Supporting Healthy Brains

It’s Brain Awareness Week, a global campaign to foster public enthusiasm and support for brain science. We care a lot about brains here at ACT, and particularly about supporting healthy brain development in adolescent years.

Between the ages of 10-24, the brain is “under construction”: building, learning, and creating billions of new connections based on what the young person experiences in the world. The decisions teens make and activities they engage in literally shape how their brains function and develop! Making healthy and safe choices during these years can affect their long-term health.

Because of these rapid changes, the teen brain is more vulnerable to the effects of substances like alcohol, marijuana, tobacco and vape products. Drinking and drug use can cause problems with learning, memory, attention, and managing emotions—not only in the short-term, but also into adulthood.

Youth Substance Use & Health:

  • Marijuana use can lead to developing an addiction. Those who use marijuana before the age of 18 are 4-7 times more likely to develop marijuana use disorder. (NIDA)
  • Use of high potency marijuana (greater than 15% THC) is associated with increased urgent and emergency department psychiatric visits and increased mental health disorders including psychosis. (Vermont Medical Society)
  • Nicotine in tobacco and vape products can increase anxiety symptoms and stress levels. (Truth Initiative)
  • People who start drinking before the age of 15 are at a higher risk for developing alcohol use disorder later in life. (NIAA)

We can all help to protect healthy brain development and support resilient youth. According to the CDC, youth who feel connected at home, at school, and in the community were found to be as much as 66% less likely to experience health risk behaviors related to substance use, violence, and mental health in adulthood. How can you support connectedness in your school, organization, home, health practice, or in the wider community?


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