No one factor can predict if a person will become addicted to drugs.
Trying drugs may fulfill all of these normal developmental drives, but in an unhealthy way that can have very serious long-term consequences. The family environment is also important: Violence, physical or emotional abuse, mental illness, or drug use in the household increase the likelihood an adolescent will use drugs.
Mature brain regions at each developmental stage are indicated in blue. The prefrontal cortex red circleswhich governs judgment and self-control, is the last part of the brain to mature. The teenage years are a critical window of vulnerability to substance use disorders, because the brain is still developing and malleable a property known as neuroplasticityand some brain areas are less mature than others.
The parts of the brain that process feelings of reward and pain—crucial drivers of drug use—are the first to mature during childhood.
What remains incompletely developed during the teen years are the prefrontal cortex and its connections to other brain regions.
The prefrontal cortex is responsible for assessing situations, making sound decisions, and controlling our emotions and impulses; typically this circuitry is not mature until a person is in his or her mids see figure.
The adolescent brain is often likened to a car with a fully functioning gas pedal the reward system but weak brakes the prefrontal cortex. Teenagers are highly motivated to pursue pleasurable rewards and avoid pain, but their judgment and decision-making skills are still limited. This affects their ability to weigh risks accurately and make sound decisions, including decisions about using drugs.
For these reasons, adolescents are a major target for prevention messages promoting healthy, drug-free behavior and giving young people encouragement and skills to avoid the temptations of experimenting with drugs. Drug use can be part of a pattern of risky behavior including unsafe sex, driving while intoxicated, or other hazardous, unsupervised activities.
And in cases when a teen does develop a pattern of repeated use, it can pose serious social and health risks, including: Different drugs affect the brain differently, but a common factor is that they all raise the level of the chemical dopamine in brain circuits that control reward and pleasure.
The brain is wired to encourage life-sustaining and healthy activities through the release of dopamine. Everyday rewards during adolescence—such as hanging out with friends, listening to music, playing sports, and all the other highly motivating experiences for teenagers—cause the release of this chemical in moderate amounts.
This reinforces behaviors that contribute to learning, health, well-being, and the strengthening of social bonds. Despite popular belief, willpower alone is often insufficient to overcome an addiction.
This creates an especially strong drive to repeat the experience. The immature brain, already struggling with balancing impulse and self-control, is more likely to take drugs again without adequately considering the consequences.
The development of addiction is like a vicious cycle: This is why, despite popular belief, willpower alone is often insufficient to overcome an addiction. Not all young people are equally at risk for developing an addiction.
Various factors including inherited genetic predispositions and adverse experiences in early life make trying drugs and developing a substance use disorder more likely.
Exposure to stress such as emotional or physical abuse in childhood primes the brain to be sensitive to stress and seek relief from it throughout life; this greatly increases the likelihood of subsequent drug abuse and of starting drug use early. Drug use at an early age is an important predictor of development of a substance use disorder later.
The majority of those who have a substance use disorder started using before age 18 and developed their disorder by age Data collected in found that nearly 13 percent of those with a substance use disorder began using marijuana by the time they were These potentially lifelong consequences make addressing adolescent drug use an urgent matter.
Chronic marijuana use in adolescence, for example, has been shown to lead to a loss of IQ that is not recovered even if the individual quits using in adulthood. The serious health risks of drugs compound the need to get an adolescent who is abusing drugs into treatment as quickly as possible.
Also, adolescents who are abusing drugs are likely to have other issues such as mental health problems accompanying and possibly contributing to their substance use, and these also need to be addressed.
Adolescents in treatment report abusing different substances than adult patients do. For example, many more people aged 12—17 received treatment for marijuana use than for alcohol use in When adolescents do drink alcohol, they are more likely than adults to binge drink defined as five or more drinks in a row on a single occasion.
Adolescents also may be less likely than adults to feel they need help or to seek treatment on their own.Addressing Prescription Drug Abuse in the United States Introduction The United States is in the midst of an unprecedented drug overdose epidemic.
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Substance Use. Addressing Prescription Drug Abuse in the United States Introduction The United States is in the midst of an unprecedented drug overdose epidemic.
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