Effects of Substance Abuse on Adolescent Development
During adolescence, cognition and the brain undergo parallel development. Substance abuse has led to impairments in adults but less is known of its effects on adolescent cognition. To be addressed is the neuropsychological performance of adolescents involved in substance use such as alcohol use and marijuana. Effects of substance use are analyzed on neuropsychological composites that include verbal reasoning, executive function, attention, visual spatial ability, memory and processing speed. Included in the discussion is human brain development during adolescence, aggressive behaviors among adolescents, prevention and intervention efforts for substance abuse, and building positive behavior for the future generation. During adolescence the individual experiences brain maturation changes that correspond with behavioral, cognitive and emotional changes. These developmental changes are believed to put youth at risk for substance abuse. Substance abuse has cognitive defects and harmful implications on social, academic and occupational functioning. Therefore neurocognitive sequences as a result of substance abuse are important to elucidate. Keywords: adolescent, substance abuse, development, cognitive development, behavior Effects of Substance Abuse on Adolescent Development
Directly or indirectly, adolescents are affected by substance abuse. Substance use is one of the United States’ leading health problems. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, deaths associated with drug use have “more than doubled since the early 1980s” (www.drugabuse.gov). Substance use addictions are costly to tax payers. Substance use is an overlooked problem and continues to grow. Eliminating the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs is impossible. Never the less it is important to create awareness on the health effects of the abuse of substances among teenagers. To some degree society has learned to accept the use of alcohol and tobacco in modifying mood and behavior through social drinking and smoking. Unfortunately these substances often become a daily activity for normal day-to-day functioning. When this happens the situation becomes one of substance abuse. This is a major concern for adolescents as they are still experiencing physical maturation. An area of high concern is the maturing brain. Wetherill and Tapert (2013) cite national survey data indicating that participation in the use of alcohol and other drugs (AOD) grows exponentially from early to late adolescence (Wetherill and Tapert, 2013, pg. 393). Research indicates that while substance use has become the norm for adolescent experiences, it does indicate that this period of development is vulnerable for those partaking in this behavior to develop substance use disorders (SUD) (Wetherill and Tapert, 2013, pg. 393). Reasons for Adolescent Substance Abuse
A substantial number of adolescent youth have had an experience with illegal drug use. Feldman (2011) states “that almost 50% of high school seniors and almost 20% of eighth graders report having used marijuana within the past year” (pg. 371). Reasons for using drugs can vary. New technology has aided in research findings that indicate that the impulse control center of the brain is still biologically immature during the adolescent stage of development. Theorists have come to believe that this immaturity is a key factor in the impulsivity and risk taking behavior commonly seen in adolescent behavior. This immaturity causes adolescent youth to become prone to impulsive behavior rather than logical thinking and indulge in substance abuse without comprehending the full consequences of their actions. Other reasons for adolescent substance abuse include depression, trauma, low self-esteem, and peer pressure. In fact peer substance use is indicated a key factor in adolescent substance use and abuse according to...
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