Pennsylvania Opioid Prevention Project



PAOPP - The Teenage BrianThe teenage brain has confused parents for generations but there are biological reasons teens may act in unexpected ways. Scientists have learned that it takes a brain about 25 years to fully develop and until then is still on “training wheels” – it’s not yet able to perform at optimal adult levels. The parts in the back of the adolescent brain that develop first are those that control physical activity, emotion and motivation. However, the part of the brain that controls reasoning and impulses is near the front of the brain and, therefore, develops last.


The ‘voice of reason’ in the teen brain isn’t as influential as those parts that place a higher emphasis on emotion, excitement and short-term reward. In an instant, hormones can shift a teen’s emotions into overdrive, leading to unpredictable – and sometimes risky actions. Unfortunately, developing brains are generally more prone to damage. This means that experimentation with alcohol and drugs, including prescription opioids can have lasting, harmful effects on teens’ brains and health.


Risky teen behavior is a serious public health issue. Most mental health and substance use disorders begin in adolescence and aren’t always preventable—but risky behavior is!



So how, exactly, do teens get addicted to opioids?

Besides an opioid prescription from a doctor, there are other reasons a teen may try substances or alcohol for the first time. Risk factors are reasons that may contribute to a person misusing substances or alcohol instead of engaging in healthy coping mechanisms.


Risk factors:

Parents using substances - Lack of confidence - Desire to escape and self-medicate - Unsafe living environment/neighborhoods - Problems in the family - Cyber bulling - Separation or divorce of parents - Family financial problems - Family history of depression or anxiety


Other reasons teens may experiment with substances:

Popular culture - Boredom - Rebellion - Instant gratification - Misinformation

- School demands - Changes in their bodies - Life altering event - Social Media - Over achieving