TEENS & SUBSTANCE ABUSE
Three reasons why teens and substance abuse
is a terrible idea
Teens are certainly more vulnerable than adults due to: social pressure, availability, an underdeveloped frontal lobe, but also because they appear to have an enhanced vulnerability to chemical dependence.
Drugs have a greater toxicity in adolescents. From the liver to the kidneys it is clinically shown that the adolescent body cannot metabolize medications, drugs and alcohol as rapidly as adults.
Brain imaging also shows that the frontal lobes of young adults do not fully mature until the age of 21-24 years. This is a significant concern when we realize that the frontal lobe is the ‘executive function’ part of the brain. This is where all the decision-making, risk assessments, planning, and impulse control reside. An underdeveloped frontal lobe is more at risk for poor decision making. This combined with the increased risk-taking behaviours in peer jousting escalates vulnerability.
Nick felt that coming for counselling was ridiculous...
...but his parents insisted. According to him, Nick thought there was nothing harmful about occasional pot use. After all most of his friends ‘blazed’ all the time. His parents were wise enough to realize that teens cannot know what they do not know, nor see what they cannot see. They just haven’t lived long enough to look back over the path of the adolescent journey.
Nick’s parents picked up the concerning sign-posts of, declining school marks, withdrawal from family, depleted interest in hobbies and sports’. Especially after his counselor helped him realize that daily use does not constitute occasional use. His therapist could not tell which came first his pot use and then de-motivation (and eventually low mood periods) or did the mild depression trigger the addictive tendencies.
Nick was one of the fortunate ones. He had the openness to build a trusting and caring relationship with his therapist that paved a path to better coping behaviours. Nick was lucky as well to have a caring supportive family.
While we cannot speed the maturing of the frontal brain, there are studies that show that parents can facilitate the development of the adolescent brain through; parental guidance, more education, emotional and social intelligence training, as well as involvement and aid with sound decision making.
You might not drink daily or even weekly but when you do, you drink too much. Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking that drives the blood alcohol levels to 0.08% or above. For adult females, that translates into around four or more drinks in two hours. For the adult male, binge drinking it is around five or more drinks in a two-hour span.
There is certainly some concern regarding early teenage alcohol use. Epidemiological studies have found that adolescents who begin drinking at age 14 have an estimate lifetime risk for alcohol dependence of 47 % compared with those who begin at age 20 have about 25% of the risk (Grant & Dawson, 1997). It is theorized that this is because the young brain and the reward pathways are dysregulated earlier and for much longer.