Here are a few of favorite questions and answers!
Why do some people become addicted, while others don’t?Great question, and a hard one. We don’t fully understand yet, why this is so. We know that genes play a part, because an inclination for addiction can run in families, and because in experiments, different strains of mice, rats, and other animals differ in how readily they develop addiction-like behaviors after they’re exposed to drugs. We also know that a person’s environment plays a part in addiction. For example, what are the factors that encourage someone who has tried a drug to keep on taking it to the point where they can’t stop? Many scientists are trying to untangle the answers so that we can find better ways to prevent and treat addiction.
What can cause a hangover?There are several reasons why people experience hangovers from drinking. One component is dehydration. Alcohol causes the body to get rid of too much fluid, and the dehydration that results can cause headaches, nausea, thirst, and other symptoms of hangovers. While some people think that alcohol helps a person sleep, it actually disrupts sleep, and that can contribute to the grogginess that accompanies hangovers.
What properties in drugs make them addictive?Different drugs act on the brain in different ways, but they all cause release of the neurotransmitter Dopamine in the brain’s reward area, which is what causes the pleasurable sensation (the high). Once a person uses a drug repeatedly, their brain starts to adjust to these surges of Dopamine; the brain cells (neurons) make fewer Dopamine receptors, or they simply produce less Dopamine. The result is a lower amount of “Dopamine signaling” in the reward area—it’s like “turning down the volume” on the reward signal. Then the person may start to find natural “rewards”—like food, relationships, or sex—less pleasurable; that’s one of the signs of addiction. Also, reduced Dopamine signaling in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which governs our ability to inhibit (slow down or stop) our impulses, makes it harder to resist the urge to take drugs even if a person would like to quit.
How can I help someone if they are on drugs?One of the best things you can do for a friend with a serious drug problem is to let them know you are there to support them. Tell them you’re concerned about their drug use and encourage them to seek help from a trusted adult; maybe a teacher, coach, parent, or counselor. You can also help by being a strong positive influence; help them get involved in non-drug-using activities like joining a club, playing music, or playing a sport. However, if your friend is becoming a negative influence in your life, you might have to step away from the friendship for a while. If you feel your friend is a danger to himself or herself, or to others, it is important to tell a trusted adult right away; it could save your friend’s life.
Alcohol helps me not feel sad, so I drink a lot to feel happy. Is this bad?The problem with using alcohol to feel better is that the next day it has worn off and depression may be even worse. Alcohol can worsen depression in the long run and there are better ways to feel happy. This is an important issue for you to discuss with your doctor or school counselor. There are many other ways that work better than alcohol to improve your mood.
Are there any drugs that can cause birth defects?Yes, alcohol is one of the most well characterized drugs for this. Other drugs have more subtle effects or are still being studied.
Are you likely to be an addict, if a family member is?If you never use a drug you cannot become addicted to it. If you have family members who have been addicted to drugs you should tell your doctor that before they give you drugs like pain killers.
Are steroids addictive?Your own body produces all the steroids it needs. It needs them to regulate your growth, and for reproductive functions. The kind sometimes used by athletes are called anabolic steroids, meaning that they are similar to the male hormone testosterone. Adults and teens who use large quantities of anabolic steroids risk heart disease, and liver damage and may not reach their full height. It also can cause aggression, male-pattern baldness (who needs that?), and shrinkage of your testicles (if you are a male). If you are a female who is using anabolic steroids, your voice may deepen permanently, you may grow facial hair, and develop male-pattern baldness.
Are injection drugs more dangerous than the drugs you inhale?They are both dangerous. Users who inject drugs also risk infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis--and have ugly needletracks on their arms! Get the facts on drugs to make healthy decisions for your body and brain.
Can alcohol kill a person? How?Absolutely! Too much alcohol from any source -- beer, wine, liquor -- can shut down the parts of the brain that keep us alive, leading to death. 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. This is what's known as "alcohol poisoning."
Can being a full time alcoholic affect the pregnancy?Yes, alcohol can seriously affect a baby's development during pregnancy. 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.
Can drinking often affect the way you think and act in Life?Yes, it could. Alcohol disrupts sleep, making it hard to pay attention in class. Alcohol produces hangovers, which leave a person feeling sick the next day. Drinking a lot over time can damage the parts of the brain that allow us to pay attention and learn.
Can addictions to drugs and alcohol be passed down from parents to their children?It's possible. It's true that you can inherit the vulnerability to diseases from your parents, including addiction. Researchers are trying to find the genes that make you vulnerable or resistant to addiction, in order to find ways to improve treatment and prevention approaches.
Why is age of first use of alcohol so critically important?Kids who start drinking alcohol before age 15 are 5 times more likely to develop alcohol abuse or dependence than people who first used alcohol at age 21 or older. A study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine showed that 47% of those who began drinking before age 15 experienced alcohol dependence at some point in their life, compared to 9% of those who began drinking at age 21 or older.
Can you get addicted even though you only do it once in a while?YES. For most, addiction to alcohol and drugs is a process -- not an event. Most people who use alcohol and drugs do so with an intention of only using once or “once in a while.” No one decides that they want to become addicted to alcohol and drugs. But, we are dealing with addictive drugs that directly affect the brain. It is easy for occasional use to change to frequent use or constant use -- that is addiction. The only thing we know for sure: if you don't drink alcohol and don’t do drugs, you definitely won't become addicted.
How does alcohol leave the body?Once absorbed into the bloodstream, the Kidneys eliminate 5% of alcohol in the urine, the Lungs exhale 5% of alcohol (detectable by breathalyzer) and the Liver breaks down the remaining 90% of alcohol. Alcohol is broken down (metabolized) by the liver at the average rate of one standard drink per hour and nothing can speed this up, including drinking coffee.
Can alcoholism and drug addiction be treated?Yes, alcoholism and addiction can be treated. Alcoholism and addiction treatment programs can help a person stop drinking and using drugs. Treatment has helped millions of people stop drinking and drugging, rebuild their lives and live a life in long-term recovery.
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