Addiction takes a toll on everyone, but teens are at increased risk. The long-term damages of addiction are widely known – significant anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances, violent behavior, memory loss, learning deficiencies, hallucinations, and more, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Researchers have compared the brain’s reward response system in adult and teen rats, and may have pinpointed some differences for what places teens at higher risk.
As adolescents are growing, so are their brains. As researcher Bita Moghaddam of the University of Pittsburgh, stated,
“The brain region that is very critical in planning your actions and in habit formation is directly tapped by reward in adolescents, which means the reward could have a stronger influence in their decision making, in what they do next, as well as forming habits in adolescents.”
Teens often exhibit risk-taking and impulsive behaviors, which is often in part because their brains are developing and thus placed at higher risk for making decisions that could lead toward addiction. Studies have also shown that adolescents are more susceptible to stress, mental illness, and addiction than adults, because they are still developing their decision-making and reasoning skills. The nucleus accumbens, the part of the brain that react with “happy” reward chemicals when doing things that ensure our survival such as eating, is even more reactive in adolescent brains as they form habits and learn that doing certain things produces more pleasure. If gone awry, this could include drugs, sex, and/or alcohol.
To prevent adolescents from reaching addiction, we must make sure that as a community, we are educating and reinforcing messages against it. Reminding our youth of the dangerous consequences via academic resources and subjective experiences can help teens understand the true implications that addiction has. Secondly, referring our teens to help and other resources such as counseling can be beneficial in helping them work through something rather than lean towards addiction to cope. Lastly, serving as an example is one of the best ways to show teens both what it looks like to recover and to achieve sobriety.
Avalon Malibu is a world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery treatment center. Our licensed, experienced health care team truly cares about your recovery and will work with you to develop tools to overcome your challenges and better manage your symptoms. Make the decision to seek help today, and call us at 888-958-7511 for a consultation.