A new study explores how structural connections in the teen brain influence decision-making processes. When asked if they wanted €20 right away or €50 in a month, many young respondents opted for the immediate gratification. The study revealed that the connections between the two main brain areas involved in decision-making processes are not yet as developed as they are in the adult brain. One of the areas, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, is activated when planning for the future and the other, the striatum, is linked to the brain's reward system. Since the connections between these two areas are not as developed as in the adult brain, the influence of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex on the striatum is restricted, leading teenagers to be more prone to impulsive behaviour and choosing immediate rewards over future rewards. “It’s not that adolescents don’t plan for the future at all. But when they make decisions, they focus much more on the here and now. Adolescence is a training ground for the brain. Although it’s more difficult for adolescents to decide against short-term rewards, they are capable of doing so,” said lead researcher Wouter van den Bos.
Prevention Update: Search Result
Drinking alcohol can harm physical and mental development, particularly in adolescence and early adulthood, although certain patterns of use are riskier than others. The human brain is still developing throughout adolescence and early adulthood until about 24 years of age. Drinking alcohol while these changes are occurring can have negative effects on the brain’s development. In addition to this risk, puberty causes neurochemical and hormonal changes that make adolescents more likely to engage in risky behaviour and seek thrilling experiences.
Starting to drink at the time when strategy and planning skills are still underdeveloped and the desire for thrills is high can have harmful effects on a youth’s health and safety. Additionally, like adults, youth who regularly consume alcohol above certain limits increase their risk of developing chronic illnesses such as cancer, stroke, heart and liver disease. The National Alcohol Strategy Advisory Committee (NASAC) has created the Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines (LRDGs) that are based on evidence-informed limits and were created to provide Canadians with recommendations for alcohol consumption that could limit their health and safety risks. For these reasons, the LRDGs recommend that youth delay drinking alcohol for as long as possible, at least until the legal drinking age. If youth do decide to drink, they should follow the Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines.
Young Brits are turning their back on alcohol, cigarettes and drugs, but are more prone to self-harm and eating disorders, according to recent research. A newly published government paper draws particular attention to the growing influence of social media and the Internet on young people’s behaviour. While drug use, binge drinking and teen pregnancy were a real worry in the past, today’s teens are more likely to fall victims to cyber-bullies and are more frequently exposed to “hate content, self-harm and pro-anorexia” websites. Eating disorders and self-harm have become more common in recent years, especially among young women. Recent research suggests that a third of 15-year-old girls has experimented with self-harm. “We still do seem to have a problem with young people not feeling happy, not feeling supported – communication between parents and children in this country is not as good as it is in others,” says Suzie Hayman, spokeswoman for Family Lives.
A recent study examined the drinking habits of over 1,200 participants in Montreal from 1999, when they were 12-13 years old, until 2008. One of the major take-home messages from this study is that the assumption that binge drinking is something adolescents will grow out of, is not always the case. In fact, data from this study suggest that a lifelong relationship with alcohol is established in adolescence. Teenagers who regularly consume alcohol are at highest risk to continue binge drinking, at least into their early-20’s (age of the last follow-up in this study). This association is strongest in males, and particularly males who showed higher scores of impulsivity and lower academic achievements.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) has recently released a set of low-risk drinking guidelines to help Canadians moderate their alcohol consumption and reduce their immediate and long-term alcohol-related harm. These Guidelines, if followed, can help reduce the harms associated with alcohol and may prevent or delay the onset of binge drinking in adolescents.
By Zach Patterson - Prevention Hub Canada
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) has recently released a report that provides an overview of the latest research on how cannabis affects young people's brain and behaviour. Cannabis is the most commonly used drug among Canadian youth aged 15–24 and many young people view cannabis to be a natural and safe substance. What youth might not know is that regular cannabis use can seriously disrupt the developing brain and is related to:
Poor academic performance and deficits in attention and memory
Significantly increased risk of motor vehicle collisions
Experiencing psychotic symptoms and developing schizophrenia
Developing a cannabis use disorder
The report outlines the behavioural and mental health effects of cannabis use, whether the drug is addictive and the treatments that exist for cannabis use disorder. To make informed decisions about cannabis use, youth and their support systems need to be aware of both the neurological and behavioural effects of cannabis.
A recent study sheds light on the dangerous effects of synthetic marijuana on young people. Between January 2009 and April 2012 synthetic marijuana use was associated with 11, 561 reports of poisoning in the United States. Many users resort to synthetic cannabis in order to avoid possible arrest, detection on drug screenings, or the stigma associated with being an illicit drug user. The research team analysed data from the Monitoring the Future Survey (MTF), a study of the behaviours, attitudes, and values of 11 - 18 year old American students. The study examined data from 11,863 students who were asked a variety of questions to gauge their use of natural and synthetic marijuana from 2011 to 2013.
