Brain Development & Teen Behavior

Ever wonder why your teenager acts the way they do? Well, there is a reason. Understanding the brain science behind teenage behavior can help parents better prepare their kids to avoid drugs an alcohol. In the coming weeks we will be exploring the the Teen Years! 

Have you ever looked at your teenager child and wondered: “Why do you do that?”

From mood swings to risk taking, “normal teenage behavior” can appear to be anything but normal to parents and other adults. However, research reveals that patterns of brain development during these formative years play a significant role in shaping your teen’s personality and actions. In other words, there’s a biological reason teens act the way they do.

Scientists have learned that it takes a brain about 25 years to fully develop. To some degree, you can consider the teen brain still on “training wheels” – it’s not yet able to perform at optimal adult levels. A huge burst of development happens during adolescence, and that burst can explain a lot of unpredictable – and sometimes risky – teen behavior.

The Adolescent Brain and the Behavior it Causes

From early adolescence through the mid-20s, the brain develops somewhat unevenly, from back to front. This may help explain teens’ endearingly quirky behavior, but it also makes them prone to risk-taking.

The parts of the adolescent brain that develop first are those that control physical activity, emotion and motivation, in the back of the brain in the cerebellum, amygdala, and nucleus accumbens respectively.

However, the part of the brain that controls reasoning and impulses – known as the prefrontal cortex – is near the front of the brain and, therefore, develops last. This part of the brain does not fully mature until the age of 25.

The staggered development of certain parts of the brain can have noticeable effects on adolescent behavior. You may have noticed some of these in your teen:

  • Difficulty holding back or controlling emotions
  • A preference for high-excitement and low-effort activities (this is where the classic mantra of “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” comes from)
  • Poor planning and judgment (such as rarely thinking of negative consequences)
  • More risky, impulsive behaviors (including experimenting with drugs and alcohol)

The development of the adolescent brain and behavior are closely linked. The prefrontal cortex, which could be called 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 your 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 drugs and alcohol can have lasting, harmful effects on your teen’s health.

The Effects of Drugs on the Teen Brain

Finding ways to satisfy needs and desires is part of life. It’s one of the many skills being fine-tuned during the teen years. When a teen takes drugs in order to feel good, it interferes with the body’s natural ability to do so. Here’s how drugs affect the brain:

The brain is made up of billions of nerve cells. Nerves control everything from when the heart beats to what your teen feels, thinks and does. They do this by sending electrical signals throughout the body. The signals get passed from nerve to nerve by chemical messengers called neurotransmitters.

For example, some of the signals that neurotransmitters send cause a feeling of satisfaction or pleasure. These natural rewards are the body’s way of making sure we look for more of what makes us feel good. (For instance, when we eat something tasty, neurotransmitters tell us we feel good. Seeking more of this pleasure helps to ensure we don’t starve.) The main neurotransmitter of the “feel-good” message is called dopamine.

Drugs overload the body with dopamine — in other words, they cause the reward system to send too many “feel-good” signals. In response, the body’s brain systems try to right the balance by letting fewer of the “feel-good” signals through. As time goes on, the body needs more of the drug to feel the same high as before. This effect is known as tolerance, and it can be especially dangerous in the cases of drugs like heroin and cocaine.

The effects of drugs on the brain don’t just end when the drug wears off. When a person stops taking a drug, dopamine levels remain low for some time. He or she may feel down, or flat, and unable to feel regular pleasures in life. The brain will eventually restore the dopamine balance by itself, but it takes time — anywhere from hours, to days, or even months, depending on the drug, the length and amount of use, and the person.

Because teenagers have an over-active impulse to seek pleasure and less ability to consider the consequences, they are especially vulnerable when it comes to the temptations of drugs and alcohol. And because the internal reward systems are still being developed, a teen’s ability to bounce back to normal after using drugs may be compromised due to how drugs affect the brain.

Next week we’ll look at Risk Factors & Why Teens Use.

Source: Partnership for Drug Free Kids


Quick Guide to a Great Summer!

Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt “stuck”? Did you know being “stuck” can actually be a good thing? A colleague recently shared a resource that resonated with me on both a professional and personal level. Their belief is getting “stuck” can be a positive sign, a natural nudge that can encourage you to make or do something better! A relationship, a process, a routine – whatever it is can be an opportunity to become “unstuck”.  

There are a plethora of free articles, guides and worksheets you can download or use on a app based platform. Of course, there are features on the website and app that you can pay for; however, there are plenty of FREE articles, motivational nuggets that are simple, effective and easy to relate to!

Maybe you don’t feel stuck today or perhaps you know someone that is “stuck” – share this resource! Use it in small doses or dive in. or unstuck on Google Play or iTunes

An Article from – “A Quick Guide to a Great Summer”

Here’s to living an unstuck summer — three months of heightened promise to do what we love most. The definition varies for each of us. Learning to water ski? Biking cross country? How about drying your sheets in the sunshine?

Whatever your idea of summer is, we want you to have at it — without nagging obstacles, real and imagined, that can sabotage your pleasure. So in the spirit of we-all-deserve-this, here are five ways to make sure you don’t miss out.

  1. Fun and time off are a requirement of being your best self. So why do we feel guilty about it? Overblown sense of responsibility? Maybe. More likely it’s a fear that people will think less of us, especially our employer. The truth is, you’ll work better if you take time to relax. “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body,” reported Tom Kreider in the New York Times.  
  2. Work — and play — with what you have. The picnic doesn’t need to be perfect. No one expects you to look like a swimsuit model. You don’t have to travel far or stay in the penthouse. When the plan doesn’t fully pan out, enjoy what is. Laugh at the mishaps.
  3. It’s easy to procrastinate on the hard stuff. Ironically, a lot of us are just as good at avoiding relaxation, too. So make it your job to come up with the one thing that will help you feel like you had a real summer. Then commit to doing it by blocking out time on the calendar. Perhaps enlist a friend to join you.
  4. In between your summer traditions, try something new. It could be anything. Meeting the shy neighbor. Mastering Canasta. Bottom line: Discovery makes us feel more alive.
  5. On a highly practical note, travel early in the morning or late at night (sitting traffic is a major buzzkill). And don’t forget the sunscreen.



True Facts About Teens and Media, Now & Then

Here’s a fun article from giving parents some good tips. Scary, but good!

The meteoric rise in technology over the past three decades has completely changed the relationship between teens and media. Teens are often the first group to adopt a new technology because at that younger age it’s easier for them to pick up new things, but now it seems that every new generation of teens is equipped with a different social skill set based on the advances of technology.

The teens of 1995 were on the forefront of learning to use the internet as part of their everyday lives, today’s teens don’t know how to live without it. They’re focused on finding the latest-and-greatest app that will help them communicate better with their peers. Whereas 60% of teens in 1995 talked to their friends on the phone daily, now only 39% of teens make or receive voice calls at all, while only 35% of teens social with other teens outside of school on a daily basis.

This was partially due to a movement in the mid-2000s in which parents encouraged children to stay inside due to fears of neighborhood safety — not to mention the rapid expansion of the internet. Between 1995 and 2005, the internet grew from 23,500 to 64.8 MILLION websites!

In TeenSafe’s latest infographic, True Facts About Teens and Media: Now & Then, you learn all these facts and more, such as…

  • Did you know that today, school dances are dying out?
  • As teen media usage has grown, teen obesity rates have more than doubled.
  • In 1995, people referred to the internet as the “Information Superhighway.”
  • In 2005, the most popular online activity for teens was sending and reading emails.
  • In 2015, 95% of teens are online!

It’s amazing to see how far teens and media have come — and to imagine where they’ll go next. Check out the infographic below:

Text Message to Send to Your Kids


If you’re concerned about your kid and drinking, use every opportunity to communicate your message – including via text. Here’s a helpful guide with suggestions for simple, effective text messages to send.

Click on picture to enlarge view. 










The Opioid Epidemic Is a Middle Class Problem, Too

Much of the conversation surrounding the opioid epidemic has, understandably, centered on poorer Americans, many of whom are insured under the Medicaid state-federal safety net program for low-income people. But a new analysis of more than 200 million private insurance claims finds that the crisis is also taking a massive toll on those with private insurance and employer-sponsored health coverage—typically members of the American middle class.

