Psych Central

Bullying: A Problem That Starts and Ends at Home

By David Sack, M.D.

Bullying: A Problem That Starts and Ends at HomeUnless it’s happening to your child, you probably haven’t given bullying a lot of thought. A bold Wisconsin town is trying to change that by hitting parents where it counts: in the pocketbook. Under the town’s “parent liability” approach, parents of bullies who do not cooperate with authorities in addressing their child’s behavior can be fined up to $177 for each instance of intimidation or abuse.

While this approach sends a strong anti-bullying message, it has left the rest of the nation asking: Are parents to blame if their child is a bully? If so, is punishment the best way to get parents’ attention?

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4 Failed Attempts to Crack Down on Prescription Drug Abuse (and Their Unintended Consequences)

By David Sack, M.D.

4 Failed Attempts to Crack Down on Prescription Drug Abuse (and Their Unintended Consequences) Prescription drug abuse is finally showing signs of stabilizing. Some believe this gradual decline is the result of government efforts to crack down on the abuse of prescribed medications. At first glance, this may seem to be so. It appears that the war against prescription drugs is heating up but so far, all it has done is punish those who legitimately need medication and drive addicts to riskier drugs like heroin. The following examples suggest that, as a nation, we still do not have the right attitude about addiction that will enable us to develop effective treatments and policies:

#1 Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs

Most states have a prescription drug monitoring program, a registry of every individual prescribed a controlled substance, which generates reports of suspicious behavior when a patient obtains prescriptions from multiple doctors or multiple pharmacies in a given month. These efforts, while well-intentioned, may deter doctors from prescribing medications for legitimate uses to treat people with chronic or severe pain. Fearful of a time-consuming investigation that could jeopardize their professional license and reputation, many doctors are no longer willing to prescribe painkillers even when there is clear medical necessity.

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Fools Rush In: 5 Risks of Teens Dating Too Early

By David Sack, M.D.

Fools Rush In: 5 Risks of Teens Dating Too EarlyBy the time most children enter middle school their parents are starting to realize they’re not little kids anymore. They’re not quite teenagers yet, either. Regardless, many are playing the part, wearing makeup, spending hours on Facebook and, much to their parents’ dismay, asking to go on dates.

Conventional wisdom says there’s no “right” age to start dating – it depends on the child’s maturity. But new research suggests there is probably a “wrong” age to start dating: middle school. If your pre-teen is in pursuit of a junior-high romance, make sure you’ve talked with them about these five risks:

#1 Drug Use – Building on a large body of research, a recent study from the University of Georgia found children who date in middle school use alcohol and marijuana twice as much as their peers who hold off on dating until high school. The more time teens spend with a love interest, the more likely they are to use drugs. Those most at risk for substance abuse are girls who date boys two or more years older than them.

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When Good Friends Have Bad Habits

By David Sack, M.D.

When Good Friends Have Bad Habits“Here’s to good friends,” the old beer commercial begins, as glasses are raised and smiles are exchanged all around.

Indeed, good friends are something to toast. Having a close social network, studies have found, can help you ward off everything from depression to colds. You’ll even live longer.

Why? We are programmed to thrive in groups. It’s in our genes. Stress levels are lower when we have friends to provide support, and that leads to better heart health and fewer immune problems. Researchers also theorize that friends discourage us from unhealthy choices, such as smoking and excessive drinking.

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Smart Kids, Big Problems

By David Sack, M.D.

Smart Kids, Big ProblemsAs parents, we all hope to win the genetic lottery and produce a child with good looks, a pleasant disposition and the smarts to succeed. While intelligence is indeed a blessing, it comes with a few caveats. Despite having brains and talent, some of the smartest kids face serious problems, leaving their parents wondering, “What happened? He/she had so much potential.”

As it turns out, it may be because they have natural intelligence and talent that the brightest kids sometimes struggle more than the average child. If you’ve been blessed with a brainy child, here are a few issues that might require extra attention:

#1 Drug Use

Research shows that children with a high IQ may be more likely to experiment with illegal drugs later in life than less intellectually gifted kids. While intelligence isn’t generally considered a risk factor for addiction in the same way as family history or mental illness, the study uncovered some striking associations. For example, boys who had high IQ scores at age 5 were about 50 percent more likely than boys with a low IQ to have used amphetamines, ecstasy and other illegal drugs at age 30. Brainy 5-year-old girls were more than twice as likely to have used marijuana and cocaine as those with low IQ scores at age 30.

