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Posted by Susan on 14 September 2014.

We all know that addiction to drugs and/or alcohol can have detrimental affects on the addict's mental and physical health. Long term abuse can lead to a damaged brain and liver as well as a damaged life. This is particularly true in brain development if the addiction started in adolescents. Recently I have been reading some articles that say the adolescent's emotional development stops at the time when their addiction begins. Others believe this to be untrue, while of course they do not deny the developing brain is damaged, the damage maybe restored since the brain continues to develop until 24 years of age. I certainly hope that the damaged can be repaired because this is my latest fear for my son.

I have been trying to research more on the damage caused to the developing brain, yet when I do it is hard to ascertain exactly what damage my son may have done to his brain since he has been using natural opium in tea form for many years, not heroin, and most of the research on brain development and substance abuse in teens are centred around cannabis and/or alcohol. Also he has been using so many other drugs, most of them depressants, that I imagine that would make the damage more likely to happen. I am familiar with the risks these combinations have, primarily on respiration, and can cause death by respiratory failure, but not so much about what it is doing to his brain.

My concern recently was my son's mental health due to brain development and possible damage. Now I wonder if it is mostly chemically induced, and temporary, sine the behaviour I was concerned about the past week (being extremely withdrawn, placid, not eating, etc) changed dramatically yesterday because his substance changed. Apparently he took some buprenorphine which he was stashing away when he was on the drug replacement program, and when I commented to my son how I had been concerned the few days because he was so withdrawn but now he is aggressive again, he confessed that that is because he was heavily sedated on several different depressants the last week. However, even with her mood swings, there seems to be an underlying  feeling of "something is not quite right" with him any more. Of course this is not even mentioning that even the most "healthiest" of use would start to develop some signs of mental health issues if we had virtually no one to talk to, no social interaction, no life outside of our bedrooms etc!

Despite how the different substances alter may son's temporary behaviour, I am still concerned what long term damage he has done to himself. Not only on his brain development, but on his emotional development since he has lead a very unnatural adolescence and therefore I fear that my son has not developed as he "should have", which in turn makes it even harder for him to deal with the fear of changing his life from what has been his norm all of his adolescence.

Habit and the Hard Wiring of the Brain
As self help gurus are quick to point out, if you do something for long enough it becomes automatic. Nowhere does this wisdom more hold true than in adolescence. Though teens may change clothes, ideas, friends and hobbies with maddening frequency, they are developing ideas about themselves, their world and their place in it that will follow them for the rest of their lives. Adults may spend years trying to create or break even the simplest habit, yet most adults find that their most profound ideas about themselves and the world were developed in high school or college. This is because, by age 25 or so the brain is fully developed and building new neural connections is a much slower process.
- See more at:

Maybe there is still hope since he is only 18!


14 Sep 2014

Hi Susan,

I'm sorry about your son, but the information you found is a very interesting read.  The Icarus Trust may be able to help you, or put you in touch with someone who knows the answers.  You can pop them an email on

Best wishes and I hope he isn't like this for much longer.

14 Sep 2014

Thank you Icarus_Trust! I have been blogging about our life with addiction for about a year now and it helps me to research and try to understand, as well as to use it as a tool to help others and for me to try to make sense of it all. If you are interested in more posts it is :

I also have a Facebook page: Trying to Survive Addiction Within the Family
It is mostly to give inspiration to others suffering in one way or another with addiction. I have shared your website on that page for I have not heard of it before and it looks very interesting.
I will also speak to my son and see how he would feel about seeking some help.
Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment, it is much appreciated.

24 Sep 2014

No problem Susan.  I will share your page and blog on our Facebook and Twitter to help spread the word for you.

24 Sep 2014

That is wonderful, thank you Icarus Trust! I have looked your service up and it looks very interesting, my son and I have tried a few agencies, but until he wants the help it is very difficult to seek recovery! I can only keep telling my story and hope that their is purpose in it somehow!

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