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Devastating effects of drugs on the developing brain of teens

The human brain takes about 25 years to develop fully. In view of this fact the brain of a teenager is considered as “work-in-progress” that is likely to witness many developmental changes to function in an ideal manner.

As the bulk of the changes take place during adolescence, one witnesses a sudden growth in the unpredictable and reckless behavior that is a constant companion of the adolescent years. With the consistent development of different parts of the brain, the neural connections are strengthened only with the passage of time.

During the critical phase of adolescence, the most noticeable development takes place in the frontal lobe and the outer mantle of the brain. While prefrontal cortex is responsible for the key skills, such as setting priorities, formulating strategies, controlling impulses, etc., the outer mantle is associated with the processing of the abstract information and understanding of the rules, laws, etc.

The prefrontal cortex, regarded as the chief executive officer (CEO) of the brain, goes through development in the adolescent phase and even into early adulthood. Therefore, the consumption of any psychoactive substance during this important period can cause key alterations in the brain.

Besides targeting the function of the chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters that are responsible for communication between nerves, it affects the development of perceptual skills.

Drugs alter perception and other intellectual capabilities of teens

During these developmental years, a teen’s brain grows rapidly and the ramifications of substance abuse can be detrimental to the growing brain. It inflicts a number of repercussions by acting on the reward pathway of the brain.

Psychoactive substances can alter a teen’s brain in several ways during the developmental phase. Besides interfering with the functioning of neurotransmitters dopamine, as discussed above, it damages the fragile developing neural connections. The consumption of these highly addictive and toxic substances increase dependence and tolerance to such an extent that an addiction eventually sets in.

Not only that, these substances also interfere in the development of perceptual skills. The hardwiring of the associated habits and practices related to substance abuse may remain even in adulthood and influence the outcome of an entire lifetime. The repeated abuse of substances often translates into habits that adversely affect the processing of thoughts, perception, reasoning and other cognitive-behavioral skills in childhood.

The natural development of the brain during adolescence leads to the refinement of the neural circuitry responsible for better feelings of reward and motivation. As a result, teenagers become capable of finding their way through the problems by finding better solutions. However, the abuse of drugs or alcohol, such as cocaine and methamphetamines, usually leads to the flooding of the brain with dopamine that impairs the sense of reward and motivation and increases the potential of an addiction. Therefore, drugs not only impact the intellectual capabilities of a teen but also affect his or her daily life.

Some of the primary reasons why drugs or alcohol are abused during adolescence include peer pressure, adventure, experimentation and to experience euphoria and ecstatic feelings. Moreover, some people abuse substances for relaxation and relief from stress.

Path to recovery

The activities of teenagers need to be monitored due to their incapability to fully understand the consequences of drugs and alcohol, particularly given the essential stage of development that their brain is going through. Considering the vulnerability of adolescents to substances, the prevention of the problem through early detection and treatment becomes critical to recovery.

If you or someone you know has been struggling with the side effects of such drugs, contact the Florida Drug Addiction Helpline. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-982-2401 or chat online with our representatives for locating the best drug rehab centers in Florida. They will help you find the best option for addiction treatment in Florida and assist you or your loved ones walk bravely on the path to recovery.