The Impact of Drugs and Alcohol on the Developing Teen Brain
The teen years are a time oftremendous growth and development. Theadolescent brain, in particular, is still under construction. The parts of the brain which are responsiblefor expressing emotion and seeking gratification mature sooner than the areasof the brain responsible for impulse control and decision-making. Therefore, adolescents may not fully weighthe risks of substance abuse.
During a time when adolescentsâ€™ability to make good judgments is not fully functioning yet, harmful substancesseem to be more readily available. Andalso during this time, the still-developing adolescent brain is particularlyvulnerable to the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol.
- Late adolescence, before the brain is fullymatured, is the peak time for developing dependence on drugs and alcohol.
- More than any other age group, teens riskpermanent intellectual and emotional damage from the effects of substance abuse.
- Heavy drug use during these times of criticalbrain development may cause permanent changes in the way the brain works and respondsto rewards and consequences.
- One study detected cognitive impairments in adolescentalcohol abusers weeks after they stopped drinking (Brown et al, 2000), perhapsinvolving alcohol-induced injury to the nervous system.
- Behavior patterns and learning abilities cansuffer permanent negative effects from drug use.
Being aware of these facts shouldcreate a particular sense of urgency by the community for the prevention of substanceabuse by teens. PreventNetCommunity Schools, which arefunded by Clackamas County Division for Children, Youth and Families, representa partnership between local schools, community service providers, localbusinesses, local government and members of the community to help provideprevention and early intervention services within the local schools.