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Drugs & Health Blog

Teen Brain, a Work in Progress

Sara Bellum

Have you ever wondered why you have to be 16 to get your driver’s license or 18 to vote or 21 to legally drink alcohol?

It’s partly because your brain is not ready to take on these responsibilities, since your brain is not fully developed when you’re a teen.

Your brain's in training

During the teen years, essential parts of the brain are still forming—like the prefrontal cortex, which allows people to weigh the pros and cons of situations instead of acting on impulse. This is one reason why teens are generally more likely to take risks than adults.

For example, with alcohol, teens may be less able to judge when to stop drinking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us that each year, more than 4,600 alcohol-related deaths occur among those less than 21 years old—and even one is too many.

Drugs = brain drain

Research shows that alcohol and other drugs change the brain’s structure and how it works in the short and long term. In the short term, drugs affect your brain’s judgment and decision-making abilities, while long-term use causes brain changes that can set people up for addiction and other problems.

The brains of people who become addicted get altered so that drugs are now their top priority—and they will compulsively seek and use drugs even though doing so brings devastating consequences for their lives and for those who care about them.

Do yourself a favor and use your brain to make smart choices, reach your goals, and achieve your full potential in life.

Want to learn more? Check out the blog posts “Cocaine and the Teen Brain” and “Addiction is a Disease.”

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


Thank you for this comment.
Most people couldn´t imagine how dangerous drugs are for children.
4600 alcohol- related deaths are definitly too much.

Best regards from germany

Do yourself a favor and use your brain to make smart choices, reach your goals, and *achieve your full potential in life.*

We all have achieved our full potential what we need is achieving our goals.

did you not read it said that the brain is not fully developed at the teen age but i agree with you about reaching your goals and all that stuff

great job, say no to drugs

[commercial link removed, per guidelines]

i agree with them because we should say no to drugs because it is bad for your health and it damages your heart bad also the drugs can make you forget things and you can go crazy

Drivig age should probably be raised a year or two. Too many traffic deaths wih young teens.

I think teens AND adults need to be made more aware that the reason for the drinking age being 21 is that the brain and body are not fully developed until that age. It's not a punishment.

I think teens AND adults need to be made more aware that the reason for the drinking age being 21 is that the brain and body are not fully developed until that age. It’s not a punishment.

this is so true i cant belive that people still want to move the drinking age to 18!!!

I think everyone needs to understand how drugs destroy potential for a great life.

i dont think maryjane is that bad if theres anyone out there that can help me with my addiction

Please call 1-800-662-HELP or visit SAMHSA’s Treatment Facility Locator at to find treatment near you. Or, if you just want to talk with someone, call the SAMHSA crisis line at 1-800-273-TALK.

i have an adiiction

Yes, i think everyone should say "NO DRUGS".Thanks for post.

if you need help with an addiction go to proffenals they will make sure you get "back on track"

The horde doesn't need alchohol

i think people that say NO are vary vary smart

i hate alcohol and i agrey with the girl above

i think people who say no to drugs are smart and your right there are to many alcohol related deaths

to meny alcoholic parents very hard to see exspechilly with kid

People say taking drugs is no big deal but it is. Since we are only teens our brains are still developing. So since drugs kill brain cells and we are still gaining brain cells your stopping your brain from creating new brain cells. Thats why we see so many kids dropping out of schools because they are no longer gaining knowledge but losing it. Most kids who take drugs get introduced to them by parents or friends who do drugs. We should say no to drugs.

NIce, short post. Teen drug abuse is a tragic reality. The effects can be disastrous and many don't recover from the damage that is caused. I got clean and sober with the help of a sober living called New life House. [commercial link deleted, per guidelines]

Thanks! It is really helpful for my health class.

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