A recent article published on npr.org does a great job answering the questions we, as parents and educators, so often ask about adolescent behaviors: “Why would they have ever done that?” “How stupid can they be?” “Why on earth did they think that was a good idea?”
As the article explains, the brain is not fully developed until one is in their mid-20’s, or even later. In fact, the frontal lobe, which controls decision-making, is the last part to develop. As Dr. Frances Jenson, author of the book “The Teenage Brain” explains: “Teenagers are not as readily able to access their frontal lobe to say, ‘Oh, I better not do this. ”
I point this out not to excuse the behavior, but to help us understand why teenagers are more prone to addictions, particularly alcohol, drug and other various digital addictions we are seeing on the rise.
As we discuss these topics in our counseling classes, our approach has been very fact based. The more students know and understand about the reality of these particular addictions and the harmful effects they have on development, the better equipped they will be at making a good decisions when faced with the choice to have a drink, try a pill for fun, or to click on the inappropriate images that appears on the computer screen.
The past two counseling classes we addressed questions relating to Addiction, Alcohol and Illicit/Pharmaceutical Drugs, such as:
Addiction: Did you know 45% of those who begin drinking alcohol before the age of 14 become dependent at some time in their lives compared with 10% of those who wait at least until age 21? (Source: Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent medicine). How is the reward center of our brain affected by addiction?
Alcohol: How does the body process alcohol? How long does it take to “sober” up? Is alcohol actually poisonous to your body? Can you die from overdosing on alcohol like you can with other drugs?
Illicit and Pharmaceutical Drugs: How do the chemicals in drugs affect our brain? What are the current trends in drug use among high school students? Why has heroin become such a big concern for our country, especially among the suburban middle-upper class populations?
So what can you do at home?
We encourage you to continue these discussions and talk with your child about the long-term effects and consequences these substances can have on our lives. The more they know, the better decisions they will make!
We also invite you to attend the NOPE (Narcotics Overdose Prevention & Education) Task Force program here at Malvern on Monday, April 13
th at 7:00 in Duffy. The program will include: a local law enforcement and listen to a mother tell the story of her son’s troubling journey with substance abuse and the overdose that eventually took his life. There will also be a special program for the Middle and High School students during the day. If you aren’t able to make the evening program, be sure to talk with your son about the messages they heard.