The report was drawn up by Amino, a company which compiles public health and medical pricing data in an effort to reveal more about about larger health trends while directing consumers to potentially cheaper care options. (I’ve covered Amino’s medical pricing tool and some of its earlier population health reports.)

The results were striking. “1.4 million privately insured patients were diagnosed with opioid use disorder in 2016—6 times more than in 2012,” according to the company, which dredged through 205 million insurance claims.

That volume of data also helped Amino identify location-specific trends, including areas with a disproportionate number of opioid use disorder diagnoses and prescriptions for addiction-fighting treatments like buprenorphine.

For instance, Kentucky contains “9 of the top 10 counties nationwide for doctors treating a high volume of patients for opioid use disorder,” according to the report. Areas known to be hit especially hard by the crisis, including Florida, New Mexico, and Appalachia, also saw high rates of treatment for the disease.

Amino’s research also homed in on the kinds of patients who receive addiction treatment. To be clear, this research doesn’t necessarily signal cause-and-effect, just a correlation. But mental health issues, back pain, and hepatitis C patients all appear more likely to be dealing with opioid painkiller addiction.

Source: Fortune Health

Potential penalties for Cowboy Jacks after string of drunken incidents

The city says five DWI arrests so far this year involved people who drank at Cowboy Jack’s.

After a string of drunken incidents, Plymouth city leaders are discussing whether to close bars earlier citywide and considering a $500 fine for one barin particular: Cowboy Jack’s.

The City Council discussed possible options Tuesday, but in the end tabled a decision on Cowboy Jack’s so the two sides can meet in an administrative hearing. Council members also talked about moving up bar closing times as another solution to curb alcohol-related incidents.

In January, city leaders warned Cowboy Jack’s that they would look at possible penalties if the popular bar had more than three “Place of Last Drink (” notifications within three months. They say that Cowboy Jack’s violated that license condition with nine reports from January to April, including five DWI arrests.

If the city levies the fine, it would be the first penalty imposed under its “Place of Last Drink” program. Plymouth was one of the first to sign on to the program a few years ago, as more suburban police departments started tracking where a person last consumed alcohol before an alcohol-related incident.

From Edina to Chaska, police now track receipts, witness details or voluntary information in an effort to clamp down on over-serving restaurants and bars. It’s illegal under state law for bars or restaurants to serve intoxicated people.“This is not the first year we’re discussing this,” Mayor Kelli Slavik said Tuesday. “It’s not getting fixed. It’s to the point where we need to do something.”

But attorney David Davenport, who represents Cowboy Jack’s owner, the After Midnight Group in Minneapolis, said that tying “often flawed” data to the bar’s liquor license is unfair. In one DWI case, he said, it’s unclear if the man had a drink at Cowboy Jack’s or was even in the restaurant before he was pulled over after picking up women outside the bar. “They’re being held accountable for behavior that they can’t control,” Davenport told council members. “They want to be a good member of this community.”

The company also owns Cowboy Jack’s bars in downtown Minneapolis, Bloomington, Otsego, the Mall of America, New Brighton, Woodbury, St. Cloud and Rochester. Plymouth officials discussed concerns about Cowboy Jack’s in 2014 and 2015. Then in January, the city attached “Place of Last Drink” conditions, making it the only restaurant or bar in Plymouth with that data tied to its liquor license.

Of the nine incidents from January to April, one case involved a driver arrested with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.11, above the .08 legal limit. Although the man told police he had just “a couple of beers,” officers found a $90 receipt from Cowboy Jack’s. In another case, police responded to a report of a man at Cowboy Jack’s who fell off a bar stool and was unresponsive.“We truly do care about public safety and we look forward to working with the City Council to that end,” Davenport said.

Source: Star Tribune

*The Substance Abuse Coalition of Kanabec County offers Responsible Beverage Server Training several times each year. As a condition of holding a liquor license in Kanabec County establishments must show proof that their employees have had annual Responsible Beverage Server Training.