Teens and Brain Injuries: A Higher Risk for Drug Abuse

More than 12 million Americans use crystal meth on a daily basis, but a new study has found that teenagers who suffer from traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are more susceptible to using the drug.

Linking Brain Injuries and Meth Use

The results of this groundbreaking research project have been published in the latest issue of The Journal of Head Trauma and Rehabilitation.

The results were obtained by interviewing 6,383 students in Ontario, Canada. Each participant was between the ages of 9 and 12. A TBI was defined in the study as any head injury which resulted in the person being unconscious for at least five minutes or spending at least one night in the hospital due to symptoms associated from it.

Based on their findings, they concluded that the students with a TBI were two to four times more likely to use drugs. In fact, the TBI group was found to be:

Searching for the Catalyst

One important question still lingers, however, as researchers were not able to conclude whether the students' drug use or brain injuries came first.

“This data shows us that there are important links between adolescent TBI and substance use,” said Dr. Robert Mann, co-investigator of the study, scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and director of the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survery. “While we can’t yet say which one causes the other, we know this combination of factors is something to watch because it can have a serious negative impact on young people as they develop.”

The Devastation that is Meth

Crystal meth is a man-made stimulant that is typically smoked in a glass pipe, but it can also be injected. When used intravenously, the drug's resulting high is more intense and its effects are prolonged.

Although the drug produces an extreme high that can last anywhere from six to 12 hours, the comedown from it can be debilitating. Crystal meth addicts often need to keep using in order to avoid a severe depression, which has been known to lead to self-harm and suicide in some cases.

"All drugs of abuse cause the release of dopamine, even alcohol and nicotine," said Dr. Richard Dawson, director of UCLA's Integrated Substance Abuse Program. "Methamphetamine produces the mother of all dopamine releases."

Learn more about recognizing the need for addiction treatment.

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