2010 study, about 8% of 8th graders, 17% of 10th graders, and 21%of 12th graders had used marijuana in the month before the survey.
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 KVicencio - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: If drugs are considered 'bad', why do doctors prescribe them?

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: The medicines that doctors prescribe have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use to treat certain medical conditions.  That means they have been through rigorous clinical trials showing them to be safe and have benefits for that condition that exceed their risks.  The problem is abuse of these medications--if the medication is not prescribed for you, then it may not be safe for you.  A doctor takes into account not just the patient's symptoms or disease, but also their age, what other drugs they may be taking, and what other health problems they may also have.  That helps the doctor prescribe a medication safely.  Taking someone elses prescription medications or taking them at higher doses or by other routes of administration can be very dangerous--the evidence being increases in treatment admissions, emergency room visits, and overdose deaths linked to presciption drug abuse--especially opioid painkillers.   
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 avazquez - Johnson Middle School, California: does smelling sharpie markers get you high

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: Sharpie ink includes propanol, butanol, and diacetone alcohols.  These are part of a class of chemicals called inhalants. This class of drugs is huge, and includes lots of cleaners, glues, and gasses. Their primary way of getting a person high is to restrict oxygen to the brain!

For more info, see http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_inhale1.php
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 unnamed4453 - Swanson Middle School, Virginia: Why do people use nicotine patches when they quit smoking? Isn't this the same as smoking a cigarette, but without the other chemicals?

Expert Icon Kris Bough: Not exactly. People use patches to help them quit smoking because they contain one of the most addictive substances in cigarettes (nicotine) which is released more slowly and steadily absorbed and distributed throughout the body/brain. This more slow and steady uptake and distribution helps a person avoid the need for a cigarette and in some instances quit for good. Also, you aren't inhaling the awful smoke from cigarettes, which contains thousands of chemicals!  Good luck and thanks for your question!
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 SSHS17 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: How many drugs cause impaired physical motion.

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: I assume you are talking about abused drugs.  Most abused drugs are either stimulants or depressants and impact behavior.  Stimulants tend to increase behavior whereas depressants tend to depress behavior. 'Impairment' depends on the context. Stimulants will make a person jittery, and impair tasks that require fine motor skills.  Depressants make a person slow and sleepy, thus driving cars or operating machinery is problematic.
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 mhernandez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: what part of the brain do drgs target

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Hiya.  Drugs of abuse are molecules that bind or cling to certain molecules on the surface of brain cells (or inside cells), like a key might fit snugly into a lock. They tend to fit because they happen to be shaped like molecules our brains normally have floating around.  In other words, drugs really don't target 'parts' of the brain like different lobes, per se.  They target these receptor 'lock' molecules, where some brain regions (like those associated with reward or pleasure) have unusually high concentrations of certain types of locks.

Many of these drug molecules have a positive effect, like relieving pain, by interfering with the pain system of the brain, or can improve attention in focus for people whose brains aren't 'tuned' well. Some drugs, like cocaine or methamphetamine or other strong 'stimulants' can increase heart rate suddenly, however, putting the user at risk of heart attack or stroke. Most drugs and certainly alcohol, actually changes the structure and shape of parts of the brain, and can even shrink them! The other serious risk is ADDICTION, where someone who uses drugs for fun or to treat pain loses control over the drug, and can't keep himself or herself from stopping looking to get the drug and use it. Over time, the brain can form powerful associations between things we see in the environment that lead to experiencing drugs and alcohol, and ultimately the high. This is especially true for nicotine in cigarettes or heroin. The body suffers too, as people stop taking care of themselves in other areas (like diet) as their lives become all about getting the next hit of drug or alcohol. Most people who regularly use drugs or alcohol can stop themselves at some point and walk away from it. However, depending on the drug, a fraction of people who use it repeatedly will ultimately lose control, and it will truly wreck their life- either permanently, or the drugs will leave people in a useless fog for many years, until they can get themselves together. This happened to some close relatives of mine. Not worth the risk, I say!
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 2341 - GMG Community School, Iowa: What is the most commonly used drug in America?

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: The most commonly used drug in America is alcohol, with more than half of Americans ages 12 and older asked in the National Survey of Drug Use and Health reporting they currently drink alcohol.  If you are asking about illicit drugs, the most commonly used is marijuana, with about 9% responding they currently use (past month) marijuana.
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 cperez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: is nicotine dangerous by itself

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: Doctors prescribe nicotine gum or patches as medication to help people quit smoking. Nicotine in these forms is much safer than cigarettes, which contain at least 4000 other chemical in addition to nicotine, some of which contribute to cancer, emphysema, and cardiovascular disease. However, like other medications, nicotine has side effects, and people should see their doctors before starting to use it.
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 albertot - Johnson Middle School, California: does drugs make you skinny or fat

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Depends, some drugs decrease your appetite and some increase your appetite, especially for sugary foods. 
Which of the following is associated with teenage drinking?
The correct answer is: D. All of these, plus school failure and injuries, are associated with teenage drinking.

http://www.thecoolspot.gov/too_much.asp
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 agwsr - AGWSR, Iowa: how should someone reprimand a drug user

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: I don't think that's the right approach.  If someone chooses to abuse drugs, that is a bad decision.  There are a number of reasons that lead someone to make that bad decision initially.  However, keep in mind that with continued drug use, addiction can occur, which is no longer a voluntary action on the part of the abuser.  The person's brain changes, and he or she is no longer able to control their drug use.

You might want to consider talking with the person about his or her problem and suggest that they get help as drugs clearly can have many harmful effects on the brain, body, and on one's behavior.  You can help them find a doctor, therapist, support group or treatment program by visiting the website www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov, or calling 1-800-662-HELP. 

The more you know about substance abuse, the more you will be able to help.  A great place to start is NIDA's website: www.drugabuse.gov. In particular, check out http://www.drugabuse.gov/infofacts/treatmeth.html, a helpful summary of treatment approaches.
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 mthomas - Riverside Junior High, Kansas: When a woman gets pregnant and starts smoking, what happens to the child?

Expert Icon Cora Lee Wetherington: Hey Riverside Junior High, thank you for asking that question.  It is a very important question.  Lots of things happen to the baby (and then later on to the developing child) when the mom smokes during pregnancy.  Carbon monoxide and nicotine from tobacco smoke may interfere with the oxygen supply to the fetus, which can impact brain development. Nicotine  readily crosses the placenta and concentrations in the baby can be as much as 15 percent higher than maternal levels. Nicotine concentrates in the baby's blood, amniotic fluid, and breast milk. Altogether these factors can have severe consequences for the baby in the womb and infants and children of smoking mothers. Smoking during pregnancy caused an estimated 910 infant deaths annually from 1997 through 2001 and neonatal care costs related to smoking are estimated to be more than $350 million per year. The adverse effects of smoking during pregnancy can include growth retardation of the fetus and decreased birthweight. The more a woman smokes during pregnancy, the greater the reduction of infant birthweight. These newborns also display signs of stress and drug withdrawal consistent with what has been reported in infants exposed to other drugs. In some cases, smoking during pregnancy may be associated with spontaneous abortions and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) as well as learning and behavioral problems and an increased risk of obesity in children. In addition, smoking more than one pack a day during pregnancy nearly doubles the risk that the affected child will become addicted to tobacco if that child starts smoking.  So, you can see that a women who becomes pregnant should never start smoking, and if she is already a smoker when she becomes pregnant, she should stop immediately.  If she has trouble stopping, there is help.Information about smoking and prevention can be found at www.smokefree.gov.
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 sshs18 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: have you scientist peoples ever shared a joint all up in there?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Hey, SSHS18 in Nevada.  Nope, we're all kickin' it with coffee.  Seriously, Dude, smoking a joint is illegal and it's dangerous.  Did you know that people who smoke joints can experience extreme anxiety (panic attacks) or psychotic reactions (where they lose touch with reality and may become paranoid)? And people can and do injure themselves because of marijuana's effects on judgment, perception, and coordination. For example, marijuana affect the skills you need to drive (e.g., concentration, reaction time) so people can injure themselves and others if they drive while under the influence. For more information on marijuana, see: www.drugabuse.gov/ResearchReports/Marijuana/default.html. Thanks for sending us your question and keeping it lively!
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 jbarajas - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: what is the most common age groups that die because of the drug abuse?

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: The group that dies the most from overdoses is people from age 25-54---with the highest rate  being from 45-54. Many of these are people who started drug use when they were younger, became addicted, led a difficult life of addiction, and eventually their luck ran out. Others are people who started abusing prescripton drugs ---mostly painkillers---and became addicted. Some are people who had tried to quit drugs, and when they relapsed, took such a high dose it killed them.
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 mwise - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: what can i do to help a family member who smokes

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Thanks for the question mwise. It is hard when a family member you care about smokes. You can not make them do anything but you sure can help them. We have some advice for you on this website: http://www.smoking.drugabuse.gov/.
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 ijohnson - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: what does angel dust do to you

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Angel Dust is a slang term for phencyclidine (also called 'PCP').  This is a type of drug call a hallucinogen.  It can cause hallucinations (visions and experiences that aren't real) and great confusion, and can promote aggressiveness and suicidality.  It is not used that often, which is a very good thing! For more information about PCP, this is a great website: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/mom/mom_hal5.php.
Moderator Icon  Did you know that in 2006, prescription pain medications, like Vicodin, were involved in more overdose deaths that heroin and cocaine COMBINED? For more facts about drugs, read NIDA’s booklet made for teens---called Drugs: Shatter the Myths. You can find it (and even order it for free) at http://drugfactsweek.drugabuse.gov/booklet.php
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 1234 - GMG Community School, Iowa: What is salvia?????

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: A mind-altering herb, common to southern Mexico and Central and South America. See http://www.nida.nih.gov/infofacts/salvia.html for some interesting facts.
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 mhernandez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: what is in the white out that kills your brancells and how does it effect other parts of your body

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: With computers, who uses white out anymore?  I'm guessing you mean white out is used to get high from inhaling. 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. The lungs absorb inhaled chemicals into the bloodstream very quickly, sending them throughout the brain and body. Within minutes of inhalation, users feel 'high.' The effects are similar to those produced by alcohol and may include slurred speech, lack of coordination, euphoria, and dizziness. The high usually lasts only a few minutes. With repeated inhalations, many users feel less inhibited and less in control. Some may feel drowsy for several hours and experience a lingering headache.  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.

Inhalants also can damage brain cells by preventing them from receiving enough oxygen. The effects of this condition, also known as brain hypoxia, depend on the area of the brain affected. The hippocampus, for example, helps control memory, so someone who repeatedly abuses inhalants may lose the ability to learn new things or may have a hard time carrying on simple conversations. If the cerebral cortex is affected, the ability to solve complex problems and plan ahead will be compromised. And, if the cerebellum is affected, it can cause a person to move slowly or clumsily.

Inhalants can be addictive. Long-term use can lead to compulsive drug seeking and use, and mild withdrawal symptoms. For more information, go to: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_inhale1.php.
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 clopez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: when you drink.Is the digestive system the only body part that is affected

Expert Icon Aaron White: No, not at all. In fact, every organ in the body is affected by alcohol. This is particularly true for the nervous system, which includes the brain. Alcohol has both short-term and long-term effects on the brain. In the short-term, such as during a night of drinking, alcohol can do the following:

1. Frontal lobes - Alcohol turns off the frontal lobes, which are important for making good decisions and controlling our urges to do things that could ultimately be very bad for us. This increases the odds of getting into fights, getting injured, and taking dangerous risks.
2. Hippocampus - Alcohol suppresses the hippocampus, which is the brain area that makes our  memories. As a result, many people wake up the next day after drinking and have trouble remembering things that they did the night before.
3. Amygdala - The amygdala is in charge of warning us when we are in danger by making us feel afraid or anxious. Alcohol suppresses the amygdala, which makes it easier for us to do thing that normally would make us feel anxious or afraid. This increases the chances we will get hurt or do things we will regret.
4. Cerebellum - The cerebellum plays a big role in balance and walking. Alcohol impairs these abilities.
5. Brain stem - The brain stem contains areas important for keeping us alive. If these areas are shut off, such as by high levels of alcohol consumption (i.e., alcohol poisoning) we can die.

Alcohol also has long-term effects on the brain, particularly during the teen years. The teenage years are a very important time for development of the brain. The thinking parts, memory parts, and feeling parts are all changing when we are teenagers. Alcohol can interfere with these important changes and actually shrink the thinking and memory parts.

Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years can make an area of the brain called the frontal lobes smaller. The frontal lobes help us make decisions, think about things, and pay attention. Teenagers who drink a lot have problems with these things. Alcohol also can shrink the hippocampus, the area of the brain area that helps us learn and remember. Teenagers who drink a lot also have trouble with learning. We do not know yet whether these problems go away if the teenager stops drinking.

For weeks and months after a teenager stops drinking heavily, these parts of the brain still struggle to work correctly. It's not clear whether the brain ever fully heals itself. In addition, drinking at a young age makes it more likely to become an alcoholic later in life. So, drinking when we are young could have lots of negative effects on the brain!
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 cngo - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: when you use steroids can it affect your heart rate and etc.?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Yes, very much so.  And chronic use can lead to heart disease as well as dysfunction of many other parts of your body, including your brain.  Its better to stay away from steroids!
Moderator Icon  Stimulants like cocaine cause the body’s blood vessels to narrow, constricting the flow of blood, which forces the heart to work harder to pump blood through the body. The heart may work so hard that it temporarily loses its natural rhythm. This is why there have been many cases of people dying suddenly from heart attacks after using cocaine. More information on stimulants can be found here: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_stim2.php
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 zbhatti - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Why do drunk drivers usully surve car crashes when other victims usully dont?

Expert Icon Aaron White: This actually is not the case. Anyone involved in a drunk driving accident can be seriously injured or die.
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 zpacker - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: If you know someone who smokes and you want to help them what can you do?

Expert Icon Lori Ducharme: Great question, and it's great to see teens who really want to help the people they care about.  Here are a few resources you can use: Calling this national toll-free number, 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669), can get you information for quitting. Callers to the number are routed to their state’s smoking cessation quitline or to one maintained by the National Cancer Institute. In addition, a Web site—www.smokefree.gov—from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers online advice and downloadable information to make quitting easier.  Finally, you might want to check out the section of our teen website that has information about smoking -- it might give you some information that can help you be even more supportive of your family members:  http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_nicotine1.php.
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 sshs25 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: when you're drinking what cuases you to be drunk?

Expert Icon Aaron White: There are several types of alcohol. The one that people drink is called ethyl-alcohol, or ethanol. This type of alcohol is a very simple molecule that is so small that it can travel throughout the body as easily as water - that means it can go pretty much everywhere! The chemical formula for ethyl-alcohol is CH3-CH2-OH.

Alcohol is made when yeast, a single celled organism, eats sugar. Alcohol is produced by the yeast when it digests the sugar. The different types of alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, liquor) are different because of the source of sugar fed to the yeast. For instance, wine is made from the sugar in fruit. Liquors are often made from the sugar in vegetables.

Alcohol is a small molecule and gets into the brain very easily. Neurons, or brain cells, talk to each other using chemicals called 'neurotransmitters.' Alcohol interferes with the ability of neurons to talk to each other using neurotransmitters. Alcohol affects every part of the brain. When it affects neurons in brain areas involved in thinking and making good choices, the person has trouble thinking clearly and making good choices. When it affects memory areas in the brain, the person has trouble making memories.  It can also affect the part of the brain that controls our movement, making it more difficult to walk and focus.
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 fkhan - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: What if your family member is taking drugs like marijuana and you are worried that they can do something to you, what do you do--ignore them or go along with it?

Expert Icon Lori Ducharme: If you are worried about your own personal safety, then ignoring the problem is never a good idea.  Before you can effectively help a family member, you first have to help yourself.  For starters, don't put yourself in a situation that can end badly -- for example, don't get in a car with someone who's high, no matter what.  Find an adult ou trust -- a school guidance counselor, a favorite teacher, one of your friends' parents -- and seek advice from them, or a place to stay if necessary.  Take care.
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 wramirez - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: does doing drugs affect your sex life?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Yes, very much so.  Shakespeare said it best when he said that alcohol 'increases desire, but takes away performance'  That is pretty much the same story with all drugs.  And sex may initially seem better under the influence of the drugs, but over time taking the drugs can become more important than sex.  Worse yet, drugs can impair parts of your brain involved in judgement and decision making, so you may be more likely to engage in risky sexual actvities that can increase the possibility of contracting sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, herpes, and many other terrrible diseases. 
Moderator Icon  Wow! We are impressed by these great questions---we are answering them as fast as we can!
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 harry.h - Dulles Middle School, Texas: what will happen if babies drink alcohol?

Expert Icon Aaron White: That would be extremely dangerous. Because babies are so small, even a small amount of alcohol could be enough to kill them by suppressing activity in areas of the brain critical for keeping them alive.
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 24 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: y is alcohol so dangerouse

Expert Icon Aaron White: Alcohol is dangerous because it affects every organ system in the body, especially the central nervous system, which includes the brain. Alcohol has both short-term and long-term effects on the brain. In the short-term, such as during a night of drinking, alcohol can do the following:

1. Frontal lobes - Alcohol turns off the frontal lobes, which are important for making good decisions and controlling our urges to do things that could ultimately be very bad for us. This increases the odds of getting into fights, getting injured, and taking dangerous risks.
2. Hippocampus - Alcohol suppresses the hippocampus, which is the brain area that makes our  memories. As a result, many people wake up the next day after drinking and have trouble remembering things that they did the night before.
3. Amygdala - The amygdala is in charge of warning us when we are in danger by making us feel afraid or anxious. Alcohol suppresses the amygdala, which makes it easier for us to do thing that normally would make us feel anxious or afraid. This increases the chances we will get hurt or do things we will regret.
4. Cerebellum - The cerebellum plays a big role in balance and walking. Alcohol impairs these abilities.
5. Brain stem - The brain stem contains areas important for keeping us alive. If these areas are shut off, such as by high levels of alcohol consumption (i.e., alcohol poisoning) we can die.

Alcohol also has long-term effects on the brain, particularly during the teen years. The teenage years are a very important time for development of the brain. The thinking parts, memory parts, and feeling parts are all changing when we are teenagers. Alcohol can interfere with these important changes and actually shrink the thinking and memory parts.

Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years can make an area of the brain called the frontal lobes smaller. The frontal lobes help us make decisions, think about things, and pay attention. Teenagers who drink a lot have problems with these things. Alcohol also can shrink the hippocampus, the area of the brain area that helps us learn and remember. Teenagers who drink a lot also have trouble with learning. We do not know yet whether these problems go away if the teenager stops drinking.

For weeks and months after a teenager stops drinking heavily, these parts of the brain still struggle to work correctly. It's not clear whether the brain ever fully heals itself. In addition, drinking at a young age makes it more likely to become an alcoholic later in life. So, drinking when we are young could have lots of negative effects on the brain!
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 echan - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: How does drugs make you halllucinate?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Certain kinds of drugs, like pot or LSD are called hallucinogens, work in part by stimulating the brain's serotonin chemical system.  In addition, certain drugs release dopamine, such as amphetamine and cocaine, where too much sudden release of dopamine could cause hallucination. For some interesting facts about hallucinogens, visit http://teens.drugabuse.gov/mom/mom_hal1.php.
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 ijohnson - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: why does smoking make your teeth yellow?

Expert Icon Kris Bough: Cigarettes contain over 4000 different chemicals including 'tar'. Tar may stain your teeth over time. Be kind to your teeth...don't smoke!  For more info, please check out: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_nicotine1.php
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 Egrimes - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: What causes nicotine to be addictive?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Great question!  It is actually the nicotine in tobacco that is addictive. Each cigarette contains about 10 milligrams of nicotine. Nicotine attaches to acetylcholine receptors on neurons that release a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is released normally when you experience something pleasurable like good food, your favorite activity, or the company of people you love. But smoking cigarettes causes neurons to release extra dopamine, which is responsible for the feelings of pleasure. However, this effect wears off rapidly, causing people who smoke to get the urge to light up again for another dose of the drug.  Because the smoker inhales only some of the smoke from a cigarette, and not all of each puff is absorbed in the lungs, a smoker gets about 1 to 2 milligrams of the drug from each cigarette. Although that may not seem like much, it is enough to make someone addicted.  Hope this helps.
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 Bethanne C. - Pekin Community School, Iowa: How many people in the U.S.A take drugs?

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: Hello, Bethanne C!  According to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health about 9% of Americans ages 12 and older reported current (past month) drug use in 2010.  Though that translates to nearly 23 million people, it still means that more than 90% of Americans aren't using!
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 Thomas A - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: hello, i have a hobby that i have to use glue and paints with a strong fume and some times i feel high and when i looked at a list of inhalants i saw glue and paint!!!!! what do i do?????

Expert Icon Lori Ducharme: Hey there.  First, don't panic.  It's good that you recognize this effect and you can now protect yourself better when you are working on your hobby.  Paint and glue and other similar volatile substances are called inhalants and are breathable chemical vapors.  Some people intentionally inhale them because of the chemicals' mind-altering effects. If sufficient amounts are inhaled, you can experience a loss of sensation, and even unconsciousness.  However, we don't want anyone to give up a hobby they love -- just be careful.  If you read the instructions on your materials, they will surely say that you should only use them in a well-ventilated area -- you need open windows and fresh air circulating, or you can buy a mask that is made to help filter the air you're breathing.  And find a new space to work if needed -- it's not worth accidentally harming yourself.  See  http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_inhale1.php for more, and here's a blog on the subject: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/national-inhalants-poison-prevention-week-march-20-26-2011/.  
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 Turtle Brown - GMG Community School, Iowa: Can you die from smoking weed?

Expert Icon Kris Bough: Yes. Smoking weed affects your judgment and impairs your coordination--take an example of driving while being impaired by weed. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s study: in 2009, among fatally injured drivers, 14 percent tested positive for at least one drug (e.g., illicit --including marijuana, prescription, or over-the-counter), an increase from 13 percent in 2005.  Also, marijuana use canlead to emphysema, which can be deadly. For more info, please check out:  http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_mj1.php#what_is_ithttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001153/ 

Moderator Icon Interested in learning more about pregnancy and drug abuse?  Check out NIDA's Prenatal Exposure to Drugs of Abuse fact sheet: http://www.drugabuse.gov/tib/prenatal.html
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 zpacker - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: How many kids are doing drugs?

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: Hey, zpacker, good question.  The Monitoring the Future Study is a National survey conducted by the University of Michigan every year where they ask 8th, 10th, and 12th graders about their drug use behavior and attitudes.  In 2010, around 20% of 8th graders, 32% of 10th graders, and 39% of high school seniors reported they had used some type of drug in the past year (includes any use of marijuana, inhalants, LSD, other hallucinogens, crack, other cocaine, heroin, narcotics other than heroin, amphetamines, sedatives (barbiturates), or tranquilizers not under a doctor’s orders).  About 1/4 of high school seniors reported they had used in the past month.  Is that more students or fewer than you were expecting? And if you read between the lines you will see that most kids are NOT doing drugs.
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 unnamed4453 - Swanson Middle School, Virginia: Why are prescription drugs becoming more of a problem in our country?

