Are teens more prone to addiction?
In past blog posts we have discussed the effects of alcohol on the teen brain. We have shared with you studies that found the younger drinking starts, the more likely someone is to have alcohol-related problems when they are adults, but now we want to share with you why.
In her book The Teenage Brain and in an interview with NPR, Dr. Frances Jensen shares (in an understandable way) that due to the brain development process, teens are more prone to become addicted to anything from cell phones to drugs.
Learning and addiction
Kids and teens are known for their ability to learn quickly, and according to Jensen, addiction is a form of learning. You learn through repeated exposure; kids and teens need to be exposed to a subject fewer times than adults to learn. The same is true for addiction. Teens need to be exposed to a substance fewer times than adults to become addicted.
“Just like learning a fact is more efficient, sadly, addiction is more efficient in the adolescent brain,” Jensen explains.
Judgment and addiction
Ok, so teens are more prone to addiction – but why do they even try a substance for the first time? There are plenty of external factors, such as peer pressure, but these external factors are persuasive because a teen’s brain is not fully developed.
The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that controls decision-making. In the teen brain, the frontal lobe is not fully developed, so signals move slowly.
“Teenagers are not as readily able to access their frontal lobe to say, ‘Oh, I better not do this,’ ” Dr. Frances Jensen shares with NPR.
Teens are at the point in their lives where they are trying to find their place in the world. They are striving for independence, but know they are still dependent on adults for many things. This inner struggle can make them defensive about their abilities and intelligence, so when you talk to your teen about addiction and brain chemistry, guarantee them you don’t think teens are dumb. That is far from the case. As the information above shows, it’s teens’ incredible ability to learn and their growing brains that make teens prone to addiction – not a lack of intelligence.