The Teen/young adult brain and how it’s affected by substance use

The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is the part of the brain where risks are assessed, impulses are controlled, and plans are made to reach goals. 

The PFC is not fully developed until 25 years old on average. 

That is why teens are more likely to engage in risky or impulsive behavior.

In addition to your teen’s brain not being fully developed, when your teen is abusing substances, that part of the brain changes. 

Those changes account for 2 characteristics of addiction. 

Impulsivity and compulsivity.

They impulsively do things without regard for consequences and compulsivity is the drive to use the substance to relieve anxiety. 

These changes make it hard to quit the substance because your teen has a PFC that is not fully developed, and it has been changed by the substance use. 

Eventually the substance use is no longer about the pleasure of using the drug of choice, but about alleviating the discomfort and anxiety created by not using their drug of choice. 

The compulsion persists despite the negative consequences of substance use because rational thought is limited by the substance use. 

That is why your teen overestimates the benefit of the substance and underestimates the costs of using it. 

All of this is happening outside of conscious control. 

It is a byproduct of the substance use.

It is only one of many complex physiological processes that are taking place in your teens brain when they are abusing substances. 

Understanding addiction and substance use makes it easier not to take your teens behavior personally. 

It also helps you to understand what they are going though if they are trying to quit abusing substances. 

It takes time and patience for their brain to get used to working without the substance and then to start to heal. 

Need some hope today? Check out this post about hope for recovery.