It’s almost a cliché to think of drugs when you think of teens. It’s common for adolescents to want to experiment, to feel the pressure of their peers, and to be faced with the challenge of having to say no or yes to drugs. In fact, there are many reasons why a teen might say yes. Despite knowing the dangers that accompany the use of alcohol, marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, or other drugs, they might just want to experiment and have fun.
However, using drugs like methamphetamine (or any drug when you’re a teen) is actually the worst choice you can make. As experts are discovering more and more about the brain, using drugs like meth can turn a teen’s brain development into brain underdevelopment and even brain destruction.
Of course, there is no good time to use meth or any drug. Such drugs can lead to severe injury, addiction, and death. However, during adolescence because there is so much growth going on physically, emotionally, and psychologically, drugs and alcohol can significantly impair that growing process. A recent study confirmed this to be true. Researchers administered MRI brain scans on 51 teen and 54 adult methamphetamine users. Then, the researchers compared those scans to approximately 60 teens and 60 adults who do not use the drug. The comparison revealed that the teen users of meth had greater and more widespread changes in the brain. The damage was particularly noticeable in the frontal cortex, an area associated with reason, logic, organization, and memory.
“It’s particularly unfortunate that meth appears to damage that part of the brain, which is still developing in young people and is critical for cognitive ability,” study author Dr. In Kyoon Lyoo, of Ewha W. University in Seoul, South Korea, said in a University of Utah Health Sciences news release. Furthermore, senior author of the study, Dr. Perry Renshaw, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah commented, “There is a critical period of brain development for specific functions, and it appears that adolescents who abuse methamphetamine are at great risk for derailing that process.”
Methamphetamine (meth) is a very toxic and addictive substance that can cause severe damage to the brain and central nervous system. It can be smoked, snorted, injected, or ingested orally. The high that meth produces includes excited speech, decreased appetite, increased physical activity, and elevated levels of energy. Consequences of meth use include memory loss, aggression, violence, psychotic behavior, and agitation. Meth can also cause irreversible damage to blood vessels in the brain which can lead to strokes. These are only some of the severe health consequences associated with this drug.
Methamphetamine is a stimulant. Because of its addictive quality and the danger of being abused, meth is classified as a Schedule II drug and is legally only available through prescription. When prescribed by a doctor for medical use, its dosages are significantly lower than when the drug is abused. This drug is man-made and produced in laboratories for medical purposes. However, those who abuse the drug mimic its production in small, unsafe laboratories, which are illegal.
According to a 2012 survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 6% of teens, ages 12-17, used the drug at least once in their lifetime, 3% of teens used the drug in the last year, and 2% of teens used meth in the last month. Fortunately, the abuse rates for methamphetamine have decreased in the last year. The rate for lifetime use among 10th graders decreased from 18% in 2012 to 16% in 2013, and among 12th graders the rate for lifetime use also decreased from 17% in 2012 to 15% in 2013. Furthermore, the abuse rate among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders declined significantly between 1999-2007. Despite these decreases, there are certain parts of the country where use of the drug remains to be a significant problem, such as in Hawaii, the West Coast, and the Midwest.
If you or another adolescent you know is using meth, contact a mental health provider today. Doing so can save his or her life.