Adolescent substance abuse is a major public health problem, particularly given the negative brain and behavioral consequences that often occur during and following acute intoxication. Negative outcomes appear to be especially pronounced when substance use is initiated in the early adolescent years, perhaps due to neural adaptations that increase risk for substance use disorders into adulthood. Recent models to explain these epidemiological trends have focused on brain-based vulnerabilities to use as well as neurodevelopmental aberrations associated with initiation of use in substance naïve samples or through the description of case-control differences between heavy users and controls. Within this research, adolescent alcohol and marijuana users have shown relative decreases in regional gray matter volumes, substance-specific alterations in white matter volumes, deviations in microstructural integrity in white matter tracts that regulate communication between subcortical areas and higher level regulatory control regions, and deficits in functional connectivity. How these brain anomalies map onto other types of youth risk behavior and later vulnerabilities represent major questions for continued research. This special issue addresses these compelling and timely questions by introducing new methodologies, empirical relationships, and perspectives from major leaders in this field.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Work on this issue was supported in part by grant AA020033 awarded to M. Luciana and by AA023658 awarded to S. Feldstein Ewing by the United States National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health .
© 2015 The Authors
- Substance use, MRI