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Drug Abuse among Teenagers

When it comes to drug abuse among teenagers, there are several childhood risk factors that may increase their likelihood to abuse substances. There are factors within a family that influence a child's early development and have shown to be related to an increased risk of drug abuse among teenagers

Family Risk Factors

  • Association with a deviant peer group
  • Chaotic home environment
  • Inappropriately aggressive or shy behavior in the classroom
  • Ineffective parenting
  • Lack of nurturing and parental attachment
  • Perception of approval of drug use behavior
  • Poor school performance
  • Poor social coping skills

Teen Addictive Disorders

Drug abuse among teenagers can predict future addictive disorders. About 80 percent of teens have used alcohol and half have used an illegal drug by their senior year in high school. Drug abuse has been reported as one of the leading causes of death among U.S. teenagers. Teenage drug abuse results in unintentional injuries, homicides, suicides, depression, disorderly conduct and unplanned sexual activity.

Adolescents are more vulnerable than any other age group to developing nicotine, alcohol, and other drug addictions. This is because the regions of the brain that govern impulse and motivation are not yet fully formed. After conducting an analysis of more than 140 research studies from across the basic and clinical neurosciences, including many conducted at Yale, researchers concluded that substance use disorders constitute neurodevelopmental disorders.

"Particular sets of brain circuits involved in the development of addictions are the same ones that are rapidly undergoing change during adolescence," said Andrew Chambers, M.D. "Normally these processes cause adolescents to be more driven than children or adults to have new experiences. But these conditions also reflect a less mature neurological system of inhibition, which leads to impulsive actions and risky behaviors, including experimentation and abuse of addictive drugs." "Because of developmental changes in brain regions concerned with the formation of adult motivations, the actions of drugs in those regions to cause addiction may occur more rapidly and potentially with greater permanency," Dr. Chambers said.

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