When adolescents smoke marijuana or drink alcohol

When adolescents smoke marijuana or drink alcohol, it is common to believe that “everyone tries it” or “it’s a phase that everyone goes through.” However, drug use in young adults can cause severe damage to the brain that can result in deficits later in life because their brains are still being shaped and developed. This issue is supported by three online articles, “Parents Ask: How Do Drugs Affect the Brain of a Teenager” written by Turnbridge Staff in 2019, “What Alcohol and Drugs Do to a Teen’s Developing Brain” by Stacy Ma on November 11, 2019, and “Research Review: What Have We Learned About Adolescent Substance Abuse?” by Kevin Gray and Lindsay Squeglia on July 27, 2017. Key points on this issue include why teenagers use drugs, the damages drugs cause on the brain, and misconceptions parents and peers often have about the severity of teenage drug use. The problem is that people often overlook teenage drug use because they think that it is something that all kids go through so it is unpreventable, but these actions can have lasting consequences on teenagers’ brains and impact their future neurological functions, which is a vital factor to consider when dealing with this issue.
In the article “Parents Ask: How Do Drugs Affect the Brain of a Teenager,” the staff at Turnbridge explore the effects that heavy use of drugs can have on the brain of adolescents. It is common for adolescents and parents to dismiss drug use as an experimental phase and something that all teens go through. This is a critical point to address because part of the problem is that parents and teens often don’t believe that drug use needs to be taken as seriously as it should be because it is such a common action that it creates a bandwagon effect. The mindset is if peers are drinking and taking drugs, it must be a phase that all teens try out and experiment with which they eventually grow out of. However, it is emphasized that the brains of adolescents are the most susceptible to damage because that age is the critical window for learning, as it is the time when the brain prunes brain cells that are not used and strengthens connections that are needed and will be required in the future (Turnbridge Staff, 2019). By stepping back and learning about the background of adolescents’ brains, it becomes clearer why this age is the most damaging time to be using drugs. Consuming a dangerous amount at this age could interrupt the neural connections the brain is trying to make while it is developing and maturing, affecting the person’s overall chances of living a healthy life. Additionally, drugs entering the blood stream dramatically increase dopamine which could be dangerous for anyone because it drives them to seek this drug again, but it is particularly dangerous for teens because their impulse control is lower since the frontal lobes of their brain, held responsible for decision making, are still developing (Turnbridge Staff, 2019). Taking into account these points is critical for parents and teens to consider when they think that drugs is “just a phase” because they can have detrimental effects on a young and developing brain that are irreversible. This could impact the person’s overall mental function as they mature, indicating how important it is to be aware of the effects during early years.
Stacy Ma takes a further look at why teenagers’ brains are so vulnerable to drug use damage in “What Alcohol and Drugs Do To a Teen’s Developing Brain.” It has been found that heavy drinking and use of marijuana in adolescents has resulted in deficits in memory, information processing, and cognition (Ma, 2019). Not only does consuming drugs impact teenagers’ mental capabilities when they are young, but these impairments last into adulthood and are irreversible. Once the damage has been done, there is nothing these teenagers can do to gain back cognitive processes that were lost because the neurology of their brains has been permanently altered. Ma makes good points in her addressment of these neurological deficits because this highlights how critical it is to be aware of the consequences drugs can have, even if teenagers think it is just a phase or something that they need to try because “everyone is doing it.” To make matters even more difficult, drugs such as marijuana are becoming more normalized because of its increased use and legalization, making young adults more prone to using it because it’s easily accessible and more common. Knowing the effects drugs can have on the body, especially the brain, before using them are vital for teenagers so they can live long and healthy lives without risking their cognitive function. The brain is what drives decision making, motor function, information processing, memory, and much more, and adolescents must treat it with care in order to conserve its important processes that contribute to making a person themselves.
Adolescence is not only a critical period of development, but exposure to drugs during this period can lead to later struggles with addiction and make it more difficult to become independent of drugs. In “Research Review: What Have We Learned About Adolescent Substance Use?” Gray and Squeglia explore the effects of teen drug use not only on the brain but on addiction as well. Alcohol and drug use during adolescence not only has an impact on cognitive, emotional, and social functioning but can also set the stage for functional consequences throughout life including addiction and substance abuse (Gray & Squeglia, 2017). It is easy for teenagers to believe that they will easily be able to stop using drugs at any time, but the way their brain is structured at that point in their life makes it difficult to have impulse control due to the way the brain is developing and parts of it have not fully matured yet. As a result of this, they will want to take drugs time and time again and be more motivated to seek it out and less motivated to control it, putting them at risk for addiction which can be persistent throughout adulthood. With this research, it becomes apparent that teenagers are not only putting their health at risk at that moment but are also potentially determining how their health for the rest of their lives will be impacted.
Each of these articles make important and valid points when it comes to how crucial it is for teenagers and parents to be aware of the mental and physical consequences that just a phase can have on the rest of teenagers lives. It is all too easy to believe that you have control over a situation and have the ability to stop using drugs at any time and that everything will be normal, but research and further analysis of this issue indicate that due to the biology of the human brain, the damage inflicted is out of teenagers hands once it has been done. Although teenage use of drugs has been normalized and seems like an inevitable occurrence, becoming educated in how these drugs actually affect the neurology of the brain and cognitive functioning of the mind can prevent people from enduring the life long consequences.

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