Adolescents and Addiction Essay

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Adolescents and Addiction
Lyn Stewart
Liberty University

Adolescent addiction is a prevalent part of American society and has been for decades. Adolescents are impulsive and are driven by peer pressure and heightened emotions and increased hormone production. Their brains are still developing which can cause the adolescent to behave erratically and defy authority. In addition to an under developed brain and central nervous system, many adolescents are the product of abuse and trauma. This abuse and trauma can be a catalyst for drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. Many adolescents are able to lean on their understanding of a Higher Power. Adolescents with a secure spiritual life are better able to avoid the pitfalls of drug use and addictions than their nonspiritual counterparts. Prevention, early intervention, and treatment seem to be the best alternatives for addressing the addiction problem in adolescents.

Introduction According to Simkin (2010), addiction is a “… large range of recurring compulsive behaviors in a specific activity in which an individual continues to engage despite harmful consequences to the individual's social, biological and psychological health.” Adolescents, in particular, are at an increased risk of drug use and addiction. The brain of the adolescent has not completed its development; consequently, the adolescent tends to be impulsive and peer driven (Adolescence, 2015). Adolescents begin drug use for a number of reasons including, but not limited to, escapism, thrill seeking, and peer pressure (Feldman, 2014, p. 371). Many adolescents who use and abuse drugs and alcohol have been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused (Substance Abuse, 2015). One aspect of the adolescent life that may decrease their use of drugs is spirituality. Research indicates that teens with an active spiritual life are less likely to use drugs and/or alcohol (T, 2015). Even with anti-drug campaigns, spiritual intervention, and increased awareness of parents and teachers, drug use and abuse is prevalent in the adolescent community. Some research indicates that marijuana use among teens has actually increased in the last few years (Feldman, 2014 p. 371). In just the state of Georgia, one in five high school students have smoked marijuana or consumed alcohol (Teen Drug Use, 2011). Early intervention, newly developed pharmacological interventions, intense counseling and therapy, and increased medical coverage from insurance companies will all help to eliminate and treat adolescent drug addiction.
Adolescent Brain and Addiction The human brain is not completed with its development until a person has reached early to mid-twenties (Adolescence, 2015). The central nervous system of the adolescent is in a state of development, maturation, and transition that involves synaptic pruning, myelination, and neurotransmitter system modifications (Schepis, 2008). The prefrontal cortex of the brain is not matured nor fully developed (Adolescence, 2015; Schepis, 2008). Due to the incomplete growth and maturation of the adolescent central nervous system, adolescents have an increased tendency to participate in risk-taking behaviors such as drug use and abuse (Adolescence, 2015; Schepis, 2008). The changes in the central nervous system during adolescence also account for behavioral factors that contribute to alcohol and drug use such as increased reliance on peers, decreased parental monitoring and involvement, and risk-taking behavior (Adolescence, 2015; Schepis, 2008). Drug use and abuse can have a detrimental effect on the developing adolescent brain. Recent research indicates that chronic drug exposure affects brain plasticity and causes an abnormal regulation of key brain receptors, such as dopamine, that weakens the connective strength between the neurons (NIH, 2013). These adverse changes in the adolescent brain can lead to decreased performance on cognitive