Magazine Opinions Volume 69, Issue 4

Teen Susceptibility

by Jessica Hill

Whether the mass is anything from drugs and alcohol to social media and video games, addiction is extremely pervasive and will seemingly always be. People can potentially develop an addiction to any substance or activity, and although the previously mentioned examples are more commonly discussed as unhealthy, even addictions such as those to exercise, sugar, caffeine, and more can negatively affect the body and mind drastically as well.

Teenagers are much more prone to addiction than adults because their brains learn and apply knowledge more quickly. This mechanism helps teens pick up languages and skills quickly, but it also allows for them to adopt addictive behavior quicker. Teens’ brains work differently in the manner that their decision-making is very closely linked to the reward system, too— the adolescent brain makes decisions more heavily based on whether or not a past experience was rewarding than adults do.The parts of the brain that allow it to rely less on the reward system when it makes decisions and more on logical thinking — which includes acknowledging possible consequences — do not fully develop until you’re around 25 years old. These factors make adolescent drug use much more dangerous, for it will take fewer uses of the substance for a teen to become addicted.

Harboring an addiction before your mid-20s — before your brain finishes fully developing — can make it more difficult to get rid of it, and it’ll be easier to relapse. This is due to the fact that repeated behavior creates neural pathways, which is the brain’s way of determining what knowledge and skills it should hold onto as you transition to adulthood. The more frequently you practice something deepens the neural pathway further, while ceasing practice over a prolonged amount of time will begin to reverse the indentation. Although this mechanism helps you retain the skills that you have developed over time,  it will also make it more difficult to rid yourself of an addiction carried over to adulthood.

Addiction can keep you from making sound decisions, staying healthy, and performing well at school as well as in life. Perhaps it would be best to distance yourself from activities and substances , for the future you who will be able to make stronger, more logical decisions with consequences in mind.

If you think you may currently have an addiction, visit Sunrise House’s webpage on substance abuse regarding adults vs. teens to view a list of symptoms ranging from mild to severe addiction. These symptoms do not only apply to substance abuse but to nearly all addictions. Dealing with and remedying addiction is difficult, even more so the farther down you’ve spiraled, but there are websites you can visit for treatment and hotlines you can call to ask for help, as well as adults on campus you can go to for advice.