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: One reason is that they are becoming more and more available--the numbers of prescription drugs have been rising, and people who report non-medical use (or abuse) of these drugs most often report getting them from friends or family members.  So they are available, and many people mistakenly believe they are safe since they are prescribed by a physician.  But they are not safe if they are not taken as directed or if they are not prescribed for you.  As a result we are seeing increases in treatment admissions, emergency room visits, and overdose deaths resulting from prescription drugs--especially opiate painkillers. 
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 egrimes - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: If you drink while pregnant, can the baby get drunk?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Drinking during pregnancy is quite risky and can seriously affect a baby's development. A developing fetus does not get drunk the same way an adult would, but a range of problems, the worst of which is called fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) can result. Babies born with FAS are not addicted to alcohol themselves, but they do have smaller brains, abnormal facial features, and often have life-long learning and behavioral problems. It is the leading preventable birth defect associated with mental and behavioral impairment in the United States today.
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 SSHS#9 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: How can you tell when someone is on drugs?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi and thanks for the question. The main change is a change in the person's behavior; they are either more active or more sedated than usual. All of us have a day or two that we are a little different but you can tell when it is continuous and affects grades, the person does not want to go out with friends, is secretive and/or changes their friends. There are other physical signs like needle marks, but that is extreme and behavior change is the most common.
PollI have been to parties where parents serve alcohol to kids.
31% - Yes
53% - No
15% - Maybe
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 harry.h - Dulles Middle School, Texas: about how many childeren use alchol or drugs?????

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: The Monitoring the Future Study is a survey conducted by the University of Michigan every year where they ask 8th, 10th, and 12th graders about their drug use behavior and attitudes.  In 2010, around 20% of 8th graders, 32% of 10th graders, and 39% of high school seniors reported they had used some type of drug in the past year (includes any use of marijuana, inhalants, LSD, other hallucinogens, crack, other cocaine, heroin, narcotics other than heroin, amphetamines, sedatives (barbiturates), or tranquilizers not under a doctor’s orders).  In the same study 29% of 8th graders, 52% of 10th graders, and 65% of high school seniors reported having used alcohol at some point in the past year and about 12% of 8th, 30% of 10th, and 44% of 12th graders reported they had been drunk in the past year.
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 aamy - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: why is tobacco popular?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Thanks for your question.  First, the good news: Smoking is at historically low levels among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, according to NIDA’s Monitoring the Future study. The bad news is that the decline in youth smoking appears to be leveling off. In 2010, rates for smoking in the past month were reported as 19.2 percent for 12th graders, 13.6 percent for 10th graders, and 7.1 percent for 8th graders. Use of smokeless tobacco had been showing a decline over the past decade—until 2009, when use began to rise. According to the study, in 2010 current use of smokeless tobacco among 8th graders was 4.1 percent and 7.5 percent among 10th graders. Among 12th graders, 8.5 percent reported using smokeless tobacco in the last month, a number not seen since the late 1990s.

There are many reasons that people start smoking. Research has shown that drug use is about 50% genetic and 50% environmental and other factors.  So, they may have been from a family of many smokers, or they are around environments that encourage smoking. For example, if people see other people doing it, they might think it's cool. Stress is also a reason why many people say they smoke. What they may not know, though, is that smoking is addictive--once you start, it is VERY difficult to stop.  And, it's not cool.  For more information, see: www.drugabuse.gov/tib/genetics.html and http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/real-teens-ask-addiction-hereditary/

 
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 ggaibort - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: jen5858 (Jim Bjork): why is it bad to inhale sharpies and nail polish and other stuff of that sort

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi and thanks for the question, Inhalants are some of the most dangerous drugs around. They are one of the few classes of drugs that cause irreversible brain damage the first time they are used. See: http://www.nida.nih.gov/DrugPages/Inhalants.html for more info.
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 sambw1996 - The Blake School, Minnesota: How does sniffing glue harm the body?

Expert Icon Kris Bough: Inhalants - like those coming from sniffing glue - are breathable chemical vapors that users intentionally inhale to get high. The substances inhaled are often common household products that contain volatile solvents, or aerosols. Most inhalants produce a rapid high that resembles alcohol intoxication. For more info, please check out: http://www.nida.nih.gov/drugpages/inhalants.html; Want to know what other teens think about inhalants?  Check out - http://www.teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_inhale1.php
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 jbarajas - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: what is the most common type of drug used in the U.S?

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: Nicotine and alcohol are the most commonly used drugs, but marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the US.  According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health more than 17% of Americans ages 12 and older report current (past month) marijuana use.
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 J Nguyen - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Can you slap the drug addict out of them?

Expert Icon Lori Ducharme: Well, our treatment system would be a lot less expensive if slapping worked, but we don't have any evidence that it would succeed as a long-term strategy!  Recovery from drug addiction is a complex process -- NIDA scientists have spent years researching medications as well as behavioral (counseling) strategies that work for people with drug addiction problems.  To learn more about science-based drug abuse treatment, check out our publication, 'Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment,' at http://www.nida.nih.gov/PODAT/PODATIndex.html.
Moderator Icon  Do the actors in your favorite movie smoke? Research says that teens who see a lot of smoking in movies are more likely to start smoking themselves. Sometimes characters smoke to look edgy and rebellious; but sometimes it’s just about “product placement”— the tobacco industry trying to get into your head and your pockets.
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 mbrennan14 - Cathedral High School, Indiana: what are some of the effects of desomorphine?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hey and thanks for the question. Desomorphine is some bad stuff. It is not common in the US, thank goodness but I found some interesting information on the English version of the Russian website Pravda:
'Desomorphine is widely spread in Russia nowadays. It is much more dangerous than heroine or other types of opium drugs. A heroine addict has a chance to become cured of his or her addiction - it is possible in 3 of 100 cases. Desomorphine kills all of its victims and it kills them very quickly. A heroine addict may live up to six or seven years. The life of a desomorphine addict is much shorter - two years maximum. Some may take it for five years, but many people die after taking their first dose of this drug.'
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 Semaj N - Cathedral High School, Indiana: How many people die from weed a year?

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: Not sure--but about 14% of fatal accidents involve marijuana.  That's the most common reason for weed fatalities.
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 etinoco - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: how many times a day is some on killed from drugs

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: Are you good at math? Every year, 36,000 people die from accidental drug overdoses---so that means about 1000 people a day.
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 iwhite - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: What causes withdrawal, from heroin, to be so excruciating?

Expert Icon Dave White: Heroin belongs to a class of drugs called opiates. Opiate withdrawal refers to the wide range of phsyiological (fever, nausea, diarrhea, increased sensitivity to pain) and psychological symptoms that occur after stopping or dramatically reducing opioids like heroin, morphine, and oxycontin which have been taken for a long time or in large quantities.  These drugs can cause physical dependence, which means that the person eventually needs to rely on the drugs to prevent symptoms of withdrawal (eg., the shakes, sweats). Over time, one also needs to take more drug to produce the same effect. For more information on heroin and heroin withdrawal:
http://www.drugabuse.gov/infofacts/heroin.html
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 cperez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: what would happen if u were pregnant and drank

Expert Icon Aaron White: Drinking during pregnancy is quite risky and can seriously affect a baby's development. A range of problems, the worst of which is called fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) can result. Babies born with FAS are not addicted to alcohol themselves, but they do have smaller brains, abnormal facial features, and often have life-long learning and behavioral problems. It is the leading preventable birth defect associated with mental and behavioral impairment in the United States today.
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 sshs25 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: how many teachers are alcoholics

Expert Icon Aaron White: Not sure!
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 aromero - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: could you die from drinking alchohol?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Yes. If you drink enough alcohol, parts of the brain that are important for keeping us alive can shut down. Then, your heart will stop beating and you can stop breathing. In essence, it's like alcohol flips a switch and shuts the body off. You can also die from injuries sustained while doing dangerous things while drinking.
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 dcano - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: since when have people used marijuana?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Hard to say when it was first used, but there is archeological evidence that  marijuana may have been used thousands of years ago.
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 candelario.v - M.R. Wood Center for Learning (alternative school), Texas: Does weed really have chemicals?

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: yes, lots of them.  THC--tetrahydrocannabinol--is the one that is most well known because its the main chemical that gives marijuana its effects on mood and memory, etc.  But there are other cannabinoids also found in marijuana and other chemicals that have not been identified or studied for their health effects. Different plants have different amounts of these chemicals.
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 jvu - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Is there different ingredients in different kinds of alcohol?

Expert Icon Aaron White: All alcoholic beverages contain the same key ingredient -- ethyl alcohol. However, the other ingredients can differ greatly. For instance, wine is made from grapes and so contains grapes. Beer is made from grains and thus does not contain grapes. Vodka is made from potatoes and so is quite different than wine and beer.
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 sshs8 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: what makes you so intoxicated in alcohol?

Expert Icon Aaron White: There are several types of alcohol. The one that people drink is called ethyl-alcohol, or ethanol. This type of alcohol is a very simple molecule that is so small that it can travel throughout the body as easily as water - that means it can go pretty much everywhere! The chemical formula for ethyl-alcohol is CH3-CH2-OH.

Alcohol is made when yeast, a single celled organism, eats sugar. Alcohol is produced by the yeast when it digests the sugar. The different types of alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, liquor) are different because of the source of sugar fed to the yeast. For instance, wine is made from the sugar in fruit. Liquors are often made from the sugar in vegetables.

Alcohol is a small molecule and gets into the brain very easily. Neurons, or brain cells, talk to each other using chemicals called 'neurotransmitters.' Alcohol interferes with the ability of neurons to talk to each other using neurotransmitters. Alcohol affects every part of the brain. When it affects neurons in brain areas involved in thinking and making good choices, the person has trouble thinking clearly and making good choices. When it affects memory areas in the brain, the person has trouble making memories.  It can also affect the part of the brain that controls our movement, making it more difficult to walk and focus.
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 peanuts - Rochester Adams High School, Michigan: Is methylone bad for you ?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Yes...just like all other drugs of abuse. The DEA has banned methylone, and this drug is not regulated by the FDA. This mean you are taking a huge risk if you take it. 
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 JKing - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: how does rehab help a drug addict recover?

Expert Icon Lori Ducharme: Hey JKing -- 'rehab' is usually how we refer to some kind of formal drug treatment program, which can involve either inpatient (overnight, many nights, under medical supervision) or outpatient (counseling, a couple hours at a time, one or several days a week).  The intensity of the treatment varies depending on the person, the drug(s) involved, and how big the problem is. But in all cases, rehab provides people with a variety of supports to get their lives back together -- these can involve one or more medications to ease withdrawal symptoms or help prevent relapse to drug use; behavioral (counseling) therapy that teaches new skills such as how to deal with 'triggers' that may tempt someone to use again; and even support services to help people get the rest of their lives stable-- like getting legal assistance if they need it, finding job training, etc.  The best programs consider how drug abuse affects all of these aspects of a person's life and tries to get them back on track.  Thanks for your question!
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 jburleson - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: when you inhail what is it that makes you dizzy ?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: I usually just inhale air--what are you inhaling??  There are drugs, called inhalants that can make you dizzy if you inhale them. They seem harmless, but they can actually be quite dangerous. 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. The lungs absorb inhaled chemicals into the bloodstream very quickly, sending them throughout the brain and body. Within minutes of inhalation, users feel 'high.' The effects are similar to those produced by alcohol and may include slurred speech, lack of coordination, euphoria, and dizziness. The high usually lasts only a few minutes. With repeated inhalations, many users feel less inhibited and less in control. Some may feel drowsy for several hours and experience a lingering headache.  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.

Inhalants also can damage brain cells by preventing them from receiving enough oxygen. The effects of this condition, also known as brain hypoxia, depend on the area of the brain affected. The hippocampus, for example, helps control memory, so someone who repeatedly abuses inhalants may lose the ability to learn new things or may have a hard time carrying on simple conversations. If the cerebral cortex is affected, the ability to solve complex problems and plan ahead will be compromised. And, if the cerebellum is affected, it can cause a person to move slowly or clumsily.

Inhalants can be addictive. Long-term use can lead to compulsive drug seeking and use, and mild withdrawal symptoms. For more information, go to: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_inhale1.php.
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 sambw1996 - The Blake School, Minnesota: How long do the effects of different drugs last?

Expert Icon Kris Bough: All drugs of abuse can have long-lasting effects on the body and brain. But, if a person is able to quit, these effects can gradually begin to return to normal over a period of several weeks to months. The damage done to the body or brain depends on the drug of abuse and how long and/or frequently a person may have taken that drug. Drugs can affect the way the brain functions and how brain cells send and receives messages. A person that is dependent on cocaine for example can have abnormal brain function for several months before the brain can slowly recover (http://www.nida.nih.gov/scienceofaddiction/sciofaddiction.pdf) and there is evidence that long-term cocaine use can result in impaired heart function (http://www.drugabuse.gov/NIDA_notes/NNvol21N5/RIB.html). Also, hallucinogens can cause people to have flashbacks, without warning, well after using them (sometimes up to a year or more after)!
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 zpacker - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: What cause the brain to know it needs more drugs?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: What causes the brain to feel like it 'needs' or craves more drug are probably two things.  First, it could be cues in the environment, like a familiar liquor store, or a corner or other location of a dealer, that the brain has come to associate with the drug taking and ultimately, the 'high'.  This is a powerful brain circuit once it's been trained into the brain.  Second, it could be the down feelings of being in withdrawal from a drug when a person is completely hooked on it.  In other words, feelings of depression or anxiety.

It is crucial that people never get to that point!  Most recreational drug or alcohol users never lose control like this, but tragically, all too many do.
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 jdcastellanos - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: if a women is pregnant and she uses drugs would it effect the babys brain health?

Expert Icon Cora Lee Wetherington: Hello Gilder Prep.  I just answered a similar question from another student at your school.  So here's what I said: We do not know if a baby in the womb gets high when the mom smokes marijuana, but we do know that the active ingredient in marijuana do get into the baby's brain where it can affect the baby and later during childhood and longer. Illegal drugs used during pregnancy, such as cocaine and marijuana, have been associated with a variety of adverse effects, though more research is needed to draw causal connections. Effects may be subtle and generally range from low birth weight to developmental deficits affecting behavior and cognition. For example, impaired attention, language, and learning skills, as well as behavioral problems, have been seen in children exposed to cocaine and marijuana, all of which can affect success in school.  So, although we do not know whether a baby gets high when the mom uses illegal drugs during pregnancy and when she smokes during pregancy, the baby is at risk for unwanted outcomes during development.  Here's a link that talks about risks of prenatal drug exposure: http://www.drugabuse.gov/tib/prenatal.html
Hope this is helpful!
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 big papi 2 - Einstein High School, Maryland: I have heard that prescription drugs are less dangerous than street drugs. Is there any truth to that?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi and thanks for the question, Many people think that since they are from a legal drug store they are safer. While the dose is more stable with prescription medications, unfortunately more people are now dying from prescription drugs than street drugs. So it is not really true that they are safer since more people are dying. Please take a look at our web site: http://drugabuse.gov/drugpages/prescription.html.
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 sambw1996 - The Blake School, Minnesota: My grandfather died of empheseyma? What is this?

Expert Icon Kris Bough: Emphysema is sometimes also referred to as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and can result in the destruction of the lungs over time. COPD develops over time as a consequence of a person's smoking cigarettes or other drugs (e.g., crack cocaine, marijuana). Other risk factors for COPD can include exposure to heavy amounts of secondhand smoke and pollution. For more info, please check out: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001153/ 

Moderator Icon  We are getting thousands of questions from teens all over the country and outside the U.S. We are working as fast as we can to answer them---so please be patient! If your questions don’t get answered while you are waiting you will be able to search the transcript for your school’s name (or your user name) to see if your questions got answered! The transcript will be posted in about a week.
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 jprice - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: if you get addicted to a prescription medicine can you keep going back to get more ?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi jprice. If you get addicted you cannot just go get more, you will have to slowly wean off the medicine or you may just not be able to get any and have to go 'cold turkey' which is very unpleasant. The best thing to do is not get addicted. Take only if prescribed and take as directed. Take a look at our site on prescription medications: http://drugabuse.gov/drugpages/prescription.html.
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 srose - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: How many people die from drugs in the U.S every year.

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: Good question, srose , but kind of a hard one to answer. The use of drugs can be associated with dying in various ways. Deaths related to drugs can be due to overdose, suicide, homicide, accidents, and infection or other chronic illness. The Centers for Disease Control reports that in 2008 that there were more than 36,000 deaths due to drug overdose (both intentional and unintentional). And---did you  know that there were more overdoses from prescription drugs than from heroin and cocaine combined? Additionally, about 5,000 people under age 21 die each year from injuries caused by underage drinking, nearly 40% in car crashes.
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 maddiec - Project Change Recovery High School, Wisconsin: Can people who suffer from non-prescription drug addiction be prescribed to prescription drugs?

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: Yes--but they may require additional medical monitoring.  People who are in chronic pain for example may need to be treated with opioid medications, however they would need to also be in treatment for their substance abuse problem and would need additional monitoring by their prescribing physician to prevent a worsening the patient's condition.  Also, people may need other types of (non-addictive) prescription drugs to help them recover from their addiction--e.g., drugs to treat a co-occurring mental disorder, like depression. 
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 wramirez - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: could a baby in the womb get high by their mother smoking marijuana???

Expert Icon Cora Lee Wetherington: Hey Golder College Prep HS.  You've asked a really interesting question, one for which we do not have an answer. We do not know if a baby in the womb gets high when the mom smokes marijuana, but we do know that the active ingredient in marijuana do get into the baby's brain where it can affect the baby and later during childhood and longer. Illegal drugs used during pregnancy, such as cocaine and marijuana, have been associated with a variety of adverse effects, though more research is needed to draw causal connections. Effects may be subtle and generally range from low birth weight to developmental deficits affecting behavior and cognition. For example, impaired attention, language, and learning skills, as well as behavioral problems, have been seen in children exposed to cocaine and marijuana, all of which can affect success in school.  So, although we do not know whether a baby gets high when the mom uses illegal drugs during pregnancy and when she smokes during pregancy, the baby is at risk for unwanted outcomes during development.  Here's a link that talks about risks of prenatal drug exposure: http://www.drugabuse.gov/tib/prenatal.html
Moderator Icon  Between 2001 and 2005, 480 kids under 21 died as a result of alcohol-related suicides.
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 aescobar - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: can a young child get affected by alcohol because iheard that one did some how

Expert Icon Aaron White: Drinking can affect children in many ways:

During pregnancy
Drinking while you are pregnant can seriously affect a baby's development. A range of problems, the worst of which is called fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) can result. Babies born with FAS are not addicted to alcohol themselves, but they do have smaller brains, abnormal facial features, and often have life-long learning and behavioral problems. It is the leading preventable birth defect associated with mental and behavioral impairment in the United States today.

As a child
Having parents who are alcoholics does increase your chances of becoming an alcoholic at some point. In general, a child with close relatives who are alcoholics are twice as likely to become an alcoholic than a child without alcoholic relatives. 
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 aromero - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: women who drink when they are pregnant, does that mean babies are always affected by it if they drink?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Not always, but drinking during pregnancy is quite risky and can seriously affect a baby's development. A range of problems, the worst of which is called fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) can result. Babies born with FAS are not addicted to alcohol themselves, but they do have smaller brains, abnormal facial features, and often have life-long learning and behavioral problems. It is the leading preventable birth defect associated with mental and behavioral impairment in the United States today.
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 fc bobcats - First Colony Middle School, Texas: Is there a way to make smoking good for you?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Nope.  Burning material produces chemicals that are harmful the body. Even the so called 'e-cigarretes' still deliver nicotine, which is both addictive and has harmful physiological effects.  In fact, tobacco plants evolved to produce nicotine to kill the insects that feed on the tobacco plant.  So that should give you some idea of whether any cigarrette is good to smoke.
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 vmartinez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: How do steroids affect your sports-performance ability?

Expert Icon Ruben Baler: While anabolic steroids can enhance certain types of performance or appearance, they are dangerous drugs, and when used inappropriately they can cause a bunch of severe, long-lasting, and in some cases, irreversible negative health consequences--like heart attacks, strokes, liver tumors, kidney failure, and serious psychiatric problems. Not worth it.  See http://www.steroidabuse.gov/ for more.
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 harry.h - Dulles Middle School, Texas: when a person drinks does it affect their reproductive system

Expert Icon Aaron White: Yes, it certainly can. In females, alcohol alters the levels of the hormone estrogen, which can affect menstrual cycles. In males, alcohol decreases levels of testosterone, which can contribute to decreased growth. The long-term consequences are not known.
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 2341 - GMG Community School, Iowa: What are the signs of an addiction to drugs?

Expert Icon Kris Bough: Addiction is when a person begins to seek a drug compulsively, that is at the expense of school work, a persons job, cost, and/or the medical consequences of their continued use. For more info, please see: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_brain2.php#behavior
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 n-andrade - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: can sleeping pills hurt your brain if used more than 1 year?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Some sleeping pills are more dangerous than others.  This is why it is very important to use them under a doctor's supervision.  If you have concerns about this, or are using sleeping pills recreationally, stop.  If you have sleep problems, it is important to consult a specialist like a neurologist, who might prescribe an overnight observation and monitoring of your sleep.
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 SSHS7 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: why does maryjane get you high?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: 'High' is hard to define real well. When marijuana is smoked, the chemical THC gets into the brain and changes activates CB1 receptors, special molecules that detect the presence of cannabinoids. This activation changes brain function and produces the subjective impression of being high.
Adderall can be an effective medication to treat ADHD, but it can be dangerous when taken by those who are not prescribed it. What percentage of high school seniors report taking Adderall for non-medical reasons?
The correct answer is: D. 6.5%. According to NIDA's 2010 Monitoring the Future Survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, approximately 1 in 15 high school seniors reported taking Adderall in the past year for non-medical reasons, meaning they used someone else's prescription or they took it to get high. See more at: http://www.nida.nih.gov/infofacts/PainMed.html
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 dabrions - M.R. Wood Center for Learning (alternative school), Texas: Which drug is the worst of these:Marijauna, Alcohol, Cigarettes, Meth, Heroin. Which is the worst drug out of these.

