Teen Drug Use Triggered by Impulsive Brain, Not Peer Pressure

Teen Drug Use Triggered by Impulsive Brain, Not Peer Pressure
JosephAdams

Is it the bad kids who turn to drugs, or is it the drugs that turn teens bad?

A recent study suggests that the high schoolers who do drugs are more susceptible to them.

The research, billed as the largest brain imaging study ever, was published recently in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Basically, it says that some teens are bad to the bone, or rather ...

... some kids have more impulsive brains.

The research by Robert Whelan and Hugh Garavan of the University of Vermont looked at MRI-type brain-scan images of 1,896 14-year-olds.

In the chicken-or-egg argument, the egg wins here. According to a summary of the report:

This is your brain wanting to be on drugs.
This is your brain wanting to be on drugs.

... Some teenagers are at higher risk for drug and alcohol experimentation -- simply because their brains work differently, making them more impulsive.

Lower activity in the "orbitofrontal cortex" of the brain "is associated with experimentation with alcohol, cigarettes and illegal drugs in early adolescence," according to the summary. Garavan:

The differences in these networks seem to precede drug use.

The natural reaction to an offering of drugs by a teen with this condition is "yeah, gimme, gimme, gimme!" he adds.

(We're picturing Charlie Sheen as a kid.)

Edythe London, professor of addiction studies at UCLA, said the study "substantially advances" what we know about "the adolescent brain."

So these parents who blame peer pressure and other kids for the children's drug problems are nuts? Looks like it.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]


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