Preventing toxicomania and addictive behaviour in adolescence

Psychiatria Danubina (Impact Factor: 1.3). 09/2013; 25 Suppl 2:S109-12.


Drug addicts are more and more stigmatized in our society. Recent data show a connection between substance abuse and other behaviors considered normal, such as passionate love. Adolescence is characterized by a biopsychosocial, cognitive and neurodevelopmental immaturity. This article aims to understand if these subjects are more likely to develop addictions to certain products or addictive behaviors such as passionate love. It also offers a better understanding of the current models for prevention of substance abuse during adolescence.

After defining the roles played, in the brain, by dopamine and by the reward circuit, as well as the different stages of development of the human brain, we compared neurobiological data and imaging studies both in cases of passionate love and substance addiction during adolescence.

The brain imaging studies highlight the role of the prefrontal cortex in the cognitive and behavioral aspects of the addictive phenomenon. Now, the maturation of the prefrontal cortex occurs during adolescence, as do significant peaks in the expression of dopamine. These studies also suggest an increase in cortical activation (nucleus accumbens and amygdala) when processing emotional information, which is also increased during adolescence.

Taken together, the results show a parallel between addiction and love relations, both at the level of neuroscience and imaging. A greater emotional lability and sensitivity may play a role in the higher incidence of substance abuse and dependence in love observed at this age. Preventing the use of illegal substances among young people therefore requires a very specific approach.

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