Adolescent Brain Development and Vulnerability to Drug Use

There is significant new research concerning adolescent brain development and the effects of alcohol and other drug use on the developing brain. This emerging science is providing new insights about how teenagers make critical and life influencing decisions, including their decisions about drug use. Brain imaging studies suggest that the brain continues to develop through adolescence and into young adulthood (age 25 years). During adolescence, the parts of the brain that are responsible for expressing emotions and for seeking gratification tend to mature sooner than the regions of the brain that control impulses and that oversees careful decision making. As one expert puts it the teenage brain "has a well-developed accelerator but only a partly developed brake."

The maturing brain of the adolescent may also pose a particular risk toward drug abuse. There is some evidence that the developing brain is prone to the deleterious effects of alcohol. One study showed that memory ability may be negatively affected by about 10% as a result of alcohol abuse.

Mentor has prepared a more detailed summary of this emerging science about brain development and the vulnerability of adolescents to drug abuse. The pack includes a booklet and a slideshow (complete with speaker's notes, see below for preview).

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Mentor has used this new research on the Adolescent brain to create a stimulating program for young people in the 14-18 age group, with Hazelden.