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What Do Drugs do to Adolescents?

Drugs and alcohol are harmful at any age but may be particularly dangerous for young people. Substance abuse can strongly affect brain development in children and teens, leading to a host of physical and psychological problems. It takes the brain about 25 years to fully develop, and drugs and alcohol can affect the brain’s ability to develop naturally. The prefrontal cortex in particular can be damaged by substances, leading to problems with reasoning and impulse control.

Nerve cells in the brain are responsible for everything we feel, think, or do. Signals between nerves are passed by neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for feelings of pleasure, and drugs overload the body with dopamine and create an intense feeling of reward. According to The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, “Because teenagers have an over-active impulse to seek pleasure and less ability to consider the consequences, they are especially vulnerable when it comes to the temptations of drugs and alcohol. And because the internal reward systems are still being developed, a teen’s ability to bounce back to normal after using drugs may be compromised due to how drugs affect the brain.” The changes that substances cause to the brain’s reward system eventually result in addiction.

Ken C. Winters, in a 2011 Prevention Research article entitled Adolescent Brain Development and Drugs, explains, “The way the brain develops during adolescence may help explain why youth sometimes make decisions that seem to be quite risky. Plus brain development research also shows that the maturing brain may be particularly vulnerable to the acute effects of drugs, and that drug use during adolescence may significantly increase a young person’s risk for developing a substance use disorder later in life.” Animal studies with adolescent and adult rats have found that younger rats are more prone to prefrontal cortex damage than their older counterparts. Other studies have shown that adolescents who have substance use disorders perform poorer on verbal and non-verbal memory tests, have reduced volume in the hippocampus, and “there is a growing literature using adolescent animals that adolescents differ from adults in response to nearly all drugs of abuse, including nicotine, cannabis, and stimulants.” Many of the problems can be resolved through abstinence from drugs and alcohol, but some of the problems created by substances are irreversible.

Your life doesn’t have to be held back by the chains of addiction. You can make the decision to seek help today and begin building a brighter future. Resilient House, located in beautiful Shreveport, Louisiana, brings together the highest quality behavioral health and addictions specialists, holistic experts, and spiritual guides to help clients develop all the tools necessary to achieve and maintain sobriety. For information about treatment options, please call today: (833) 242-6431