Expert Icon Steve Grant: OMG, I feel like now I'm back in school faced with an impossible multiple choice question.  Let's see, you can die from an overdose of alcohol, meth or heroin.  Even if you don't overdose, excess alchohol can destroy your liver.  Meth can ruin your teeth and lead to heart disease.  Cigarettes can cause heart disease, emphysema and lung cancer, and heroin withdrawal is the worse kind of sick you can ever imagine. Marijuana smoking can also lead to lung disease, and long term use can lead to sleep problems.  So let me ask you, which do you think is worst ?
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 fkhan - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: what is cocaine made of and why does it effect us so much ?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Hi Fkhan....great question. Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant that directly affects the brain. It is one of the oldest known psychoactive substances. Coca leaves, the source of cocaine, have been chewed and ingested for thousands of years, and the purified chemical, cocaine hydrochloride, has been an abused substance for more than 100 years. Cocaine belongs to a class of drugs called 'stimulants,' because they usually make you feel euphoric, energetic, hyperstimulated, and mentally alert. The high from snorting may last 15 to 20 minutes, while smoking may last 5 to 10 minutes. Cocaine can also make you feel hypersensitive to touch, sights, and sounds. Some cocaine abusers report feelings of restlessness, irritability and anxiety. Some of the immediate effects after using cocaine include constricted blood vessels, dilated pupils, increased heart rate and blood pressure. Heavy doses can lead to violent behavior and users may experience tremors, vertigo, muscle twitches, and paranoia. As a user begins to increase the dose and/or the frequency of drug taking the duration and intensity of the high may lessen, and once it is over, users can feel very tired and depressed. Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug, and while it can make you feel high when you first use it, addiction is a very real albeit unpredictable possibility. Naturally, the wisest move is never to start.

See http://www.drugabuse.gov/ResearchReports/Cocaine/Cocaine.html for more information.

 

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 2341 - GMG Community School, Iowa: Can the effects of drugs last your whole life?

Expert Icon Kris Bough: All drugs of abuse can have long-lasting effects on the body and brain. But, if a person is able to quit, these effects can gradually begin to return to normal over a period of several weeks to months. The damage done to the body or brain depends on the drug of abuse and how long and/or frequently a person may have taken that drug. Drugs can affect the way the brain functions and how brain cells send and receives messages. A person that is dependent on cocaine for example can have abnormal brain function for several months before the brain can slowly recover (http://www.nida.nih.gov/scienceofaddiction/sciofaddiction.pdf) and there is evidence that long-term cocaine use can result in impaired heart function (http://www.drugabuse.gov/NIDA_notes/NNvol21N5/RIB.html). Also, hallucinogens can cause people to have flashbacks, without warning, well after using them (sometimes up to a year or more after)!
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 davonc - M.R. Wood Center for Learning (alternative school), Texas: why are t.v. comercials and movies being allowed to show teens and others drug use,knowing the effects of using them?!!!

Expert Icon Carol Krause: Wow we have a lot of savvy kids asking questions today. These shows are allowed to show teens using drugs because we live in a country that protects freedom of speech and expression. A lot of people think TV shows and movies are 'art' and we whould not limit artistic expression. However, some of the producers of these shows use stories that they think will attract kids and get good ratings---including stories about drugs and sex. However, even though a lot of these shows are popular with teens, they do not necessarily reflect the way all teens feel. And thank goodness we have smart teens like you who understand what is going on!
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 OMGBECKY - Pekin Community School, Iowa: Would you consider the choking game a drug?

Expert Icon Ruben Baler: No, just dumb risk-taking.
Moderator Icon The Office of National Drug Control Policy provides information specifically for young people. Go to http://www.abovetheinfluence.com/ to find an interactive drug prevention site for youth.
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 aromero - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: is it possible for someone to stop being addicted to nicotine?

Expert Icon Dave White: As you probably know nicotine is highly addictive, there are medications and strategies that can help someone get past the addiction. NIDA is working to increase the number of options, too--for example, by developing and testing anti-nicotine vaccines. For more information see:
 http://www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/Nicotine.html.
http://www.smoking.drugabuse.gov/
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 dsalinas - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: can you lose loss of memory when you take marijuana

Expert Icon Ruben Baler: Yes, in the short-term, marijuana has been shown to cause memory loss and problems with learning.  See http://www.drugabuse.gov/MarijBroch/teens/ for more.
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 fc bobcats - First Colony Middle School, Texas: How much of an advantage do athletes have when they use steroids?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Steriods are thought to help most by building up muscle mass, such as by reducing how the body can break down muscle, or by speeding up the recovery time from muscle micro-tears that happen as a normal part of strength training, enabling the weightlifter to lift more often, without as much recovery downtime.  This might have an advantage in brute strength, but not in coordination.  In other words, steroids probably won't help a baseball player hit the ball more often, but will help him swing harder to hit the ball harder. 

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 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. 

Athletes probably do have a short term advantage, but the risks of use are severe and are not worth it, in my opinion.
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 ????????? - Pekin Community School, Iowa: Do drugs make u not drive well?

Expert Icon Ruben Baler: Yes, drugs like alcohol and marijuana can impair your perception and motor coordination, both of which you need to drive well and react appropriately. For example, marijuana is the most common illegal drug found in drivers who die in accidents (around 14 percent of drivers), often in combination with alcohol or other drugs. Combining marijuana with drinking even a small amount of alcohol greatly increases driving danger, more than either drug alone. See http://www.drugabuse.gov/MarijBroch/teens/ for more. 
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 Ncortes - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: What Happeneds When You Suddenly Quit Smoking Meth ?

Expert Icon Dave White: Hi there - Once a person has stopped putting Meth into their body, the body reacts because it is used to having the drug to function. In most cases it takes between twenty four and forty eight hours for the drug to process through a person's system after the last dose is taken. While Meth withdrawal symptoms can be very intense, they are generally psychological in nature. The person going through the withdrawal process will experience symptoms of anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, and intense cravings for the drug. Check out these sites to learn more about Meth and drug treatment:
http://drugabuse.gov/infofacts/methamphetamine.html
http://www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov/

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 khalls - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: if drugs are prescribed by doctors why are the drugs so addictive?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: This is an important question. Some people think that a drug must be okay if doctors use it. They don't stop to think that doctors also cut people open. 
Doctors can prescribe drugs safely because they know how the drugs work, who they can help and hurt, and how much is a safe amount. They also monitor patients during therapy to make sure problems aren't starting to happen. People who take drugs on their own usually don't know what the drugs do in their bodies, whether they have some condition that makes the drug dangrous for them, or how much is too much. By the time they know that they have a problem, it may already be serious and difficult to reverse.
People who take opiates such as oxycontin or codeine without a prescription risk addiction and, if they overdose, potentially death. These drugs also cause drowsiness, which can be dangerous when driving or in other situations that require alertness. People who take stimulants such as amphetamine without a doctor's prescription risk addiction and potentially permanent reductions their memory and thinking ability.For more information check out: http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugpages/prescription.html.
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 klheuer - north carroll middle, Maryland: What is the statistics for the number of kids killed by drug abuse in state of maryland

Expert Icon Michelle Leff: Good question.  I'm not sure about the number of teen deaths associated with drug abuse, however, a recent CDC report estimates that the rate of drug overdose in Maryland was 11.9 deaths/100,000 persons in 2008. 
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 fc bobcats - First Colony Middle School, Texas: Why is it so hard for people to quit tobacco?

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Great question!  Nicotine is among the most addicting drugs.  Smoking gets so intertwined with many of life's behaviors that it becomes an integral part of someone's everyday behavior.  So, in addition to the physical addiction, there are strong psychological and behavioral issues that make it very difficult to quit smoking.

That said, many people are successful at quitting.  For more information on quitting, talk with your doctor, or call 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669).  You can find more information on nicotine addiction at: http://smoking.drugabuse.gov/.
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 Bethanne C. - Pekin Community School, Iowa: Are more teens likely to take drugs if there parents are telling them constantly not to take drugs or are they more likely to take drugs if there parents don't bring it up?

Expert Icon Bethany Deeds: Howdie Bethanne--thanks for submitting a terrific question.

Parents can have a tremendous positive influence on teens’ decisions to not drink and use drugs by communicating risks of drugs/alcohol, role-playing how to avoid peer pressure, encouraging their children to participate in extra-curriular acivities, etc. It isn't always easy to talk about serious subjects, so sometimes parents and kids might be uncomfortable.  It helps to get the facts and we have great resources online.  Go to www.teens.drugabuse.gov for science-based information that parents can share too. There are teacher and parent resources on our main website as well: http://www.drugabuse.gov/parent-teacher.html
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 sjoaquin - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: What are the possibilities of getting lung cancer by second hand smoking?

Expert Icon Carol Krause: You must be a really smart kid---a lot of teens do not make that connection. More than 50,000 people die from illnesses related to second hand smoke, including lung cancer.
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 Anna M - Einstein High School, Maryland: Why does it kill to many brain cells?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Research to date in rodents, and in brain scans of humans shows that alcohol and pretty much ALL drugs of abuse will change the brain's gray matter in one region or other-- yes, even marijuana.  Whether this is due to neurons actually dying or just shrinking and no longer connecting to as many other neurons is not well known yet.
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 jprice - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Are schitzophrnic people crazy in the mind but still smart?

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: Someone who has schizophrenia can certainly also be smart, but their illness can sometimes mask that.  John Nash is an example--he won the Nobel prize in economics and also suffers from schizophrenia.  'A beautiful mind' is a book/movie that tells his story.
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 dabrions - M.R. Wood Center for Learning (alternative school), Texas: Who answers the questions please( What are their qualifications ) !!!!

Expert Icon Carol Krause: Good question---have you been reading the biographies of our scientists that we have been posting throughout this CHAT? We have a strong foundation of science behind our answers here today. Over the past 30 years NIDA has contributed to and participated in most of the world's research on drug abuse and addiction. Our scientists are among the most knowledgeable in the world about drug abuse issues, and keep up-to-date on studies about prevention, treatment and the effects that drug abuse and addiction have on our health status, our culture and our world. Most of our scientists have advanced college degrees, usually Ph.Ds or M.D. degrees, which take many, many years of education and years of work in labs and clinics. Because each scientist answers CHAT DAY questions independently, there might be some variations in how they answer. However, science has taught us a  great deal about drugs in recent decades, and we are committed to sharing that information with the younger generation. We might not be as LOUD as the pro-drug messages you hear in music, the movies or on the Internet, which are usually there to sell records and tickets. We, on the other hand, are selling nothing but science.  Our Web site, drugabuse.gov, is filled with science-based information on drugs.
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 1234 - GMG Community School, Iowa: Is heroin bad for you?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Yes, heroin is very bad for you.  It is highly addictive, even though you may not think so at first. Addiction creeps up on you slowly, and by the time you realize it, you can be in way over your head. Worse yet, when you stop, the withdrawal syndrome can be the worst kind of sick you have ever had (google 'cold turkey').  If you don't stop, heroin will cause many problems and there is always a risk of dying from an overdose everytime you take it.  If you are ever offered heroin, run away as fast as you can and don't look back.
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 1234 - GMG Community School, Iowa: Can you die if you smoke marijuana everyday?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: It is unhealthy to smoke marijuana, and the more you smoke the more unhealthy it is. The smoke in marijuana has many of the same chemicals present in tobacco smoke. In terms of composition it is comparably dangerous and hazardous to your respiratory health
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 etinoco - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: are all drugs sold on the streets clean

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: It is always a big gamble to buy drugs on the street.  You really cannot be sure what you are getting.  Very often they are not what sellers say they are or are contaminated with other chemicals.  Dosage is also an unkown: for example, there are many reports of people getting sick or dying from heroin doses that were stronger than they could tolerate. 
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 Bethanne C. - Pekin Community School, Iowa: What are the main causes for a person to start smoking?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Hello Bethanne in Iowa.  Thanks for your question.  There are many reasons that people start smoking. Research has shown that drug use is about 50% genetic and 50% environmental and other factors.  So, they may have been from a family of many smokers, or they are around environments that encourage smoking. For example, if people see other people doing it, they might think it's cool. Stress is also a reason why many people say they smoke. What they may not know, though, is that smoking is addictive--once you start, it is VERY difficult to stop.  And, it's not cool.  For more information, see: www.drugabuse.gov/tib/genetics.html and http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/real-teens-ask-addiction-hereditary/

 
Moderator Icon  Some people think becoming addicted to a drug is just a character flaw, but it’s not. The first time people use drugs, it’s usually a conscious decision they’ve made. But once people become addicted, they are dealing with a difficult brain disease.
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 Hank H - Harrisburg High School, Arkansas: How does propane get you high?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: The high is mostly the result of your brain not getting enough oxygen, not a good thing!!!
Propane is classed as an inhalant, along with chemical vapors from liquids like paint thinner, gasoline, and glue. All inhalants are very dangerous. Your lungs absorb inhaled chemicals into the bloodstream very quickly, sending them throughout the brain and body. Along with your 'high,' sniffing inhalants may result in addiction and death from heart failure or suffocation (inhalants displace oxygen in the lungs). 

You can get more information from our teen site at http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_inhale1.php
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 jwarthen - Kingswood Regional Middle School, New Hampshire: what is worse if you are riding in a car with a person that is high or if you are riding in a car with a person that wants you to do drugs?

Expert Icon Ruben Baler: Either way, you put yourself in danger--check out our book for teens to dispel some of the myths about drug use: http://drugfactsweek.drugabuse.gov/files/teenbrochure_508.pdf
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 zpacker - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Can some prescription drugs kill you?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi and thanks for the question. Yes, prescription medications can be dangerous if not taken as directed. In fact, more people died in the US of prescription drugs than died in car accidents in 2009. Please take a look at the information available at our site: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/peerx/the-facts.
Moderator Icon  No---everybody is NOT doing it. Only about 20% of 12th graders say they have smoked pot in the past month.
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 katiejs - Project Change Recovery High School, Wisconsin: Does ecstasy really put holes in your brain?

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: No--but it does change how the brain works.  All drugs do, especially when you use them over and over. 
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 jcarson - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: How can smoking weed everyday effect your body?

Expert Icon Dave White: jcarson, the short-term negative effects of weed (marijuana) can include distorted perceptions of reality, an inability to think clearly, and loss of coordination.  Some folks also experience increased heart rate, anxiety, paranoia and even panic attacks!  Long-term use can produce adverse physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral effects.  And despite what people think, it can even be addictive! Prolonged weed use has been associated with a number of mental conditions (e.g. schizophrenia, depression), even though it's not known if it can actually cause mental illness.  For more information check this link out:http://www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/Marijuana.html.
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 SSHS6 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: What can marijuana do to your brain?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: 'THC', tetrahydrocannabinol, is the active molecule in Marijuana.  This molecule is very similar in shape to a set of molecules that naturally float around in the brain.  These molecules fit into 'receptors' on brain cells, like a key into a lock.  While THC can make people feel high, it has a downside too.  A part of the base of the brain called the hippocampus, which helps form memories and remember them, has a very large number or concentration of these 'locks'- - this means that when people smoke pot, they're especially disrupting this region of the brain, and therefore memory.  THC also causes changes in the brain's gray matter. When pot users try to perform a memory task while their brain is getting scanned, it shows that they have to use different and more parts of the brain to get the task done, as though their stoned brains need to work harder.  Some of these problems can get better when people stop using.
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 SSHS21 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: why do drugs effect your brain the way they do?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Here's one example- 'THC', tetrahydrocannabinol, is the active molecule in Marijuana.  This molecule is very similar in shape to a set of molecules that naturally float around in the brain.  These molecules fit into 'receptors' on brain cells, like a key into a lock.  While THC can make people feel high, it has a downside too.  A part of the base of the brain called the hippocampus, which helps form memories and remember them, has a very large number or concentration of these 'locks'- - this means that when people smoke pot, they're especially disrupting this region of the brain, and therefore memory.  THC also causes changes in the brain's gray matter. When pot users try to perform a memory task while their brain is getting scanned, it shows that they have to use different and more parts of the brain to get the task done, as though their stoned brains need to work harder.  Some of these problems can get better when people stop using.

Other drugs like meth or ecstasy artificially stimulate the happiness parts of the brain that normally use a chemical called serotonin.  They can make a person feel great while high, but then, the brain makes adjustments, such that the user can feel real down and depressed if the drug is no longer present.
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 chase8148 - GMG Community School, Iowa: what other drugs are xathine alkaloid's

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Caffeine is the most well know xanthine alkaloid.  But I have to say that I am impressed by your question!  Xantine alkaloids are found many plants and foods, including tea and chocolate.  Sounds like you are on your way to a career in neuropharmacology!
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 cngo - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: how does alcohol affect your children?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Drinking can affect children in many ways:

During pregnancy
Drinking while you are pregnant can seriously affect a baby's development. A range of problems, the worst of which is called fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) can result. Babies born with FAS are not addicted to alcohol themselves, but they do have smaller brains, abnormal facial features, and often have life-long learning and behavioral problems. It is the leading preventable birth defect associated with mental and behavioral impairment in the United States today.

As a child
Having parents who are alcoholics does increase your chances of becoming an alcoholic at some point. In general, a child with close relatives who are alcoholics are twice as likely to become an alcoholic than a child without alcoholic relatives. 
PollI have had someone offer me a prescription painkiller when I had no pain.
21% - Yes
73% - No
7% - Maybe
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 fc bobcats - First Colony Middle School, Texas: Do drugs rapidly spread in your body as soon as you use them?

Expert Icon Kris Bough: This is a great question!
How quickly a drug spreads throughout the body depends on many things, specifically on how the drug is injested (e.g., by mouth in a pill [slower] or injected directly into the blood stream [much more quickly]). Some drugs, for example, like nicotine, if smoked, can reach the brain within 10-15 seconds!!
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 sambw1996 - The Blake School, Minnesota: Is meth a stimulant or a depressant?

Expert Icon Carol Krause: Meth is a stimulant---we have lots of information at http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugpages/methamphetamine.html
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 ablanco - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: whats the difference between medicinal marijuana and the ones off the street?

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: there is no difference
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 Bethanne C. - Pekin Community School, Iowa: Can you get any kind of cancer from drugs or drinking?

Expert Icon Kris Bough: Yes. Smoking, for example, is highly correlated with lung cancer. In fact, smokers are about 10 to 20 times more likely to get lung cancer and about 90% of lung cancer deaths in men and almost 80% of lung cancer deaths in women are due to smoking. Also, chewing tobacco and alcohol, for example, can lead to oral cancers of the mouth and throat. For more information, check out: http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/DietandPhysicalActivity/alcohol-use-and-cancer  
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 DevinD - Pekin Community School, Iowa: Does glue make you high?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: The chemicals in glue can make you dizzy and disoriented, which I guess some people would consider to be a high of some sort.  But huffing glue is really, really dangerous.  Seriously.  I don't usually say that drugs kill brain cells, but in this case it is true.  Toulene and other chemicals in glue are very toxic and can quickly lead to long term brain damage, and even death.
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 23 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: wats the percentage of people getting killed by drinking and driving?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Each year, more than 10,000 people die in car crashes due to drinking and driving.

In short, alcohol + driving = bad news!! 
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 teacher 48 - GMG Community School, Iowa: You answered a question about drugs and ADD. How about drugs mixed with allergy medicines?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi and thanks for the question. Mixing drugs and/or medications is just not good to do. The interactions are unpredictable and if you mix sedating drugs with allergy medication you can get more sedation and possibly stop breathing. See this for more info: http://www.nida.nih.gov/drugpages/prescription.html
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 mwise - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: why is it that alcohol makes a person drowsy

Expert Icon Aaron White: Alcohol is considered a 'central nervous system depressant', meaning it slows down brain activity. As a result, it can make a person feel very sleepy.

Interestingly, while alcohol makes people sleepy and might even make them fall asleep faster than normal, alcohol actually disrupts sleep. People who sleep after drinking alcohol do not sleep as long or as deeply as people who do not have alcohol before going to sleep. So, while alcohol does make people sleepy, it is not good for sleep.
Moderator Icon  Young people consume more than 90% of their alcohol by binge drinking. To learn more about peer pressure and alcohol use, check out this website: http://www.thecoolspot.gov/index.asp
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 1234 - GMG Community School, Iowa: What do I do if i am pressured by my friends to do drugs?

Expert Icon Carol Krause: Run for your life! All kidding aside, the decision you make could be a huge turning point in your life. It's like the fork in the road you read about in fairy tales. The path you take is truly important. First ask yourself why your friend wants you to take drugs--is it to help you have a good future or is it for a selfish reason? I think you know the answer to that.  Second, ask yourself what kind of person you want to be---one who thinks independently or one who gets talked into doing things, even though it could harm your health and get you into all kinds of trouble.Third, ask yourself if you are willing to risk your health just to please a friend who is trying to drag you into the no-win world of drugs.  When in that situation, simply say---'no thanks, not today'...and then try to get out of the situation.  I have also known kids who 'blame' it on their parents. 'My mom would kill me and I can't risk it right now' is also a good answer. You do not have to judge your friends to get out of the situation. But if this starts happening you have to ask yourself if the person who is pressuring you is really a friend.
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 cperez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: whay are drinking ages different in different countries

Expert Icon Aaron White: Different countries have different views on when it is appropriate to allow kids to start drinking alcohol. It appears that having a higher drinking age has helped protect young people in the US from alcohol-related harms. It turns out that kids not only start drinking at younger ages in European countries compared to the US, they also get drunk at earlier ages and are more likely to binge drink than teens here.

Other research tells us that kids whose parents let them drink at home are more likely to develop problems with alcohol than kids who can't drink at home. Taken together, the facts tell us that the 'European model' is not one that would produce the desired results here.
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 jdcastellanos - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: is it true that weed helps u have a better health? and why do doctors make there cliance smoke it?

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: What an interesting question!  I can safely say using weed does not help you have better health.  Using marijuana for medical reasons has been in the news a lot lately, although it is not currently approved by the FDA for treating any medical condition. 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. However, it is unlikely that smoked marijuana will be developed as a medication because of its negative health effects, including the risk of addiction.  Smoking weed affects the parts of the brain that allow us to make plans, solve problems, and make decisions. Repeated drug use affects both the brain and other parts of the body in negative ways and could one day lead to addiction and other serious medical consequences (anxiety, depression, lung and airway difficulties). You can read more about marijuana at www.nida.nih.gov/MarijBroch/teens/ or http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/marijuana.
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 harry.h - Dulles Middle School, Texas: How many underaged teens drink?

Expert Icon Aaron White: In 2010, 14% of 8th graders, 29% of 10th graders, and 41% of 12th graders drank at least a serving of alcohol in a given month.
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 i-love-you - GMG Community School, Iowa: hi can i die from drinking

Expert Icon Aaron White: Yes. If you drink enough alcohol, parts of the brain that are important for keeping us alive can shut down. Then, your heart will stop beating and you can stop breathing. In essence, it's like alcohol flips a switch and shuts the body off. You can also die from injuries sustained while doing dangerous things after drinking.
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 thebomb.com - GMG Community School, Iowa: What all is in meth?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: It's methamphetamine.  It's chemical composition is N-methyl-1-phenylpropan-2-amine.
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 dumx2 - Johnson Middle School, California: Is it possible to quit doing marijuana?

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: ABSOLUTELY!  People can become addicted to marijuana -- in about 9% of all users, and in 25-50% of daily users.  Addiction means that someone can't quit even though marijuana is having a detrimental effect on their lives.  There is also a withdrawal syndrome--similar to what happens in tobacco smokers.  Symptoms include irritability, sleep and appetite problems, and craving--which often prompts relapse.  Also, in a young person especially, its memory impairing effects can interfere with your ability to function optimally--or to be at the top of your game, even if you are not using the drug while you are in school.  Marijuana's effects on learning can persist for days or even weeks after last use. Thus, you may not reach your full potential if you use it, and this is something that long term marijuana users self report looking back on their lives. 

