Understanding Addiction and the Young Adult Brain

JourneyPure provides treatment starting at age 18 when the adolescent brain is transitioning into the young adult stage. Illicit drug use among teenagers in the United States is on the rise. In fact, three-quarters of high school students have experimented with addictive substances while 46% use the drugs on a regular basis. These figures are alarming, especially since one in four drug addicts is made before the age of 18.

Though it’s well known that teenagers are more apt to impulsive behavior, we now understand the science behind why. The teenage brain, which isn’t yet fully developed, is vulnerable to addiction. While peer pressure, societal influences, and media glamorization “normalize” adolescent addiction, it’s the unique development of the teenage brain that plays the biggest role in this disease.


So what makes the young adult brain more susceptible to drug addiction? According to research from the University of Pittsburgh, habit formation is directly linked to the brain region that triggers reward. Young adults can suffer from adolescent addiction not because they are reckless, but because developing brain perceives drugs as a “reward.”

Furthermore, the adolescent brain is more prone to stress than an adult brain, increasing the likelihood of adolescent addiction and mental illness. Since the brain is transitioning from a teenage-like state to an adult-like state, illegal substance use can trigger any of these diseases. The brain senses a chemical imbalance in the body and may subsequently under-correct or over-correct – this is when the roots of the disease take hold.

When is adolescent drug addiction most likely to occur? JourneyPure offers treatment beginning with young adults aged 18-23 as they are the most likely to get hooked on illicit substances. A host of factors such as living away from home, finding an occupational foothold, or loneliness create a desire to escape challenges that life provides. Unfortunately, drug abuse is one of the most prevalent forms of escape.

Specifically, here’s how adolescent drug addiction alters the brain:

  • Neurotransmitter function. Drugs such as methamphetamines and cocaine trigger dopamine to flood into the brain. This creates the false perception of “reward,” making the user want to take the drug over and over again. Instead of intellectual and personal development, the brain learns to rely on drugs to feel the satisfactions of life.
  • Perception alteration. Since adolescents lack the life experiences of adults, their perceptive abilities are not yet fully matured. Drugs change perception, making the young adults more emotional, defensive, or inaccurate than their older peers. Perceptive incognizance makes adolescent addiction more likely to occur.
  • Habit forming. If it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, then it makes sense that younger dogs are more likely to learn. Similarly for humans, most lifelong habits are formed during the early years of life, especially adolescence. Drug use during teenage years is more likely to lead to drug addiction than at any other point in life.

Fortunately, young adult intervention can help prevent long-term addiction and help young adults get their life back on track. If you or a loved one suffers from addiction, then it’s critical to consider all the options available for a full recovery.

Given the developing brain, adolescents might not always understand the decisions they make when it comes to drugs and alcohol. This is why a young adult drug rehab center is a critical component to regain control of life.

Interested in learning more about whether a young adult drug rehab center is right for you or a loved one? Contact us today to learn more.

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