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What about drugs and youth?

It is a big problem! All drugs need to be seen in a developmental context, and NIAAA is coordinating some research currently about how best to intervene as students move to middle school and again as they move to high school. One of the scariest things is that the brain may develop abnormal pathways just by early exposure to these various drugs prior to age twenty. As the young brain is very plastic, it may be seen as the difference between stepping on wet concrete and nearly firm concrete. The footprint drugs leave in the developing brain is going to be much deeper.

Smoking regular cigarettes is a problem. However, under the SAMHSA federal and state partnership, there has been achievement of 80% compliance rate of retailers. This is in contrast to ten years prior, when only 25% of retailers were in compliance with the restricting sales of cigarettes to minors. Law enforcement officers ticket those who sell to a minor, in efforts to prevent death and disability from smoking. Smoking marijuana is seen by many as so common that it doesn’t merit comment. However, this is an insidious pattern, with many starting experimentally and socially, and soon finding they use it to manage every life emotion and event. The motivation and concentration drop as the use increases.

Alcohol affects nearly every area of the brain and nearly every receptor that neuroscience has been able to study. Unfortunately, most youth who drink engage in binge drinking of five or more drinks on an occasion, which causes dangerous kindling with the wild ups and downs of the brain chemistry. Of course, this behavior also causes lowering of judgment and social inhibitions, resulting in accidents, disease, unwanted pregnancies, school failure, and troubled interpersonal relationships. Rather than being the mark of adulthood the youth may want, it may lead to chronic adolescent irresponsible behavior.

Methamphetamine is cheap and readily available, and one of the worst possible things you can put into your system. It actually causes damage to brain cells which takes more than two years to repair, even after total abstinence from the substance! Prescription opiates have now replaced marijuana as the most abused drug for teens. Scary. Do you know where they get it? The parent’s medicine cabinet. Keep track of your own medication!

Watch WYNK flash videos for more extensive information.

by: Lois Cochrane Schlutter, Ph.D. L.P.

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