Friday, May 20, 2022

How Do Drugs Affect The Brain Of A Teenager

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How Do Hallucinogens Affect The Teen Body

All You Need to Know About Drugs and the Teen Brain in 17 Minutes

Hallucinogens, including LSD, PCP, MDMA, mescaline, and psilocybin, alter the brain and bodys perception of reality creating sensations and images that seem real. Use of hallucinogens can cause delusional thoughts and bizarre physical movement because they work on the way nerve cells communicate with one another. In addition to hallucinations, LSD can increase cardiac activity and body temperature as well as loss of appetite, dry mouth and sweating. MDMA, also known as Ecstasy or Molly, is a drug that acts like a stimulant by increasing energy and pleasure but alters perception and sense of reality. This makes it difficult to categorize or to know how it will affect the body.

What Every Parent Should Know About Adolescents And Alcohol

Studies at McLean Hospital and elsewhere have shown that alcohol affects the brains of adolescents in profound and dangerous ways. During the teenage and early adult years, the brain is still developing, making it more vulnerable to alcohol than the adult brain.

Moreover, research indicates that the earlier a person starts drinking, the more likely that person will develop serious problems with alcohol or drug addiction later in life.

Because of the serious short- and long-term effects of alcohol use and misuse, it is essential that teens, parents, teachers, and health professionals gain a deeper understanding of teenage drinking and brain development, and we must all work together to dispel common misconceptions about teens and alcohol.

Introducing The Human Brain

The human brain is the most complex organ in the body. This three-pound mass of gray and white matter sits at the center of all human activityyou need it to drive a car, to enjoy a meal, to breathe, to create an artistic masterpiece, and to enjoy everyday activities. The brain regulates your body’s basic functions, enables you to interpret and respond to everything you experience, and shapes your behavior. In short, your brain is youeverything you think and feel, and who you are.

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What Parts Of The Brain Are Affected By Drug Use

Drugs can alter important brain areas that are necessary for life-sustaining functions and can drive the compulsive drug use that marks addiction. Brain areas affected by drug use include:

Some drugs like opioids also disrupt other parts of the brain, such as the brain stem, which controls basic functions critical to life, including heart rate, breathing, and sleeping. This interference explains why overdoses can cause depressed breathing and death.

Why Are Teens More Susceptible To Drug Addiction Than Adults

Teen alcohol and drug use

Perhaps you never knew that teens suffer from drug addiction more easily than adults do. Teen drug addiction is NOT just the result of teens:

  • Having no self-respect
  • Suffering from peer pressure
  • Bad parenting

Drug addiction is a complex disease that affects the brain in many ways. Involvement of the brain in drug addiction helps explain the primary reasons that teenagers are more susceptible. This is true no matter what substance is the teens drug of choice.

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What Happens To Your Brain When You Misuse Prescription Opioids

When opioids enter the brain, they attach to molecules on cells known as opioid receptors. These receptors are located in many areas of the brain and body, especially areas involved in feelings of pain and pleasure, as well as a part of the brain that regulates breathing.

Opioids affect the brain’s “reward circuit,” causing euphoria and flooding the brain with the chemical messenger dopamine. Surges of dopamine in the reward circuit encourage you to continue pleasurable but unhealthy behaviors like taking drugs, leading you to repeat the behavior again and again. Repeated surges from drug-taking can lead to addiction.

Learn more about how the brain works and what happens when a person misuses drugs. And, check out how the brain responds to natural rewards and to drugs.

Why Resisting Drugs Is Harder For Teens

The changes in the not-fully-matured brain of teenagers cause teens to take unnecessary risks. It is difficult for many teenagers to resist the initial temptation of abusing drugs. The younger a teen starts using drugs creates a greater likelihood of progression to full-fledged drug addiction early in life and increases the chances of addiction later in life.

Parents may not know what to do to help their teenager who is addicted to alcohol or other drugs. Treatment is imperative to help the teenager overcome the addiction and to heal the entire family.

Teenagers are more susceptible to drug addiction than adults are. Whether the drug is alcohol, opioids, , or other substances, there are multiple reasons that teens suffer the devastation of drug addiction sooner than adults do.

Understanding the reasons leads not only to greater knowledge about how teens are more susceptible to addiction but can enlighten you to seek the help needed in the event your teen has a drug addiction.

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Why Are Drugs More Addictive Than Natural Rewards

For the brain, the difference between normal rewards and drug rewards can be likened to the difference between someone whispering into your ear and someone shouting into a microphone. Just as we turn down the volume on a radio that is too loud, the brain of someone who misuses drugs adjusts by producing fewer neurotransmitters in the reward circuit, or by reducing the number of receptors that can receive signals. As a result, the person’s ability to experience pleasure from naturally rewarding activities is also reduced.

This is why a person who misuses drugs eventually feels flat, without motivation, lifeless, and/or depressed, and is unable to enjoy things that were previously pleasurable. Now, the person needs to keep taking drugs to experience even a normal level of rewardwhich only makes the problem worse, like a vicious cycle. Also, the person will often need to take larger amounts of the drug to produce the familiar highan effect known as tolerance.

