“Age of First Use?” What the Hell Does THAT Mean?

“Age of First Use?” What the Hell Does THAT Mean?

Go to any intake or assessment for drug and alcohol use, and one of the questions you’ll be asked is “What was your age of first use?”

The question might seem trivial. Because it’s when your use got problematic that is the concern, right? 

Yes. Right. And no. The age of first use (or first exposure, if we are talking about a behavior) is an important factor in the development of a substance use disorder or problematic use. 

Developing brains are vulnerable. And it takes brains a LONG time to develop fully. That means our brains are developing for 25 years (give or take.) The younger that brain is when it interacts with a substance or behavior, the more of an impact that interaction will have. That means:

a brain surrounded by ideas that would be found in a student's mind to reinforce how vulnerable that brain may be

The Impact of Early Exposure

  1. The more likely the “epigenetic switch” gets flipped and heritable factors may come into play. So, if you are predisposed to having a hyper response to psycho-active substances (or behaviors) and your first drink (or blunt, or porn) is early, your brain has less defense against a maladaptive response. It will be more likely to develop into a problem vs. just experiencing the effects of the use or fun of the behavior. 
  2. A brain that experiences porn (or alcohol, gambling, or weed) at 9 is going to have more difficulty managing that experience than if that same person’s first experience is at 19. At 19, while that brain is still not done developing, it has more connections and more neural stability and less vulnerability. A 9 year old brain is going to react with an exaggerated impact. The chances of a 9 year old developing into a problem with porn (alcohol, gambling, or weed) is far greater than waiting.

cards and dice to represent the early exposure and the impact age of first use has on the development of substance abuse

Please know I am not against alcohol, gambling, or weed. I’m not against porn, either, though I have problems with the mainstream porn industry. But I think we need to be informed consumers and informed parents (and educators.) There is a lot of credible, peer reviewed research supporting “wait” when it comes to weed. Alcohol is more toxic in the system, but normalized in our culture.

There is a myth that persists that we can “teach our kids to be responsible” by

  1. Modeling good behavior around social/recreational use and
  2. Allowing them to participate first in our company. I wrote about that myth here. 

a food and drink celebration

As always, if you’d like to know more about alcohol or drug use/misuse for you or someone you love, you can contact me. 

24618 Kingsland Blvd 2nd Floor, Room 8
Katy, TX 77494
On the left hand side of the CLS building

(281) 740-7563

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