Adolescents who use substances often think they’re too young to be addicted. Experimentation with drugs and alcohol is seen as a rite of passage. Even the adults in young people’s lives may write off signs of addiction, assuming the young person will grow out of it.
However, youth can be addicted. In fact, teenagers and young adults are more vulnerable to drug abuse because their brains are still developing. The prefrontal cortex—which is involved in decision-making and impulse control—is one of the last brain regions to reach full maturation.
In addition, substance use changes the developing brain. Research has found that adolescent heavy drinkers have deficits in executive functioning, “a set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control,” according to understood.org. This may reinforce substance use. People who drink or use drugs before age 15 are two to three times more likely to have an addiction by age 32.
Young people also tend to place high value on what others think of them. They may be more likely to give in to peer pressure, especially if their social circle drinks or uses.
However, both people and brains themselves are adaptable; neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change and rewire itself throughout the lifetime. As such, young people with addictions are not doomed to a life of substance use. Recovery is possible. Many young people enter recovery and go on to live fulfilling lives.
If you or are a loved one are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is hope. Amatus Recovery Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you build the healthy coping skills needed to thrive in long-term recovery. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.