Obviously, substance abuse is a bad idea at any age. In adulthood, it can lead to criminal behavior, loss of relationships, inability to hold down a job and an array of physical and mental health issues. But research in psychology and neuroscience shows that substance abuse is especially dangerous for young people. During childhood and teenage years, you shape who you are as a person—your intelligence, emotional development and interests form before age 25.
First, there are behavioral health risks associated with teen substance abuse. Underage drinking kills about 5,000 young people every year, and about 700,000 students are assaulted by other students who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Parents who notice these behaviors in their children should set them up with a good child psychiatrist right away to help combat their addictive tendencies at a young age.
There are also serious risks to the developing brain. Between birth and age 25, your brain is developing to meet your environmental needs. Substance abuse can change or even stop this development entirely. In addition, substance abuse at a young age can set a person up for a long-term risk of addiction. Addiction is a difficult battle at any age, but habits that begin when a person is young are especially hard to break.