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03-07 Brain scans may help identify future substance abuse among teens

Brain scans may help identify future substance abuse among teens

Novelty-seeking adolescents are often labeled as irrational, lazy and even violent. Now, a new study further justifies it by claiming that novelty-seeking tendencies in teenagers may promote problematic impulsive behaviors including drug use.

According to the study published in Nature Communications on Feb. 21, 2017, brain scans can help identify personality traits in teenagers that could signal danger. To identify how or when novelty-seeking behavior promoted harmful outcomes, researchers used a longitudinal design to recognize which neural and behavior factors predisposed novelty-seeking adolescents to harmful outcomes specifically related to problematic drug use.

The study involved brain scans of 144 14-year-old European adolescents using IMAGEN Consortium, a brain imaging and genetic data collector used to understand and treat mental health issues among teenagers. By combining the IMAGEN research with a psychological and behavioral test, the researchers were able to split the teenagers into two groups: a group of 72 teenagers with high novelty-seeking tendencies and another group of 72 teenagers with low novelty-seeking tendencies. During the brain scanning process, the participants were also ranked on a test that assessed their brain function in reaction to monetary rewards.

The study was a collaboration between Brian Knutson, a professor of psychology at Stanford University and Christian Büchel, a professor of medicine at University Medical Center, Hamburg-Eppendorf.

High novelty-seeking children prone to drug abuse

According to Knutson, the researchers wanted to know whether reward anticipating brain activity at age 14 would predict later substance abuse in high novelty-seeking children. The authors found that at the age of 14, high novelty-seeking children with a less neural response to anticipated reward were more likely to abuse substances at the age of 16.

The researchers also found that out of the 72 novelty-seeking teenagers, 25 percent had used tobacco, alcohol and marijuana by the age of 16 while only 18 percent of teenagers in the low novelty-seeking group at the age of 14 had tried a substance when they reached 16.

In the United States, more and more teenagers are falling prey to abuse substances. While some teens try these substances for a few times and stop, others fail to control their urges. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), in 2016, six percent of American high school seniors reported using marijuana, while 13 percent reported using tobacco.

Road to recovery

Sovereign Health understands the plight of parents whose children grapple with substance abuse. Keeping that in mind, each of our teen rehab centers contains an intensive family therapy component that addresses interpersonal dynamics unique to each group of loved ones involved in therapy. Our treatment programs for adolescents provide an array of behavioral health treatment services to adolescent males and females between ages 12 and 17. To enable complete recovery, our programs treat the underlying causes that fuel problematic usage of alcohol, drugs and other addictive behaviors of teens.

Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego treats adolescents who may be struggling with mental health issues that often spur substance abuse or other risk-taking behavioral health problems. We offer customized treatment that can address dual diagnosis of multiple issues in a comfortable summer camp-like setting away from home or even through smart-device-accessible eTherapy.

For those seeking a comprehensive treatment program for a teenager abusing addictive substances including drugs and alcohol, it is time to seek professional treatment. At Sovereign Health, we offer more than just therapy; we offer them a reason to rebuild their life and embrace a better future. Call our 24/7 helpline number 866-615-7266 or chat online with our counselors to reach our admission team.

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