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Monday, November 15, 2010

Teen Brain More Susceptible to Damage from Drugs and Alcohol

The teenage brain is much more susceptible to the effects of drugs and alcohol in comparison to adults using the same substance. Teenagers' brains are still developing and any substance introduced to the neuro-chemistry taking place may change the way the brain functions, i.e. memory. "Brain development is actively transpiring even in the teen brain, and [if] you throw in a drug on top of that, you could change the trajectory of brain development." said Dr. Frances Jensen of Children's Hospital Boston. Most teens do not realize that their brain has more receptors for chemicals to bind to in turn keeping the drugs actively in one's system longer; the effect is that the drugs do more damage long term than that to an adult brain.

"A study led by Staci Ann Gruber of Harvard Medical School found that people who began using marijuana before age 16 and who used it the most performed the worst on a test of cognitive flexibility. Cognitive flexibility means being able to change your response to something based on the context of the situation", reported CNN. Teenagers are barely aware of the damage that they are doing when consuming drugs, even the "less harmful" drugs like marijuana, but, science has shown us that the damage is being done. What's more, the teenage brain learns much faster than the adult brain, which means that picking up habits and, in many cases, the development of addiction forms easier. "The teen brain learns so handily; unfortunately it can get addicted a lot faster, stronger and longer," Jensen said.

Parents need to work hard to educate their children and be firm with them regarding drugs and alcohol. There are many parents who believe that smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol is just part of being a teenager; however, the science shows that these substances are harmful to the brain and may hinder their children in the long run. Addressing a problem as soon as it is discovered is so important, possibly being what ends up saving a life. "Parents need to stop saying, 'Oh, he’ll be fine,' Jensen said. "It's important that this information gets to teenagers, that they be made aware of their vulnerable and impressionable brain state."


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