Five Things to Know About Adolescents' Brain Development and Use
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT ADOLESCENTS' BRAIN DEVELOPMENT AND USE
- 1. The brain's "front end," the part above the eyes, exists to slow us down or stop our impulsive
behaviors. It considers the risks and benefits of our actions, and it helps us "hit the brakes" when we
consider doing things that are too risky.
- 2. This front part of the brain is still developing connections to the rest of the brain until adulthood, so
adolescents' brains lack some of the "wiring" that carries "brake" or "stop" messages to the rest of the
- 3. Drugs of abuse are often available to adolescents. These drugs feel good, but they can be very
harmful. Lacking some of the wiring for the "stop" message, adolescents' brains may not fully weigh
the risks of drug use.
- 4. The two drugs that cause the most death are also the most available drugs: tobacco and alcohol.
Late adolescence, before the brain is fully matured, is the peak time for developing dependence on
these (and other) drugs.
- 5. Heavy drug use during times of critical brain development may cause permanent changes in the way
the brain works and responds to rewards and consequences. Therefore, it is important to begin to
address a developing substance use problem as early as possible.