Human beings go through two major brain growth phases, one in infancy and again during the teenage years. This makes the brain particularly vulnerable to negative impacts during these growth phases.
The prefrontal cortex is one part of the brain that develops in the teen years and is a part of the brain that:
- helps moderate social behaviour;
- develops problem solving strategies; and
- develops the organizing capacity that can warn us of potential danger and risk.
Adding problematic substance use into the mix of a developing brain can interfere with these burgeoning capacities. It can also lead to further substance use as a means to cope with disrupted social behaviour.
Teenagers who are not connected to positive and protective adults are vulnerable to using substances as a mechanism for inclusion and belonging in their peer group.
- Below is an in-depth audiovisual examination of how cannabis affects the adolescent brain, including the relationship between cannabis use and mental health (this resource may take longer than expected to load):
The Effects of Cannabis use during Adolescence
- Risk-factors and vulnerabilities for substance use among adolescents:
Childhood and Adolescent Pathways to Substance Use Disorders
- Statistics on substance-use prevalence rates in youth: Student Alcohol and Drug Use
- Resource for youth 20 and under to access phone counselling: Kids Help Phone
- Nueropsychiatrist Daniel Siegel examines the neurobiology behind adolescents being more vulnerable to substance use:
The developmental changes in the teenage brain