Addiction and Delayed Development

There’s an old saying among recovering addicts and alcoholics that states: “When addiction starts, development stops.” This primarily refers to the emotional, mental and physical development of a person; meaning that if they are young and undeveloped when they begin using, they won’t progress in their development until they stop using again; if at all. Based on this theory, a person who starts using heavily at age 18 but then stops at age 30 will still be the developmental equivalent of an 18 year old. While this might seem a little far-fetched, there’s actually a significant amount of logic to this claim, including the empirical and anecdotal support of several independent studies.

The human brain is in a state of constant development until about age 25. Because drug use alters the neurological pathways in the brain, normal development is impeded as a result and can lead to significant learning disabilities. Depending upon the type of drug and the duration and severity of use, this impedance can be substantial. If normal development in the brain is delayed past the age of 25, then in theory the brain will not “turn back on” those neurological processes once a person is beyond this age, possibly leading to a lifetime of mental under-development.

Emotional development is also impeded by addiction, primarily because normal development based upon environmental, familial, social and other influences change dramatically because of the lifestyle associated with drug use at a young age. Feelings of insecurity, paranoia, poor self-esteem, anxiety, and identity issues caused by drug addiction often serve to cause a person to use even more, and family members sometimes can only watch in confusion as the person recedes even further into a drug-induced state of isolation. And because drug use is associated with increased incidences of violence and sexual assault, any emotional developmental disabilities caused by addiction can be significantly worsened with exposure to this dangerous type of lifestyle.

Addiction and delayed development is also a problem for the children of mothers who used drugs while pregnant. Drugs like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines and prescription pain killers cause physical dependence in vitro, resulting in babies who are born addicted to these substances. These babies often suffer from severe developmental problems, including low birth weight, underdeveloped lungs, low blood sugar levels, and difficulty meeting milestones like rolling over, sitting up, walking and talking.

Children born addicted to drugs generally suffer from learning and other disabilities when they are older, though it’s difficult to tell how much of this is related to the environments they are exposed to and how much is purely as a result of being born to an addicted mother. These children are also more likely to suffer from other conditions that can cause them to start using drugs later in life in order to self-medicate, including bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety.

Because of the risk of delayed development, young children and adults under the age of 25 are exposed to serious complications that could have lifelong implications as a result of addiction or alcoholism. If you know a person who is suffering from addiction  who needs help getting clean, please call the confidential hotline at our Florida Drug Rehab Center today. We will provide you with the guidance needed to help bring their addiction under control, but we can’t help if you don’t call.

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