THE SCIENCE OF SUBSTANCE USEa young man smiles after completing boys substance abuse treatment programs

The brain connects the physical world and human experience through the complex and controlled release of specific neurochemicals like dopamine. The release of dopamine specifically influences two distinct mental functions – pleasure and memory. While natural releases of dopamine reinforce positive behaviors in adolescents such as learning, exercise, peer relationships and feelings of overall well-being, drugs are able to catalyze the release of extra dopamine, creating an artificial “high” for the user. Because the adolescent brain is not yet fully developed, this forced release of dopamine and other neurochemicals can have a more profound and lasting impact on the adolescent. At this point, they need help at a boys’ substance use treatment center.

Over time, drug usage reduces the brain’s ability to respond to intrinsic rewards, making them secondary to the “high” produced by drugs. Even feelings of desire and love no longer have the same neurochemical effect that drugs do upon the brain’s response to external stimuli. Because dopamine is also responsible for long-term memory, the flooding of dopamine into the brain imprints the “high” into long-term memory, reinforcing the immature brain’s likelihood to take drugs again without the proper consideration of consequences. If this experience repeats, the brain enhances the neural connection between pleasure and drug-use, strengthening the association.

At Stonewater’s substance use treatment center, adolescents learn about the origins, triggers, and damages of substance use, as they discover healthy replacements to achieve, once again, a positive physical response to enjoyable activities.


Because the adolescent brain is still in development, areas such as the frontal lobe and prefrontal cortex are not yet fully formed. These areas of the brain control first-response and cautionary thinking. Whereas adults making decisions can weigh advantages and consequences, teens are less capable of fully evaluating the risk and potential dangers of certain choices. At our boys’ substance use treatment center, your teen will work to strengthen these moments of decision-making so that when future opportunities for relapse are present, he can recognize them and respond in the best way possible.

Adolescents can develop dependencies to processes and substances for a variety of reasons, including,
  • Social acceptance and peer pressure
  • To increase physical endurance
  • To increase school performance or academic ability
  • Numb feelings of depression and anxiety
  • Coping with an unstable home environment
  • To develop or enhance their artistic ability
  • Experience the glorified “high”
  • Identity issues
  • Mental illness


Studies show that currently, only 10 percent of adolescents who need substance use treatment will find it. With the average age of substance use ranging between 12 to 17 years of age, all teens are at risk. Stonewater helps your son find the individualized treatment needed to properly treat the dependency. To learn more, contact Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center today at 662.373.2828.