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Drugs Effects on the brain

Joel started using alcohol and marijuana in 7th grade. By 10th grade, he was buying prescription painkillers, including OxyContin, at school. He says he used drugs to escape pressures to perform in classes and sports. Before long, he needed more and more of the pills to get high. Joel was addicted.

Hear Joel's words
Read Joel's words

Whether drugs or chemicals are bought on the street, in the hallways at school, or are taken from your medicine cabinet at home, any drug use can lead to trouble.

Addiction is an illness of the brain. Dr. H. Westley Clark, Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, SAMHSA and Dr. Howard Shaffer, Director of the Division on Addictions, Cambridge Health Alliance, Harvard Medical School, explain the effects of drugs on the brain:

How does repeated drug use harm the brain?
Hear what Dr. Clark and Dr. Shaffer say about how repeated drug use harms the brain.
Read what Dr. Clark and Dr. Shaffer say about how repeated drug use harms the brain.

What is drug tolerance?
Hear Dr. Shaffer explain tolerance.
Read Dr. Shaffer's explanation of tolerance.

Eventually, Joel's best friend decided to tell Joel's parents about his drug use. Joel agreed to go to rehab. Recovery from addiction is hard. Joel stays clean with the support of his family, belief in a higher power, and by attending 12-step meetings.

Twelve-step recovery programs provide a support system that help people stay drug-free for the rest of their lives. "In those kinds of settings," says Dr. Shaffer, "people meet other people who have been through all the struggles that they've had, or are having, and understand these problems with precision. They can provide thoughtful, helpful, and supportive ways to stay drug-free, and people find that comforting."

Remember: Kids who learn a lot about the risks of drugs at home are half as likely as their peers to try or use drugs. So talk often and openly with your kids. Avoid falling into the trap of thinking that only other people's kids use drugs.

Some of the drugs that Joel abused are taken legally by people who need them to relieve pain. But there's nothing safe about taking drugs that are prescribed for someone else. Using drugs in ways a doctor didn't prescribe is dangerous.

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