Experimenting with and taking drugs has become a sort of rite of passage which either turns teens and adolescents off from continued abuse, or plunges them down the rabbit hole of addiction. Thankfully, according to News Press, many drug addled excursions do not foment addiction. However, experimenting with substances which detrimentally affect the brain while it’s still developing may have measurable effects for the rest of your life.
This isn’t a “just say no” plea, but quantifiable fact from empirical research on how drugs impede on the brain’s development and cognitive function during the crucial development stages of teenage years. You might notice the red flags of drug use in behavioral changes ranging from manic mood swings, poor performance in school, uncharacteristic acting out, or dropping out of school altogether.
Nearly 70% of young high schoolers will have experimented with alcohol before graduating, 40% will have tried smoking cigarettes, and 20% experiment with prescription drug use for nonmedical symptoms, according to News Press. Many engaged in active experimentation are attempting to self medicate, or are satiating the curiosity surrounding drug use and its alleged “benefits.” Others succumb to peer pressure in an attempt to “fit in.”
Whatever the reasons leading teens and young adults to drug use (and yes, that includes you, 20-something-year-olds!) the effects on the brain are the same: impaired decision making, lessened memory ability, and compromised decision making. News Press quotes the esteemed Director of the NIDA, Dr. Nora Volkow,
“The adolescent brain is often likened to a car with a fully functioning gas pedal (the reward system) but weak brakes (the prefrontal cortex.).”
So what does all this mean?
Unfortunately teens and young adults will continue to experiment with potentially addictive substances for a number of reasons. If we can find a way to go beyond the “just say no” approach and give our youth access to the critical information as to why drug use is detrimental, outside of the legal and “moral” ramifications of its use (I went on a rant about the morality of drug use not too long ago), intelligent, and well informed teens would have more at their disposal to combat the urges of use.
Knowledge is one thing you can never let go of.
Did the “Just Say No” approach work for you or your little ones? What would be more effective?