For more information on drugs and the brain, order NIDAs Teaching Addiction Science series or the Mind Matters series at These items and others are available to the public free of charge.

How Does Drug Use Affect Adolescent Mental Health

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Drug use in adolescence is the source of many mental health problems. For example, a teenager who uses drugs is more likely to also exhibit low mood, anxiety, learning disorders, or behavioral disorders.

When a teenager is at his or her limit, what he or she is looking for is a quick solution, whatever it is, in order to feel immediate relief. They are tired of hearing from adults what they can and should do. Alcohol or drug use gives them that outlet. This often leads to what is known as comorbidity or associated morbidity.

Drugs are the enemy of the future and of hope, and when we fight against them we fight for the future

-Bob Riley-

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How Illicit Drugs Affect Brain And Growth Development

Illicit drugs arent good for the human mind in general, but especially when the brain is growing rapidly, such as it does in puberty, illicit drugs are especially problematic.

Stunting growth in the brains emotional and cognitive sectors is dire for the human bodys most complex organ. Here is how illicit drugs affect the human brain during growth development.

Stopping Teenage Addictions Is Possible

We know that, as a parent, dealing with the prospect of teenage addictions to drugs or alcohol is one of the most frightening things in the world.

You may feel as though you can no longer control your teen, worry that youve caused their addiction, and youre of course terrified of the long and short-term developmental effects of drug abuse.

But healing and treatment are possible and the reality is that your teen likely doesnt want to be living the life of an addict.

Were here to help you learn more about different treatment options, the best way to reach your teenager when youre ready to talk about addiction and much more.

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What Happens To Your Brain When You Misuse Prescription Depressants

The brain is made up of nerve cells that send messages to each other by releasing chemicals called neurotransmitters. Most depressants affect the brain by increasing the activity of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid . The increased GABA activity in turn slows down brain activity. This causes a relaxing effect that is helpful to people with anxiety or sleep problems. Too much GABA activity, though, can be harmful.

Learn more about how the brain works and what happens when a person misuses drugs.

What Alcohol And Drugs Do To A Teens Developing Brain


Teenagers undergo many important, yet not always visible, changes during adolescence. As a parent, youve probably noticed that your teen sometimes seems emotional, impulsive, or irrational. This is in part because the developing brains of adolescents work differently than the brains of adults. The human brain is still maturing during the teenage years, and this process continues even into early adulthood.1

The teenage years also correspond with a time of experimentation in many youths. Teens may be tempted to try drugs or alcohol, often as a result of peer pressure or the desire to assert their independence. Alcohol and drug abuse can have a negative impact on brain development and can also lead to addiction. Talking to your child about the risks of drug and alcohol use is crucial, even if you dont think your child is drinking or using drugs.

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Does My Teenager Need Rehab

If you notice signs that your teen may be using substances, address the situation quickly to prevent permanent brain damage and the many other problems that arise from substance abuse and addiction. If addiction is present, drug rehab treatment may be needed. That said, your first step is to contact a treatment professional as soon as possible, who can determine the level of your childs potential problem. This person might be your family doctor or your teens school guidance counselor.

What Is Comorbidity

Comorbidity is a condition in which a person suffers more than one mental illness simultaneously. Most of the time, these diseases should be addressed and treated individually. One of the most common forms of matched diseases is drug addiction and depression, especially in adolescents.

The funny thing about it is that drug use is not always the starting point of another mental illness. Sometimes mental illness is an added risk factor for drug use. Thus, a mood or anxiety disorder can lead a teen to use drugs as a form of self-medication.

Substance abuse is considered a mental illness.

Incomorbidity there is also an interaction between the two diseases, so that a worsening in the symptoms of one usually results in a worsening in the symptoms of the other.

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What Are The Long

If your teens development is disrupted, their life ahead becomes rife with new hurdles. The most obvious consequence is difficulty in school. Kids who get into drugs and alcohol often become outcasts among classmates and not simply because their reputations may suffer due to their choice of habits. As their substance use slows their brains development, they can have massive difficulty keeping up in class. Theyll start to see their test scores drop. Their minds begin to wander during lessons. This can lead a teen to need remedial classes or even repeat grades, greatly harming their chances of getting into a good college or career.

In addition to school problems , these teens may develop dangerous behaviors and habits. These can include unsafe sex, criminal behavior and the increasing risk of doing more drugs. It can become a vicious cycle that makes it harder for kids to reach their potential, form good relationships and lead happy lives.

Background On Adolescent Substance Use

How do drugs affect the brain? – Sara Garofalo

Substance use during adolescence has been associated with alterations in brain structure, function, and neurocognition. This review will present the current research regarding typical adolescent brain development and the subtle but significant abnormalities in indices of brain functioning associated with alcohol and drug use during this critical developmental period. Studies using neuropsychological assessment and structural and functional imaging will be discussed to help elucidate the relationship between neurocognition with alcohol and marijuana use. Additionally, methodological issues in neuroimaging and neuropsychological assessment research will be reviewed.

