If you’re a parent wondering how to discuss the dangers of substance abuse with your teen, it’s important to remember their brain is still developing. The brain is the last part of the human body to fully mature, which typically happens in the mid to late 20s. Women’s brains develop slightly earlier than men, although there are significant variances from individual to individual.
Brain Development During the Teen Years
The last area of the brain to fully develop is the frontal lobe, including the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for executive functioning, which encompasses planning, regulating emotions, anticipating negative consequences and exhibiting self-control. With an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, teens are naturally impulsive and prone to testing limits.
In addition to being more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol because of their still-developing brains, teens are more likely to become chemically dependent in a short time. Compared to an adult, a teenager more rapidly creates circuits in the reward centers of the brain, like the limbic system, when exposed to addictive substances. This causes young people to develop addictions more quickly than older adults, with the dependency taking a stronger hold.
What This Means for You
As a parent, you can use these lessons of neuroscience to help your teen make smart choices about drugs and alcohol. Remember the following tips:
● Begin talking to your kids about substance abuse early, preferably before the teen years. Instead of considering the topic a one-time lecture, view it as an ongoing conversation. Many teens respond well to repetition when it is accompanied by clear expectations and adult guidance in making sound decisions.
● Offer proof. Instead of speaking in vague generalities or making emotionally-charged threats about punishments your child will face for using drugs or alcohol, provide specific information about the dangers of misusing substances (such as the consequences of impaired driving).
● If you think your child has a problem, act immediately. Since teens can become addicted very quickly, urgent intervention is the best way to reduce the harmful effects of substance abuse. To speak with one of Immersion Recovery’s experienced addiction counselors about residential or outpatient treatment for an adolescent or young adult suffering from a chemical dependency, fill out our confidential online form or call 561.419.3349 now.