Why Drug Prevention is Important for Adolescents
Consuming alcohol and illicit drugs is especially harmful to young people. Research has shown that brain development continues into a person's 20s. Because an adolescent’s brain is still developing, using drugs at this age has more potential to disrupt brain function in areas critical to motivation, memory, learning, judgment, and behavior control.
Early use of drugs increases a person's chances of developing a substance use disorder. For instance, people who first use alcohol before age 15 are four times more likely to become addicted to alcohol at some time in their lives than are those who have their first drink at age 20 or older. Nearly 70 percent of those who try an illicit drug before the age of 13 develop a substance use disorder in the next 7 years.
A certain amount of risk-taking is a normal part of a youth’s development. The desire to try new things and become more independent is healthy, but it may also increase teens’ tendencies to experiment with drugs. Since the parts of the brain that control judgment and decision-making aren’t fully developed, a young person is more vulnerable to peer pressure and not realize the risks of drug experimentation.
Drugs change the brain—and this can lead to addiction and other serious problems. Preventing early use of drugs or alcohol may go a long way in reducing these risks.
Sources: National Institute on Drug Abuse, and US Department of Health & Human Services.