You should know that drug addiction is a treatable disease - with medications (in some cases) and behavioral or psychosocial therapies. Treatment should focus on a person's individual needs, since many people who are addicted to drugs also have other serious problems, including other mental illnesses. Drug addiction is often chronic (long-term), with relapses possible even after long periods of abstinence. But relapse doesn't mean failure, just that treatment needs to be reinstated or adjusted to ensure long-term recovery.

For more information on drug treatment, check out: http://www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/Treatment.html
Moderator Icon  To find a substance abuse treatment facility locator, call 1-800-662-HELP or go to www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov anytime, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.
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 teacher 48 - GMG Community School, Iowa: I'm from a small school in Iowa and I have often thought that students with values won't get drunk or try drugs, yet they do. Are there other factors that occur to cause them to slip other than peer pressure? Is there anything genetic?

Expert Icon Bethany Deeds: Hello GMG Community School! Fanastic question! A student may start out taking drugs voluntarily, but as time passes and drug use continues, something happens that makes a person go from being a voluntary drug user to a compulsive drug user. Why? Because the continued use of drugs changes how your brain functions. Moreover, research has shown us that our genes together with our environment play key roles in weather a person becomes addicted or not. So if one has a family member who uses drugs that person is likely more vulnerbale to drug use/abuse problems--though a precise measure is not known. Here's a link to information about the brain and addiction: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_brain1.php
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 koster - GMG Community School, Iowa: 1. What is the percentage of people who overdose on drugs per month? 2. Can prescription drugs cause hallucinations? 3. What percentage of teens use prescription drugs?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: Over a thousand people die each month in the US from prescrition pain killer overdoses.  Halucinations are rare from prescription opioids. NIDA puts out a publication that answers a lot of questions about teen drug use.  Check it out!  http://monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/mtf-overview2010.pdf
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 yelnaggar - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: why is sharpie bad for you

Expert Icon Kris Bough: People inhale the fumes from sharpies to get high. These are called inhalants and are breathable chemical vapors that users intentionally inhale because of the chemicals' mind-altering effects. Most inhalants produce a rapid high that resembles alcohol intoxication. If sufficient amounts are inhaled, you can experience a loss of sensation, and even unconsciousness.  My advice, put the cap back on! 
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 Bethanne C. - Pekin Community School, Iowa: What is the most dangerous drug that you would want to stay away from?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Any drug that you are thinking of taking that wasn't prescribed by your doctor, or even taking more of a prescribed drug or taking it more often than your doctor advises is dangerous.  Illegal drugs can be particularly dangerous because you don't really know what chemicals you are actually taking.  It's better to stay away from any drugs unless they are prescribed for you by your doctor 

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 jdcastellanos - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: what are the affects of eating mushrooms

Expert Icon Dave White: Hey there! The active chemical in mushrooms or 'shrooms' is psilocybin.  It's a hallucinogen, which can distort perception and can cause an inability to tell fantasy from reality.  One can also experience panic attacks and psychosis if too much is taken.  Physical effects can include nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, drowsiness, and a lack of coordination.  The only mushrooms I would consider eating are those on the salad bar! For more information on mushrooms, click on: http://drugfactsweek.drugabuse.gov/chat/chatfaqs_topics/mushrooms.php
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 jdcastellanos - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: does red whine helps your health

Expert Icon Aaron White: It is possible there are some small benefits of alcohol, but only for adults. Research suggests that up to one drink per day for females or two for males can improve the health of the heart. However, drinking at levels beyond that can increase the risk for cancers and other diseases. Importantly, there do not appear to be any benefits, only harms, associated with alcohol use during adolescence.

To learn more about how alcohol affects your body, check this out:
http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.pdf
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 KAng - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: if a family member is taking tobacco then what is a easy way to make them stop

Expert Icon Lori Ducharme: Great question, and it's great to see teens who really want to help the people they care about.  Here are a few resources you can use: Calling this national toll-free number, 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669), can get you information for quitting. Callers to the number are routed to their state’s smoking cessation quitline or to one maintained by the National Cancer Institute. In addition, a Web site—www.smokefree.gov—from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers online advice and downloadable information to make quitting easier.  Finally, you might want to check out the section of our teen website that has information about smoking -- it might give you some information that can help you be even more supportive of your family members:  http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_nicotine1.php.
Moderator Icon  Did you know the types of cells in the brain are called neurons? Your brain has about 10 billion neurons.
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 avincent - Butler County High School, Kentucky: Do you think the legalization of marijuana will increase peoples' use?

Expert Icon Bethany Deeds: Hello Kentucky! Drug abuse research has shown that in general if use increases, known harms (negative health consequences) can also increase. What we don't know is whether these rates of dependence will increase proportionately with a rise in use or increase or at a faster or slower rate. FYI. In the United States, a number of states have chosen to decriminalize marijuana for medical uses; however, since all other 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. However, it is unlikely that smoked marijuana will be developed as a medication because of its negative health effects, including the risk of addiction.
Currently,the recreational use of marijuana remains illegal in all states.  This link has some topline data about the increase in marijuana use in 8th, 10th and 12th graders from the latest NIDA-funded Monitoring the Future survey: http://www.drugabuse.gov/newsroom/10/mtf10overview.html
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 acdude14 - The Blake School, Minnesota: Can someone with an extremely low alcohol tolerance (throws up after 1 beer glass) become addicted?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Yes, they can. There really isn't a specific amount of alcohol a person has to drink to become addicted, and only someone trained to evaluate a person's drinking habits can tell for sure whether they are addicted. In general, a teenager is more likely to become addicted to alcohol if they have a family history of alcoholism (meaning they have parents or siblings with alcohol problems), start drinking at younger ages or have problems with depression or anxiety. 

According to the National Library of Medicine, people who are addicted to alcohol tend to have the following issues:
  • Craving - a strong need to drink
  • Loss of control - not being able to stop drinking once you've begun
  • Physical dependence - withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating or shakiness after stopping drinking
  • Tolerance - the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to get 'high'
These problems and behaviors can cause tremendous difficulties for individuals and families.

To learn more about how alcohol can affect kids and how to learn to say NO to kids who offer it to you, check out: http://www.thecoolspot.gov/
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 SSHS#9 - Silver Stage High School, Nevada: What is in drugs that can make them so addicting bsides the nicotine in cigaretts?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: The ritual.  The physical act of reaching for a cigarette and holding it between the fingers. If it was all about the nicotine, then people on the nicotine patch should be able to quit smoking without a problem, but they often can't.  The brain can be prone to going on 'autopilot' and just acting without thinking when we're exposed to certain cues in the environment that come to be linked with eventually getting high, such as the sight of a liquor store, or a corner where the dealer hangs out.
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 Saparicio - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Is it bad if you smoke weed without any chemicals in it/

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: I assume you mean extra chemicals added to the marijuana, not just the chemicals naturally in marijuana.  In either case, yes, it is unhealthy to smoke marijuana. The smoke in marijuana has many of the same chemicals present in tobacco smoke. In terms of composition it is comparably dangerous and hazardous to your respiratory health. 

 
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 fluffy779 - GMG Community School, Iowa: Which drug is most harmful to your body?

Expert Icon Kris Bough: This question has been a really popular one today!  Scientists don't like to rank drugs from best to worst as most drugs of abuse, legal (e.g., nicotine) or illegal (e.g., cocaine), can dramatically affect your normal body functioning. For example, drugs can impact normal cardiovascular functioning (e.g., cocaine), adversely affect liver function (e.g., alcohol), adversely gastrointestinal functioning (e.g., heroin, opioids), cause cancer (tobacco kills 400,000 people a year in the U.S.) and of course all affect normal brain functioning. Actually almost any chemical - even water! - can be toxic to your body if taken in high enough concentrations. Food too (think of high-saturated fatty foods) can also be very harmful to your body. Be safe and thanks for participating in Chat Day!
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 naynay25 - Pekin Community School, Iowa: Depending how much you smoke, can it affect how long you live?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: Yes!  About 440,000 Americans die each year from diseases related to smoking. 
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 sambw1996 - The Blake School, Minnesota: Which is worse for you, beer or wine?

Expert Icon Aaron White: They both contain the same drug -- alcohol

A single serving of each - for beer, this is a 12 ounce serving of 5% alcohol and for wine, it is a 5 fl ounce serving of 12% alcohol - has the same amount of alcohol and therefore has the potential to produce the same amount of harm.  There is some research to suggest that wine might contain specific chemicals not contained in beer that could make wine healthier. However, for the most part, a single serving of wine and a single serving of beer are equal in terms of risks.

For more information on standard drink amounts for different types of alcohol, check out: http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/
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 mthomas - Riverside Junior High, Kansas: What mental illnesses can people get from using drugs?

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: Depends on the drug.  For marijuana--psychosis; methamphetamine/cocaine--psychosis; cocaine--panic disorder; alcohol--depression.  Also for some drugs there is weaker evidence, but for example, marijuana use is more common in people with anxiety and depression. 
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 fluffy779 - GMG Community School, Iowa: Can you get cancer from drug usage?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: Yes, you can.  Cigarettes, marijuana and alcohol can all increase one's chances of getting cancer.  In fact, even being around people who smoke can increase your chances of getting lung cancer. In the US, second hand smoke contributes to about 3000 cases of lung cancer each year. 
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 MizaelJ - Johnson Middle School, California: is it possible to recover from brain damage?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: There is not much research yet on this-- at least long term- years after people stop using.  However, much of the studies that are out there look promising.  It looks like much of the mental and concentration problems go away once people stop using many types of drugs.  In addition, some brain scan studies show some recovery of brain structure.  Clearly, there are significant benefits to stopping the use.  We just don't know the extent of the recovery yet.  It may be that some things will recover as though nothing ever happened.  Other functions might never fully come back, though.
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 lbatrez - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: Why do some hospitals in different country use drugs as medicine?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi Ibatrez and thanks for the question. Most countries use the same medications as the U.S. Almost all countries have signed a UN agreement to use the same medications. I guess the big exception are places where marijuana is legal or used as medication, but in general the medications around the world are the same.
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 smartinez - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: what causes cocaine to give you seizures?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Cocaine not only causes seizures in individuals at risk for abnormal electrical activity of their neurons (i.e. what a seizure is) before they took cocaine, but when used over time, cocaine also causes molecular/chemical changes in the brain that make neurons more electrically responsive and reactive, and more likely to suffer a seizure.
Moderator Icon  Alcohol is the drug of choice for American kids – more kids drink than smoke cigarettes or do other drugs. People ages 12 to 20 drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States.
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 B-Slice. - GMG Community School, Iowa: Which drug is the most addictive

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: 
Difficult question.  Depends how you look at it.  Based on data from the Monitoring the Future school survey, the most commonly used drugs among youth are alcohol, tobacco and marijuana. Results of the 2007 survey show that alcohol (44%), tobacco (22%) and marijuana (19%) were the most commonly used drugs by 12th graders in the past 30 days.  Recently, prescription medications are used by a concerning number/percentage of students. These drugs are really dangerous when taken outside of a doctor's supervision. For more information on teens' drug use, go to:  http://www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/MTF.html

However, how much they are abused does not equate exactly to how addictive they are.  Other factors like availability and cost impact how many people abuse a given drug. Thus, again, hard to say which is the most addictive. 
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 sambw1996 - The Blake School, Minnesota: What is fetal alcohol syndrome?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the most severe result of exposing a fetus to alcohol. Drinking while you are pregnant can seriously affect a baby's development. Babies born with FAS are not addicted to alcohol themselves, but they do have smaller brains, abnormal facial features, and often have life-long learning and behavioral problems. It is the leading preventable birth defect associated with mental and behavioral impairment in the United States today.
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 Bethanne C. - Pekin Community School, Iowa: Did they use to put some kind of drug in Coca Cola

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Yes, but that was more than a century ago.  When Coca Cola was first invented, part of the formula included leaves of the coca plant which contains cocaine.  But when people realized how harmful cocaine is, Coca Cola changed the way it was made so now it doesn't contain cocaine....just lots and lots of sugar.  Here's a fun experiment, put a nail in a glass of cola and see what happens over the next day or so.
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 sarahv - Johnson Middle School, California: Can drug addictions afect you personal life?

Expert Icon Lori Ducharme: Absolutely.  Drugs don't just make you high or only affect you personally.  They can affect everyone around you.  Think about it -- drug abuse significantly impairs your ability to make good decisions.  If you do something that gets you kicked out of school, or lands you in jail, or uses up all your money, or puts you behind the wheel of a car when you have no business being there -- all of those things affect your personal life and the people around you -- in potentially very serious ways. 
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 ims718 - Iberia Middle School, Louisiana: How can you prevent a family member from doing drugs?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: Here's a resource if you have a family member or someone close to you who is using: http://www.al-anon.alateen.org. Also, if you know someone who needs help with an addiction, you can find a substance abuse treatment facility by calling 1-800-662-HELP or go to www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov anytime, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.
That's a tough situation. Don't forget to take good care of yourself, stay healthy and keep your spirits up as you deal with it. Are there any adults that you would trust to talk to about it? Good luck.
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 vdelafuente - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: say the doctor prescribes medicine to you... and say you r sick.. and you are having to take about 5 or 6 pills a day... is that really bad?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi and thanks for the question. We all get sick and have to take medication. If you are sick, the main thing is to take the medication the way the doctor prescribes it. For more info see: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/peerx/
Which of these statements are false?
The correct answer is: The correct answers are A, B, and C. (A) You cannot tell in advance if you will become addicted. It is true that some people are more at risk than others—if you have a family member with drug problems you may be at greater risk since addiction is about 50 percent genetics. (B) Addiction is linked to long lasting changes in the brain, including memory triggers that can induce severe drug cravings and relapse. Recovery is a life-long process for some. (C) An estimated 1 out of every 11 people who try marijuana become addicted to it. For those who start in their teens, the chances go up to 1 in 6; and for daily users, the addiction rate is 25-50 percent. (D) True: Mari¬juana's effects on atten¬tion, memory, and learning can last for days and sometimes weeks—especially if you smoke often. Check out NIDA's Drugs, Brains and Behavior: http://www.drugabuse.gov/ScienceofAddiction/
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 etinoco - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: how hard is it to get off of drugs?

Expert Icon Lori Ducharme: Depending on the person, the drug, and the treatment approach you use, it can be very difficult to get off of drugs.  That's because addiction is a chronic (long-lasting) brain disease--and drug use fundamentally affects the way your brain functions, which requires treatment that addresses the lasting effects of drugs on your brain, your body, and your social environment.  It also involves teaching former drug users new strategies for dealing with 'triggers' that may tempt them to start using again.  So, suffice it to say it's harder to stop using than it is to never use in the first place.  Really.
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 schuett30 - GMG Community School, Iowa: What is the safest part on your body to shoot up heroin?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: There is no safe place to shoot up heroin.  Not only is heroin one of the most addictive drugs, but it produces a terrible withdrawal syndrome (google 'cold turkey') and by injecting drugs you are bypassing your body's immune system defenses and increasing the risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis and other serious diseases.
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 willie j - Rochester Adams High School, Michigan: How many joints until you cant see?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Hey, Willie.  I don't know a specific number, and why would you not want to see??? Remember that smoking joints is not a good idea for many reasons. Here's something for your eyes...people who smoke joints can experience extreme anxiety (panic attacks) or psychotic reactions (where they lose touch with reality and may become paranoid). And people can and do injure themselves because of marijuana's effects on judgment, perception, and coordination. For example, marijuana affect the skills you need to drive (e.g., concentration, reaction time) so people can injure themselves and others if they drive while under the influence. For more information on marijuana, see: www.drugabuse.gov/ResearchReports/Marijuana/default.html.  Hope this helps.  Thanks for sending us your question!
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 dabrions - M.R. Wood Center for Learning (alternative school), Texas: How old are most people when they start smoking

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez:  Good question. Most smokers initiate smoking between the ages of 12 and 25. When the 2010 National Survey of Drug Use and Health asked people between the ages of 12 and 49 when they started smoking, the average reported age of smoking initiation was around 19 years old.
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 harry.h - Dulles Middle School, Texas: DMS, Sugar Land, TX-What is bath salt? Is it ingested or smoked?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: If you mean the 'bath salts' that people buy to get high, these are chemicals that are similar to amphetamine.  They have all the adverse effects that stimulants have, such as increasing your heart rate and blood pressure.  In addition, since these chemicals are not legal and not regulated by the FDA, you really don't know what is in them.  This means you are taking a big risk if you take them.  People often 'snort' these chemicals the way they take cocaine, but they can be smoked.  Either way you may take them, you are taking a big risk.
Moderator Icon Many of you have written in thanking our scientists for answering your questions all day.  We want to say thank you to all of you for asking such great questions!
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 DasaundraL - Johnson Middle School, California: What happens if a person drinks to much alchohol?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Any form of alcoholic beverages can be quite dangerous for teenagers, but the specific side effects depend on how much you drink and how much alcohol you have in your system.

With just a little alcohol in your system, you can experience:
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
Difficulty controlling urges, making it more likely that you will do something dangerous
Impaired memory - you can wake up the next day not be 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
Loss of consciousness

Bottom line: most side effects of drinking alcohol can be damaging and even dangerous.

.
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 mirandamartin - Vista, Oklahoma: what percent of teenagers try drugs just once?

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: Good question mirandamartin. Unfortunately, we don't really know the answer to your question. What we do know is that around 29% of 8th graders, 41% of 10th graders, and 50% of high school seniors reported they have tried drugs (includes any use of marijuana, inhalants, LSD, other hallucinogens, crack, other cocaine, heroin, narcotics other than heroin, amphetamines, sedatives (barbiturates), or tranquilizers not under a doctor’s orders) at least once in their lifetime, according to the University of Michigan's annual Monitoring the Future survey in 2010.
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 Benny20 - North Ridgeville Middle School, Ohio: What are the effects of Club Drugs? What do Club Drugs look like? What do Club Drugs smell like? What do Club Drugs feel like? What can i do to hide the effects of Club Drugs? Who can you go to to get Club Drugs?

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: There are different club drugs that have different effects.  Some are stimulants (like methamphetamine), others make you feel separated from reality or your self (dissociative drugs like ketamine), others make you feel warm and fuzzy (ecstasy), but can leave you depressed afterwards.  Most have risks associated with them, including the fact that you don't know what your getting, and if you mix them with other drugs or alcohol, serious problems (including death) could result.  For more information, check out: http://www.nida.nih.gov/DrugPages/Clubdrugs.html
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 bobcat763 - north carroll middle, Maryland: what percent of 6-12 graders use drugs?

Expert Icon Michelle Leff: Hi there bobcat763! Thanks for your question. In 2010, almost 20% of teens, aged 12-17, reported past year drug use (The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2010). This translates to about 1 in 5 teens! Unfortuantely we don't have any numbers to give you that include 6th graders.
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 Ncortes - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: How To Quit Smoking ?

Expert Icon Dave White: Overcoming nicotine addiction is hard, but it can be done!  There are different kinds of help that are available, including medications and getting tips from professional counselors.  The most effective treatment option will vary from person to person.  Check out these sites for more information:
http://www.ahrq.gov/path/tobacco.htm#Userhelp
http://www.smokefree.gov/
http://www.smoking.drugabuse.gov/
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 rmccune - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Thanks a bunch NIDA! SLMS is having a great time on the chat and we are ALL learning some very valuable information.

Expert Icon Carol Krause: We love SLMS for participating!
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 janeia tia - Johnson Middle School, California: when your drunk driveing how does it cause a car accident ?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Alcohol impacts the part of your brain that controls your motor coordination, your ability to make fast and precise movements, and your vision - all necessary for you to drive safely. In addition, alcohol can impair your judgment, and makes you more likely to take risks like driving through a yellow or red light and driving faster than the posted speed limit. Alcohol also makes people sleepy and increases the chances of falling asleep while driving. Each year, more than 10,000 people die in car crashes due to drinking and driving.

In short, alcohol + driving = bad news!! 
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 mthomas - Riverside Junior High, Kansas: Why do some people abuse their children while drinking alcohol?

Expert Icon Aaron White: That's a very tough question, and it depends on the particular circumstances, which vary from family to family. But, drinking alcohol does make it difficult for people to think clearly and see the potential consequences of their actions. For other people, alcohol might increase their level of anger and aggression. For others, the alcohol use could be another symptom, like the child abuse, of some serious underlying psychological problems. Regardless, child abuse is never acceptable and anyone who lives in a home where they are abused should find an adult whom they trust and discuss the situation with them.
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 harry.h - Dulles Middle School, Texas: DMS Sugar Land, TX- What is the difference between crack cocaine and cocaine?

Expert Icon Carol Krause: Hello Sugar Land-They are essentially the same thing, but crack is a form of cocaine that has been processed. Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug. The powdered hydrochloride salt form of cocaine can be snorted or dissolved in water and then injected. Crack is the street name given to the form of cocaine that has been processed to make a rock crystal, which, when heated, produces vapors that are smoked. The term “crack” refers to the crackling sound produced by the rock as it is heated. Basically it can be considered the same thing. Check out teens.drugabuse.gov.

Moderator Icon  Although we know what happens to the brain when someone becomes addicted, we can’t predict how many times a person must use a drug before becoming addicted. A person's genes and the environment each play a role. We are all different and unpredictable so any use is risky.
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 Antonio - Walter Johnson High School, Maryland: how can you know the level of nicotine in a cigartte? Like camel crush

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: I found this website that lists nicotine content: www.erowid.org/plants/tobacco/tobacco_nic.shtml.  Don't know about camel crush, per se.
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 cvelasco - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: What drug is the most deadly?

Expert Icon Dave White: Good afternoon cvelasco, it really depends on a number of factors such as the genetics or preexisting conditions (eg., heart issues) of the taker, the circumstances in which they are taking them, what drug they are taking, and how much, but a leading candidate would be nicotine, since cigarettes cause more sickness and death than any other. Smoking contributes to over 400,000 deaths annually in the US. Some people may have a higher vulnerability to becoming addicted to opiates such as heroin and oxycontin, while others might be more susceptible to the effects of stimulants such as cocaine or methamphetamine. For more information see: http://www.drugabuse.gov/consequences/
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 jen5858 - Institute of Notre Dame, Maryland: can inhalants kill you?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Inhalants can cause brain problems at least from what we can tell-- such as by how people who huff show problems in their thinking.  This suggest that brain cells are at least being changed and messed with.  In fact, huffing (inhaling household products and other chemicals on purpose) is one of the more dangerous 'drugs' in terms of the mental problems it causes while people are doing it.  It can also target other body organs and yes, can even kill outright.  This is also a problem for people who work in industries with chemicals in the air, who are exposed all the time.
See this webpage for more information on inhalants: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/?s=sharpie.
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 Allison L. - Pekin Community School, Iowa: How can you tell if someone is addicted to prescription drugs, and HOW do you get addicted to them?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: I assume you mean opioids (pain killers), which are the most often abused prescription drugs. The main way to see if someone is addicted is to notice a change in behavior; the person will get withdrawn, perhaps nod out when talking to you, lose interest in all things that used to be fun, lose interest in school and get worse grades. They may change their friends and steal to get money for the drugs. You get addicted by taking them without a doctor's prescription or, if you have a prescription, taking more than prescribed or for longer than prescribed.
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 pre calc - Northport High School, New York: Is addiction hereditary? If so is there a specific addiction gene?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Great question!!  Research has shown that drug use is about 50% genetic and 50% environmental and other factors.  For more information, see: www.drugabuse.gov/tib/genetics.html and http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/real-teens-ask-addiction-hereditary/.  It turns out that there are many genes that contribute to addiction, and these may depend on the substance that is used.  For example, we know that there is a group of genes on chromosome 15 called the nicotinic subunit receptor genes, and there are genetic variants (differences) in these genes that have been strongly linked to heavy smoking. 
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 smartinez - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: can hand sanitizer get you high?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Yes, because it contains ethyl alcohol, the kind of alcohol in alcoholic beverages. However, it can also make a person extremely sick due to the other ingredients in it. That's why the instructions make clear that hand sanitizer is for external use only.
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 teacher 48 - GMG Community School, Iowa: If you drink with your family at dinner, most would say it is legal. But if there is a school friend there who doesn't drink, will the parents get into trouble if the police make a visit? If the friend takes a sip?

