Adult Drug Abuse Indicated By Adolescent Substance Abuse, Memory, and Impulsivity

Adult Drug Abuse Indicated By Adolescent Substance Abuse, Memory, and Impulsivity

In the February edition of Addiction, a peer-reviewed journal, a study was published which focused on the abuse of alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco in adolescents. Conclusively, the study found that a combination of weak working memory and impulsivity contribute to a heightened risk factor of substance abuse in adolescence. Additionally, combining existing substance abuse with the previous two factors can lead to continued substance abuse throughout adolescence and into adulthood. Science Daily explains that “Working memory refers to the ability to concentrate on a task without being easily distracted.” Hyperactivity is often directed to ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Excitement and distractibility in adolescents can be caused by a number of psychological, social, and environmental factors. Everything from hormones to difficulties at home, bullying in school to the development of a mental illness like depression, can cause difficulty concentrating. “Youth with weak working memory tend to have problems controlling their impulses,” the article continues, “and thus appear to be at greater risk of continuing drug use.”

ADHD in adolescence is considered a heightened risk for substance abuse because of the associated impulsivity. Problematically, many parents take their children to psychiatrists seeking a diagnosis and eagerly seeking a medication-based solution. Not all psychiatrists conduct the necessary testing, which should include brain imaging, to conclusively diagnose ADHD. Many popular brands of medications for ADHD and concentration difficulty are stimulant amphetamines. Brand names like Adderall have been compared to cocaine as well as methamphetamine, or “meth”, in various studies. Research has also found a connection between the early use of such medications and the development of substance use problems.

Often, experimentation with substances at an early age is considered a primary factor in adulthood abuse. The study found that it wasn’t a key factor at all. As the article describes, “It was the progression in drug abuse along with weakness in working memory and impulse control difficulties that predicted substance use disorders at later ages.”

As a remedy, the researchers suggest early interventions outside of education and harm prevention regarding substance abuse. Outside-of- school activities which strengthen the memory and various cognitive functions can reduce the risk of impulsivity thereby reducing the risk of substance abuse.


Many of our teens are past the point of experimentation. If your beloved adolescent is struggling with substance abuse, Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center warmly welcomes them to our adolescent treatment program. Clinically founded and strengthened by faith our program works to keep your child academically focused while healing their lives one step at a time. Call us today for more information: 1-662-598-4214.