Teenagers are at a very high risk for developing an addiction to drugs due to their bodies not being fully matured yet. The frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for a variety of different functions, but most importantly it moderates impulse control. Teens are naturally impulsive and make decisions without being able to properly understand what the consequences may be, so when their mind and body feel rewarded after taking a drink or using a drug they won’t always be able to make a well-educated decision. It’s quite common for teens to experiment with drugs and alcohol, but there are some that you should watch out for that can be a gateway drug into more addictive substances.
When people think of drugs, they think of substances like marijuana, heroin, meth and cocaine, but alcohol definitely falls into this category and often becomes the gateway drug to other stimulants. The mind and body experience the same effects from drinking alcohol as it does when different drugs are introduced into the system. As alcohol hits the blood stream, dopamine flows through the body and the brain receives stimulation that tells the person to continue drinking. Due to the teen’s frontal lobe not being fully developed yet, they often drink much more than they should and have a much different experience than an adult has when they drink. This is one of the primary reasons that there is a legal drinking age.
Alcohol is one of the most common substances that a teen will try and can be a potential gateway drug. Alcohol is the most easily accessible substance because most stores sell it and it doesn’t take too much effort for a teen to find someone of age to purchase it for them. Teens don’t need to find a dealer to supply them with alcohol, it can be as easy as asking an older sibling to purchase it for them or drinking from their parent’s supply in the house.
There are constantly debates about whether or not marijuana is addictive and should be legalized here in the United States. Scientific studies have shown that marijuana can be just as addictive as any other substance when someone who’s an addict smokes it. Most addicts are looking for some type of head change to escape reality or even their feelings, even though it may be temporary, and they may be using marijuana to self-medicate. The disease of addiction is progressive, so when the teen builds a tolerance for marijuana it can become a gateway drug, leading them to seek out other substances.
A prescription medication can become addictive and in the process present as a gateway drug. These medications are meant to treat symptoms of pain or a variety of different mental disorders, and can often be prescribed to teens by their doctor in many different situations. Some of the most common reasons a teen would be prescribed these medications are to treat anxiety, ADHD or chronic pain if they suffer from some type of injury. Medications like Xanax, Adderall and hydrocodone are often prescribed to treat these types of symptoms and are narcotics, so they have the potential to become highly addictive. Teens can sometimes have easy access to these types of medications because they may have a friend or family member who has them as well, and when the addiction develops they may begin to steal them in order to get high.
If you think your teen has a problem with addiction, contact our helpline today at 800-890-3586.