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Don’t Drink and … Walk? How Alcohol Affects Even This Basic Task

By David Sack, M.D.

Don’t Drink and ... Walk? How Alcohol Affects Even This Basic TaskMost people recognize the dangers of drinking and driving. In the spirit of responsibility, some then decide to ride a bike home, or better yet, hoof it after a night of drinking. But is drinking and walking much safer?

Overall, the number of pedestrian deaths is on the rise. Whereas the number of deaths from traffic accidents has decreased since 2002, the percentage of pedestrian fatalities has grown by 3 percent. Part of this increase may be attributable to alcohol, as more than one-third of pedestrians killed in 2011 had blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels above the legal driving limit (.08).

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5 Reasons to Refuse an Addiction Treatment (and 5 Reasons Not to)

By David Sack, M.D.

During drug rehab, dozens of different therapies may be incorporated into a treatment plan. If you’ve done your research and chosen a reputable rehab center, it’s best to keep an open mind and trust the advice of your treatment team. But there are a few instances when you may want to do your own research, get a second opinion or even decline a certain treatment:

#1 The Treatment Isn’t Backed by Research
Thanks to a growing body of research, we have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t in the treatment of addiction. Even with this knowledge, a surprising number of treatment centers use interventions that are not backed by research. In fact, a five-year study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University found that most people receiving treatment for addiction “do not receive anything that approximates evidence-based care.”

Psychosocial therapies, medication, nutrition and exercise, and self-help support groups are a few examples of effective components of a comprehensive treatment plan. Newer therapies that haven’t been around long enough to be thoroughly studied also may be worth trying, especially if they have very little potential to do harm.

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The Top 3 Designer Drugs You Need to Know About Before Your Child Tries Them

By David Sack, M.D.

The Top 3 Designer Drugs You Need to Know About Before Your Child Tries Them Teenagers are natural experimenters, but there are some drugs that put them at grave risk even if they try them just once. Although grisly media reports of psychotic episodes and gruesome acts of violence have made it difficult to differentiate horror from hysteria, in the case of “designer drugs” much of the hype is worth heeding.

What Are ‘Designer’ Drugs?

Chemists are always engineering new drugs, some of which are used to save lives by treating cancer and other illnesses; others are designed for less savory purposes, namely to get high. In this context, so-called “designer drugs” are concocted in underground labs to mimic the effects of controlled substances. Consumers of these specially designed drugs are typically youth in their teens to early thirties, who purchase them at raves, clubs, head shops and convenience stores, as well as online.

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7 Honest Reasons Why Addicts Lie

By David Sack, M.D.

7 Honest Reasons Why Addicts LieAddicts tell lies more often than they tell the truth. “I’m not hurting anyone.” “I can stop any time.” Deception becomes so second nature, addicts will lie even when it’s just as easy to tell the truth. Many don’t even realize they’re fibbing or that other people see through the façade. Living a double life is exhausting, so why do addicts lie?

#1 To Preserve Their Addiction

An addict will do whatever is necessary to maintain their addiction. If they acknowledged the seriousness of the problem or the harm they’re causing themselves and others, they would be hard-pressed to continue this way of life. Their logic, whether conscious or unconscious, is: I need drugs, and I need lies to keep people off my back so I can continue using drugs. Thus, lying becomes a matter of self-preservation. Anything, or anyone, that is going to hinder their drug habit has no place in the addict’s life.

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Home Detox: What’s The Worst That Could Happen?

By David Sack, M.D.

doctor taking blood pressureDo-it-yourself detox programs make lofty promises, assuring addicts they can get clean ultra-fast, ultra-cheap. While easy fixes are difficult to resist, especially when it comes to a challenge as great as addiction, anyone who promises a painless, quick and permanent transition from addict to non-addict is deluded about the nature of this disease.

Detox, the process of eliminating drugs and alcohol from the body, is the first step toward recovery. For all our disagreements, one of the areas in which addiction specialists are nearly unanimous is that drug detox should take place in a licensed detox facility where the process is monitored and supervised by medical professionals.

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