Expert Icon Aaron White: That depends on the specific laws where the family and friend live. In general, it is not legal to provide alcohol to an underage person who is not your own child. Further, it would be irresponsible to do so based on data showing that drinking during adolescence is associated with a long list of negative outcomes.

Research shows that drinkig alcohol when you're a teen increases your chances of becoming an alcoholic later in your life. This happens even if you drink at home with your parents. In fact, research in Europe, the US and Australia indicates that teens who are allowed to drink at home even while being supervised by parents are more likely to binge drink (drink enough over about 2 hours to get very drunk) outside of the home.
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 fort settlement - Ft. Settlement Middle School, Texas: If a doctor is addicted to a prescription drug can he/she keep writing their own prescriptions?

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: If a doctor is addicted to a prescription drug, he/she cannot legally write a prescription for that particular drug.
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 sambw1996 - The Blake School, Minnesota: How many cigarettes does it generally take to become addicted?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: There is no absolute number.  Some people say that they knew after their first cigarette that it would be hard for them to stop.  Other people got sick the first time they smoked a cigarette, but they kept smoking because they wanted to fit in with their friends or for other reasons.  The problem is you never know when you will become addicted - so why even start ?
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 vmartinez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Do people use pain killers to relieve themselves from emotional pain instead of physical pain?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: Interesting question!!! We have not figured out all the connections between physical and emotional pain and are working to figure them out. We do know, however, that opioid medications that are directed mainly at physical pain have some positive effects on emotional pain, and antidepressant medications that are directed mainly at emotional pain can lessen physical pain.
That said, in most cases, one type of pain or the other is predominant, and the right medication is the one that is directed at that type of pain. A doctor is the best person to determine this. Someone who decides on his own to take a medication for either type of pain is making a mistake. The dangers are not getting the best relief, and other potential adverse consequences.
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 Ncortes - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: How Does Marijuana Make You Lose Your Memory ?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: The active molecule in Marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, is very similar in shape to a set of molecules that naturally float around in the brain.  These molecules fit into 'receptors' on brain cells, like a key into a lock.  A part of the base of the brain called the hippocampus, which helps form memories and remember them, has a very large number or concentration of these 'locks'- - this means that when people smoke pot, they're especially disrupting this region of the brain, and therefore memory.
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 dcruz - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: what does thc do to you

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: 'THC' is the active molecule in Marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol.  This molecule is very similar in shape to a set of molecules that naturally float around in the brain.  These molecules fit into 'receptors' on brain cells, like a key into a lock.  While THC can make people feel high, it has a downside too.  A part of the base of the brain called the hippocampus, which helps form memories and remember them, has a very large number or concentration of these 'locks'- - this means that when people smoke pot, they're especially disrupting this region of the brain, and therefore memory.  THC also causes changes in the brain's gray matter.  Some of these problems can get better when people stop using.
Moderator Icon  Information about smoking and prevention can be found at www.smokefree.gov.
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 mhernandez - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: are only some drugs addictive?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: Addiction is when someone uses a drug compulsively despite knowing that it is harming them or their quality of life. All abused drugs can produce this effect in some people. Of course, many medications, such as aspirin, antibiotics that you take for a fever, or asthma medications are not addictive.
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 pekin2016 - Pekin Community School, Iowa: What do smokers' lungs usually tend to look like?

Expert Icon Carol Krause: Lung cancer

Here is a picture from the National Cancer Institute. This shows a smoker's lung, which looks black because of the particulates inhaled from the toxic chemicals in cigarettes.
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 sweetheart97 - Swanson Middle School, Virginia: What effect does marijuana have on a persons brain?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Hi Sweatheart97.  Thanks for your great question.  Marijuana, like most other drugs, affects the parts of the brain that allow us to make plans, solve problems, and make decisions. It 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 read more about marijuana at www.nida.nih.gov/MarijBroch/teens/ or http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/marijuana.
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 p3nqu1n-182 - Institute of Notre Dame, Maryland: doe sniffing sharpies kill brain cells? like forreal?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Not sure about actually killing neurons, but repeated or long-term use can cause damage (some permanent) to brain cells and their myelin that could result in tremors, difficulty walking, solving complex problems, and remembering things.

See this webpage for more information: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_inhale1.php.
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 Angel22 - Einstein High School, Maryland: Why do alcholics go through withdraw that can be deadly but potheads only suffer with anxiety or anger after stopping smoking?

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: Different drugs produce different severities of withdrawal.  Alcohol, opioids (like heroin), and some sedatives have some of the most severe withdrawal symptoms.  Marijuana and nicotine are more mild, and similar in the type of withdrawal symptoms they produce.  But the problem with even mild symptoms of withdrawal is that they can still prompt relapse--since people crave the drug to relieve the discomfort associated with the withdrawal. 
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 2341 - GMG Community School, Iowa: Is it true that people feel more confident and bold while drunk?

Expert Icon Aaron White: That really depends on the person, but alcohol does affect the parts of the brain that helps us control our urges and think carefully about our actions. Alcohol slows down the following parts of the brain:

Frontal lobes, which normally allows us to think about the consequences of our actions and control our urges to do things that are dangerous.
Amygdala, which normally makes us feel fear and anxiety when we are in potentially dangerous situations. With the amygdala slowed down, we are less likely to feel afraid when in social situations or other situations. This can make us feel and act more confident.

While these might seem like positive things, they are not. The effects of alcohol on the frontal lobes and amygdala often lead people to make very bad choices and take chances that they would normally never take, often leading to extremely negative outcomes, such as injuries or death.
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 rg - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: what are the simtoms that could happen when you take staroids?

Expert Icon Kris Bough: There are lots of side effects from taking steroids...acne, erratic behavior (roid rage), stunted growth, heart problems, liver damage, jaundice, high blood pressure.  Oh...let's not forget about the shrunken testicles (ouch!), low sperm count, breast development (double ouch!) and balding in males and masuclization in females (facial hair, deep voice -- yikes!).  Some of these effects can be permanent.  Not trying to scare you, just giving the facts...  Want more information on steroids, please check out: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_ster1.php

 
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 kibidy - The Blake School, Minnesota: is there any way to know if marijuana has been laced with other drugs

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Not practically.  You would have to conduct a chemical analysis of the marijuana in a laboratory.  So really, everytime you think you are smoking marijuana you could be getting other drugs as well.
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 Madison - North Ridgeville Middle School, Ohio: Does Driving Under the Influnence include drugs like weed of just alcohol?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Absolutely.  It's called 'drugged driving.'
Moderator Icon  Dr. Cora Lee Wetherington serves as NIDA’s coordinator for research aimed at promoting the study of women and sex and gender differences into all areas of drug abuse. She also oversees a program of extramural research focusing on a variety of animal and human laboratory areas including vulnerability to drug abuse, the behavioral effects of exposure to drugs during lifespan development, and, of course, sex and gender differences and topics unique to females. When Dr. Wetherington is not at work she’s enjoying reading (currently, Moonwalking with Einstein, a birthday gift from her son), Sirius Radio, the History and Science channels on TV, and being with her family which includes two young adults (Peter and Marianne), two beagles (Abbie and Bodie), and two black and white cats (Spot and Sox).
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 jc$$ - The Blake School, Minnesota: can you over dose on bath salts?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: If you mean the 'bath salts' that people buy to get high, the answer is yes you can overdose, and it can be fatal.  These 'bath salts' are chemically similar to amphetamine, and have all the adverse effects that stimulants like amphetamine have, such as increasing your heart rate and blood pressure.  In addition, since these chemicals are not legal and not regulated by the FDA, you really don't know what are in the chemicals you are taking - that is taking a big risk. 
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 rileymcd - Fairview ed Center, Minnesota: Whats the safest place to shoot up herion?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Hi Rileymcd. No such place exists. To read more about the adverse health consequences of heroin use, go to www.drugabuse.gov/infofacts/heroin.html.
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 katiejs - Project Change Recovery High School, Wisconsin: Do you reccomend the 12 steps of recovery for drug addicts and alcoholics?

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: Some people find these programs extremely helpful, especially in supporting their recovery over the long run.  There are also treatments that have been shown by research to help people recover from various addictions and medications that can help with some (nicotine, alcohol, and opiates).  People need to find the right approach for them, and they may need additional help such as job training, linkage to other medical care etc.  NIDA has a booklet that describes the principles of effective treatment that you can find at : http://www.nida.nih.gov/PODAT/PODATIndex.html
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 jum - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: What type of painkillers are illegal or very serious and only used for medical use?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: When we say pain killers we are usually referring to opioid medications. Other pain medicines like aspirin, acetimenophine and non-steroidal medications reduce pain but are not addictive and not illegal. Opioids are legal with a prescription and safe when taken as prescribed and for medical use. Heroin is illegal under all circumstances-- although it is a pain reliever it is too addictive to be useful.
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 imoreno - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: how long does it take to get out of a drug addiction?

Expert Icon Lori Ducharme: Hey Illinois!  Great question, but unfortunately not one with an easy answer.  Treatment is different for different drugs, and for different people.  Addiction is a chronic (long-lasting) brain disease, and so the recovery process can take a long time, or it can involve several episodes of rehab.  Treatment is important to help detoxify the brain, and get the recovery process started.  A combination of approved medications and behavioral (counseling) therapies are available for use in drug abuse treatment.  Even after people complete a treatment program, they will need continued support from local support groups or scheduled check-ins with a recovery counselor.  At NIDA, our scientists are working on understanding how to adjust available treatments to make them the best they can be to help people recover from addiction and return to productive lives.  Here's an interesting and easy-to-read booklet that will give you a good overview of addiction: http://www.drugabuse.gov/scienceofaddiction/ 
Moderator Icon  Some mental illnesses such as depression or PTSD can increase the risk for suicide so it is important to get help and stick with a treatment plan. Learn more about depression here: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml
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 ewims - Kingswood Regional Middle School, New Hampshire: What is the best way to relieve stress without smoking tobacco

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Hi ewims.  The best way to relieve stress is to do something you love.  This should give you MANY ways to relieve stress without smoking.
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 BTakushi - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: how many people get addicted to drugs each year?

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: According to the 2010 National Survey of Drug Use and Health, nearly 9% of the American population ages 12 and older were classified with some type of substance abuse or dependence in the past year. We have also learned from research that about 1 in 6 persons who use marijuana, at least once in their teens, will become addicted.  There is a lot we still don’t know about who becomes addicted and why, and after how much drug exposure. We do know that each person is different, so it’s a little like playing “Russian Roulette” if you choose to use drugs. But, if you do, the earlier you stop, the more likely you will be to avoid addiction and the harmful brain changes that lead to it.
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 fort settlement - Ft. Settlement Middle School, Texas: Can smoking anything be harmful?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Yes, smoking anything can be harmful.  When you burn something, many chemicals are released into the air and if you breathe in those chemicals, some can be harmful to your lungs.
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 A. Dones - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: What do nicotine patches do exactly? what if a person puts to many of them on thinking that it will help them quit smoking?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Nicotine patches are transdermal patches that release nicotine into the skin.  It is a way to deliver nicotine to a person that is addicted--to help them quit smoking.  They can taper their dose over time so that they get less and less nicotine until they are no longer addicted.  Too many can be dangerous; nicotine is a stimulant and can cause your heart to beat irregularly.  As with any medication, they should be used as indicated on the package or by the doctor.  For other alternatives for smoking cessation therapy, see: http://www.smokefree.gov/tools.aspx.
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 sambw1996 - The Blake School, Minnesota: Which is worse, prescription drug abuse of illegal drug abuse?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: That is like asking which is worse, a bullet from a pistol or a bullet from a rifle.  All drugs have risks and adverse effects.  The difference is the risks and adverse effects of prescription drugs have been evaluated in scientific studies.  So a doctor knows when she prescribes a drug what the adverse effects are, and she can monitor you to make sure that the risks are kept to a minimum.  Of course, even if a drug is legal, if you take it without a doctor's prescription or take more than the doctor prescribes, then you are misusing the drug which can be very harmful.  With an illegal drug, not only do you not know whether the drug is pure or whether it is even drug you wanted, but illegal the drugs are considered illegal precisely because there is not evidence that there are enough benefits to outweigh the risks.
Moderator Icon  When you go college you will experience a lot of changes in your life. Even though you are moving on to new and exciting things it can be stressful. It is important to continue to take care of yourself and if you are receiving treatment now to find out where and how to continue treatment when you get to college. The college counseling office is a good place to start, or check with an advisor. You can call them and arrange to visit them before you start school.
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 mgarcia - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: How can cocaine affect your college life?

Expert Icon Lori Ducharme: Well, it will certainly affect your college life, but not in ways that will make the most of your tuition payments or your time.  For a good (non-preachy) overview, check out this info on our teen website:  http://teens.drugabuse.gov/mom/mom_stim1.php.
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 TGrant - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: What is Pcp?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Phencycline.  This is a type of drug call a hallucinogen.  It can cause hallucinations (visions and experiences that aren't real) and great confusion, and can promote aggressiveness and suicidality.  It is not used that often, which is a very good thing! For more information about PCP, this is a great website: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/mom/mom_hal5.php.
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 candelario.v - M.R. Wood Center for Learning (alternative school), Texas: how can weed mess up your brain cells?

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Marijuana has been shown to have direct effects many areas of the brain.  It has direct effects on cognitive processes by affecting the systems in the brain responsible for learning and memory.

Marijuana binds to specific proteins in the brain, called 'cannabinoid receptors'.  These receptors are part of a finely calibrated 'endocannabioid' system found in the brain and the body that is involved in a whole host of functions, including pain regulation, reward, metabolism, mood and even immune function (how the body protects itself from infection).  Marijuana floods the system, disrupting the finely orchestrated response that evolved over millions of years to do the many functions mentioned above.  This leads to the effects that users feel--in the brain the cannabinoid receptors are found in the hippocampus--crucial for memory formation; the cerebellum--important for coordinating movements; the cortex--involved in thinking and judgment; and reward areas--important for motivation.  Marijuana disrupts the normal function of those areas and with repeated use the endocannabinoid system starts to adapt--to cope with the artificial situation created by exposure to marijuana. We do know that people can become addicted to the drug (and suffer withdrawal symptoms when they quit--irritability, sleep and appetite disturbances), and that they may suffer cognitively in the long run.  Long term users also report decreased life satisfaction, poorer mental and physical health, relationship problems and decreased career and educational attainment compared to their peers from similar backgrounds.

So evidence is clear that marijuana can 'mess up' the normal functioning of brain cells.  For more information, check out:http://www.marijuana-info.org/
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 thebomb.com - GMG Community School, Iowa: If I do drugs one time will I become addicted?

Expert Icon Kris Bough: Probabaly not. But depending on the drug being used, different drugs have different potentials for abuse and addiction. Cocaine, for example, is a very addictive drug. The rate at which a person can become addicted also depends in part on their genetic makeup and environment. However, most drugs of abuse can eventally lead to addiction. You should also consider that just because your chances of becoming addicted on the first try are low, your chances for other bad side effects are higher.  For example, inhaling high concentrations of fumes from inhalants can cause a person to suffocate...that's bad.
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 kutiekay - Rockville HS, Maryland: in a statistic posted earlier you said the 3 drinks make a girl, between the ages of 9 to 13, drunk. what does 'drinks' mean? how much is one drink?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Good question! A 'drink' is defined as one serving of beer, wine or liquor:

One serving of beer is 12 ounces of 5% alcohol (0.6 grams total alcohol)
One serving of wine is 5 ounces of 12% alcohol (0.6 grams total alcohol)
One serving of liquor is 1.5 ounces of 40% alcohol (0.6 grams total alcohol)

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 ims702 - Iberia Middle School, Louisiana: What does methadone do to your body when you are addicted to it?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: ims702 Methadone causes the same effects as many other opioids. It can cause a dry mouth which can cause dental disease, it will reduce appetite and cause weight loss, and some people say it causes hair loss. It also reduces hormone production and in men can cause impotence. When you are addicted to it, it means you will go through withdrawal if you stop it suddenly. Withdrawal effects are basically the opposite of what the drug causes, so instead of feeling euphoria or feeling good you feel bad and anxious; and you will get back and muscle aches. Heroin addicts on methadone know that methadone can get into the bones and cause bone pain which causes a person to kick. That's why quitting opioids is called 'kicking.' Other unpleasant side effects are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
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 958832 - Einstein High School, Maryland: do you think smoking can affect your life span?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: We know from scientific research that the earlier you smoke or use other drugs, the more likely you are to become addicted and suffer serious social and medical consequences, like having yellow teeth, lack of physical activity, asthma and other lung problems, as well as increasing your risk for cancers.  Smoking causes so many health consequences--it can certainly shorten your lifespan.  So....tell your friends that smoking is not good for them!  Thanks for your question.  Information about smoking and prevention can be found at www.smokefree.gov.
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 jcarson - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: can drinking a lot of alcohol put in a comma

Expert Icon Aaron White: Yes, it certainly can. Alcohol has powerful effects on the brain and dramatically slows brain functioning. If you drink enough alcohol, your brain can shut down as a result, sending you into a deep, coma-like state. Alcohol can also shut off vital centers in the brain we need to keep us alive, and even cause death.
PollI have tried to help a friend stop using drugs.
35% - Yes
55% - No
10% - Maybe
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 s.kate.e - Pekin Community School, Iowa: Why is alcohol considered a drug if it is legal and less harmful than actual drugs?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Drugs are substances that alter how we think and feel and alcohol does just that. Something does not need to be illegal to be considered a drug. Alcohol can be a very dangerous drug, particularly for teenagers. Any amount of drinking can be dangerous for teenagers and drinking for anyone under age 21 is illegal. Underage drinking can also result in problems like: 
 
  1. Legal trouble
  2. Car crashes and other accidents
  3. Negative effects on the brain and its development
  4. Making bad choices and engaging in risky behavior
  5. Starting to drink before age 21 increases the risk of developing alcoholism later on

The brain is changing in very important ways during the teenage years and alcohol can interfere with brain development. Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years can make the area of the brain called the frontal lobes smaller. The frontal lobes help us make decisions, think about things and pay attention. Teenagers who drink a lot have problems with these things. Alcohol also can shrink the hippocampus, the area of the brain area that helps us learn and remember things. Teenagers who drink a lot also have trouble with learning. We do not know yet whether these problems go away if the teenager stops drinking.

Drinking at a young age makes it much more likely a person will develop alcoholism later in life. It's really important to wait as long as possible to drink alcohol, or to avoid it altogether. To learn more about how alcohol can affect kids, check out: http://www.thecoolspot.gov/
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 cvelasco - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: How does drugs affect your body?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Drugs of abuse are molecules that bind or cling to receptors in areas of the brain that signal reward or pleasure. Many of these drug molecules have a positive effect, like relieving pain, by interfering with the pain system of the brain, or can improve attention and focus for people whose brains aren't 'tuned' well. Drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, or other strong 'stimulants' can increase heart rate suddenly, though, putting the user at risk of heart attack or stroke. The other serious risk is ADDICTION, where someone who uses drugs for fun or to treat pain loses control over the drug, and can't keep himself or herself from doing anything to get the drug and use it. Over time, the brain can form powerful associations between things we see in the environment that lead to experiencing drugs and alcohol, and ultimately the high. This is especially true for nicotine in cigarettes or heroin. The body suffers too, as people stop taking care of themselves in other areas (like diet) as their lives become all about getting the next hit of drug or alcohol. Most people who regularly use drugs or alcohol can stop themselves at some point and walk away from it. However, depending on the drug, a fraction of people who use it repeatedly will ultimately lose control, and it will truly wreck their life- either permanently, or the drugs will leave people in a useless fog for many years, until they can get themselves together. This happened to some close relatives of mine. Not worth the risk, I say!
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 pjmorris14 - The Blake School, Minnesota: If a person uses medicinal marijuana, will the same negative effects of marijuana still effect them

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: Yes--there's no difference between 'medical marijuana' and other marijuana.
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 ajbuoy - Cathedral High School, Indiana: can you get high from eating mcribs

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Not high, just fat.
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 schuett30 - GMG Community School, Iowa: How much meth does it take to overdose?

Expert Icon Kris Bough: Methamphetamine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant drug that is similar in structure to amphetamine and acts to stimulate the brain and body. The amount of meth it takes to overdose depends on a lot of factors. First, different people react differently to drugs depending on their genetics and how the drug is put into the body (such as taken as a pill, or snorted or injected directly into the blood stream). It also depends on whether the drug is possibly taken at the same time with other drugs, as other drugs can influence the rate which meth is broken down and/or acts in the brain to ultimately lead to overdose. For more info on meth and to see what othe teens are thinking and blogging about meth, please check out: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_stim1.php
Moderator Icon  Of the 2.1 million Emergency Department visits nationwide involving drug abuse, 27.1% involved nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals, 21.2% involved illicit drugs, and 14.3% involved alcohol, in combination with other drugs.
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 karent - Johnson Middle School, California: how do drugs affect our brains?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Some drugs can cause long-term brain damage- both in how brain cells communicate with each other, and lowered activity in general, and reduced (shrunken or less dense) gray matter, as shown by brain scans.

The other serious risk is ADDICTION, where someone who uses drugs for fun or to treat pain loses control over the drug, and can't keep himself or herself from stopping looking to get the drug and use it. Over time, the brain can form powerful associations between things we see in the environment that lead to experiencing drugs and alcohol, and ultimately the high. This is especially true for nicotine in cigarettes or heroin. The body suffers too, as people stop taking care of themselves in other areas (like diet) as their lives become all about getting the next hit of drug or alcohol. Most people who regularly use drugs or alcohol can stop themselves at some point and walk away from it. However, depending on the drug, a fraction of people who use it repeatedly will ultimately lose control, and it will truly wreck their life- either permanently, or the drugs will leave people in a useless fog for many years, until they can get themselves together. This happened to some close relatives of mine. Not worth the risk, I say!

