A researcher says that she will pay her teenage daughter $1,000 if she doesn't do any drugs until she is 21.
Why doesn't she want her daughter to NEVER try drugs? She knows that during adolescence the brain is particularly susceptible to lifetime addiction because it is still developing. Furthermore, she understands that adolescence is a risk-taking period during which her daughter is more likely to try drugs. So if she can keep her daughter drug-free during adolescence, her daughter will more than likely stay drug-free for life.
During adolescence, the brain is undergoing a lot of changes. Gray matter diminishes as neural connections are pruned.
Because the brain is still developing, it is more sensitive to drugs.
The changes drugs cause are more likely to 'stick' and become hardwired as addiction by adulthood.
The pre-frontal cortex, which handles reasoning, grows during the pre-teen years. But it is pruned back during adolescence, increasing impulsive, risk-taking behavior.
Adolescence is a risk-taking period during which teens are more likely to try drugs. The part of the brain responsible for reasoning and decision-making shuts down during this period.
Evolutionarily, this is attributed to the need for offspring to leave the safety of the nest to pursue life on their own.
Dr. Glen Hanson
Why is the adolescent brain more prone to risk-taking?
Teens who start drinking by age 13 have a 43% chance of becoming an alcoholic.
A person who starts drinking at 21 has only a 10% chance.
Just as food gives us a jolt of pleasure via the brain's reward pathway, so do our social interactions
and environmental circumstances. If you have a great job, a pleasant relationship with your co-workers and
are respected, you're going to feel pretty good. On the other hand, if you are bored with your job
and aren't respected by your co-workers, your reward pathway isn't getting stimulated much.
Individuals who don't receive enough natural rewards from their social environment are more susceptible to stimulating their neglected reward pathway with drugs.