Adolescent Drug Use & Mental Illness Psychology 101 Research Paper

2039 words - 9 pages

Anna Quinn
Scientific Method Paper
The human brain is an unfathomably complex powerhouse that is constantly changing and developing. Most of our brain’s growth occurs before the age of 25 years old, and how we take care of our bodies during that time has a lot to do with how our brain develops. In the case of adolescents with drug addictions- whether it be cocaine, meth, marijuana, or otherwise, the wiring in their brains changes drastically in comparison with those who do not partake in drug usage. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (or NIDA), “Drug use can eventually lead to dramatic changes in neurons and brain circuits. These changes can still be present even after the person has stopped taking drugs. This is more likely to happen when a drug is taken over and over. (NIDA, 2017).” The effects of drug usage from a young age are catastrophic especially when used repeatedly. Unfortunately, the effects on the body are not just physical- they also can bring on mental illnesses and even provoke schizophrenia in otherwise healthy individuals. In order to ensure the health of one’s brain, one should not indulge in taking drugs, for the consequences far outweigh the benefits.
Before we begin to explore what happens to the adolescent mind under the influence of drugs, we must first try to understand the brain without anything hindering its functions. During the adolescent years it is said that “the non-uniform maturation pattern in which the limbic region (emotions) develops faster than the cortex region (reasoning) may significantly contribute to an increase in risk taking and novelty seeking by youth, particularly young teenagers (Tapert, 2009).” The fact that many teens are more likely to partake in risky activity makes them susceptible to peer pressure and experimenting with drugs- without first thinking of the consequences. The forefront in many teen’s minds is fitting in and belonging, since in that stage of psychological development, belonging and finding kinship in others is of utmost importance. It’s reasonable to think that adolescents are less likely to think about the lasting effects of these drugs and instead are just looking for the immediate reward that these drugs provide. Bringing this immediate reward system into one’s brain at such a crucial time is exceptionally dangerous because, at the stage of adolescence, the brain is naturally ‘pruning’ some comparatively unnecessary neurons, much like cleaning up the bulk that might accumulate and slow down a computer’s hard drive. “At about age 11 or 12, the brain begins the processing of “sculpting” or pruning-back a significant proportion of these connections (Jacobus, 2009). This pruning is a healthy process because it clears out unused wiring to make room for faster and potentially more efficient information processing. (Winters, 2004).” With this ongoing process of recycling unnecessary connections in the brain, one runs the risk of further killing off more...

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