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 piglover309 - Rockville HS, Maryland: Why do some people get COPD years after they smoke while others never get it but smoked througout their life

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Good question.  The long term consequences of smoking are varied.  Some people get COPD (including bronchitis and/or emphysema), oral cancer, lung cancer, peripheral artery disease, and heart disease.  It's not clear why people get one thing over the other, but a very common denominator for all of these diseases is smoking.  It's bad news.
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 ablanco - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: What is the difference between drug abuse and drug addiction

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: Addiction is when the drug abuse gets out of control--and can become the driving force in a person's life, even while they are experiencing dire consequences from their drug use. Its not easy to tell when you are crossing that line from abuse to addiction--and many people don't realize it until its too late.  However, there are treatments for addiction, so people can and do recover.
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 fort settlement - Ft. Settlement Middle School, Texas: If an adult takes drugs can they abuse their child to take drugs?

Expert Icon Belinda Sims: Parents who abuse alcohol and/or other drugs often have trouble being good parents.  This can put their children at risk for a number negative outcomes, including risk for drug use.  It is important to reach out for help in these situations.  Talking to another trusted adult in the family, or a teacher or counselor at school can be helpful.  Another resource is the substance abuse treatment facility locator, which can be reached by calling 1-800-662-HELP, or go to www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov anytime, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.
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 Stephanie - Einstein High School, Maryland: what do you do when idiot friends drink?

Expert Icon Aaron White: If someone is pressuring you to do anything that's not right or good for you, you have the right to resist. You have the right to say no, the right not to give a reason why, and the right to just walk away from a situation.  Sometimes resisting isn’t easy, but you can do it with practice and a little know-how. Keep trying, even if you don’t get it right at first. You can resist alcohol or anything else you may feel pressured into - here are some tips:

Say no and let them know you mean it
Stand up straight and make eye contact
Say how you feel
Don't make excuses
Stick up for yourself

It might also be a good idea to connect with friends who don't drink and so won't put you in this tough position.

To learn more about how alcohol can affect kids and how to learn to say NO to kids who offer it to you, check out: http://www.thecoolspot.gov/
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 jum - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Is it safe to trust this website for every single question? (exclude the ridiculous ones please.)

Expert Icon Carol Krause: Over the past 30 years NIDA has contributed to and participated in most of the world's research on drug abuse and addiction. We believe in scientific research and are confident that our answers are the best science has to offer. However, because each scientist at NIDA answers these questions independently, there might be some variations in how the science is interpreted. I suggest that you check out several sites at NIDA--including our main site (drugabuse.gov) and our teen site (teens.drugabuse.gov.)
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 CDT - Clinton High School, Iowa: What can you do to ease the crave for alcohol?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Craving is an important sign of alcohol dependence. If you are not able to withstand the cravings on your own and stop drinking, there are plenty of sources of help. First, find an adult whom you trust - like a teacher, family member, schoool nurse, or family doctor, and talk to them about your problem. It is sooo important to stop while you are still young to avoid doing any further damage to your body and to allow your brain to heal and recover. 

Here is a link to further information about the signs of alcoholism and suggestions for quitting. While the site is tailored primarily for adults, the resources can provide good starting points for quitting and finding additional help if you are unable to do it on your own.

http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/Support/ChooseYourApproach.asp
Moderator Icon  To find general information on substance abuse prevention and treatment, a good place to begin is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Web site, www.samhsa.gov.
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 Soccerbabe2001 - Rockville HS, Maryland: Why do people do drugs?

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: What a great simple question.  Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. People begin taking drugs for lots of reasons but common ones include: they want to experience something new, they feel bad and have heard drugs can make you feel good or overcome a void, their family/friends have encouraged them to use drugs, or they're just plain bored or looking for something to do and drugs happen to be available.  Regardless of the reasons why people try drugs, they have a powerful impact on our brain, body, and behaviors.  Quite often, they can make people very sick and may lead to both short and long term problems.  To learn more about drugs and their effects see: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/
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 iyamsydney - Cathedral High School, Indiana: If you are depressed and smoke weed to feel better does it make you feel ever worse?

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: It can--similar to alcohol it may initially make you feel better but eventually worsen the depression.  Some people lose their motivation or interest in things, and marijuana has definitely been linked to depression--although whether it causes depression is not yet known.
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 Sdang - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: when a person is on drugs can you tell they the mental changes occur quickly or slowly or does it depends on the person?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork:  Changes can occur quickly AND over time.  Quickly due to the person being actually high at the time.  However, other changes can emerge over time even when the person is not actively 'high', as the brain itself changes because of the drugs.

Most drugs and certainly alcohol, actually change the structure and shape of parts of the brain, and can even shrink them! The other serious risk is ADDICTION, where someone who uses drugs for fun or to treat pain loses control over the drug, and can't keep himself or herself from stopping looking to get the drug and use it. Over time, the brain can form powerful associations between things we see in the environment that lead to experiencing drugs and alcohol, and ultimately the high. This is especially true for nicotine in cigarettes or heroin. The body suffers too, as people stop taking care of themselves in other areas (like diet) as their lives become all about getting the next hit of drug or alcohol. Most people who regularly use drugs or alcohol can stop themselves at some point and walk away from it. However, depending on the drug, a fraction of people who use it repeatedly will ultimately lose control, and it will truly wreck their life- either permanently, or the drugs will leave people in a useless fog for many years, until they can get themselves together.
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 naynay25 - Pekin Community School, Iowa: When you use marijuana, is it possible to pass out?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: It is not only possible, but it is likely that you will pass out - although you may just consider that you need close your eyes for a short nap, then you open your eyes again to find an hour went by.  You can imagine how bad that might be if you were in school, but just think how much worse it would be if you were driving a car.  Also, people who smoke marijuana a lot can find themselves having trouble falling asleep at night when they try to quit using marijuana, and that can lead them to start smoking mariujana again just to get to sleep at night. 
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 jum - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: If you have a prescription medicine that your doctor recommended, and you don't trust it because it is too risky to take, is it safe to trust this site?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: I am not sure I understand your question.  If you are concerned about the safety of the medications your doctor prescribed, you should discuss this with your doctor.  If you are concerned about what your doctor is telling you, maybe you should get a second opinion....  Hope this helps.
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 pekin2016 - Pekin Community School, Iowa: What is being done to protect people from second-hand smoke?

Expert Icon Lori Ducharme: That's a great question and one that is handled by our sister agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Protecting people from second-hand smoke requires that businesses and communities work together -- that's exactly why you see that many (most) restaurants and other public spaces don't allow smoking anymore.  For more information on second-hand smoke, check out CDC's fact sheet at:  http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/secondhand_smoke/protection/shs_exposure/index.htm.
Addiction is a disease of :
The correct answer is: B. The Brain. Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease because drugs alter the brain in a way that can lead to compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. Learn more: http://www.drugabuse.gov/ScienceofAddiction/
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 Robby - North Ridgeville Middle School, Ohio: does weed cause memory problems?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Yes. Brain scans done on teens while they're trying to perform a memory task shows that areas of the brain not usually involved in memory have to get involved to try to get the task done.
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 DaCookieMonster - The Blake School, Minnesota: Why is coke so addictive?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Cocaine prolongs the action of the neurotransmitter called dopamine (as well as other transmitters).  Neurotransmitters are chemicals that nerve cells use to send messages to each other.  The message that dopamine sends is that something just happened that was much better than you expected.  So you should remember all the things that led up to that, and pay attention to them the next time they occur.  Because cocaine prolongs the action of dopamine, it becomes more important than anything else in your life, and you continue to take cocaine even though it may be bad consequences (like being busted !).
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 vmartin - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: What is it in a sharpie that causes you to get high?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: It's the chemicals in the ink, which include propanol, butanol, and diacetone alcohols.  These are part of a class of chemicals called inhalants. This class of drugs is huge, and includes lots of cleaners, glues, gas... 

For more info, see http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_inhale1.php
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 Omega - GMG Community School, Iowa: Has anyone ever gotten cancer from pot?

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: This is still an open question.  Pot may increase the risk of some cancers, but it does not seem to increase the risk of lung cancer.  However, many people who smoke marijuana also smoke tobacco and marijuana use may make it harder to quit tobacco.
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 afrench - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: is the nictine gum or other products really work?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Hello, afrench. Nicotine gum does work.  It may not work for everyone, but there are other possibilities for people to get help for quitting smoking.  For more information on how to quit, see: www.smokefree.gov
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 coolkid - Boiling Springs HS, Pennsylvania: does alcohol effect the thinking?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Yes, very much so. Alcohol has powerful effects on areas of the brain right behind your forehead, called the frontal lobes. The frontal lobes are involved in thinking, planning for the future, making decisions, storing short-term memories, etc. Alcohol suppresses, or turns off, the frontal lobes, making it difficult to think clearly and make good choices. Alcohol's effects on the frontal lobes can make it more likely that you will make bad choices after drinking too much.
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 Bethanne C. - Pekin Community School, Iowa: How would you get over drugs if you took them for over five years or more?

Expert Icon Lori Ducharme: Hey Bethanne -- good question, although the absolute amount of time someone has been using drugs is not as important as the drugs they've been using, how often, and how it has affected their brains and functioning.  But 5 years would seem to indicate that someone has a problem--and that calls for treatment.  A variety of science-backed treatment approaches (many of them developed through NIDA-funded research) are available to help people recover from drug addiction.  These include a number of FDA-approved medications, as well as behavioral (counseling) therapies that address both the addiction and its physical and social consequences.  Most of these treatments are available in treatment programs in communities throughout America (www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov) but also from your doctor.  To learn more about the best available treatments for drug abuse, you can check out our publication, Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment, at http://www.nida.nih.gov/PODAT/PODATIndex.html.  I hope this helps!
Moderator Icon  Like playing games? Try out these Brain Games on our website: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/havefun/index.php
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 pekin2016 - Pekin Community School, Iowa: What are possible ways to quit smoking? ?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: There are several products available to help with this, such as nicotine gum or the nicotine patch.  However, there's a lot of research that suggests it's not just the nicotine people get hooked on, it's the whole ritual of grabbing and holding that cigarette.  Other people are just able to quit without assistance.  Quitting in general is very very hard, which is why we care so much about preventing people from starting in the first place.  Nicotine is among the most addictive drugs out there! If anyone you know needs help finding a doctor, therapist, support group or treatment program, visit the website www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov, or call 1-800-662-HELP.
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 Humann(: - Rochester Adams High School, Michigan: What is k2? and what is the effects of it?

Expert Icon David Shurtleff: Thanks for your question.
K2, Spice is a fairly new phenomenon, that is thought of as synthetic cannabis. There is no solid indication that this herbal mixture is lethal. But since this mixtures are not regulated nor standardized different batches from different manufacturers could end up containing dangerous contaminants. Recently, there have also been an increase in poison control calls and ER visits related to using k2.  My advice, stay healthy and take care.
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 Hank H - Harrisburg High School, Arkansas: What are your sources for your information that you are providing?

Expert Icon Carol Krause: Excellent question! Over the past 30 years NIDA has contributed to and participated in most of the world's research on drug abuse and addiction. Our scientists are among the most knowledgeable in the world about drug abuse issues, and keep up-to-date on studies about prevention, treatment and the effect that drug abuse and addiction have on our health status, our culture and our world. We have a strong foundation of science behind our answers here today. Because each scientist answers CHAT DAY questions independently, there might be some variations in how they answer. However, science has taught us a  great deal about drugs in recent decades, and we are committed to sharing that information with the younger generation. Our Web site, drugabuse.gov, is filled with science-based information on this topic.
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 fort settlement - Ft. Settlement Middle School, Texas: Is drinking a little red wine good for you?

Expert Icon Aaron White: It is possible there are some small benefits of alcohol, but only for adults. Research suggests that up to one drink per day for females or two for males can improve the health of the heart. However, drinking at levels beyond that can increase the risk for cancers and other diseases. Importantly, there do not appear to be any benefits, only harms, associated with alcohol use during adolescence.

To learn more about how alcohol affects your body, check this out:
http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.pdf
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 Rorschach - Harrisburg High School, Arkansas: Do poppy seeds register on drug tests?

Expert Icon Gaya Dowling: They can. Poppy seeds do contain morphine (an opiate) at very low levels so you can come up positive for morphine if you just ate a lot of pastries that contained poppy seeds. The level for opiate testing was raised in part for this reason, so it unusual now for this type of case.
Moderator Icon  Did you know that vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among young people age 15 to 24? Evidence from both real and simulated driving studies indicates that marijuana can negatively affect a driver's attentiveness, perception of time and speed, and the ability to draw on information obtained from past experiences.
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 wigginsp - Boiling Springs HS, Pennsylvania: Why does liquor get you so much more drunk than beer?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Well, ounce for ounce, liquor has more alcohol content in it than beer does. So 1.5 ounces of liquor (40% alcohol) has the same alcohol content as 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol).

Also, your body absorbs the alcohol in liquor faster than the alcohol in beer because you drink it in smaller amounts. This makes you feel the effects of the liquor faster and more powerfully than you feel the effects of beer. Also, when people drink liquor, they often drink much more alcohol than they think they are drinking.

You can learn more about drink sizes and alcohol content here: http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/
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 kutiekay - Rockville HS, Maryland: if you are bipolar can the effects of drugs be worse on you than on people who don't have bipolar?

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: People with a mental disorder are generally at higher risk of becoming addicted if they use drugs than people without a disorder.  This includes bipolar disorder.
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 scertenberg - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: what are hallucinogens how do they work. Why do people get addicted to them hoa do you get the drug?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: Hey...thanks for your question.  Here's some information on how to learn more about hallucinogens:  http://teens.drugabuse.gov/mom/mom_hal1.php

Some hallucinogens come from plants. Mescaline comes from a cactus called peyote. And certain mushrooms, also known as “magic” mushrooms, are hallucinogens.  But many hallucinogens are chemicals that don’t occur in nature. Some examples are:

  • LSD, also called acid
  • MDA, also called the “love drug,” related to the stimulant amphetamine
  • MDMA, known as ecstasy, also related to amphetamine
  • PCP, often called angel dust
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 DevinD - Pekin Community School, Iowa: What drug effects last the most?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: The simple answer is the last drug you took.  But a serious answer is more difficult.  Drugs vary in how long they stay in the body, and some drugs to stay in the body a long time.  For example, methamphetamine is degraded by your body much more slowly than amphetamine so it is around for a longer period of time than amphetamine.  Similarly, THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana gets stored in body fat and so is present for a long time.  A bigger issue is that drugs can cause long lasting changes in the cells in your brain (neurons and glia), and these changes can persist long after the drug has left the body.  We really don't know what all of such changes may mean for the functioning of the brain, but why take the chance ?
Moderator Icon  How many drinks does it take to reach the limit considered “intoxicated” by the legal system? Well, kids reach the legal drinking limit with fewer drinks than adults. Girls age 9 to 17 reach this limit with about 3 drinks. Boys ages 14 to 15 reach this limit with about 4 drinks, and boys ages 16 to 17 reach this limit with about 5 drinks. Of course all alcohol drinking by kids is illegal.
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 chase8148 - GMG Community School, Iowa: Is salvia legal

Expert Icon Gaya Dowling: Salvia is not currently listed as a controlled substance by the DEA but some states have placed controls on it. Effects of this drug include seeing bright lights, vivid colors and shapes, dizziness, slurred speech hallucinations (seeing objects that are not present). Because the hallucinogenic effects of this drug are unpredictable, so are the risk of injury or death as a result of impaired judgment due to disruptions of sensory and cognitive functions
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 Bethanne C. - Pekin Community School, Iowa: What is the most known age to make wrong decisions with drugs?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Mid-to-late adolescence, in that 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 that 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.
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 JSlice - GMG Community School, Iowa: Why do people try drugs in the first place?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: To experiment, to try to feel good because they are compensating for something bad in their life, or to try to fit in with friends who are using.  I was fortunate in growing up that I had stuff like music I was interested in, and never felt a need to get high using drugs or alcohol, and I had friends that weren't really into drugs or alcohol either. For some facts about drugs, check out this website: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/.
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 naynay25 - Pekin Community School, Iowa: When people inhale dust-cleaner, can it make them mentally insane?

Expert Icon Kris Bough: Do you mean like is it insane to inhale dust cleaner in the first place???  Seriously though, inhalants (like dust-cleaners) can contain vapors that people sometimes 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. Inhalants can be particularly dangerous as they can displace oxygen from the lungs and cause less and less oxygen to get the brain and other body organs, which could result in suffocation and death. 

For more info, please check out: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_inhale1.php ; Also check out what other teens think about inhalants at http://www.teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_inhale1.php
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 ilovekatz12 - Skaneateles High School, New York: what blood alcohol level is 'drunk'?

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Here are the legal limits:

DUI/DWI laws November 2011

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have per se laws defining it as a crime to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above a specified level, currently 0.08 percent (0.08 g alcohol per 100 ml blood).

If you need more information on alcohol, check out:

http://drugfactsweek.drugabuse.gov/chat/chatfaqs_topics/alcohol.php
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 qwertyuiop - The Blake School, Minnesota: does THC prevent cancer by killing cancer cells

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: There's no convincing evidence for that at this time--either that THC prevents cancer or that it kills cancer cells. 
Moderator Icon  There are thousands of teens asking questions---and only 30 of us scientists back here in Bethesda, Maryland sitting at computers. So we are answering your questions as fast as we can! Check out the drug facts while you wait! You will be able to search the transcript for your school’s name (or your user name) to see if your questions got answered!
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 vaidehi - MillSprings Academy, Georgia: At what age do the students get influenced to take drugs and what motivates them to do so?

Expert Icon Belinda Sims: Hello! Individuals who use drugs often have their first use of drugs (onset) in adolescence.  The earlier a person begins to use alcohol, tobacco or other drugs the more likely they are to progress to abuse and addiction later on. There are a number of factors that may increase the chances that a young person will use drugs. We call these risk factors.  Risk factors may come from one or more sources, including social, environmental, or biological factors, and often more than one risk factor will be present. Just because someone has a risk factor it does not mean that they will use drugs. Youth also have many protective factors in their lives--things that reduce the likelihood of using drugs that could also be social (e.g., positive peer relationships), environmental (e.g., caring and supportive family), or biological (e.g., good self-control). But using drugs can have a lot of negative consequences including losing friends, not doing well in school, getting in trouble with the law, and other problems, too. 

Here are some websites you may be interested in.
http://www.thecoolspot.gov/index.asp
http://drugfactsweek.drugabuse.gov/booklet.php
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 harry.h - Dulles Middle School, Texas: DMS Sugar Land, TX Is crystal meth injected or smoked?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Both.  It can also be taken by mouth, but the hit to the brain is much faster when injected and smoked, and it is thought that the faster a drug gets to the brain, the more likely the user is to become addicted to it.
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 harry.h - Dulles Middle School, Texas: DMS, Sugar land, TX- Is it ture that you can have flashbacks ten years after taking LSD? (Explain)

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: There are several case reports and small studies in the medical literature that suggest this, but this is really controversial.  Part of the problem is that these occurrances aren't carefully recorded.
PollI think teachers do a good job of explaining the dangers of drugs.
52% - Yes
27% - No
21% - Maybe
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 bobbymcwire - Johnson Middle School, California: are there ways to stop using drugs or quit?

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Yes, if you know someone who is addicted to drugs, you should try to convince him or her to get professional help.  There are many successful treatments and ways that can help people quit using drugs.  Some people just decide to quit 'cold turkey' but this can be very difficult for some.  We know that drug treatment does work and helps many people with this difficult problem.

For more information, and for help, see:http://www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ or 1-800-662-HELP, where you can find private and confidential help 24/7.

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 ims701 - Iberia Middle School, Louisiana: if you breath second hand smoke from weed can you get dumb?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: I don't know about dumb, but there are enough active chemicals in marijuana smoke to have an effect on your brain, same as if you smoked 'weed' directly yourself.  So you can experience the same effects, such as sleepiness and loss of attention, forgetfulness, and an increase desire for food, especially junk food.
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 harry.h - Dulles Middle School, Texas: DMS, Sugar Land, TX-Is the marijuana today different from the marijuana people used in the sixties? (Exaplain)

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: Yes--its stronger. The amount of THC (its active ingredient) in the marijuana plant has been going up over time from about 3-4% in the 80s to about 10% now.  This means that people can get exposed to higher doses more easily with unpredictable effects--especially in a new user.   
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 favtwoin - The Blake School, Minnesota: What substance in a drug like crack make it very addictive?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: The cocaine molecule is the 'active' ingredent in crack.  What makes crack so addictive is that it is typically smoked, and this enables the cocaine molecules to get into the brain VERY quickly compared to snorting it. In general, when a drug of abuse gets to the brain very fast, the high is more intense, and the substance potentially more addictive.
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 aznboy - Johnson Middle School, California: how to stop being addicted to drugs?

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Drug addiction is a treatable disease - with medications (in some cases) and behavioral or psychosocial therapies. Treatment should focus on a person's individual needs, since many people who are addicted to drugs also have other serious problems, including other mental illnesses. Drug addiction is often chronic (long-term), with relapses possible even after long periods of abstinence. But relapse doesn't mean failure, just that treatment needs to be reinstated or adjusted to ensure long-term recovery.

For more information on treatment, check out:http://www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ or 1-800-662-HELP, where you can find private and confidential help 24/7.
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 Bethanne C. - Pekin Community School, Iowa: Do you change when you take drugs, like do you act different?

Expert Icon David Shurtleff: Yep, a change in behavior and personality are common among individuals that are doing drugs.  For example, they can stop participating in activities they used to enjoy, start hanginng around different friends, become mood and more.  Also, drugs can make people behave in erratic ways, for example, PCP use can lead to really erractic behavior, rapid speech, aggression or intense sweating. Want to know more about the effects of drugs?  Go to our site!  There's lots of good info!  http://www.nida.nih.gov/drugpages/; http://teens.drugabuse.gov/
Moderator Icon Are you ready for more poll questions?  Throughout the chat today, you will see our Truth Poll questions. Tell us the truth and we will post the combined percentages from all poll takers. In other words, it will be anonymous and you will see how many people answered the way you did!
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 fc bobcats - First Colony Middle School, Texas: Do drugs affect your performance in sports?

Expert Icon Susan Weiss: Yes, mostly in a bad way. Cigarettes affect your breathing which can make it harder to most sports; marijuana messes with your coordination and reaction time; and other drugs, like cocaine and methamphetamine, can hurt your heart and put you at risk for a heart attack. 
Moderator Icon  In 2009, there were nearly 2.1 million Emergency Department visits nationwide involving drug abuse.
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 Bethanne C. - Pekin Community School, Iowa: What are the everyday things we use that could make us high if we inhale it?

