Monday, September 22, 2008

Oxycontine Abuse May Lead Adolescents to Lifelong Addiction

No child wants to be a lifelong addict, but their brains might. Recently, researchers have revealed that adolescent brains exposed to oxycontin may sustain lifelong and permanent changes in their reward system, changes that increase the drug's euphoric properties and make such adolescents more vulnerable to the drug's effects later in adulthood.

During adolescence, the brain undergoes marked changes. For example, the brain's reward pathway increases production of dopamine receptors until mid-adolescence and then either production declines or numbers of receptors decline and by abusing Oxycontin during this developmental period, they may inadvertently trick the brain to keep more of those receptors than it really needs. If these receptors stick around and they are re-exposed to the drug as an adult, the rush of euphoria may be more addictive than the feeling experienced by adults who had never before tried the drug.

It is very scary that despite the early use of oxycontin on young people, little is known about how they differentially affect adolescent brains undergoing developmental change. This is a very good reason for us to keep our children away from oxycontin. We may think we're helping them, but this may actually destroy their lives in the future.


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