How Drugs Alter Brain Development and Affect Teens

Changes in Brain Development and Function From Drug Abuse

Most kids grow dramatically during the adolescent and teen years. Their young brains, particularly the prefrontal cortex that is used to make decisions, are growing and developing, until their mid-20’s.

Long-term drug use causes brain changes that can set people up for addiction and other problems. Once a young person is addicted, his or her brain changes so that drugs are now the top priority. He or she will compulsively seek and use drugs even though doing so brings devastating consequences to his or her life, and for those who care about him.

(See moreStudy: Regularly Using Marijuana as a Teen Slows Brain Development)

Alcohol can interfere with developmental processes occurring in the brain. For weeks or months after a teen stops drinking heavily, parts of the brain still struggle to work correctly. Drinking at a young age is also associated with the development of alcohol dependence later in life.

What is Addiction?

No one plans to become addicted to a drug. Instead, it begins with a single use, which can lead to abuse, which can lead to addiction.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as:

A chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. Addiction is a brain disease because drugs change the brain’s structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long lasting, and lead to harmful behaviors seen in people who abuse drugs.

The good news is that addiction is treatable. The treatment approach to substance abuse depends on several factors, including a child’s temperament and willingness to change. It may take several attempts at treatment before a child remains drug-free. For those teens who are treated for addiction, there is hope for a life of recovery.

The Council on Recovery’s Center for Recovering Families has a broad spectrum of outpatient services for adolescents, including individual therapy, group therapy, high-risk behavior classes, and other education and treatment programs. For information, call 713-914-0556.

(Source: Get Smart About Drugs, a DEA Resource for Parents, Educators, & Caregivers)

Time to cut back on drinking? Here’s how…

Written by Felice J. Freyer & published by The Boston Globe, the following article provides excellent tips to those who drink. Timely information for those who use, misuse, or abuse alcohol.

Alcohol is deeply ingrained in American life, central to our habits of socializing, celebrating, and relaxing. But the pleasure of these routines can keep you from noticing when drinking has become a problem.

You can drink too much without necessarily being addicted to alcohol. Although some people who drink excessively find they must abstain, many others can just cut back — and moderation often makes their lives better.

How do you know when it’s time to reassess your drinking? And if you want to drink less, how do you do it?

The Globe asked for tips from experts in alcohol use at Harvard Medical School, the Boston University School of Medicine, the VA Boston Healthcare System, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Here’s what they said.

Signs that you might be drinking too much

  • It’s starting to worry you or other people. Friends or relatives comment on your drinking.
  • You’re drinking more frequently and alcohol is starting to take a bigger role in your life.
  • You suffer from poor judgment while drinking, doing or saying things you regret when sober.
  • You find that you’re drinking more than you planned.
  • You can’t control how much you drink once you start.

Other reasons to cut back

Even if you’re not experiencing any of the problems listed above, it might be worth reducing your drinking if any of these apply to you:

  • You’re not getting any younger. At some point after age 55, your body’s ability to process alcohol slows down, and you may get drunk or sick with amounts of alcohol that didn’t faze you in your youth.
  • You have diabetes. Most alcoholic drinks pack a lot of carbohydrates.
  • You have high blood pressure. Alcohol makes it worse.
  • You’re overweight. Alcohol contains a lot of empty calories.
  • You suffer from a mental illness, such as depression and anxiety. Alcohol can bring temporary relief but can make symptoms worse over time.
  • You’re concerned about the health risks. John F. Kelly, Harvard Medical School professor of addiction medicine, lists the hazards: addiction can occur at any time; intoxication leads to accidents and injuries; and alcohol raises the risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer, and damages the liver.

Time to cut back? Here are some ways to do that.

Track your drinking and set a goal

  • Learn what is a standard drink size. Twelve ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits all have the same amount of alcohol. One martini is equal to 2½ standard drinks.
  • Make a note every time you take a drink, advises Amy Rubin, a research psychologist with VA Boston Healthcare. Writing it down will reduce your drinking because you’ll be paying attention, and it’s also the best way to get an accurate tally.
  • Then, decide how much you want to be drinking. One possible goal: the federal guidelines. These define low-risk drinking as having up to seven drinks per week with no more than three on any one day for women, or up to 14 drinks per week with no more than four on any one day for men.

Slow down

  • Make sure to eat before and during drinking to slow absorption into the bloodstream.
  • Start drinking later in the evening, to reduce the amount of time you have for drinking (but don’t drink close to bedtime or you’ll disrupt your sleep).
  • Intersperse every alcoholic drink with a nonalcoholic one. Take small sips. Put the drink down between each sip.
  • Choose drinks with lower alcohol content. Or dilute your drinks with ice cubes or seltzer.

Do something else

  • “Ask yourself, why are you drinking? Try to find other things that meet those needs,” said Aaron White, senior scientific adviser to the NIAAA director. If you drink to relax, for example, try a yoga class or a swim instead.
  • Change your routines. Perhaps go for a walk, or see a movie during the time you would normally be drinking.
  • Avoid places where you expect to see a lot of drinking. Even if you go to a bar, get up and play a game of pool or do something other than sitting there drinking.

Take a break

  • Try abstaining for 30 days. You’ll find other ways to spend your time and money and get a sense  of what it feels like to be alcohol-free. For many that means better sleep, more energy, and better memory. And your tolerance for alcohol will go down, so when you resume drinking you can get the same effect with less.
  • If you don’t want to take a month off, try taking a day off here and there. Make sure there are some alcohol-free days each week.

Be kind to yourself

Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t succeed at first. It’s hard to break habits, and few succeed on the first try. Try different methods or set different goals.

“It’s a trial-and-error process,” said Justin L. Enggasser, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine. “The people that are most successful are the ones who keep trying and keep it as learning process.”

Face facts

If you still can’t reach your goals, no matter what you do, your drinking problem might be more serious than you realized. The NIAAA ( https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders ) offers a helpful description of alcohol use disorder and a “navigator”to help you find treatment.

The Council on Recovery provides prevention, education, and treatment programs for individuals and their families dealing with alcoholism, drug abuse, other addictions, and co-occurring mental health disorders. Start at The Council. We can help. Call 713-942-4100 for more information or contact us online.

Rob Lowe Wows Record Crowd at The Council’s Fall Luncheon, Raises Over $600K

Rob Lowe Speaks at The Council on Recovery's Fall Luncheon

Iconic Hollywood star, Rob Lowe, helped The Council on Recovery’s Fall Luncheon exceed all expectations in terms of size, money raised, and rave reviews from attendees. Nearly 1,270 enthusiastic Council supporters filled the Hilton Americas grand ballroom on October 20th to hear the celebrated actor, author, and producer tell his personal story of recovery from alcoholism and addiction. In the process, he helped The Council raise more than $600,000 to fund its critical programs and services. Continue reading “Rob Lowe Wows Record Crowd at The Council’s Fall Luncheon, Raises Over $600K”

Alcoholism…Are Genes to Blame?

Are issues with alcohol a future risk for you? Have you ever questioned yourself and thought, “Am I an alcoholic?”

Many Americans drink alcohol, but can have one drink and put it down for the rest of the evening. Not everyone who drinks develops a dependence on alcohol. However, many individuals are concerned about their chances of struggling with alcohol dependence due to their genetic predisposition. The question is, “How much do genes truly affect the likelihood of becoming an alcoholic?”

Continue reading “Alcoholism…Are Genes to Blame?”