Parents of teengaers often have different attitudes towards their children experimenting with drugs. Most do not tolerate drug use by their teenage children because of health risks, the possibility of them underachieving or even becoming addicted. Another perspective is that occasional drug or alcohol use is acceptable, especially since many teenagers experiment during high school. What most parents do not realize, as well as the teenagers who are using, is that the teenage brain is far more susceptible to damage from drugs and alcohol than the adult brain. If you’re a parent and are in the need of help, you can get guidance from Parent Success.
Short-Term Effects of Drugs on the Teen Brain
Drug and alcohol abuse cause longer lasting effects in the teen brain than the adult brain. One reason is that a teenager’s brain has more receptors. When drugs enter the body, they bind to receptors producing the various effects. For example, when a teen smokes marijuana, the brain holds onto the cannabis for a prolonged period of time in comparison with the adult brain. Cognitive function is impaired for a longer period of time in the form of memory, concentration, and learning ability. Addiction is believed to be a disease influenced by learned behaviors. During teen years the brain is growing and learning how to behave making teens especially vulnerable to dependency and addiction. In a recent study, adolescent rats worked harder and longer for cocaine than adult rats, showing that teens become addicted more quickly and with a stronger dependency. Dependency and addiction can cause problems of their own and chronic abuse of some substances can be fatal.
Long-Term Effects of Drugs on the Teen Brain
Drug and alcohol abuse by teens is more likely to cause long-lasting, sometimes permanent effects. One of the most intimidating long-term effects of teen drug use is a permanent decrease in I.Q. Research has shown that cannabis use amongst teens does indeed result in a lower I.Q. years later. Abuse of drugs and alcohol in teen years can cause irreversible damage to the brains’ ability to communicate with itself. Studies have shown that using drugs and alcohol before the age of 16 significantly impairs cognitive flexibility, the ability to change thinking based on context, permanently. Finally, research has shown that the use of drugs and alcohol in adolescents affects the productivity of stress hormones, causing them to permanently have trouble dealing with stressful situations. The inability to cope with stressful situations may lead to more substance abuse, depression, and anxiety. These studies were found to be especially true for binge drinkers and drug abusers.
Preventative Measures Against Teen Drug Use
Many children receive drug and alcohol education through programs like DARE. These programs outline immediate negative effects drugs can have on the human body, but often fail to educate on the long-lasting effects of drug abuse. Many teens who use drugs have a sense of invincibility, and that the effects of drugs do not apply to them. However, the effects of drug and alcohol abuse apply more to teenagers than to any other age group.