Many parents look at their teens and wonder, “What in the world we’re they thinking?” Neurologist Frances Jensen, mother of two teenage boys, asked herself this and decided to get answers. Her conclusion? They often aren’t thinking, and the developmental process of the human brain might be to blame. The frontal lobes, where the brain decides, “Is this a good idea and what are the consequences?” aren’t fully connected to the rest of the brain in the teenage years. It’s not that teens are incapable of thinking through situations, but that the process is much slower than in adults. This may also contribute to teens’ sometimes amazing lack of consideration, poor impulse control, and susceptibility to addiction.
Young brains are much more reactive in order to learn, says Jensen, and therefore the teenage brain develops habits more quickly than adults, including drug and alcohol habits. She describes addiction in the brain as a type of learning. Smoking pot will create a much longer lasting cognitive decline in the teenage brain than in adults. Teen drug and alcohol treatment deals with every aspect of being a teenager, from problems in school to social anxiety, to peer pressure. In essence, teens are given the opportunity to “relearn” healthy behaviors. Fortunately, with such physically teachable minds, this may be an advantage to teens getting clean that adult addicts don’t have.
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