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Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Drugs on the Brain

We all know that addiction to drugs and/or alcohol can have detrimental affects on the addict's mental and physical health. Long term abuse can lead to a damaged brain and liver as well as a damaged life. This is particularly true in brain development if the addiction started in adolescents. Recently I have been reading some articles that say the adolescent's emotional development stops at the time when their addiction begins. Others believe this to be untrue, while of course they do not deny the developing brain is damaged, the damage maybe restored since the brain continues to develop until 24 years of age. I certainly hope that the damaged can be repaired because this is my latest fear for my son.

I have been trying to research more on the damage caused to the developing brain, yet when I do it is hard to ascertain exactly what damage my son may have done to his brain since he has been using natural opium in tea form for many years, not heroin, and most of the research on brain development and substance abuse in teens are centred around cannabis and/or alcohol. Also he has been using so many other drugs, most of them depressants, that I imagine that would make the damage more likely to happen. I am familiar with the risks these combinations have, primarily on respiration, and can cause death by respiratory failure, but not so much about what it is doing to his brain.

My concern recently was my son's mental health due to brain development and possible damage. Now I wonder if it is mostly chemically induced, and temporary, since the behaviour I was concerned about the past week (being extremely withdrawn, placid, not eating, etc) changed dramatically yesterday because his substance changed. Apparently he took some buprenorphine which he was stashing away when he was on the drug replacement program, and when I commented to my son how I had been concerned the few days because he was so withdrawn but now he is aggressive again, he confessed that that is because he was heavily sedated on several different depressants the last week. However, even with her mood swings, there seems to be an underlying  feeling of "something is not quite right" with him any more. Of course this is not even mentioning that even the most "healthiest" of use would start to develop some signs of mental health issues if we had virtually no one to talk to, no social interaction, no life outside of our bedrooms etc!

Despite how the different substances alter may son's temporary behaviour, I am still concerned what long term damage he has done to himself. Not only on his brain development, but on his emotional development since he has lead a very unnatural adolescence and therefore I fear that my son has not developed as he "should have", which in turn makes it even harder for him to deal with the fear of changing his life from what has been his norm all of his adolescence.

Habit and the Hard Wiring of the Brain

As self help gurus are quick to point out, if you do something for long enough it becomes automatic. Nowhere does this wisdom more hold true than in adolescence. Though teens may change clothes, ideas, friends and hobbies with maddening frequency, they are developing ideas about themselves, their world and their place in it that will follow them for the rest of their lives. Adults may spend years trying to create or break even the simplest habit, yet most adults find that their most profound ideas about themselves and the world were developed in high school or college. This is because, by age 25 or so the brain is fully developed and building new neural connections is a much slower process.
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Maybe there is still hope since he is only 18!