Archive for the ‘Drugs’ Category

Blue Genes

May 10, 2010

Yes one can have a genetic predisposition to depression, but what might it mean that those genes developed long before our modern conceptualization of depression?

I know that I seem to have a bit of that lugubrious shaman blood, that tendency toward black Russian despair and a taste for Kafka and Munch as rather funny gentlemen.  I know that my paternal grandfather was prone to brooding silence and violent outbursts, a supposedly remote, even cold, man who I never knew but nevertheless suspect would have been up for some good chats and dark laughs—that we would have somehow “gotten” each other.

That grandfather, I know, also had electro-shock therapy—one of the first to get it in Chicago in the 30s.  Whatever that grandfather “had,” I know that my father feared getting it (and perhaps that’s why there is so much he never “got,” at least not yet).  He had years of psychotherapy, and once anti-depressants came on the scene he was on those; I’m told they helped, but I’m not sure I see the evidence.

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April 20, 2010

Nearly fifty years after Timothy Leary, who evangelized hallucinogenic experience as part of the hippy generation (which was, arguably, a failed social movement that ended up more as a bacchanal than a New Age) there is renewed interest in psychedelics for emotional, psychological and spiritual purposes.

A recent article in the New York Times, “Hallucinogens Have Doctors Tuning In Again,” was intriguing on a number of levels.  In safely controlled and comfortable laboratory settings, patients with conditions such as intractable depression were given psychedelic mushrooms, and came back from their “trips” changed beings.

Dr. Clark Martin, a retired psychologist ailing with depression in the context of kidney cancer reported, “All of a sudden, everything familiar started evaporating.  Imagine you fall off a boat out in the open ocean, and you turn around, and the boat is gone. And then the water’s gone. And then you’re gone.”

More than a year after his single six-hour experience, Martin credits it with “helping him overcome his depression and profoundly transforming his relationships with his daughter and friends. He ranks it among the most meaningful events of his life, which makes him a fairly typical member of a growing club of experimental subjects.”

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Eating Issues: Breakfast at Tiffany’s… dinner at home

February 4, 2010

At some point I went from seeing Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s as an idealized anima to realizing that she (or at least her character) was an anorexic woman in a hat with a lot of issues (after all, Holly Golightly is essentially a self-involved prostitute who is ashamed of her uneducated hillbilly roots—a lost kitty in a rainstorm and someone who needs treatment more than a lover).

Given that body image, weight-loss obsession and eating issues are legion in our culture, I thought Privilege of Parenting would take a plate and get in line at the buffet.  My focus is on the parenting aspects of eating disorders (an excellent place to read and learn more about anorexia in a New York Times Health Guide on the subject which also has links to Bulimia, and other eating disorder sites).

I think that most of us get the general gist that anorexia is about dangerous levels of weight loss while bulimia is about eating and purging via vomiting, over-exercising or laxatives/diuretics.  A less well known, but more frequently diagnosed acronym is EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified); in this case some people, when given this less severe diagnosis, will actually go further in their extreme non-eating to, for example, stop getting their period and thus qualify for the full diagnosis of anorexia.  For more on this see a recent New York Times story on EDNOS, “Narrowing an Eating Disorder.”

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Import/Export—Depression’s now big in Japan

January 25, 2010

I caught an interview recently on “Marketplace” where Kai Ryssdal talks with Ethan Watters about his book, Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche.

Watters’ thesis is that mental illness is culturally determined, and that big drug companies have systematically worked to change the way other cultures view melancholy, for example, in order to sell them anti-depressant medications.  He cites Japan as a place where melancholy was successfully reframed as depression, with one anti-depressant climbing to a billion in annual sales once the new paradigm of depression was successfully imported.

Watters claims to not be patently anti-drug companies, mentioning that his wife is a psychiatrist and acknowledging that these medications can, and should, be used to alleviate suffering; mostly he suggests that a diverse perspective on so-called mental illness would be unfortunate to lose in the wake of homogenizing globalization.

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Problems with Pot

January 11, 2010

A reader inquires about helping a thirteen-year-old boy who has “stopped participating in organized sports, grades are not great anymore, he’s lying about his activities, and only wants to hang out with his friends (playing video games, riding bikes).  His mom recently found weed in his room.  She is just at her wits end on how to help him (and her) get through the next few years…

Any good advice on how to make sure this mom can stay connected to her child, honor his need to individuate, but keep him safe too?”


Whether the weed is the problem, or merely a symptom of the problem, my sense is that this is where our initial focus is best directed.

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To Medicate or Not to Medicate?

October 21, 2009

fruit by the footThis is a big question that often comes up when I’m consulting with parents about their kids:  should they be on medications?  Firstly, let me say that as a psychologist, I do not prescribe meds and this is not my area of expertise.  However, I do work closely with psychiatrists to coordinate the psychotherapy aspects of treatment, and I can speak to the dilemma that many parents face on this issue.

There are a lot of mixed messages floating around these days with regard to medications.  On the one hand I commonly hear the sentiment that kids are over-medicated, and that many kids who don’t really need meds are on them.  On the other hand I often hear the sentiment that the right kid on the right medication benefits tremendously in certain cases.  Most of what I hear, however, is that it’s a mixed bag where positive effects are sometimes found, and sometimes seem to ebb away again, while side-effects sometimes seem either a necessary evil, or in some cases a disaster worse than the original problem.

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Search for spirit—from the sippy cup to beer pong

October 20, 2009

grape leavesBack in August I was touched by a piece in the New York Times Sunday Styles section titled “A Heroine Of Cocktail Moms Sobers Up.”  It was about writer, comic and mommy-blogger Stephanie Wilder-Taylor whose titles include “Sippy Cups Are Not For Chardonnay,” and “Naptime is the New Happy Hour,” confessing that she realized that despite the great opportunities for humor in her drinking, she had a problem with it and, because she loves her girls so much, she decided to quit drinking (to read the piece see:

As synchronicity might have it, I visited her blog today to see how she was doing and her title was “Happy Report” about how not drinking has definitely been a good thing—and it was a beautiful post about the simple and beautiful gift that being present to our kids brings back to ourselves (

Having worked with many people with substance issues, I was also thinking about a recent story I heard about college partying—told by a young man who, being in recovery, was a pair of sober eyes on the festivities.  These included a bus to a restaurant where a number of kids puked on the bus, followed by a lot of puking at the restaurant, including on the tables, finished up with drinking back at that house where at least one boy blacked out and went into convulsions.  This is not uncommon in what I hear about the young party circuit, where ambulances are more than rarely summoned to intervene when alcohol poisoning besets yet another partier.

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