My name is Olivia Tennant and I am an upcoming senior at Clay-Battelle Middle/ High School. Being a GameChanger Peer Leader has been such an amazing experience. Each member on our team pledged to stay away from all substances and to support our school to do the same. The idea behind our Peer Leadership Team is to be healthy role models and show students and the community that a life without substances is both fulfilling and fun.
As an EMT student at my technical school, researching and studying healthcare has made me more aware of the physiological effects that substances have on your body and mind. I feel it is especially crucial for teens to understand what these substances are really doing to your developing brain.
The basal ganglia, located near the center of the human brain, plays an important role in positive forms of motivation as well as the formation of habits and routines. This area in the brain is sometimes called the brain’s “reward circuit”. Drugs over activate this circuit. Eventually, the circuit loses its sensitivity and it becomes almost impossible for the user to feel pleasure from anything but the drug. On the other hand, the extended amygdala does just the opposite. This part of the brain deals with feelings such as anxiety and stress which characterize withdrawal after the high fades away. Instead, this circuit becomes more sensitive with increased drug use. This neurochemical cocktail mixed with brain cell damage is a recipe for mental illness.
It is important for teens to know that although drug use causes damage to every brain, it is especially detrimental to the brain of a young person. Substance abuse puts your brain development on hold. Long-term effects of adolescent substance abuse include: inability to feel pleasure, memory problems, learning difficulty, and a decreased decision making ability. It is especially vital for teens who already have a mental illness to stay away from substances and get the help they need.
So what are some ways teenagers can maintain a healthy mind? Personally, one major thing that has positively impacted my life is my involvement with student organizations like GameChanger. Currently, I am a SkillsUSA WV State Officer and gold medalist for the EMT competition. As well as being a member of HOSA (Health Occupations Student Organization), Student Council, and Bible Club. These organizations have brought me out of my comfort zone, pushed me to grow in all areas of my life, and allowed me to make countless new friends and memories. I’d encourage every teen to get involved in GameChanger and other student organizations. My commitment to my organizations has helped me to stay productive and make healthy decisions.
In conclusion, resist substance misuse and keep your body and mind healthy!