Effects Of Drugs And Alcohol On Teenage Brain – Research indicates that brain development is still underway during adolescence, and significant changes continue into the early 20s. Mature regions of the brain put teenagers at high risk for the effects of drugs and alcohol.

The developing brain during adolescence may help explain why teenagers sometimes seem quite risky and make decisions that may cause safety or health concerns. Young people’s brains are still maturing during adolescence and reasoning and judgment are developing in their early to mid-20s.

Effects Of Drugs And Alcohol On Teenage Brain

Effects Of Drugs And Alcohol On Teenage Brain

Maturation of the brain usually occurs from the back of the brain to the front. So the front region of the brain, known as the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for higher-level reasoning and decision-making, doesn’t fully mature until the early to mid-20s.

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The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that allows a person to think clearly, make good decisions, and control impulses. “Do this now” and “Wait! What about the consequences?” As psychologist Laurence Steinberg observes, a teenager’s brain “has a well-developed accelerator, but only a partially developed brake.”

The prefrontal area, which is responsible for thinking, planning, judgment, decision making and impulse control, undergoes the greatest change during adolescence. The researchers found that teenage drinking can cause major changes in this area, which plays an important role in shaping adult personality and behavior. Alcohol damage at this point can be long-term and irreversible.

The hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory, suffers the most severe alcohol-related brain damage in adolescents. Long-term drinking causes teenagers to have a 10% smaller hippocampus. Furthermore, short-term or moderate drinking impairs learning and memory far more in young people than in adults. Frequent drinkers will never be able to catch up in adulthood, because alcohol inhibits the systems essential for storing new information.

Children who start drinking at age 13 have a 45% chance of becoming addicted to alcohol. A person who starts drinking at the legal age of 21 has only a 7% chance of becoming addicted.

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The brain rewards positive actions with feelings of pleasure, so we want to repeat them. Alcohol and drugs hijack the brain by producing brain chemicals or neurotransmitters instead of a real experience, starting with a harmful chemical.

If teens continue to drink, they will develop a tolerance and need to consume larger amounts of the drug or alcohol to produce the “feel good” chemicals. Teens can begin to crave the deliciousness of “feel good” chemicals and become addicted.

“Having a scientific perspective on the biological challenges of adolescence will help you interact more objectively with your child, keeping you calm and providing guidance that can improve his life.” -Dr. David Walsh

Effects Of Drugs And Alcohol On Teenage Brain

Tags: alcohol, drug and alcohol coalitions, drug and alcohol prevention, drugs, next step community solutions, substance abuse, teen brain, teen drinking, youth drug prevention Teen drinking can cause irreversible brain damage For teens, the effects of a drunken night may last long after the hangover last long They recently found damaged nerve tissue in the brains of teenagers who drink, and poorer performance on tests of thinking and memory.

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The red dots highlight the significantly lower white matter integrity of the brain in teenagers who drink compared to non-drinkers. Courtesy of Susan Tapert/Tim McQueeny, UCSD hide caption

The red dots highlight the significantly lower white matter integrity of the brain in teenagers who drink compared to non-drinkers.

A recent study led by neuroscientist Susan Tapert of the University of California, San Diego compared brain scans of teenagers who drank heavily with those of teens who didn’t.

Tapert’s team found damaged nerve tissue in the brains of teenagers who drank. According to the researchers, this damage affects the attention span of boys and the ability of girls to understand and interpret visual information.

Effects Of Alcohol On The Teenage Brain

“First, the adolescent brain is still undergoing a number of maturational processes that make it more vulnerable to the effects of certain substances,” says Tapert.

In other words, key areas of the brain are still being built during adolescence, and are more sensitive to the toxic effects of drugs and alcohol.

Brain damage in a teenage drinker, top view courtesy of Susan Tapert/Tim McQueeny, UCSD hide caption

Effects Of Drugs And Alcohol On Teenage Brain

Tapert looked at 12- and 14-year-olds before they started using alcohol or drugs. As time went on, some of the kids started drinking, a few heavily—consuming four or five drinks at a time, two or three times a month—classic teenage drinking behavior.

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Comparing young adults who drank heavily to those who remained abstinent, Tapert’s team found that binge drinkers performed worse on tests of thinking and memory. There was also a gender difference.

“For girls who gained weight from drinking during adolescence, they seem to perform worse on tests of spatial functioning, which correlates with math, engineering type of function,” says Tapert.

“For guys who binge drank as teenagers, we see poor performance on tests of attention, so we can focus on something that might be boring for a long time,” says Tapert. “The magnitude of the difference is 10 percent. I like to think of it as the difference between an A and a B.”

According to Ron Dahl, a pediatrician and brain researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, teenagers seem to have a greater tolerance for the immediate negative effects of binge drinking, such as feeling sick and nauseous.

Alcohol’s Effects On Adolescent Brains

“This makes it easier to consume larger amounts and enjoy the positive aspects,” says Dahl. “But, of course, this also creates the responsibility of the addiction of these substances and the spiral of heavy use.”

He added that there is a unique feature of the teenage brain that influences a lot of behavior during adolescence: the teenage brain is primed and ready for intense and consuming learning.

“Being passionate about a certain activity, a certain sport, literature or changing the world or a certain religion” is a normal and predictable part of being a teenager, he says.

Effects Of Drugs And Alcohol On Teenage Brain

“But these tendencies to explore and try new things and try out new identities can also increase the likelihood of starting down negative paths,” he added.

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Tapert wanted to know how alcohol affects the development of an adolescent’s brain. So, using brain imaging, he focused on the brain’s white matter, or nerve tissue.

“White matter is very important for transmitting information between brain cells, and we know that it continues to develop during adolescence,” says Tapert.

So Tapert imaged the brains of two groups of high school students: binge drinkers and a group of teenagers with no history of binge drinking. In his latest study he reported a significant difference in the white matter of the drinkers.

“It looked like there were some small cracks in the white matter of the brain, indicating poor quality,” says Tapert.

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“These results were really surprising to me, because the children who drank as children did not, in fact, drink excessively. On average, they drank once or twice a month, but when they did drink, it was a relatively high amount of at least four or five drinks. every time,” he says.

In another study, Tapert reported abnormal functioning in the hippocampus – an area key to memory formation – in adolescent drinkers. Reflecting their abnormal brain scans, the drunk teenagers did worse at learning verbal material than the non-drinkers. Adolescence may be the most significant period of development, as our brains are undergoing critical and dynamic changes throughout these years.

If your son or daughter is experimenting with drugs, not only is he at high risk of teenage addiction, but he is also at risk of permanent damage to his mind and body. created this infographic to teach you and your teen about the critical window of adolescence.

Effects Of Drugs And Alcohol On Teenage Brain

The teenage brain is still young, still malleable, and certainly full of eagerness and impulsiveness. That’s right, adolescence is the period of life that should be taken advantage of the most: this is the time when we can really condition our brains, the time of education and the time of developing skills. A person’s ability to learn will never be greater than during these years.

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While the malleability of the brain makes adolescence a time of tremendous opportunity, it also creates great vulnerability. A chance for cognitive development, teenagers often make hasty decisions. During adolescence, the parts of the brain dedicated to judgment and decision-making are not yet mature, and teens are more prone to try drugs and alcohol.

Young people who experiment with drugs can therefore suffer from the learned disease of addiction. Repeated drug abuse can stunt critical brain growth during adolescence and cause permanent cognitive deficits. Therefore, it is crucial to address a developing substance use problem as soon as possible. This is known as “early intervention”.

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