Change Is Certain
The changes our young people go through seem to happen in the blink of an eye. But what we can’t see changing is how their brain is developing well into young adulthood, with their judgement center – the prefrontal cortex – being the last to mature around the age of 25.
Scientific studies show that alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and other drugs can interfere with this brain development. Even short-term substance use can impact the teen brain, interfering with their ability to learn and remember – and their academic success.
Why Are Alcohol and Other Substances So Risky?
Alcohol and other substances temporarily increase the neurotransmitter in the brain, dopamine, which produces feelings of pleasure and excitement from enjoyable experiences – eating delicious food or getting ‘likes’ on social media. This dopamine rush ensures that we will try to repeat behaviors we find pleasurable.
Use of alcohol and other substances during the teen years can hijack this reward system, producing more cravings for alcohol, tobacco products, or marijuana to feel the same high.
This dopamine ‘rewiring’ makes activities that were once pleasurable appear less enjoyable, often leaving teens less interested in simple joys such as school and quality time with their friends.
What Can I Do as A Parent?
– Talk early and often with your child about the risks of using drugs and alcohol while their brain is still developing.
– Satisfy their natural desire for risk and excitement by getting them involved in healthy activities that give them a dopamine rush – a natural high – such as skiing, surfing, indoor skydiving, performance arts, or social causes.