While several decades of research with adults have shown that chronic heavy drinking is associated with adverse consequences on the adult brain , this relationship has only recently been explored in the adolescent brain. Understanding the effects of alcohol and drug use on adolescent neurocognition is crucial, being that rates of use increase dramatically between ages 12 and 18. Epidemiological studies have shown that past month alcohol use increases from 17% to 45% between 8th and 12th grade, and illicit drug use prevalence expands from 8% to 22%. Lifetime rates indicate that 73% of youth have used alcohol and 48% have used illicit drugs by their senior year of high school . In the past year, 23% of youth meet diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder by age 20 .

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Lesson: Drugs + Your Brain


Use the lesson and student work sheet below to reinforce comprehension of key facts and concepts in the student article Drugs + Your Brain.

Dear Teacher:

Providing teens with scientific information about how abusing drugs interferes with the development and functioning of their brains and bodies can help them make better decisions.

The Heads Up student article Drugs + Your Brain and accompanying student work sheet Mission Control focus on the consequences of drug abuse as it affects a persons brain. Future articles in the series will highlight the effects of drugs on the bodys major organs, as well as on a persons behavioraffecting not just the individual, but also family, friends, and communities.

In This Installment: Student article: Facts for teens about the effects of drug abuse on the body, with an emphasis on the brain. Student work sheet: Students learn about different systems of the brain, their connections with how the body functions, and how abusing drugs can interfere with normal functioning.

Alignment With National Standards Science : Life Science: Structure and Function in Living Systems Science in Personal and Social Perspectives: Personal and Community Health Life Skills : Self-Regulation Thinking and Reasoning

What do you know about how different drugs affect the brain and body? What do you know about how the brain controls the body? What do you know about addiction and its causes?

After-Reading Questions :

How Do Drugs Affect Brain Function

As your teens brain develops, drugs can damage the way they process their experiences, both in the short- and long-term. The specific effect depends on the type of drug being used. There are three main categories of drugs, each with a different set of effects on the brain:

  • Stimulantscause adolescents brains and the rest of their nervous system to become excited and function unnaturally fast. When young people use stimulants, their brains produce an unnatural amount of energy, causing their heart to race, their body temperature to rise and their breathing to speed up.
  • Depressantscause teens brains and the rest of their nervous systems to slow down. When someone uses depressants, their energy level decreases, their breathing and heart rate slow down and their body temperature lowers.
  • Hallucinogensaffect the brains perception of reality. Teenagers who use hallucinogens can have delusional thoughts, and they see, hear, feel and taste things that arent really there.

One reason these drugs cause these problems for the brain is their effect on neurotransmitters, or the chemicals that carry messages between the brain and the rest of the body. When a young person uses drugs, their delicate balance of neurotransmitters is lost, and the reward pathways of the brain are altered.

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How Drugs Affect Cognitive Development

Drugs act on the central nervous system, intensifying or inhibiting neurotransmission mechanisms. They also have effects on the brains reward circuits, which is why their consumption provides pleasure and decreases activity in other circuits of behavioral control.

In addition, some drugs have a chemical composition similar to certain substances generated by our brain. The difference is that the substances generated by us have the effect of positive stimulus, while these drugs bring about difficulties in self-control and an excess of activity.

Therefore, this abnormal functioning causes an imbalance of the brain functions. It alters behavior and causes consumers to have inappropriate behaviors. At early ages, such as adolescence, the consumption of these substances causes negative changes in the brain structures and even lesions that can leave irreparable sequelae.

Youth And The Developing Brain

Alcohol effects on teenage brain and how to talk to your ...

According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration , the impact of prescription drugs can be particularly harmful to a developing adolescent brain and body. Our brains continue to a develop until we reach our early- to mid-twenties.

Percentages of children ages 12-17 who were dependent on or abused illicit drugs or alcohol in the past year

Drug use at an early age is an important predictor of substance use disorder later in life and has a significant impact on both physical and mental functioning of adolescents into adulthood. According to the 2015 Monitoring the Future Survey, 23.6 percent of high school seniors reported using an illicit drug with 7.6 percent reporting using a drug other than marijuana during the past month.

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How The Brain Works

The brain is the most complex organ in the human body. It is like a complicated computer, but instead of silicone and electricity, your brain uses synapses and neurons to transmit information. Neurons are arranged into vast web networks across the brain, and your brain is constantly rewiring and reprogramming itself as you learn and remember.

Different parts of the brain deal with specific systems or areas of the body. Your cerebellum controls your musculoskeletal structure, while your amygdala handles all your emotional responses to stimuli. As these areas connect, your brain spawns a vast system of neurons, reaching all parts of your body through the nervous system.

Using drugs or alcohol disrupts these critical connections in your brain. The long-term effects can cause the deterioration of many systems, not just the brain.

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