Childhood: Brain, Memories & Drugs

Did you know that you are born with almost every nerve cell you will ever have for your entire life?

You start with about 100 billion neurons in your brain. Over time, your environmental influences affect the 100 trillion connections that develop along those nerve cells.  Current research is finding that it takes at least 20 to 25 years for the brain to become “hard-wired” in forming the major and vital connections associated in the “decision-making” part of the brain, which is the control circuit.

The environmental influences that you are exposed to are varied and can have both negative and positive effects on how you begin to form choices, such as not using or using drugs.

Some of the environmental influences that determine the use of drugs related to:

  • Sexual/Physical/Emotional Abuse 
  • Stress
  • Love
  • Nutrition
  • Living Conditions
  • Family Relationships
  • Neighborhood Safety
  • Quality of Education
  • Peer Pressure
  • Internet & Television Content

Research shows that interactions, particularly in the home environment, actually make new nerve cell connections, create memories, and even alter a person’s neurochemistry, thereby determining the level in which a person will or will not use psychoactive drugs.  Many studies are now showing a direct link between major behavioral health problems like addiction and serious mental health issues with traumatic life experiences such as an adverse childhood.  Dr. Kim T. Mueser at Dartmouth found that 90% of all behavioral health patients had at least one traumatic experience in their life, many of them had more than one.

The following environmental truths make psychoactive drug abuse more likely:

  • Stress is the norm rather than the exception
  • Physical/Emotional/Sexual abuse or trauma occurs
  • Drinking and/or other drug use is common in the home
  • Healthy ways of processing stress or anger are not modeled & learned (self-medicating occurs)
  • Societal influences (TV, Internet, Peers, etc.) make drinking, smoking, drugs normal escapes
  • Easy access to legal and illegal drugs
  • Pre-existing mental health problems that are aggravated by the home environment stressors
  • Nutritional deficits during brain developmental years

Since your brain takes about 20 to 25 years to become “hardwired” in the decision-making (control center) part of your brain, an adolescent who disrupts this process by drug use becomes vulnerable to making poor decisions  and damaging impulse-control behaviors like drug abuse.  This is important because changes that occur, in the brain, in the first 10 years of life are the most influential, especially if they were changed by a traumatic event.

Children who grow up in chaotic homes, and are subject to excessive emotional pain, remember that pain and begin to medicate that in different ways such as:

  • Trying to find people to help them understand why it happened
  • Learn they must face and accept what happened
  • Run away
  • Become hyperactive
  • Make jokes about their circumstances
  • Use drugs, overeat, gamble, or do other things that temper the pain and/or discomfort they feel

If the stress/pain a child feels continues long enough, the counter-behavior that they learn to “cope” with these feelings becomes ingrained into the brain as well.  The brain remembers the counter-behavior with just as much clarity as it remembers the stress/pain or trauma that they have experienced.

Here’s the good news:

Because the brain continues to both create and lose connections throughout a person’s life, the ability to change is always possible.  However, the older a person becomes, the more difficult it is to change.

At the Counseling, Coaching & Education center, we uphold the belief that God, when He intervenes, is capable of anything within His Will and calling upon your life.

He has Plans for you regardless of your circumstances.

 “Before I shaped you in the womb,  I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day,
    I had holy plans for you……Jeremiah 1:5 (MSG). 

You have been chosen, with Purpose.

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight….Ephesians 1:4 (NIV)

If you are interested in learning how to restructure your thoughts and renew your mind, we can give you life application strategies and suggestions, along with biblical instruction, on how to re-ignite the power center of your brain = your thoughts.  (Appointments only- call 678) 920-2608).

Philippians 4:8 is considered to be one of the most powerful and healing verses in the Bible as it gives instruction on how to begin taking control of your moment to moment thoughts, so that with the help of God, you can take more control over your behaviors. 

Neuroscience teaches that every time you have a thought, negative or positive, your brain releases chemicals.  Thoughts truly do influence your life and the choices you make! Think about that……..if you focus on negative thoughts and believe them 100% as truth, then you act as if the lies in your head are true……but if you focus on positive thoughts, healing begins.

In the last 40 years, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has developed = the correction of negative thoughts…………… God knows what He’s doing……..and this is an effective treatment for anxiety, depression, relationship problems and yes, even for addictions with a proper team of intervention.

To schedule an appointment for assessment of your specific needs, call 678) 920-2608.

Resources taken from Uppers, Downers, All Arounders: Physical & Mental Effects of Psychoactive Drugs, 8th edition, by Darryl S. Inaba, Pharm.D. & William E. Cohen (2014).


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