It’s a common notion that the earlier in life we discover alcohol or drugs, the bigger the problems we face with them later on.
But the latest research shows that taking a first drink during puberty is the real problem; it’s more harmful then than starting even earlier, say at age 8 or 9.
In other words, it’s puberty itself (roughly ages 10 to 17 for girls, and 11 to18 for boys) that presents the risk, thanks to the still developing adolescent brain.
The brain reward system undergoes major functional changes during puberty. Reward sensitivity peaks, making pubescent teens more vulnerable than they’ll ever be again to rewards and reward-seeking, particularly to drugs.
Therefore, puberty is when alcohol, cannabis, etc. will induce the most destructive, persistent and long-lasting effects on the brain. It’s when the risks of addiction or even neuropsychiatric disorders like schizophrenia are the greatest.
The research puts parents on notice and suggests prevention efforts that increase awareness of the risks and vulnerabilities associated with drinking and drugs during puberty. Read the full article here.