Substance Abuse And The Developing Brain

There are a number of reasons why health experts caution against adolescent drug and alcohol use, but the most important is the effect that mind altering substances have on developing brains. Early drug and alcohol use can have a lasting affect on the brain, potentially resulting in addiction and psychological problems throughout adulthood. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of parents and educators, many teenagers will experiment with drugs and alcohol. The need for a greater understanding of how substance use affects developing brains is of the utmost importance.

Researchers and clinicians from the Florida International University (FIU), with the financial assistance of a grant from the National Institutes of Health, will conduct a multi-year study on the effects of substance abuse on the developing brain, The Miami Herald reports. The $12.7 million award will be used to track adolescent exposure to various mind altering substances and to research the effects on their:

  • Academic Achievement
  • Brain Structure
  • Brain Function
  • Cognitive Skills
  • Mental Health

A 14-member team of FIU researchers will recruit hundreds of children, starting at age 9 or 10, from Miami-Dade County and surrounding areas, according to the article. The researchers involved in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study, led by Raul Gonzalez, associate professor of psychology, psychiatry, and immunology and a faculty member at the FIU Center for Children and Families, will compile data to help determine what leads to substance use and addiction.

The goal of the study is to help inform:

  • Substance Use Prevention Research
  • Substance Use Treatment Research
  • Public Health Strategy Decisions
  • Public Health Policy Decisions

The NIH grant is the largest single award from a government medical research agency that the university has ever received. Our Family Recovery Specialist team is excited to learn about this new study and we are looking forward to following the research process over the coming years. The continuing study of the brain will aid therapists in treating adolescents and adults who are struggling with substance abuse and addiction.


If an adult member of your family or your adolescent child is struggling with drugs or alcohol, please do not hesitate to reach out for help.

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