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Adolescent Brain Development and Implications for Drug Abuse Prevention

Jeff Lee

J. Lee , The Mentor Foundation, United Kingdom; K. Winters, Psychiatry, University of Minnesota, United States.

Introduction: The emerging science of the neurobiology of brain development is providing new insights about how teenagers make critical and life-influencing decisions, including their decisions about drug use. Recent findings from brain-imaging studies suggest that the brain continues to develop through adolescence and into young adulthood (age 25). Additional studies suggest that the developing brain during adolescence may promote risky judgments, including taking unconsidered and unhealthy choices, and that the teenage brain may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of drugs, especially alcohol. Therefore, resources are needed to educate prevention practitioners about this critical new knowledge in brain development and strengthen existing drug prevention approaches.

Methods: Dr. Ken Winters, professor at the University of Minnesota, and Jeff Lee at The Mentor Foundation have developed a resource for teachers, prevention specialists, and other youth-serving workers about the science of adolescent brain development. The aims for this project are:

  • To develop a school-based educational curriculum, including resource materials and a teacher’s guide aimed at young adolescents that would allow teachers to incorporate this emerging science into their existing science curriculum.
  • To develop a Web-friendly version in both English and Spanish for distribution on the Mentor Foundation (International) Web site.
  • To prepare the resource in English and Spanish in a step-by-step guide format, addressing all of the highlighted issues with clear objectives, a plan of work, and guidance on time and support materials.

Results: Over the past year The Mentor Foundation has developed two products to support a better understanding of the emerging science and research concerning adolescent brain development and its implications for drug use and drug abuse prevention. The focus of these two products has been to “translate” the emerging scientific knowledge into an understandable form for prevention specialists, health officials, teachers, and other youth-serving professionals. A brochure has been produced discussing the issue of adolescent brain development, and a more detailed review of this science is available as a PowerPoint file so that professionals can communicate this information to interested audiences. The Mentor Foundation now seeks to develop a third resource for the adolescent brain kit, a product that can readily inform parents and caregivers about the importance of this new science and how to use the newly available information to improve their efforts to prevent drug use in children.

Conclusions: These resources can help to educate prevention practitioners about our emerging understanding of brain development and strengthen existing drug prevention approaches.

*Presented at the 2010 NIDA International Poster Session at the Society for Prevention Research (SPR) Conference.

Abstract Year: 
Abstract Region: 
North America
Abstract Country: 
United States
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