drug use and the developing brain

As young adults, our brains are constantly in development, starting from the time we are born until around age 24. Our brains grow and develop from the inside out, back to front. The frontal part of our brain is our logic center. It is responsible for logical decision making and is one of the last areas of development. This is why it is important to consider the effects of drug use and the developing brain.

An example of how the frontal part of our brain works:

If I step in front of a moving car, I could be injured. “Don’t do it,” our brain says. This is important because it explains why, as young people, we sometimes don’t make good logical choices. Furthermore, when we use drugs or alcohol, it impairs our decision making. Activities that we might not normally choose to do because they are possibly unsafe don’t sound so bad when we are under the influence.

Substance abuse also halts certain social and emotional areas of brain development.

Oftentimes, this affects many people who began using drugs in their early or late teens and then continue their use into adulthood. These people are locked into the emotional age of their first use. There are many times where a client who struggles with addiction is 50 years old and on the outside appears to be a successful business person, making big decisions every day.  Emotionally, however, they may still behave like the 15-year-old they once were when they first started their substance abuse. This is because, at age 15, they began casually using drugs or alcohol… and because their brains were still in development, the drugs and alcohol had a lasting impact. The good news is that once they stop their substance abuse and become clean and sober for an extended period of time, their brain will begin to repair itself. The earlier in life they choose to become sober, the quicker the brain heals. For someone in their 20’s, this healing happens faster than someone in their 50’s.

As young people, we need to try and weigh out our choices. Will the actions taken in my teens affect my life in the future? The answer is yes, so let’s think about the choices we make now. Don’t sacrifice your developing brain for short term pleasure!


Valiant Recovery, The Crossing Point