An Online Resource Center for Family and Friends of People Battling Drug Addiction

Frequently asked questions about drug abuse and drug addiction

Many of us are “new” to drug use disorders. It is not part of our experience — we have so many questions. Below you will find questions and answers provided by the Parent Addiction Network and some we have found on other websites. If you have other questions we might be able to help answer, let us know by contacting us at E-mail

Question: I am concerned my child may be abusing drugs. What do I do?

Answer: First, determine what level of use you think your child is involved in. The abuse of drugs does not mean that your child is addicted. However, if your child is abusing any drug, you want them to stop. There are certain drugs that are considered highly addictive such as opiates (such as oxycontin, vicodin and heroin) and stimulants. As a parent of teens in Dane County, you have affordable access to UW-AADAIPs assessment services. AADAIP has grant and contract money that allows these services to be affordable.  This professional service for assessment and referral can help determine the nature of your child’s use. PH: 608-262-1111. The earlier someone begins using drugs, the more likely addiction will result.

Question: How can there be a heroin problem in Dane County?

Answer: (From retrieved 3/6/2017): Heroin is no longer the drug of back alleys in big cities; it is socially accepted by today’s youth and widely available across Dane County. Most teens begin their opiate addiction with prescription painkillers which are more socially accepted and then turn to heroin since it is cheaper and easier to get. The purity of heroin is so high (60 to 80 percent pure in many cases) that it can be snorted or smoked, just like cocaine. Because it is cheap — $4 to $6 a bag, it lures first-time users in as a substitute to alcohol, marijuana, cocaine or other drugs. Little do they know how powerfully addictive it is. The craving for a stronger “high” soon results in injecting the drug, just like the stereotypical heroin user.

Question: What should I be looking for to tell if my loved one is abusing drugs or is addicted?

Answer: See the section on this website: Signs

The following questions and answers are from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, retrieved January 15, 2013.  See also: FAQs on the National Institute on Drug Abuse website

Question: Does marijuana use lead to the use of other drugs?

Answer: While most marijuana smokers do not go on to use other illegal drugs, long-term studies of high school students show that few young people use other illegal drugs without first using marijuana. Using marijuana puts people in contact with people who are users and sellers of other drugs; they are more likely to be exposed to and urged to try other drugs.

Question: Why do some drug users become addicted while others do not?

Answer: Risk factors for becoming drugs addicted, like other conditions and diseases, vary from person to person. But, the common risk factors include 1. Genetics- your family history, 2. Age when you start taking drugs, 3. Social environment (including access to drugs; peers using drugs), 4. Traumatic experience (including abuse, neglect, and disturbing experiences in childhood), and 5.Types of drugs used. The two key factors are an addiction in the family and age when start using.

Question: Can you get addicted even though you only do it once in a while?

Answer: YES. For most, drug addiction is a process – not an event. Most people who use drugs do so with an intention of only using once or once in a while. No one decides that they want to be an addict. But, we are dealing with addictive drugs that directly affect the brain. It is easy for occasional use to change to frequent use and to constant use – that is an addiction. The only thing we know for sure is if you don’t do drugs, you definitely won’t become addicted.

Question: Are over-the-counter (OTC) drugs dangerous?

Answer: All drugs, regardless of whether they are illegal, prescription or over-the-counter (available without a prescription), change your body and can be potentially harmful. Some over-the-counter drugs can cause serious problems or even death if used incorrectly. The only safe way to take any over-the-counter medication is exactly as directed and for the specific problem for which it is intended.

Example: OTC Cough and Cold Remedies: The health risks of abusing OTC cough and cold remedies include: impaired judgment, nausea, loss of coordination, headache, vomiting, loss of consciousness, numbness, stomach pain, irregular heartbeat, seizures, panic attacks, cold flashes, dizziness, diarrhea, addiction, restlessness, insomnia, high blood pressure, coma, and death. Like any other drug, overdoses from over-the-counter medication can occur.

Question: What drugs are the most commonly abused?

Answer: Each year, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) tracks drug use trends among high school students (8th, 10th and 12th grades) through the Monitoring the Future Study (MTF). The following is a list of the most commonly abused drugs among 12th graders starting with the most frequent: marijuana (21.4% of high school seniors used marijuana in the past 30 days….more than the number smoking cigarettes – 19.2%), Vicodin, amphetamines, cough medicine, Adderall, tranquilizers, salvia, hallucinogens, OxyContin, sedatives, MDMA- ecstasy, inhalants, cocaine and Ritalin. Alcohol is not included here but it is still the most destructive drug.

Question: Can a person be too young to become addicted to drugs?

Answer: No. Research and experience show that the younger someone is when they start using drugs, the greater the chance that they will become addicted.

Question: Why are prescription drugs dangerous?

Answer: Drugs are chemicals that affect the body and how it functions. Unfortunately, too many people don’t realize that prescription drugs can be as dangerous as street drugs. Prescription drugs require a prescription from a doctor because they are powerful substances, need to be regulated and taken under a physician’s care.

Even if a person is prescribed a medication, taking more of that drug than the recommended dosage is dangerous, including accidental overdose. Medical supervision is needed to avoid dangerous drug interactions as well as potentially serious side effects. And, prescription drugs can be addictive. Between 1995 and 2005, treatment admissions for abuse of prescription pain relievers grew more than 300%. Using prescription drugs without a prescription and medical supervision is unsafe and illegal.

Question: Is marijuana dangerous?

Answer: Yes, marijuana has very real health consequences, including drug addiction. Some parents think pot is safe due to their own experience with it when they were young. However, the increased levels of THC in today’s marijuana make it dangerous. It is 30 times more potent than at earlier times ( More teens are in treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than for all other illegal drugs combined.

Question: How do I know if I or someone close to me is addicted to drugs?

Answer: The short answer….if you or someone close to you is having a problem with drugs and they continue to use, it’s time to get help. Continued use, despite negative consequences, is a powerful indicator of addiction.

Question: How quickly can I become addicted to a drug?

Answer: There is no easy answer because there are many different factors involved. A person’s genetic makeup (family history of alcoholism or addiction) clearly plays a role in addiction. In fact, that’s why some people seem to become addicted almost immediately while for others it may take more time. And, some drugs are more addictive than others. For some, one-time use can prove to be fatal. Choosing to use drugs is like playing a game of chance. But, if you do use drugs, the earlier you stop the more likely you will be to avoid addiction and the harmful brain changes that result.

Question: What is drug addiction?

Answer: Addiction is a progressive, chronic disease. It is a complex disease characterized by craving, seeking and using drugs that affect every organ system in the body, including the brain. Repeated use of drugs changes the brain—including the way it looks and functions. These changes in the brain interfere with a person’s ability to think clearly, exercise good judgment, control behavior, and feel normal without using drugs.

Question: If drug addiction is a disease, is there a cure?

Answer: There is no cure for drug addiction, but it is a treatable disease and millions of people are living lives in long-term recovery. Recovery from drug addiction, like other chronic diseases, is a lifelong process. Just as addiction impacts every aspect of one’s life physically, emotionally and socially, recovery requires making major changes to the way one lives, deals with life’s problems, and relates to others.


Special thanks to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. for giving us permission to use their material.


About NCADD: The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) and its Affiliate Network is a voluntary health organization dedicated to fighting the Nation’s #1 health problem-alcoholism, drug addiction and the devastating consequences of alcohol and other drugs on individuals, families, and communities.



We host this website, we are an email distribution list and we are a group that meets monthly to network and work for change.

If you would like to be on our email distribution list and/or get involved in our activities, please contact Amanda, at Safe Communities, 608-441-3060, 608-441-3060 or e-mail: