In the article, Drug Addiction as a Developmental Disorder, the author, John O'Neil, explains that a teenager's dependence on drugs stems from the drug's capacity to stimulate areas of the brain that are "changing rapidly in adolescence" (l. 5 & 6.). According to a study by Dr. R. Andrew Chambers of the Yale School of Medicine, teenagers are much more likely to get addicted to drugs and alcohol because of ongoing change in their brain's circuitry. As a result, teenagers are more inclined to experiment with drugs than other groups, as their brain's ability to release neurotransmitters (which associates new experiences with the motivation to repeat them) develops faster than any other impulse. Between the ages of fourteen and nineteen, the motivational circuitry of the brain is quickly expanding because teens have to learn how to act like grown-ups. In fact, a study conducted by the medical department at Yale showed that this circuitry is directly related to the chemical dopamine and is "at the heart of the addictive effects of drugs as different as cocaine and alcohol" (p.24, American Journal of Psychiatry).
While many individuals try drugs throughout their lifetime, only a few become addicted and even less among the latter remain addicted "if drug use begins in later adulthood” (Kathryn A. Cunningham, http://www.addiction.lovetoknow.com). So what exactly causes the likelihood of adolescents to succumb to drugs more than any other age group? At first, I believed excessive drug use in teens was caused by hereditary and environmental factors, such as a history of substance abuse within one’s family or pressure from peers. In fact, the textbook, Psychology: A Journey, illustrates that teens can be manipulated by "social factors and environmental influences" (ch.3, pg. 94) which includes experimenting with drugs such as cocaine and alcohol. At first, constant exposure to a drug or alcoholic beverage... [continues]
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