Expert Icon Kris Bough: Inhalants are chemical vapors that people inhale on purpose to get “high.” These chemicals are volatolized at room temperature and can produce mind-altering, and sometimes disastrous effects. These vapors are in a variety of products including some paints, glues, gasoline, makers, and cleaning fluids. For more information, please check out: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_inhale1.php
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 pekin2016 - Pekin Community School, Iowa: Are some cigarettes better to smoke than others?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: That is a hard question to answer.  Smoking anything poses a risk to your lungs because of the harmful effects of chemicals produced during burning.  Even the so called 'e-cigarretes' still deliver nicotine, which is both addictive and has harmful physiological effects.  In fact, tobacco plants evolved to produce nicotine to kill the insects that feed on the tobacco plant.  So that should give you some idea of whether any cigarrette is good to smoke.
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 madison - North Ridgeville Middle School, Ohio: Does weed make your teeth yellow?

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Yes, it could just like smoking cigarettes yellows one's teeth.  Note that smoking marijuana is bad for the lungs, and the plant contains more than 400 chemicals with unknown health effects that vary from one plant to the other. Please see the following link for more information on marijuana  http://www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/Marijuana.html
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 manpanther2233 - Harrisburg High School, Arkansas: do pain killers really kill pain or take your mind off it

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: manpanther2223 Thanks for the question. Pain medications or 'opioids' work in a variety of ways on many receptors in the body.  Mostly, they do reduce the feeling of pain. But they also work in areas of the brain that reduce the mind's awareness of the pain.
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 IMS418 - Iberia Middle School, Louisiana: How can I stop my dad from smoking?

Expert Icon Joni Rutter: For more information on how to get your dad to quit, see: www.smokefree.gov.  Good luck!  I hope he quits--you'll have him around much longer.  My dad quit smoking over 30 years ago, and we just celebrated his 80th birthday.
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 dragonslayer217 - Boiling Springs HS, Pennsylvania: what effect does alcohol have on developing brains?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Alcohol has both short-term and long-term effects on the brain. In the short-term, such as during a night of drinking, alcohol can do the following:

1. Frontal lobes - Alcohol turns off the frontal lobes, which are important for making good decisions and controlling our urges to do things that could ultimately be very bad for us. This increases the odds of getting into fights, getting injured, and taking dangerous risks.
2. Hippocampus - Alcohol suppresses the hippocampus, which is the brain area that makes our  memories. As a result, many people wake up the next day after drinking and have trouble remembering things that they did the night before.
3. Amygdala - The amygdala is in charge of warning us when we are in danger by making us feel afraid or anxious. Alcohol suppresses the amygdala, which makes it easier for us to do thing that normally would make us feel anxious or afraid. This increases the chances we will get hurt or do things we will regret.
4. Cerebellum - The cerebellum plays a big role in balance and walking. Alcohol impairs these abilities.
5. Brain stem - The brain stem contains areas important for keeping us alive. If these areas are shut off, such as by high levels of alcohol consumption (i.e., alcohol poisoning) we can die.

Alcohol also has long-term effects on the brain, particularly during the teen years. The teenage years are a very important time for development of the brain. The thinking parts, memory parts, and feeling parts are all changing when we are teenagers. Alcohol can interfere with these important changes and actually shrink the thinking and memory parts.

Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years can make an area of the brain called the frontal lobes smaller. The frontal lobes help us make decisions, think about things, and pay attention. Teenagers who drink a lot have problems with these things. Alcohol also can shrink the hippocampus, the area of the brain area that helps us learn and remember. Teenagers who drink a lot also have trouble with learning. We do not know yet whether these problems go away if the teenager stops drinking.

For weeks and months after a teenager stops drinking heavily, these parts of the brain still struggle to work correctly. It's not clear whether the brain ever fully heals itself. In addition, drinking at a young age makes it more likely to become an alcoholic later in life. So, drinking when we are young could have lots of negative effects on the brain!
Moderator Icon  Although we know what happens to the brain when someone becomes addicted, we can’t predict how many times a person must use a drug before becoming addicted. A person's genes and the environment each play a role. We are all different and unpredictable so any use is risky.
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 thatgirl - Sidney High School, Nebraska: If it nessasarily bad to drink alcohol at a young age, if you dont get drunk or over drink?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Any amount of drinking can be dangerous for teenagers and drinking for anyone under age 21 is illegal. Underage drinking can also result in problems like: 
 
  1. Legal trouble
  2. Car crashes and other accidents
  3. Negative effects on the brain and its development
  4. Making bad choices and engaging in risky behavior
  5. Starting to drink before age 21 increases the risk of developing alcoholism later on

The brain is changing in very important ways during the teenage years and alcohol can interfere with brain development. Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years can make the area of the brain called the frontal lobes smaller. The frontal lobes help us make decisions, think about things and pay attention. Teenagers who drink a lot have problems with these things. Alcohol also can shrink the hippocampus, the area of the brain area that helps us learn and remember things. Teenagers who drink a lot also have trouble with learning. We do not know yet whether these problems go away if the teenager stops drinking.

Drinking at a young age makes it much more likely a person will develop alcoholism later in life. It's really important to wait as long as possible to drink alcohol, or to avoid it altogether. To learn more about how alcohol can affect kids, check out: http://www.thecoolspot.gov/
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 harry.h - Dulles Middle School, Texas: DMS, Sugar Land, TX-What are designer drugs?

Expert Icon Kris Bough: Hey Sugar Land!
The term “designer drugs” refers to drugs that are created in a laboratory (typically, an “underground,” or secret, illegal lab).  A designer drug is created by changing the properties of a drug that comes from a plant—such as cocaine, morphine, or marijuana—using the tools of chemistry.  The resulting “designer” drugs typically have a new, different effect on the brain or behavior. Check out this site for more info!
http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/real-teens-ask-designer-drugs/
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 dabrions - M.R. Wood Center for Learning (alternative school), Texas: What i want to know is if i am a heavy smoker, what are some possible ways that i could quit?

Expert Icon Lori Ducharme: It's great that you want to quit smoking -- that's a decision that will really pay off for you in the long run.  The easiest option is to see your doctor -- he or she can help you decide on the quit-smoking strategy that's best for you.  In the meantime, we've got some great resources on a website designed just for teenagers that will give you facts about smoking, including effective options for treating nicotine addiction:  http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_nicotine1.php
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 123mdd - GMG Community School, Iowa: What would be considered a hramful drug

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Every drug has harmful effects if taken in large enough amounts.  For example, taking too much acetaminophen can damage your liver.  So the answer depends on how much of the drug you take, and how often you take it.  Doctors, nurses, pharmacologists, pharmacists spend years learning the relative benefits and risks that every drug has.  But you can easily find out this information yourself these days by searching the internet or reading the label on any legal drug you take.  Some drug are harmful even if taken in smaller doses, for example, cocaine is never a good drug to take.
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 Thursty - GMG Community School, Iowa: If you don't answer this question in the next ten minutes i'm going to get blazed, what are the negative effects of marijuana

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: OMG Noooooo!  MJ can cause paranoia or anxiety in some people.  Long term, though, MJ causes reduction in gray matter in certain parts of the brain, and disrupts memory and concentration, and decision-making in some laboratory tasks.  MJ users also have to use different parts of the brain to get a mental task done, as though their brains have to work harder-- compared to non-users. MJ is also potentially addictive.
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 samantha - North Ridgeville Middle School, Ohio: why is it so hard for people to stop drinking or doing drugs after awhile?

Expert Icon David Shurtleff: their brain is changed- drugs of abuse hijack and rewire the brain so it now 'expects' and 'craves'  the drugs, but never fear, research shows that treatment for addiction can work and people can regain their lives!
Which of the following is safe to do
The correct answer is: C. Tweet about texting on Twitter. All of the actions above (except tweeting) can have dangerous health consequences, including addiction. Cocaine can cause heart attacks, seizures; marijuana can impair driving ability, especially when combined with alcohol; ecstasy pills can contain any number of toxic ingredients; and sniffing permanent markers can keep oxygen from getting to your brain. Learn more about these drugs on the NIDA for Teens Web site at http://www.teens.drugabuse.gov/
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 lovepink - Johnson Middle School, California: is it bad for girls to do drugs

Expert Icon Carol Krause: Drugs are bad for anyone who consumes them.
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 acdude14 - The Blake School, Minnesota: Can someone be addicted to a drug yet not show any signs of addiction?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: If by that you mean that the person is addicted (the person is constantly on the lookout to get their next 'fix' of the drug or takes way too much and can't stop) but this preoccupation with getting and using the drug is kept a secret from family members and friends, then 'yes'.  There are a lot of 'functional alcoholics' out there for example, that can stay sober enough to get through a work-day, and seem normal by all appearances, but are truly hooked on alcohol. These addictions don't usually stay hidden for very long, though.
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 ssat101 - Skaneateles High School, New York: what should i do if i know my parent is addicted to alcohol?

Expert Icon Aaron White: That's an important question. According to the National Library of Medicine, people who are addicted to alcohol tend to have the following issues:
  • Craving - a strong need to drink
  • Loss of control - not being able to stop drinking once you've begun
  • Physical dependence - withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating or shakiness after stopping drinking
  • Tolerance - the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to get 'high'
If you have a parent who has these problems, you need to talk to an adult you trust. You need support right now and there are organizations out there who can help you. Click here for a list of organizations you can contact: http://www.thecoolspot.gov/real_life2.asp 
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 klhdsf - GMG Community School, Iowa: What is acid?

Expert Icon Carol Krause: LSD (d-lysergic acid diethylamide) is one of the most potent mood-changing chemicals discovered in 1938 and manufactured from lysergic acid, found in ergot.
Moderator Icon  Marijuana is linked to problems in school. Marijuana’s negative effects on attention, memory and learning can last for days and sometimes weeks- especially if you smoke often.
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 kzalo - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: my cousin is pregnant and she does drugs; she has it all in her room and she asked me to try it, what do i do? and what can happen to her?

Expert Icon Lori Ducharme: Thanks for your question.  First, let's focus on your friend and her baby.  Using drugs, alcohol, or tobacco when you're pregnant can cause serious problems for both the mother and baby, so you want to do what you can to discourage this or get her some help.  Effects for the baby range from low birth weight to later effects on development, such as impaired attention, language, learning skills, behavioral problems, etc.  These have been seen in children exposed to cocaine and marijuana. Here is a link to info on prenatal exposure to drugs: http://www.drugabuse.gov/tib/prenatal.html.  Depending on the drug, your friend is also at risk for very negative health effects, such as those summarized here: http://www.drugabuse.gov/consequences/.  Using drugs is your choice, but it's really not a good way to spend quality time, and it's really not helpful for you or or her baby. 
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 Tinkerbell97 - Totino-Grace High School, Minnesota: if you are born to a mother who smoked during pregnancy, what are the disabilities or disorders you can be born with?

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: I can only answer this in general, so don't necessarily think that these effects are applicable to you.  Here is what the data seem to show:

In addition to increasing risk for miscarriage, stillborn or premature infants, and low birth weight, maternal smoking predisposes children to a host of long-term behavioral problems, some of which only become apparent later in life. Children whose mothers smoke during pregnancy are also more likely to become dependent on tobacco if they start smoking. Understanding the persistent, deleterious effects of nicotine on the developing fetal brain is a priority for NIDA.

If you would like to explore this important topic, check out: http://www.drugabuse.gov/tib/prenatal.html and http://www.nida.nih.gov/consequences/prenatal/

 

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 fc bobcats - First Colony Middle School, Texas: Re: Dulles Middle-Ft. Settlement Middle School, Texas -- Your answer seems to be opposite of what the question asked. If inhaled drugs reach the brain faster, that wouldn't the inhaled drugs effects occur faster than a stimulant pill?

Expert Icon Ruben Baler: I am sorry if that was confusing.
The rule is simple: inhaled drugs reach the brain faster than swallowed drugs.
Comparing apples to apples: snorting a stimulant will deliver it to the brain much faster than eating it.

Hope this helps.

 
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 1234 - GMG Community School, Iowa: Why is alcohol considered a drug? I want to know. This needs to be answered.

Expert Icon Nora Volkow: Because like most drugs it activates the dopamine reward center in the brain, which is the reason that drugs are addictive.
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 mbrennan14 - Cathedral High School, Indiana: which is a more powerful benzodiazepine, diazepam or alprozolam?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi mbrennan14.  When we consider which drug is more powerful, we consider the effect per miligram of medication.  With this measure, alprozolam is more powerful. HOWEVER, which drug is more powerful does not really matter because if you take more of a less powerful drug the effect can be greater. So all can be dangerous.
Moderator Icon Excellent questions!  Keep them coming!  To learn more about NIDA, check out our website: http://www.nida.nih.gov/nidahome.html
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 Thursty - GMG Community School, Iowa: what are some negative effects of marijuana

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Two of the major negative effects of marijuana are problems with memory (you don't remember things as well as you did before using marijuana) and sleep impairments. These can be fatal if you try to drive or do other activities that require concentration and attention.  People who use marijuana a lot over a long time often have difficulty sleeping when they stop using marijuana, and their inability to fall asleep may lead them to start using again.
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 augie117 - The Blake School, Minnesota: How are bath salts harmful?

Expert Icon Nora Volkow: They can produce psychosis and they can also affect your heart resulting in heart attacks.
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 fc bobcats - First Colony Middle School, Texas: Do all types of drugs affect the body in the same way?

Expert Icon David Shurtleff: Yes and no...while drugs have different side effects, most drugs of abuse target the brain's reward system by flooding the brain with dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, motivation, feelings of pleasure and addiction. When a person takes drugs, brain circuits that use dopamine are stimulated (over stimulated in fact) and is what a person feels is the 'rush' associated with taking drugs. This 'rush' is what makes people repeat the behavior (drug use) and over time, this abnormal stimulation of the brain can lead to 're-wiring' the brain in a way that leads to addiction.
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 jtmahoney14 - The Blake School, Minnesota: How is meth dangerous?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: It can damage the chemical circuits in the brain that help regulate our happiness, such that when people aren't high on it they can become depressed.  Brain scan studies show that regular meth users have shrunken gray matter in parts of the brain.  It can also cause sleep problems and other symptoms.  It can also cause 'meth mouth' and advanced tooth decay. Finally, it can impair a person's judgment, making them vulnerable to dangerous situations, especially when it causes irritability and aggressiveness.
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 asdfghjkl - The Blake School, Minnesota: How does meth affect you?

Expert Icon Nora Volkow: It can make you psychotic (hear and see things that aren't there, and have trouble knowing what is real and what is not). It also has many bad effects on your body that can lead to heart attackes and even kidney failure.
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 tacoman63 - north carroll middle, Maryland: Who does the most drugs 8th or 12th graders

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: Hey tacoman63! The Monitoring the Future Study is a survey conducted by the University of Michigan every year where they ask 8th, 10th, and 12th graders about their drug use behavior and attitudes.  In 2010, around 20% of 8th graders, 32% of 10th graders, and 39% of high school seniors reported they had used some type of drug in the past year (includes any use of marijuana, inhalants, LSD, other hallucinogens, crack, other cocaine, heroin, narcotics other than heroin, amphetamines, sedatives (barbiturates), or tranquilizers not under a doctor’s orders).  For most types of drugs older students report more use than the younger students, however one exception is the use of inhalants which is used by 8.1% of 8th graders compared to 3.6% of high school seniors. 
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 sambw1996 - The Blake School, Minnesota: Does meth put holes in one's brain?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Not holes per se, like swiss cheese.  Rather, it causes reductions in gray matter, as neurons either die outright, or shrivel smaller and connect with fewer other cells.  We know this from brain scan studies of living volunteers.  However, what is actually causing the changes in the brain's structure isn't well-known.
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 Mariarn@sfps.in - Ortiz Middle School, New Mexico: Jasmine would like to know if there are any medical benefits to drinking or using alcohol?

Expert Icon Aaron White: It is possible there are some small benefits of alcohol for adults, but only for adults. Research suggests that up to one drink per day for females or two for males can improve the health of the heart. However, drinking at levels beyond that can increase the risk for cancers and other diseases. Importantly, there do not appear to be any benefits, only harms, associated with alcohol use during adolescence.

To learn more about how alcohol affects your body, check this out:
http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.pdf
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 ims701 - Iberia Middle School, Louisiana: How many people do drugs in the united states

Expert Icon Carol Krause: An estimated 21.8 million Americans aged 12 or older were current illicit drug users, which means they had used an illicit drug during the month prior to the survey in 2009. About 1 in 5 Americans aged 18-25 had used illicit drugs in the past month.
Great Question!
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 Bethanne C. - Pekin Community School, Iowa: Is is good for teens to take pain relivers every time they have a sore muscle or pain from sports?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi Bethanne -- Minor aches and pains and sore muscles from sports are part of everyday life and do not need medication. Unfortunately our society is such that we are often reaching for a pill for every discomfort. We are fortunate that we have strong medicine for severe pain and injuries; but to use these medications all the time makes them ineffective for when we really need them.
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 ladyraider24 - Sidney High School, Nebraska: What part of the brain is the most damaged after someone has used drugs, inhalants, alcohol?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: In general, drugs affect parts of the brain that govern rewards, mood and emotion--and some of the research suggests that it is these areas that are eventually damaged.  Some experiments on specific drugs, such as alcohol, show damage to the frontal lobe, which is unfortunate, since that's the part of the brain that helps us control our behavior-- like drinking!
Moderator Icon  You should always get help if you have symptoms of depression [or any other illness]. You would go to the doctor if you had a broken arm, right?
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 qwertyuiop - The Blake School, Minnesota: how does meth cause you to be depressed once the high wears off

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Because meth directly affects the brain's serotonin neurotransmitter system, which is the chemical system we largely rely on to regulate our mood and happiness.  The brain and its cells adapt to the meth molecules floating around, such that when the meth is no longer around, it's a big brain bummer.
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 mfowler - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: on the news there is an old lady who has lived for a long time and has smoked there entire life and they are still alive so if some one in elementery school started smokeing what are the odds that they would live as long as that person???

Expert Icon Nora Volkow: There are smokers that live to be 100 years old but they may have lived to 110 had they not smoked.  We know that overall smokers have shorter life spans than non smokers.
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 J-Arias94 - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: Why when drunk, does the body not feel anything?? Like if nothing hurts?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Alcohol slows down activity in the brain, including the areas of the brain that tell us that something is wrong. Alcohol makes it harder for nerves to send pain signals to the brain, and we are not as aware of the pain signals that do get through. In this way, alcohol acts a little like the novacaine you would get at the dentist's office.
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 s morado - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: if a guy , before sex, does weed and gets a girl pregnant will the boy's sperm affect the baby's health?

Expert Icon Bethany Deeds: Hello Golder College Prep High School! The use of alcohol and other drugs like weed can affect your judgment and your sexual decision making. In addition to fertility issues, research has shown that marijuana has been linked in some studies to children's low birth weight, behavioral problems, poor growth and difficulty with language comprehension and memory. Here is some information about prenatal drug exposure: http://www.drugabuse.gov/tib/prenatal.html
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 space shuttle - north carroll middle, Maryland: how many people in the U.S.A smoke

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: Great question! In 2010 the National Survey on Drug Use and Health surveyed Americans ages 12 and older, and 27% of them reported that they were current (past month) users of tobacco products (including cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, pipe tobacco and cigars), and 23% reported they were current smokers. The same survey reported that about 8% of youth, ages 12-17, smoke cigarettes.
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 IMS706 - Iberia Middle School, Louisiana: Can it be hereditary for a drinking or drug problem?

Expert Icon Nora Volkow: Yes, genetics plays an important role in vulnerability to addiction
Moderator Icon  There are many myths about mental illness. Find out more here: http://www.whatadifference.samhsa.gov/learn.asp?nav=nav01_1&content=1_1_mythsfacts.
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 pekin2016 - Pekin Community School, Iowa: What can smoking at an early age do to you?

Expert Icon Nora Volkow: It increases your vulnerability to become addicted to nicotine.
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 ttran - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: does marijuana affect your brain?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Yes, that is the main reason people use marijuana.  But marijuana can produces changes in the brain that can linger long after the drug has left the body, and the more you use the more likely the changes will persist.  Problem is that you may not like those lasting changes, so best not to start in the first place.
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 vmartin - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: When doctors give you steroids, how can steroids help you?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi Vmartin-- a doctor usually gives steroids to reduce inflammation in injuries or to treat severe asthma; not for body building. Sometimes a doctor does give anabolic steroids to people who are severely ill and are losing weight and muscle. This is usually a cancer patient or someone with a severe degenerative disease. While steroids can have side effects, if they are closely monitored by a doctor these effects are minimized.
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 sexkitty30 - Institute of Notre Dame, Maryland: Does energy drinks effect your body negatively?

Expert Icon Ruben Baler: they can cause significant harm if you drink a lot of it of if they are mixed with alcohol, a particularly dangerous combination.
 
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 Saparicio - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Almost half of my family smokes,is it hereditary?

Expert Icon Nora Volkow: yes
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 BC123 - Skaneateles High School, New York: Why doesnt the government force all cars to have a breathalyzer in each car to make sure it can only start when the persons blood alcohol level is below .08?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Currently, more and more states are requiring that people who have been arrested for driving under the influence do have devices like these in their cars. But, it is difficult to imagine the government requiring people who have not committed any crimes to have such devices installed in their cars.
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 fc bobcats - First Colony Middle School, Texas: Is it more likely for a rich teen to start using drugs than middle-class or poor teenagers?

Expert Icon Nora Volkow: If they have more money it will be easier to buy drugs, and thus more likely to use them.  On the other hand a kid from a poor neighborhood may be exposed to more stresses and gang activity that may increase their risk for using drugs.
Moderator Icon Hey-we have alcohol experts here! Send us your alcohol questions.  Check out the website for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism here: http://www.niaaa.nih.gov
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 Allison L. - Pekin Community School, Iowa: What are signs that someone is addicted to cocaine?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: The most telling sign is that the person is pre-occupied with getting more and using more cocaine.  The person may lose interest in their friends, or other activities like sports, music, or even videogames.  The person may start stealing to get money to buy more cocaine, or lie to their friends and parents about how much they are using cocaine.  If you think you know someone who is using cocaine, then you should encourage them to seek help before their use gets out of control. 

To find a substance abuse treatment facility locator, call 1-800-662-HELP or go to www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov anytime, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. To find general information on substance abuse prevention and treatment, a good place to begin is on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Web site, www.samhsa.gov.  You can also find information on the National Institute on Drug Abuse's website at www.drugabuse.gov
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 Svelkova - Bulgaria: How can we protect our friends who want to try drugs?

Expert Icon Marsha Lopez: Hi, Svelkova, what a thoughtful question! If your intent is to prevent your friends from trying drugs in the first place, discussing what is on their mind and why they are considering using drugs is a good place to start. Whether they have started using or not, you can encourage them to learn more about how drug use affects the body, brain, and life in general by going to http://teens.drugabuse.gov/.  If your friends are already using, being aware of when they are under the influence to keep them from driving or engaging in other behaviors (reckless sexual activity or other drug use) will protect them to some extent, but most importantly confiding in a trusted adult will help you deal with the situation which is more than you can shoulder on your own.  If you think any of your friends have a problem and are ready to stop using drugs, encourage them to talk to a doctor, parent, teacher, or therapist to find help, or go to  http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ or call 1-800-662-HELP for confidential help 24/7.  You can't make them stop using drugs but you can provide support, show that there are many ways to enjoy life that do not involve using drugs, and let your friend know you're there to help when ready.  I really admire that you want to keep your friends safe, but make sure to keep yourself safe in the process.  Good luck!
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 cheerleader961 - South Page Community Schools , Iowa: What is the worse drug that can affect a pregnant women and the child?

