January 22nd - 27th is National Drug and Alcohol Awareness Week which brings specific attention to these items and their effects on teens.
Finding ways to satisfy needs and desires is part of life. It’s one of the many skills being fine-tuned during the teen years. When a teen takes drugs in order to feel good, it interferes with the body’s natural ability to do so. Here’s how drugs affect the brain:
Nerves control everything including sending electrical signals throughout the body. The signals get passed from nerve to nerve by chemical messengers called neurotransmitters and some signals that neurotransmitters send cause a feeling of satisfaction or pleasure. These natural rewards are the body’s way of making sure we look for more of what makes us feel good. The main neurotransmitter of the “feel-good” message is called dopamine.
Drugs overload the body with dopamine — in other words, they cause the reward system to send too many “feel-good” signals. In response, the body’s brain systems try to right the balance by letting fewer of the “feel-good” signals through. As time goes on, the body needs more of the drug to feel the same high as before.
The effects of drugs on the brain don’t just end when the drug wears off. When a person stops taking a drug, dopamine levels remain low for some time. He or she may feel down, or flat, and unable to feel regular pleasures in life. The brain will eventually restore the dopamine balance by itself, but it takes time — anywhere from hours, to days, or even months, depending on the drug, the length and amount of use, and the person.
Because teenagers have an over-active impulse to seek pleasure and less ability to consider the consequences, they are especially vulnerable when it comes to the temptations of drugs and alcohol. And because the internal reward systems are still being developed, a teen’s ability to bounce back to normal after using drugs may be compromised due to how drugs affect the brain.
One way you can protect your teens and other loved ones is to dispose of unused prescription drugs. Community Pharmacy, located at our Clarion Campus, offers drug take back of any over-the-counter or prescribed medicines. Dispose of these unnecessary meds, learn more about other drug and alcohol dangers, and visit with your teens about ways they can protect themselves and their friends.