Teen Health: Substance Use and Abuse

Substance abuse, particularly among teens and young adults, is a growing concern in the United States. With half of all new drug users being under 18 and one in five high school students having abused prescription drugs, the impact on this demographic is significant. The teenage brain’s reward center, influenced by the chemical dopamine, reacts more intensely to rewards, making decision-making more susceptible to peer influence. While this sensitivity to rewards can encourage positive behavior, it can also lead to dangerous choices like drug and alcohol use. Drug abuse poses both short and long-term health risks, particularly affecting the developing teenage brain’s prefrontal cortex responsible for decision-making. Addiction is a disease that can affect anyone, regardless of income, race, or background. It is essential to seek help if struggling with drug use or encourage friends to seek help if needed. Resources like the National Helpline (1-800-662-HELP) are available to provide assistance and support for those dealing with substance abuse issues.