Adolescent Neurocognitive Development and School-Based Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment

  • Pallav PokhrelEmail author
  • David S. Black
  • Admin Zaman
  • Nathaniel R. Riggs
  • Steve Sussman


Drug use often begins during adolescence and continues into adulthood. Adolescence is marked by several key development-related changes, including neurocognitive changes. Throughout adolescence, the brain is undergoing structural changes that are likely to correspond to the changes occurring in cognitive function. Cognitive abilities, particularly those associated with self-control and self-regulation, are not fully developed until late adolescence or early adulthood. Conversely, novelty-seeking tendencies seem to increase significantly during adolescence. Thus, due to higher levels of novelty seeking and poorer abilities to control impulses and make protective decisions, adolescents are vulnerable to initiate drug use or develop drug use dependence and co-morbid mental health disorders. Schools are a setting in which many adolescents can be reached with drug use prevention and treatment programs. In this chapter we highlight the relevance of schools as a setting for adolescent drug use prevention and treatment practices that attempt to address adolescents’ neurocognitive needs. We discuss some evidence from school-based as well as laboratory research that suggest that suitable training may improve the executive function of the adolescent brain, which may in turn have protective implications for adolescent drug use prevention and treatment. However, we note that a significant amount of future research is needed in order to refine such programs, incorporate them into school-based programming, and test their effects on neurocognition in large and diverse samples.


Neurocognition School-based Adolescents Prevention Treatment Cessation Social influence Psychological dependence Withdrawal Withdrawal symptoms 



This paper was supported by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (#s DA13814, DA016090, DA020138 and P50 DA16094).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pallav Pokhrel
    • 1
    Email author
  • David S. Black
    • 2
  • Admin Zaman
    • 2
  • Nathaniel R. Riggs
    • 2
  • Steve Sussman
    • 2
  1. 1.Prevention and Control Program, Cancer Research Center of HawaiiUniversity of HawaiiHonoluluUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Preventive Medicine and PsychologyInstitute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern CaliforniaAlhambraUSA

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