The Teen Brain

A Parent's Guide to the Teen Brain
The adolescent brain is a brain that is still developing. Teens are not simply less experienced adults. MRI studies show that the development of the prefrontal cortex and outer mantle of the brain continues into the early 20s and may not be complete until the mid 20s. 

Psychoactive substances can alter or damage the development of the adolescent brain:

  • Psychoactive substances often target and alter function of neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that allow nerves to communicate at their junctions. Interference with neurotransmitters can directly damage fragile developing neural connections.
  • Use of these substances alters perception and may interfere with the developing perceptual skills.
  • The habits and choices associated with the use of drugs and alcohol slowly become ingrained in the wiring of the brain. Repeated action becomes habit. The habits of thought, perception, and reasoning developed in childhood and adolescence can stay with a person throughout his or her lifetime.

Read more about the effects of drugs and alcohol on the adolescent brain.

Alcohol use by people under age 21 is a major public health problem. Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States, and in Washington County, more than tobacco and illicit drugs. Read the CDC fact sheet for more information.