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Adolescents differ from adults in the way they behave, solve problems, and make decisions. There is a biological explanation for this difference. Studies have shown that brains continue to mature and develop throughout childhood and adolescence and well into early adulthood. Teenagers are notoriously curious and are often known for testing boundaries and pushing limits. It is highly common for young people to experiment with drug use. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported findings from a survey that found 58.8% of teenagers had consumed alcohol by their senior year in high school, and 47% had used illicit drugs. The teenage brain is not yet fully matured, and will not reach full development until age twenty-five, at the earliest. A teenager relies heavily on the amygdala (the area of the brain associated with impulses, emotions, aggression, instinctive behavior, and plays a role in sexual activity and libido) when reacting to certain stimuli whereas an adult relies on the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain that is involved in planning, self-control, and decision making) when reacting to the same stimuli. Habitually abusing drugs and/ or alcohol will affect the way one’s brain functions, as one’s body becomes increasingly accustomed to operating with the presence of the substance in its system, which can be dangerous to the developing brain of a teenager.

Teenage Mental Health

Mental health, though previously used as a term to primarily indicate the absence of a mental disorder, currently encompasses one’s emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing, and is an essential component of overall health. The World Health Organization (WHO) explains mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Nevertheless, everyone has some risk of developing a mental health disorder, regardless of age, sex, income, or ethnicity. However, according to the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Survey Initiative half of all mental health conditions start by age 14.

The Link

Mental illness and substance abuse in teens is connected because distressing emotions and adverse mental health symptoms can lower inhibitions, impair judgment, and promote reckless behaviors. Further, adolescent substance abuse is a known risk factor for many mental health complications. For example, research has found that the younger someone is when they first try drugs the more likely they are to go on to develop addiction, clinically referred to as substance use disorder (SUD). The National Institutes of Health assert that nearly half of the young people “who have a mental [health] disorder will also have a substance use disorder at some point in their lives and vice versa.” Data from 2022 presented by the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, indicate that addiction affects over 20 million Americans aged 12 and older.

For Information and Support 

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.


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