THE SCIENCE OF SUBSTANCE USE

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, unhealthy substances like alcohol and 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.

Over time, drug usage reduces the brain’s ability to respond to intrinsic rewards, making them secondary to the “high” produced by those 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 developing 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, adolescents learn about the origins, triggers and damages of substance use, and they discover healthy replacements to achieve, once again, a positive physical response to enjoyable activities.

 

CAUSES OF BOYS’ SUBSTANCE USE

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 Stonewater, your teen will develop new tools and work to strengthen them so that, in critical moments of decision-making, the adolescent can anticipate consequences and respond in the best way possible.

Adolescents can develop dependencies to processes and substances for a variety of reasons, including:
  • Feelings of anxiety or depression
  • Social acceptance and peer pressure
  • To increase physical endurance
  • To increase school performance or academic ability
  • To cope with an unstable home environment or upsetting experience
  • To develop or enhance their artistic ability
  • To experience the glorified “high”
  • To cope with suicidal thoughts
  • Identity issues
  • Mental health struggles

 

GET HELP TODAY

Studies show that currently only ten percent of adolescents who need substance use treatment will find it. The majority of people struggling with marijuana addiction in 2017 were between the ages of 12 and 25. Stonewater helps your teenager find the individualized treatment needed to properly treat, not just the substances, but also the reasons and stressors causing them to use substances to cope. To learn more, contact Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center today at 662.373.2828.