Presentations to an audience of almost 250 people by Dr. Jean Clinton and local speakers on May 6th offered helpful information about marihuana, medicine and alcohol use, risky behaviour and exploring the teenage brain.
Both Ron Shore and QW OPP David Luddington identifed that Canadian youth are the largest group of cannibis users in the developed world.
Other examples of common teenage risks are not wearing seatbelts/bicycle helmets, distracted driving, binge drinking, tobacco use and unprotected sex.
Dr. Clinton told us that from the ages of 12 to 25+, adolescent brains are still growing and maturing. And although genes play a large part in brain development . . . “the brain is sculpted by a lifetime of experiences”.
While the majority of adolescents do well, far too many engage in excessive risk-taking and impulsive behaviours due to the fact that the back of the brain which favours sensory and physical activities develops sooner that the frontal lobes which “allow one to regulate emotions, solve problems effectively and plan behaviour.”
Dr. Clinton explained that many teens like to take risks because it’s fun and they’re very good at hyper-rationalizing that nothing bad will happen. In spite of their growing autonomy, teens need “more of our time, not less.” Praise for effort and good feedback encourages motivation, growth and resiliency. Which is why Dr. Clinton believes that our youth need to see our “eyes light up” when they enter a room.
This event was made richer by “Kenny”, a gifted and multi-talented individual, who shared his struggles as a youth with alcoholism, and described how he managed to overcome a recurring pattern of self-destructive behaviour with the help of significant people in his life who supported and believed in him.
For copies of presentations and links to resources, please visit the Harm Reduction Task Force blog.