Key findings of the research revealed that:
Males were consistently at a greater risk for synthetic marijuana use as well as more frequent use
African-American students were 42% less likely to report synthetic marijuana use and 36% less likely to report more frequent use than Anglo-American students
Students who go out four to seven days a week are at a higher risk for experimenting or continuing use
Students who engage in the use of other substances were more likely to use synthetic marijuana
Lifetime use of alcohol nearly doubled the odds of synthetic marijuana use
Cigarette smoking increased risk of synthetic marijuana use
Other illicit drugs besides marijuana more than doubled the odds of use of synthetic marijuana
Lifetime 'natural' marijuana use was the strongest correlate for use of synthetic marijuana
Although more research needs to be conducted on synthetic marijuana, the results from this study can help national and local efforts to counteract and prevent the use of synthetic marijuana.
A new study shows that youth living in rural areas are more likely to commit suicide than those living in urban areas. Cynthia Fontanella, lead author of the study, and her colleagues analysed 66,595 suicides of youth between the ages of 10 and 24 in the United States. They found that among males, there were 19.93 per 100,000 suicides in rural areas compared to 10.31 per 100,000 suicides in urban areas. For females, 4.40 per 100,000 suicides in rural areas compared to 2.39 per 100,000 suicides in urban areas. Furthermore, this shows that the suicide rate among young males is four times higher than that of young females.
Many risk factors for suicide have been identified over the years, however, two in particular stand out, psychiatric problems and substance abuse. About 90 percent of people who commit suicide suffer from a major psychiatric problem such as a depression or bipolar disorder. Substance abuse is also frequently linked to suicides because it can increase impulsivity and interfere with mood. It has also been identified that barriers to health care, geographic isolation, and disproportionate stigma associated with mental illness could be reasons for higher suicide rates among young people residing in rural areas than those residing in urban areas. Clinicians have identified that the best way to combat these disparities is to provide and improve access to and availability of mental health care in rural areas. The authors suggest that incorporating mental health care into primary care settings, providing care via telemedicine and creating school-based interventions might help reduce youth suicides in rural areas.
Flavoured alcohol such as alcopops and jelly shots have become very popular among young adults. There are three types of alcopops on the market: malt-based flavoured beverages (i.e. 'Mike’s Hard Lemonade'), spirits-based premixed cocktails (i.e. Jack Daniel’s cocktails) and supersized alcopops (i.e. 'Four Loko' or 'Joose'). Supersized alcoholic beverages can contain the equivalent of four to five alcoholic drinks. A new study shows that teens that drink alcopops are six times more likely to have an alcoholic-related injury than those who do not consume these beverages. The study involved surveying over a thousand young people aged 13–20 who said that they had consumed at least one alcoholic drink in the month prior to the survey. Researchers also found that a combination of two or more of these flavoured drinks can be enough to cause injuries.
Excessive drinking among teens has been associated with a variety of problems, such as poor school performance and risky sexual behaviour. A new study by Andrew Stickley, a researcher at Södertörn University in Sweden, shows that binge drinking can also be linked to problematic eating behaviour. Stickley and his colleagues analysed data from 2,488 (1,485 female, 1,003 male) Russian students aged 13 to 17 years. Information was collected on six eating problems (worries about weight, feeling fat, excessive eating, fasting and excessive exercise, and purging behaviours) as well as binge drinking (defined as five or more drinks in a row).
The study found that heavy drinking was associated with eating problems among both sexes, although it was linked with more eating problems in girls. For girls, binge drinking was associated with five of the six eating problems examined, while for boys binge drinking was associated with only two. This cross-sectional association between binge drinking and eating problems found in Russian adolescents was also previously observed among North American teenagers, which suggests that this association might occur across different countries, regardless of the socioeconomic environment or the local drinking culture. He makes one final recommendation to clinicians and prevention specialists based on the association he uncovered: “When one [either binge drinking or an eating problem] is detected it would also be advisable for clinicians to screen for the other.”
This study found that European adolescents are less informed about the harms and effects of drugs as well as of new drugs on the market than three years ago. This is especially alarming as it comes at a time in which ‘legal highs’ are entering the market at an average rate of one per week. Around 13,000 young Europeans 15-24 years of age participated in the European Commission’s study on young people and drugs.