Teens that abuse substances have a higher risk of experiencing some effects on their health, both physical and mental
We all know that drugs are bad – but when dealing with a teenager, telling them this fact could be the same as talking to a wall. They will eventually find a way of doing drugs behind your back, especially when they have already made up their mind that they will do some experimentation.
This approach to drugs may change if you present them with some scientific facts on why they should not do drugs though. For instance, because they are in the adolescence stage, their brain is still under development, so any drugs they consume at this stage will greatly impact their mental and emotional development.
There are certain reasons why teens seem to have a higher risk threshold than an adult, and that makes them unaware of the consequences of their actions – at least most of the time. That makes the experimentation of drugs and alcohol a very enticing prospect, especially when you consider the fact that they want to gain acceptance from their peers.
If this is a fact that concerns you, it is important for you to learn what happens in the brain of a teenager as they grow up.
How the brain develops in the teen years
The development and growth of the human brain is continuous, but happens at its fastest rates when a child is very young. When they are six years old, their brain is about 90 to 956 percent of an adult’s brain size. However, the brain still needs some adjustments when they are in their pre-teen and teen years before they reach their adult years.
Not all teen brains develop at the same rate at the same time, as there will still be differences among different teens. For instance, when a child starts their puberty process early that means the brain changes also started early.
During the teen years, the region of the brain known as the grey matter (the region that processes thoughts) is gradually ‘reduced’, while other connections begin forming and strengthening. This helps the brain to become more efficient.
The process starts at the back part of the brain, also known as the prefrontal cortex. This is the center of the brain that is responsible for making decisions and controlling impulses, as well as solving problems and planning ahead in light of consequences of their actions. These changes will keep on happening until earl adulthood.
Since the prefrontal cortex is under development at this time, there is another part of the brain that takes over this job – the amygdala. However, this region is also associated with instinctive behavior, impulsiveness, emotional thinking and aggression – which is why teens tend to be very aggressive in their ways and make impulsive decisions instead of logical ones.
Because this stage is critical to their development and adult preferences, what they are exposed to becomes a very important factor in shaping how they will be in future. How you guide them will help them to build a healthy brain, which is why teen substance abuse is a bad idea.
Why it is dangerous to abuse substances at this stage
Your teen does not have to go through mental health disorders or anything of that sort for substance and alcohol abuse to have a significant effect on their brain. This is because their brain and nervous system is still under development, and the drugs will only hinder the process.
When a teen abuses drugs, it can actually hinder their ability to function, both in the short term and long term. Some of the damages that occur include reducing their ability to experience pleasures, interference with their neurotransmitters and connections within the brain, and the integration of unhealthy behaviors in their brain.
It also creates issues with their memory, makes them miss opportunities to learn as much as they can, and also limits the development of their ability to perceive things.
Alcohol is another substance that affects the teen brain drastically, because a teen is more likely to binge drink compared to an adult. Binge drinking is drinking sufficient quantities in a short time to achieve the legal alcohol limits in the blood.
The brain in a teenager also responds in a different inner compared to the brain of an adult, making them more susceptible to developing an alcohol dependence compare to teens who do not drink. One of the major effects of teen drinking is the delayed onset of puberty, because of the effects on the endocrine and reproductive systems.
Alcohol also results in reduced density of the bones (they end up suffering fractures more often), and the enzymes of their liver have higher chances of causing liver damage. Their growth potential is also reduced, and they will have shorter limbs as a result.
Professional and social risks
Teen substance abuse does not only affect their physical health, but also has a negative effect on their professional and social effects – the effects are long lasting and will follow them into adulthood (unless it is dealt with early). Since abusing substances increases the problem of unclear reasoning, while also encouraging more rash and impulsive choices, the effects will go beyond psychological and biological effects.
Teens who have substance abuse addicts have a higher chance of also engaging in crime, mostly because they are trying to find ways of supplementing their teen drug addiction. They also tend to suffer more assault cases, unplanned pregnancy (in the case of girls), STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), and wasting opportunities to improve their academic achievements.
Another effect is the damaged relationships with friends and family, although this also happens to other drug addicts as well.
One thing you eyed to remember is that substance abuse is not a sign of failed parenting – it is just a reflection of how their brain reacts to things. That is why it is important to seek help when it happens, and keeping in touch with your teen to find out whether they are abusing drugs or not.