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A new study has identified a factor that can help to predict the success of adolescent recovery after substance addiction. Researchers have discovered that mastery of one’s thinking could help to predict reduced use of substances like marijuana and cocaine over time. This new study could shed light on how brain function might impact addiction treatment and recovery. It might also provide clues in how utilizing a reward system could improve the outcome of the recovery process for some teens and adults.

Measuring Inhibitory Control
Taking control over one’s thinking processes is guided by areas of the frontal lobe of the brain. While the activation of these areas can be measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), it cannot be accurately measured by behavioral testing. Instead, scientists used a cognitive test, known as antisaccadic test evaluation, which provided a more thorough assessment of inhibition control. Researchers were also able to add another factor to this evaluation – financial reward – to determine the effect these types of rewards had on impulse control.

The study, which was published in the journal Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, found that adolescents with greater inhibition control were less likely to have a substance use disorder or SUD. However, adolescents were also able to increase their inhibition control through a positive reward system that was based on their performance. This was the case regardless of other factors like the amount of alcohol consumed or the symptoms of SUD.

Young Males Subject of Study
A total of 14 teens were included in this study, with subjects averaging 17 years of age. The large majority (93 percent) were Caucasian and nearly three-fourths were male. All of the test subjects had average IQ levels, 29 percent met the criteria for ADHD, 43 percent for conduct disorder and 21 percent for major depressive disorder. Study outcomes were based on frequency and total days of substance use, as well as substance use six months after baseline.

Takeaways from this study include the fact that adolescents with greater activation of the area of the brain guiding inhibition control tended to see better results in their efforts to overcome their SUDs. Those the received performance-based rewards could improve their inhibition control to help them overcome an SUD. Overall, this study may help those working in addiction recovery to better understand the workings of the adolescent brain and their ability to succeed in SUD intervention. This knowledge can ensure the proper tools are employed during treatment to ensure a higher quality success rate in the recovery process overall.