Snapshot: Substance abuse and memory


Walking through life, people choose to turn right or left. People choose what to eat drink and occasionally let others decide for them; but what makes a choice right or wrong? The choices an individual makes shape perceptions and a future he or she will live and hopefully thrive in. Too often, young adults are content to delve blindly into new things with the YOLO mantra: you only live once. Yet, when experimenting with drugs, certain substances can have permanent effects on the mind and body well after the fact.

Substance abuse in teenagers can have a drastic impact on cognitive development. Some drugs and alcohol have been found to permanently decrease IQ and weaken memory. The years before college can be full of fun and exciting moments to remember for decades to come. Yet teenagers are abusing substances which can take away the memories of those experiences. Teenagers abusing certain substances may need to take a picture, because it may last longer than their memory.

Lost memory

While the medicinal qualities of marijuana are currently up for debate, abuse of marijuana has a strong impact on memory. In a 2014 survey, the National Institute of Drug Abuse –NIDA—found 44 percent of high school seniors abuse marijuana. Marijuana use can affect the memory and other cognitive functions in the brain. NIDA is finding more studies which show, “marijuana exposure during development can cause long-term or possibly permanent adverse changes in the brain.”

A study just this year finds participants who are marijuana users are much more susceptible to false memories. False memories are incorrect or altered recollections of memories which did not occur. In this case, the participants were susceptible to being told events happened a certain way, due to marijuana use. “Our results show that cannabis users had a higher susceptibility to memory illusions, as observed in certain neurologic and psychiatric populations and elderly individuals.” Teenagers continue to abuse a drug and may not even be aware of the damage it can cause to the brain.

Club Drugs

Going to the graduation party, dancing at the club or in the pits at concerts, club drugs can be another common accessory, almost grown up party favor. These drugs can include: MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy, and it’s synthetic copy commonly referred to as molly; rohypnol, known as roofies; Gamma hydroxybutyrate, or GHB. Designer drugs are continually altered and mixed with adulterants which make more deadly combinations.

Symptoms of club drug abuse can include, but is not limited to:

  • A decrease in coordination
  • A loss in memory
  • Hallucinations
  • Tremors or shaking uncontrollably

These drugs can be odorless and colorless and dissolve in liquid. Roofies, can produce, amnesia. Individuals may not remember events they experienced while under the influence of the drug. There is very little scientific information available regarding treatment for abuse of club drugs. Treatment methods so far include detox followed by rehabilitation and inpatient treatment.

The chance to help a teenager detour from the YOLO reckless road of experimentation can be lifesaving. Teenagers who continue to abuse these drugs and other substances can cause irreversible cognitive damage. White River Academy is a therapeutic school for troubled boys ranging from ages 12 to 17, providing aid for boys struggling with issues at school and interpersonal problems. The academy provides holistic treatment and care for the boys, continues a strong education program and instills good character values. For more information or to register, feel free to call 866-520-0905.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top