This is your teen brain on drugs: In search of biological factors unique to dependence toxicity in adolescence.

Journal Article (Journal Article;Review)

Response variability across the lifespan is an important consideration in toxicology and risk assessment, and the toxic effects of drugs and chemicals during adolescence need more research. This paper summarizes a workshop presented in March 2019, at the Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, that brought together experts in research on drug dependence and toxicity related to nicotine, cannabis, cocaine, and other illicit drugs during adolescence. The goal of the workshop was to address the following issues: (1) Do the effects of adolescent exposure differ from the same exposure in adults? (2) Are there unique biological markers of adolescent brain development? If so, what are they and how reliable are they? (3) Since multiple factors influence substance use disorder, can we disentangle risk factors for abuse and/or toxicity? What are the underlying biological susceptibilities that lead to dependence and neurotoxicity? What are the social, psychosocial and environmental factors that contribute to abuse susceptibilities? This paper reviews drug policy and national trends in adolescent substance use; the public health consequences of e-cigarettes; rat models of adolescent-onset nicotine self-administration and persisting effects of gestational nicotine; sex-dependent effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol on adolescent brain-behavior relationships; and translational approaches for identifying adolescent risk factors for transition to drug dependence. There is strong evidence that drug exposure prior to adulthood has longer lasting effects on behavior and the underlying neural circuitry. These effects, which are sex-dependent and influenced by stress, may be candidates as predictors of adolescent vulnerability. A major challenge to determining if adolescents have a unique susceptibility to dependence is whether and to what extent the human data allow distinction between the increased risk due to biological immaturity, an underlying biological susceptibility to dependence, or psychosocial and environmental factors for substance dependence. Factors important to consider for development of animal models include the timing and pattern of exposure as it relates to adolescence; age of assessment, and direct comparison with similar effects following exposures to adults to demonstrate that these effects are unique to adolescence. Here we provide a roadmap for further research into what makes adolescent brain development unique.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Kwan, LY; Eaton, DL; Andersen, SL; Dow-Edwards, D; Levin, ED; Talpos, J; Vorhees, CV; Li, AA

Published Date

  • September 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 81 /

Start / End Page

  • 106916 -

PubMed ID

  • 32698050

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1872-9738

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States