The teenage years can be a vulnerable time. In today’s society, they face issues that could never even be imagined a decade ago. Social anxiety, acts of bullying, school pressure and peer acceptance all combine to make for a turbulent time.
It is no wonder that adolescents are more susceptible to the pressure of trying drugs. Whether they want to fit in with others or are trying to escape the anxiety of puberty, the influences of drugs are widespread.
A new study out this week examined over 100 children and more than 100 adults. About half of each group engaged in methamphetamines and brain scans were done comparing brain health and activity. The results were alarming. Findings indicated that regular use of meth inflicts extensive damage on the brains of young people while the scans of chronic adult meth users showed far less damage.
The MRIs of these young people showed “decreased thickness in the gray matter of younger users' frontal cortex, (the area of the brain believed to direct people's ability to organize, reason and remember).” One investigator involved in the study stated, "Damage to this part of the brain (frontal cortex) is especially problematic because adolescents' ability to control risky behavior is less mature than that of adults."
In other words, abusing meth as the brain continues to develop during puberty can have far reaching negative effects. The results also indicate a smaller dose of methamphetamines is required to cause greater damage in young brains than in grown-ups.
The lead author stated, “There is a critical period of brain development for specific functions, and it appears that adolescents who abuse methamphetamine are at great risk for derailing that process. The results show it is hugely important to keep kids off drugs."