Summary: Drug Use During Adolescence Associated
with Addictive Behavior Later in Life
During the neurodevelopmental changes
that occur in the brains of adolescents, sometime in the period
where they have poor impulse control and increased risk taking
behavior, the introduction of addictive drugs may contribute to
further addictive behavior in later years.
According to an article written by the American
Journal of Psychiatry, substance use disorders are a leading cause
of medical morbidity, mortality, and health problems in the United
States. Regional availability of substances and social trends
influence the prevalence of specific substance use disorders. Three
major observations suggest that the developmental periods of
adolescence and early adulthood are primary correlates of substance
use and substance use disorders, operating across cultural trends
and substances. First, adolescents and young adults generally
exhibit higher rates of experimental use and substance use disorders
than older adults. Second, addictive disorders identified in adults
most commonly have onset in adolescence or young adulthood. For
example, most adult U.S. smokers begin smoking before age 18, and
the onset of daily smoking is uncommon after age 25. Over 40% of
adult alcoholics experience alcoholism-related symptoms between ages
15 and 19, and 80% of all cases of alcoholism begin before age 30.
The average reported age of initiation of illicit drug use in adults
with substance use disorders is 16 years, with 50% of cases
beginning between ages 15 and 18 but rarely after the age of 20.
Third, earlier onset of substance use predicts greater addiction
severity and morbidity, including the use of multiple substances.
Neurocircuitry of Motivation in Adolescence: A Critical Period of
Addiction Vulnerability, American Journal of Psychiatry, June
2003, pp. 1041-1052