Long-Term Consequences of Drug Abuse More Severe in Adolescents

November 30th, 2010

Teenagers who abuse drugs may face more severe long-term consequences later in life than adult drug abusers.

The effects of high doses of amphetamine on rats at different ages were studied by Joshua Gulley, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois. When rats experienced large doses of amphetamines during adolescence, their working memory was impaired as adults.

The prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that is known to be vital to decision making and working memory, is underdeveloped in adolescents. Its neuron function is affected by drug use. This study suggests that the adolescent brain is affected by drugs in very different ways than the adult brain and can be damaged in the long-term due to drug abuse.

Gulley said his ultimate goal for this research is to better understand the factors that lead to drug addiction and the physiological changes caused by drug abuse.

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