By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Diane Farthing explains the effect of drugs
Diane Farthing tells students something many already know: The reason people do drugs is because it feels good — even though the consequences are bad.
She asks students to join hands and form circles. She explains that the nervous system is composed of billions of cells called neurons that transmit impulses to other neurons. Students are assigned to play the role of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers), synapses, axons and dendrites to demonstrate how the nervous system works and they touch hands in rapid succession mimicking components of the brain transmitting information.
“Drugs can cause permanent changes within the neurotransmitters or receptors. People who use drugs may never feel normal again — even if they stop,” she tells students. “And your brain is still growing. Research shows the part of the brain responsible for judgment and impulse control is not fully developed by adolescence, so the teenage brain is more sensitive to the damaging effects from drugs. That can affect normal brain development and increases the risk of addiction.”
“Drugs activate the prefrontal cortex, which is the brain’s reward center,” explains Farthing. “But drinking and drugs can cause car accidents, which is the number one cause of death among teenagers. Being intoxicated can lead to bad decisions, such as having unprotected sex, that can lead to pregnancy or disease. You think ‘It won’t happen to me,’ because part of being a teenager is thinking that you are invincible.”