VIRTUAL: Neurobiology of Addiction for Youth and Young Adults


Training Description:

This training focuses on the brain structures and systems involved in addiction, the role of learning in the addiction process, and the critical neurological differences between youth and adults. We will first review typical adolescent brain development and how substances can impact the brain’s reward pathway system, leading to addiction.  We will also discuss the impact of both adverse childhood experiences and mental health challenges on neurodevelopment.


We will then focus on the disease model of addiction (as defined by the medical community and evidenced by research), and the role that key regions of the brain play in the development of substance use disorders. We will discuss what takes place at the synaptic cleft when neurons are impacted by substances, and how this changes brain functioning in both the short-term and long-term.  Finally, we will review the implications of the neurobiology of addiction for youth and young adults in recovery and discuss ways that we can help support their recovery over time.

This training is aimed towards anyone working with youth and young adults; prior knowledge is not required


Objectives: Participants will be able to...

  • To identify the key neurobiological processes taking place during adolescence (the development of the reward system and prefrontal cortex, as well as synaptic refinement and myelination) and how introducing substances during this period can impact the development of neural pathways, possibly leading to addiction.
  • To understand how trauma (adverse childhood experiences) and emerging mental health disorders impact the neurobiology of youth and young adults and contribute to the development of substance use disorders.
  • To identify the key regions of the brain involved in addiction, and how each contributes: basal ganglia, amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and brain stem.
  • To understand how different substances (marijuana, cocaine, heroin, etc.) impact the reward pathway in the brain in different ways.
  • To identify strategies to help youth and young adults recover from the neurobiology of addiction, including those that address each of the key brain regions involved (basal ganglia, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex).
Led By
MA Department of Public Health, Bureau of Substance Addiction Services, Office of Youth and Young Adult Services, Institute for Health and Recovery, & AdCare Educational Institute, Inc
Event Type