The percentage of teenagers who do drugs is alarming. According to statistics, nearly half of all high school seniors have at least tried one drug. As early as eighth grade, 15 percent of students have already experimented with substance abuse. What kind of impact is this substance abuse having on the developing brain of the teenager? The answer is complicated and researchers have much more to learn about it, but we do know that the effects are not good.
Teenagers are especially susceptible to damage caused by drug use because their brains are going through a period of rapid and important development. Our brains are not fully developed until we are in our 20s. Teenage brains are quickly changing and forging connections that will affect them well into adulthood. The part of the brain that is really seeing important changes during adolescence is related to mood, impulse and reasoning skills.
With this part of the brain not yet fully developed, teens are at particular risk of making poor choices. When drugs are available, experimenting with them is a risk many teens will take. Doing so affects that development, though, and can cause teens to disrupt the formation of reasoning skills and the ability to manage emotions in healthful ways.
Teen substance abuse statistics and other types of research have found that teen drug use affects the ability to think, also known as cognitive abilities. For instance, using marijuana regularly has been proven to reduce IQ in teenagers. Marijuana impairs the ability to learn and to remember things. Students who use drugs of any kind perform worse academically. They have more absences from school and get worse grades than their peers who do not experiment with drugs.
Drug Use and Mental Health
Although we don’t know exactly how one causes the other, substance abuse and mental health often go together in teens. It may be that having a mental illness, like bipolar disorder, especially if undiagnosed or untreated, could lead a teen to self-medicate by using drugs. It is also possible that using drugs can have effects in the brain we don’t quite understand yet, but may trigger the onset of mental illness.
Teens are always going to be risk-takers and experimenters. It is a natural and normal behavior for teens, but when drugs are involved, the consequences can be serious. There are all kinds of ways in which drug use negatively impacts people; but for teens with developing brains, the damage is worse than for adults. Facts about teens doing drugs indicate that many young people are at risk. As adults, we need to not only educate teens, but also give them positive outlets. When teens are encouraged to participate in other activities, like sports and academic clubs, they feel satisfied and are less likely to try drugs.