As a Therapist, Certified Addictions Counselor and Cereset brain rebalancing technician (Cereset.com), the issue of adolescent brain development and marijuana use is critical in my mind, particularly when legalization of recreational cannabis has already arrived in Illinois. Parents are correct in being alarmed about the effect marijuana might have on their children with the increased access to the drug, especially since researchers have found that states with the most permissive attitudes towards cannabis have higher rates of teen cannabis use.
Neuroscientists once thought that brain development was finished by the age of 5 years old. Later on, through the fantastic brain imaging capabilities that became available, they discovered that a second growth spurt, an incredible flurry of brain development and change happens during the teenage years. It is now a widely established fact that brain development progresses until at least 25 years of age. One of the last areas of the brain to develop is the pre-frontal cortex, the brain’s ‘CEO,’ the area of the brain associated with analysis, judgment, planning, forethought, emotional processing, decision-making, impulse control, and personality. During this period of neurodevelopment, the brain is thought to be particularly sensitive to damage from drug exposure. Common sense tells us just how crucial it is for a young, developing, and vulnerable person to have the full opportunity for their brain to develop without the influence of drugs acting on their brain.
Teen brains are known to be especially vulnerable to addiction once they start to ingest drugs (including alcohol) on a regular basis. We do not hear about ‘moderate teen drug and alcohol use.’ Adolescents, with their impulsivity, can easily cross the line with their substance use. Brain imaging has found that marijuana abuse seriously impairs brain function, causing problems not only with decision-making and impulse control, but with memory, the ability to learn, mood stability and temper, as well.
It is our experience that both adults and teens who are using and abusing drugs or alcohol can cause lasting damage to the brain and their over all mental health and quality of life. The bottom line is this: when our brain, which is vital to our successful navigation in this world, is in trouble (adolescent or adult!), our life is in trouble. With greater availability and access to legal recreational marijuana, our youth are at increased vulnerability to such trouble. At Dunham Counseling we can evaluate the extent of a drug problem and treat it successfully. Call us today at (630) 799-0100 to see how our many services can benefit you and/or a loved one who may need