How risky is teen drug use?

Fentanyl has turned drug experimentation into a minefield. Prior to fentanyl, it was fairly uncommon for teens to die from an overdose. Now, overdoses can happen the first, second, or third time a teen uses if the drug contains fentanyl. They don’t have to have a substance use disorder or a history of using other drugs. Many of the counterfeit pills being sold contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl, which means that any experimentation can be deadly. The threat is not isolated to counterfeit pills; fentanyl is also being found in other substances, such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine.

PROTECTING THE TEEN BRAIN Remember, the threat posed by fentanyl and the risk of overdose is just one aspect of our concerns regarding teens and drug use. While teenagers are disproportionately affected by fentanyl overdoses, this age group has consistently faced heightened vulnerabilities to drug-related risks, such as altered brain development and the potential for addiction.

The teenage brain is especially receptive to change, a quality that aids in learning. Drugs modify pathways in the brain, leading to altered mental states. Drug-induced altered states can also manifest as lasting changes in behavior and personality traits. Persistent drug use during the teenage years can affect areas of the brain responsible for learning, emotional regulation, memory, and executive functioning.

DEPENDENCY CONCERNS Psychological dependency can arise when individuals turn to drugs to satisfy an emotional need, especially if they don't have other means to fulfill that need. Given that much of adolescence revolves around learning skills to address our emotional and psychological requirements, teens are at a higher risk of becoming dependent on drugs. This is encapsulated perfectly in the adage, “Grow your brain before you start changing it.”

The teenage years are crucial for both physical and psychological growth. Introducing drugs during this pivotal developmental phase can profoundly influence an individual's life trajectory, often making it challenging to redirect later in life.

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