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Hard to answer this question specifically because it is quite complex.  The simple answer is no drugs are good for the pregnant mother and child.  Drug exposure to a baby can cause serious damage. Prenatal exposure can affect a child and affect his or her brain and behavior development. The consequences of drug exposure can range depending on many factors. Negative consequences can be short or long term affects on the brain resulting in problems in memory, attention and behavior.  The effects to the baby depends on what drug, how much, and what time during pregnancy. There is an amazing amount of development going on from the moment of conception through birth, and scientists are examining exactly how drugs can affect the developing baby. Some people think that only street or hard drugs can affect the baby, but cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drug abuse such as oxycotin and vicodin also has affects. For example, smoking has been related to infant mortality, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome.  And scientists are looking at how smoking might affect gene expression (how genes turn on and off) in the fetus. Pretty amazing stuff. Here's some more info on prenatal exposure: http://www.drugabuse.gov/tib/prenatal.html and http://www.nida.nih.gov/consequences/prenatal/

If you know someone who needs help with an addiction, you can find a substance abuse treatment facility by calling 1-800-662-HELP or go to www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov anytime, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.


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 isheahan - Kingswood Regional Middle School, New Hampshire: are you more likely to do drugs if you go to public school or are home schooled but do a lot of outside activities?

Expert Icon Belinda Sims: This is a little complicated.  I don't think that we have research to answer this question one way or the other.  You could speculate that a person in a regular school setting may be exposed to more opportunities for getting pressured by peers to use drugs or to have access to drugs than a person in a home school setting where a parent is present throughout the day.  But there are a lot of adults monitoring what goes on during the school day and parents are often monitoring after school so it could go either way. 

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 Eve1996 - Middlebury Union High School, Vermont: Why is marijuana considered a gate-way drug?

Expert Icon Nora Volkow: Because many kids start smoking marijuana and then go onto other drugs.  Also, there is evidence that early use of marijuana can make the person more vulenrable to the addictive effects of other drugs.
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 melbeane - GMG Community School, Iowa: Hey i'm from Iowa! How long do you have to be in rehab when being on drugs?

Expert Icon Lori Ducharme: Hey Iowa!  Great question, but unfortunately not one with an easy answer.  Treatment is different for different drugs, and for different people.  Addiction is a chronic (long-lasting) brain disease, and so the recovery process can take a long time, or it can involve several episodes of rehab.  Treatment is important to help detoxify the brain, and get the recovery process started.  A combination of approved medications and behavioral (counseling) therapies are available for use in drug abuse treatment.  Even after people complete a treatment program, they will need continued support from local support groups or scheduled check-ins with a recovery counselor.  At NIDA, our scientists are working on understanding how to adjust available treatments to make them the best they can be to help people recover from addiction and return to productive lives.
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 selg2011 - Swanson Middle School, Virginia: Why are alcohol and other drugs addictive?

Expert Icon David Shurtleff: Good question - addiction involves many areas of the brain- those involved in learning memory, reward, pleasure, emotion and these areas involved in inhibitory control.  So drugs of abuse can hi-jack all these areas of the brain.

BUT it starts with most drugs of abuse directly targeting the brain's reward system by flooding the circuit with dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, cognition, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. The over stimulation of this system, which rewards our natural behaviors, produces the euphoric effects sought by people who abuse drugs and teaches them to repeat the behavior.  but with repeated use drugs hi-jack memory circuits driving drug use and at the same time some drugs impair parts of your brain that control your emotion and ability to control your behavior.  so when all these regions of the brain are hijacked by drugs with continued use it leads to addiction - this uncontrollable desire/need to take the drug over and over again creating this vicious cycle of addiction and use of the drug at the expense of everything else in your life- how awful is that??
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 Que? - Skaneateles High School, New York: Are there any countries that allow weed? And why?

Expert Icon Bethany Deeds: Hello Skaneateles High School! Thanks for the thoughtful question....The legality of cannabis (aka, weed) has been the subject of debate for many decades and in different societies. Different societies decide to control drugs through varied ways (how is supplied/cultivated, how it can be possessed or not, how it can be sold, etc.). Some countries that have decided to decriminalize cannabis--an example is the Netherlands. However, in the majority of countries cannabis remains illegal. For more information on marijuana
here is a link to our teen web pages: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_mj1.php 
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 Thor of Odin - Rochester Adams High School, Michigan: On average, how concentrated of a dose of heroine does someone need to take in order to completely pass out and about how long would they be 'out of it'?

Expert Icon David Shurtleff: Hmmm...that's a good questions and one that I don't think you should try to find out the answer to...but anywho, it depends on the person- but generally after the initial effects of a drug like heroin, abusers usually will be drowsy for several hours.  Remember, overdose is a huge risk with injecting drugs like heroin.  Trying to figure out a 'safe' dose is not a game I'd try to play with my life!
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 p3nqu1n-182 - Institute of Notre Dame, Maryland: is caffiene a steroid

Expert Icon Ruben Baler: nope. caffeine is actually a xanthine alkaloid
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 Swagmaster2001 - Rochester Adams High School, Michigan: I heard somewhere that Meth isn't addictive...is this true?

Expert Icon Nora Volkow: Methampethamine is one of the most addictive drugs
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 rsyzdek - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Dose inhalants effect your brain?

Expert Icon Nora Volkow: Yes, they are very harmful since they dissolve the myelin in neurons, which is necessary for neurons to communicate with one another.
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 i_iz_unicorn_:) - Rochester Adams High School, Michigan: i heard weed is as just as bad as alcahole is that true????? :)

Expert Icon Nora Volkow: It is different.  High doses of alcohol can markedly impair your behavior but these effects are short lasting whereas the effects of marijuana are much longer lasting. This drug can remain in your body days after having smoked, especially in people who smoke a lot, whereas the effects of alcohol will have cleared in a couple of hours.
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 ikar56 - Crestwood High School, Pennsylvania: Does regular apple cider you buy from a farm contain alcohol?

Expert Icon Aaron White: All fruit juice can contain small amounts of alcohol, but the levels are so small that they can't be tasted and do not affect the brain or behavior.
Moderator Icon  Drug addiction can be treated with behavioral-based therapies in which people learn to change their behavior; and, for addiction to some drugs, such as tobacco, alcohol, heroin, or other opiate drugs, medications can help. Treatment will vary for each person, depending on the type of drug(s) being abused and the person’s specific circumstances. To find treatment programs, check out this website: www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov
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 efuentes - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: why do blackouts occur and why?

Expert Icon Aaron White: Blackouts are periods of amnesia during which the brain is not able to make any new memories. Drinking too much alcohol can impair or even shut off your hippocampus, the part of your brain that helps make memories. This causes the concentraition of alcohol in your brain to increase very quickly. If you experience a blackout, that's a sign that you drank too much alcohol - maybe even enough that to potentially cause serious health problems or even death. Blackouts are a warning sign that you are drinking in a very dangerous way.

 
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 jasonj - M.R. Wood Center for Learning (alternative school), Texas: Why is it that scientist are making pills to clean your urine so when they test somebody they can't get in trouble.

Expert Icon Ruben Baler: these are bad scientists, like the mad ones that want to conquer the world in the james bond movies.
bad scientists, bad scientists...

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 pjacobs - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: what is acid

Expert Icon Carol Krause: LSD (d-lysergic acid diethylamide) is one of the most potent mood-changing chemicals. It was discovered in 1938 and is manufactured from lysergic acid, which is found in ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and other grains.

While 'high' on LSD, sensations and feelings change much more dramatically than the physical signs in people under the influence of LSD. The user may feel several different emotions at once or swing rapidly from one emotion to another. If taken in large enough doses, the drug produces delusions and visual hallucinations. The user’s sense of time and self is altered. Experiences may seem to “cross over” different senses, giving the user the feeling of hearing colors and seeing sounds. These changes can be frightening and can cause panic. Some LSD users experience severe, terrifying thoughts and feelings of despair, fear of losing control, or fear of insanity and death while using LSD.

LSD was popular in the 1970's but it people realized it is not really practical to be having frightening hallucinations all the time! I don't know about you but I have enough real-life things causing nightmares in my life---I don't need to create any extra bad dreams!
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 JMerrill - Kingswood Regional Middle School, New Hampshire: how does acid effect your body

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Acid, or LSD is a hallucinogen, that causes people to see and experience things that arent really there. Although it appears no one has ever died from an LSD overdose, LSD may prevent people from making good decisions, thus making the user more susceptible to accidents and personal injury. For example, it may cause temporary confusion.  Like being drunk on alcohol, the danger might really come from what a person is DOING while high.
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 AdnanS - M.R. Wood Center for Learning (alternative school), Texas: Is it true that using a vaporizer to smoke marijuana is much better for you than smoking marijuana out of a pipe? Because smoke doesn't enter your lungs?

Expert Icon Ruben Baler: nope, that's totally bogus.
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 jum - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: Is there any harmful chemicals in a painkiller pills?

Expert Icon Dave Thomas: The active ingredient in many prescription pain killers are drugs called opioids. Opioids are powerful pain killers, but have substantial side effects, and have the potential to be abused and to produce addiction. Thus, opioids can be harmful, especially when not used as prescribed.
For more information on opioids, take a look at:  http://drugabuse.gov/drugpages/prescription.html
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 samantha - North Ridgeville Middle School, Ohio: is it true that you can get high off of a sharpie or some sort of marker?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Yes. But repeated or long-term use can cause damage to the brain (some permanent) that could result in tremors, difficulty walking, solving complex problems, and remembering things.

See this webpage for more information: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_inhale1.php.
The reward structures are part of a larger brain system known as the
The correct answer is: C. Limbic system. The limbic system is a set of brain structures that generates our feelings, emotions, and motivations. It is also important in learning and memory. By controlling our ability to feel pleasure, the limbic system motivates us to repeat behaviors that are necessary for our survival, like eating. But drugs of abuse take over this system, causing people to want drugs more than they want anything else, and teaching them to continually repeat the behavior. You can find more information at http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/word-day-limbic-system/
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 simon25565 - Pekin Community School, Iowa: What is in marijuana to make it addicting?

Expert Icon Nora Volkow: THC--delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol
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 spunky12 - Institute of Notre Dame, Maryland: How long do you have to sniff glue/paint/sharpie to get high?

Expert Icon Ruben Baler: the effects of inhaling sharpies can be immediate. this stuff is very dangerous, stay as far as you can.

stay smart and healthy
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 molly22 - GMG Community School, Iowa: Can you die after one time of smoking heroin?

Expert Icon Steve Grant: Yes, heroin can make you pass out, plus it suppresses the breathing reflex, and also can cause nausea and vomiting. If you have never taken heroin before you are particular at risk for taking to much which can cause serious problems, including death. Your brain will be very sensitive to the effects of heroin and you can pass out, stop breathing, and even choke on your own vomit. This is the way a lot of celebraties have died.
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 lindsey - North Ridgeville Middle School, Ohio: Why are kids getting into drugs earlier and earlier in life now a days?

Expert Icon Nora Volkow: Because they are getting access to them earlier than they used to.  Also they have the belief that other kids are using drugs, and they have peer pressure to get them to try and keep using drugs.
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 mwhite - Golder College Prep HS, Illinois: what are the effects of second hand smoking

Expert Icon David Shurtleff: Let's just say your friend is smoking and you are sitting next to him....you're not smoking, but you're breathing in the smoke from his cigarette...that's secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is pretty dangerous, containing more that 7,000 substances, several of which are known to cause cancer in humans or animals.  Secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer in those who do not smoke. with and estimated 3,000 lung cancer deaths per year in nonsmokers. Children exposed to high doses of secondhand smoke, such as those whose mothers smoke, run the greatest relative risk of experiencing damaging health effects like asthma.  It also increases the risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in infants.  Want to know more about tobacco addiction?  Click here for more information - http://www.teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_nicotine1.php
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 IMS522 - Iberia Middle School, Louisiana: How does smoking affect a pregnant women?

Expert Icon Joe Frascella: Thanks for your question. Smoking cigarettes or marijuana would have clear effects on the mother as well as the fetus can be affected by what a mother takes into her body and also the air she breathes. Researchers are looking at the effects of smoking on the fetus - seeing whether fetal behavior is affected by taking ultrasound videos of the fetus - it does look like they might even go through withdrawal, just like their moms! One thing to note about smoking in particular--- because nicotine readily crosses the placenta, it can reach concentrations in the fetus that are much higher than maternal levels. There are some types of drugs that the fetus can get addicted to --opiates such as heroin, viocodin, oxytocin or morphine. When born, many of these infants go through a withdrawal process, and some have to be given methadone because of the discomfort.  No mom wants to do that to her baby---it just shows how difficult it is to get off drugs once you start.

For more information on this important subject, check out: http://www.drugabuse.gov/tib/prenatal.html and http://www.nida.nih.gov/consequences/prenatal/

If you know someone who needs help with an addiction, you can find a substance abuse treatment facility by calling 1-800-662-HELP or go to www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov anytime, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.
Moderator Icon  Inhalants are often among the first drugs that young adolescents abuse. In fact, they are one of the few classes of substances that are abused more by younger adolescents than older ones. Inhalant abuse can become chronic and can cause death.
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 jen5858 - Institute of Notre Dame, Maryland: is it true that if a doctor proscribes steroids to you it is okay?

Expert Icon Ruben Baler: yes. Anabolic steroids can in fact be legally prescribed to treat conditions resulting from steroid hormone deficiency, such as delayed puberty, as well as diseases that result in loss of lean muscle mass, such as cancer and AIDS.

thanks for the question
stay smart and healthy

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 Ims603 - Iberia Middle School, Louisiana: If achld live in qa house with parents that is addicted to drugs how would it affect on the child.

Expert Icon Nora Volkow: It depends on the child and the other family members.  If the child is alone with that person he/she is at greater risk because an addicted parent will probably not be able to provide the emotional support that a child or adolescent requires.
Moderator Icon  Wonder why celebrities go in and out of rehab so much? Because it takes time to recover from addiction---and time to find the right treatment. Learn more by reading NIDA’s new booklet for teens- Drugs: Shatter the Myths at http://drugfactsweek.drugabuse.gov/booklet.php
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 Will - Cathedral High School, Indiana: What type of drug is the most addicting?

Expert Icon Nora Volkow: Methamphetamine and crack are probably the most addictive. There are also differences between people regarding who may be more sensitive to addiction to other drugs, such as alcohol.
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 vmartin - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: What kind of drug is it that is typically put in your drink in clubs to make you.. more 'agreeable'?

Expert Icon David Shurtleff: Agreeable or knock you out cold so that you don't remember anything???  I think you may be referring to Rohypnol (flunitrazepam), a drug that is classified as sedative.  It's not legal to use in this country.  It was reported to to be put in alcohol drinks to unsuspecting drinkers. Rohypnol is often referred to as a date rape drug.  It can be added to beverages and ingested unknowingly by an individual because they can't smell or taste it.  The drug works by 'depressing' the brain,  rendering a person unconscious, unable to move or remember large blocks or periods of time. It is for this reason that date rape drugs are referred to as drug-assisted assault drugs. To learn more about the side effects and medical consequences of these drugs, visit: http://www.drugabuse.gov/infofacts/RohypnolGHB.html.
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 pre calc - Northport High School, New York: Is caffeine just as addictive as hard core drugs?

Expert Icon Ruben Baler: caffeine is an addictive drug allright, but it is atypical because it boosts dopamine not in the reward center but in more frontal regions of teh cortex, so its main acute effects are more cognitive than euphorigenic.
Hope this helps.
cheers

 
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 jum - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: If one of my family members started using tobacco, would it be a smart decision to just throw it all away without them knowing?

Expert Icon Lori Ducharme: Unfortunately, while that may be tempting, it will likely just result in making your family member angry. Thinking strategically, for the long-term, you want your family members to feel like they can count on you when they need help, so I would focus on that and try to keep the problem out in the open where you can talk about it and try to help. 

Here are a few resources you can use: Calling this national toll-free number, 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669), can get you information for quitting. Callers to the number are routed to their state’s smoking cessation quitline or to one maintained by the National Cancer Institute. In addition, a Web site—www.smokefree.gov—from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers online advice and downloadable information to make stopping easier.  Finally, you might want to check out the section of our teen website that has information about smoking -- it might give you some information that can help you be even more supportive of your family members:  http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_nicotine1.php.
Moderator Icon  Research shows that drivers on marijuana have slower reaction times, impaired judgment, and problems responding to signals and sounds. Learn more about the effects of different drugs here http://teens.drugabuse.gov/mom/
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 chazz - Cathedral High School, Indiana: Is cocaine an easily addictive drug?

Expert Icon Nora Volkow: Depends on how its taken. When its smoked or injected it is very addictive.  Its less addicitve when snorted, but even then it can produce addiction.
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 waddupyo123 - Institute of Notre Dame, Maryland: what drugs kill your brain cells?

Expert Icon Jim Bjork: Research to date in rodents, and in brain scans of humans shows that pretty much ALL drugs of abuse will change the brain's gray matter in one region or other-- yes, even marijuana.  Whether this is due to neurons actually dying or just shrinking and no longer connecting to as many other neurons is not well known yet. In the case of alcohol in particular, this brain shrinkage increases with age. Even non-users have brains that shrink a little each year as we age, but alcoholism increases this shrinkage.
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 sapafap - Crestwood High School, Pennsylvania: how many drinks does it take to get alcohol poisoning for a 15 year old?

Expert Icon Aaron White: That can be hard to predict exactly. In general, a blood alcohol level above 0.30% is considered potentially fatal.  Here's an example: In the last month, several teenagers, mostly college students, died from alcohol poisoning with blood alcohol levels around 0.35%, as compared to the legal limit of 0.08%. For a healthy, 140 pound female, reaching this level would require around 10 drinks in a 2 hour period, or around 13 drinks in 2 hours for a 160 pound male. It is important to point out than having any alcohol at all can increase the chances of dying from injuries, such as falls, drownings or car crashes. 

If you drink enough alcohol, parts of the brain that are important for keeping us alive can shut down. Then, the heart can stop beating and we can stop breathing. In essence, it's like alcohol flips a switch and shuts the body off.

Here are some of the factors that influence how fast people get drunk: 
  1. How much alcohol they drink and how fast they drink it
  2. Whether there is food in the stomach to slow how quickly alcohol gets into the body
  3. How much they weigh
  4. Whether they are male or female -- females tend to be affected more by alcohol than males
Getting drunk faster also makes drinking more dangerous. Drinking quickly can turn off the brain's memory centers and cause 'blackouts', or an inability to remember what you did while drinking. Getting drunk faster can make it more likely that the vital centers in the brain will be shut off.
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 Alondra - North Ridgeville Middle School, Ohio: Is it true the compressed air in a whip cream can, can get you high?

Expert Icon Ruben Baler: It's not actually the compressed air but the chemical that serves as the propellant: nitrous oxide (or laughing gas)

 thanks for the question 
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 Awoods - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: can u get addictive to pain killers, if u take one like every day nd yout love it so much you cant stop taking it can u die?? thanks, Awoods:)

Expert Icon Carol Krause: Ouch! Who would want to do that? Yes you could die if you do that!  You might feel a 'high' but then you have to take more and more just to get the same high and then your whole life is dominated by running around trying to find enough drugs---what a mess! And then you take too many pills because you are desperate for the high and then you overdose. Did you know that more people die every year from painkiller overdoses than from heroin and cocaine combined? Painkiller abuse is no joke.
Moderator Icon  About 80% of 12th graders don’t use cigarettes, and about 91% of 12th graders don’t use smokeless tobacco.
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 TiffanyN. - Johnson Middle School, California: How can I get my dad to stop smoking?

Expert Icon Richard Denisco: Hi Tiffiny N and thanks for the question. It is always hard when someone you care obout is harming themselves. We have some suggestions that can help, but remember it takes time and often many tries to stop smoking. All you can really do is show him you care and bring him this information: http://drugabuse.gov/treatingtobacco.html.
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 doug 71 - Pekin Community School, Iowa: Is tobacco a drug?

Expert Icon Nora Volkow: Nicotine in the tobacco leaves is the drug.
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 dkillian - Einstein High School, Maryland: does marijuana always lead to other more serious drugs?

Expert Icon Belinda Sims: Not necessarily.  But someone who uses marijuana is at increased risk for using other, more serious drugs and for lots of other negative consequences. 

Here are some resources you may want to check out:
http://www.marijuana-info.org/
http://www.nida.nih.gov/drugpages/marijuana.html

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 nakoma225 - Pekin Community School, Iowa: can markers make you high?

Expert Icon Nora Volkow: Yes, they are considered inhalants and make you high in a way similar to alcohol.
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 bloody guns - Pekin Community School, Iowa: do drugs heart your hart

Expert Icon Nora Volkow: Yes, many do.  The ones that are most damaging to your heart are cocaine and methamphetamine.
PollI think drug users are losers.
59% - Yes
32% - No
10% - Maybe
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 rnnguyen - Sugar Land Middle School, Texas: if you mix drug,is it bad for you?

Expert Icon Nora Volkow: Yes, because it increases the toxicity of the drug.  So, for example, its much easier to overdose when people combine alcohol with other drugs like painkillers.
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 Eve1996 - Middlebury Union High School, Vermont: How do drugs effect the nervous system?

Expert Icon David Shurtleff: Good question - drugs of abuse act on many areas of the brain- those involved in learning memory, reward, pleasure, emotion and these areas involved in inhibitory control.  So drugs of abuse can hi-jack all these areas of the brain.

BUT it starts with most drugs of abuse directly targeting the brain's reward system by flooding the circuit with dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, cognition, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. The over stimulation of this system, which rewards our natural behaviors, produces the euphoric effects sought by people who abuse drugs and teaches them to repeat the behavior.  But with repeated use, drugs hi-jack the brain, including areas control your emotion and ability to control you behavior, like your ability to control your urge to take the drug in the first place.  This creates a vicious cycle of addiction and use of the drug at the expense of everything else in your life- how awful is that??
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 selg2011 - Swanson Middle School, Virginia: Can peer pressure lead to drinking and doing other drugs? What can teens do to avoid peer pressure?

Expert Icon Belinda Sims: Yes.  But it doesn't have to. One thing that teens can do to avoid peer pressure is to get involved with peers focused on positive activities that don't include drinking and drug use.  Talking to a trusted adult who can help to support a teen's decision not to use drugs can be helpful as well.  Getting the facts about how alcohol and drug use can affect a teen and the consequences that a teen could experience if they get involved with alcohol and drugs, can also help a person decide not to use drugs.  Also, it is good to learn skills for how to refuse offers to use alcohol and drugs.  There are prevention programs that teach youth these skills.  For more information, take a look at these resources:

http://www.abovetheinfluence.com/
http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/
http://drugabuse.gov/pdf/prevention/redbook.pdf