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Sleep Deprivation in Teens Linked to Potential of Addiction and Depression  

A study released by the University of Pittsburgh has revealed that teens that do not sleep an adequate amount are at a higher risk for addiction and depression.

Researchers Peter Franzen and Erika Forbes performed the study on a group of teens and pre-teens aged 11.5-15 years old. One half of the participants slept for 10 hours nightly during the study, while the other half slept for just four hours. After one week of that schedule, they returned to the lab to adopt the opposite sleep schedule for the remaining week of the study.

The findings showed that sleep deprivation affected the brain’s putamen—an area that is linked to “goal-based movements and learning from rewards.” Subjects that had more sleep experienced better judgment.

Subjects that had less sleep did not respond as well to rewards that were offered during the experiment, which indicated that their judgment was off, and that they were more prone to depression and risky behaviors that lead to addiction.

Teen Addiction: Looking at the Numbers

With studies such as Pitt’s making headlines, it is crucial that we examine further the epidemic of drug addiction in teens today. Teens are exposed to many more vulnerable situations in today’s world—and as a result, are being exposed to drugs and alcohol at a younger age than ever before.

In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data that teen overdose deaths were on the rise from previous years. The overdose death rate in teens increased by 20 percent in 2015.

The number of synthetic compounds of drugs such as opioids has become a larger factor in the staggering amount of overdoses taking place. The aforementioned report stated that drugs were becoming more potent—and therefore riskier.

The already-vulnerable teenage brain is subject to further risks in the case of substance abuse. Because the teenage brain is not fully developed, judgment processes can fall short in high-risk situations.

Teen alcohol and drug use can lead to lifelong complications, and can contribute to poor cognitive function, according to leading organizations in the field.

As we learn more about the effects of such typical teenage issues like sleep deprivation, the risk of addiction and mental health concerns returns to the forefront, and demands prevention and education.

By creating an open dialogue with children—as young as kindergarten age—we can reinforce healthy lifestyle habits and ensure that their questions are being answered with age-appropriate information.

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