After school special: How substance abuse hacks the brain


In the mind of a worried parent, the child faces a plethora of traps to succumb to substance abuse with drugs and alcohol. Not just at or after school, teenagers can fall to peer pressure, advertisements from media and un-informed curiosity. Parents and teenagers need to be educated on the powerful effects of substance abuse and the damage it can cause the brain.

Knowing is half the battle

The fear parents hold over their children regarding substance abuse is understood as a survey from the Monitoring the Future Study found 44 percent of 12th graders used marijuana/hashish in 2014. Meanwhile, 66 percent of 12th graders consumed alcohol. The issue many parents face is how to address the topic and monitor the teenager’s choices without going too far.

Both parents and teenagers can benefit from learning the facts of substance abuse and the damage to the brain. The brain is not fried like an egg on a skillet during drug use, rather re-wired and hijacked through substance abuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, or NIDA, explains the effects of drug use on the brain in a comprehensible way to explain to one’s teen. “Drug addiction is a biological, pathological process that alters the way in which the pleasure center, as well as other parts of the brain, functions,” NIDA said.

Drugs are one example of a substance which hijacks the neurotransmitters in the brain causing the brain to crave the substance more and more. The brain believes the reward and pleasure from the drug are natural. Parents should be concerned about a teenager trying the drug only a few times as NIDA explains, “It is as though there is a figurative ‘switch’ in the brain that ‘flips’ at some point during an individual’s drug use.” Explaining how the substance takes control until the user cannot function without it, instead of stating that drugs are bad and leaving it at that, can help the child understand.

Avoid the lockdown method

Fortunately, offers a tool-kit catered toward helping parents talk about the dangers of drug abuse. Along with the proper knowledge of substance abuse, monitoring a teen’s whereabouts can help to prevent drug abuse. Yet, it is important to set limits to how much monitoring is done. “If you present it as a means of ensuring safety or interest in who he [or she] is and what he [or she] likes to do, rather than as a means of control,” monitoring can become an affective and healthy method.

There are more steps available in the toolkit, but knowledge and understanding between parent and teenager is the first step towards keeping a child drug free.

White River Academy is a boarding school for troubled boys from ages 12 to 17, struggling with addiction, issues at school and/or co-occurring interpersonal problems. The academy provides treatment and care for the boys through disciplined guidance, continues a strong education program and instills character values with service projects promoting positive growth. For more information or to register, feel free to call 866-520-0905.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top