July 2016

WARNING: Teens + “Antidepressants” = DANGER

k8510645Depression is an almost universal experience; it is a natural consequence of broken lives living in a broken world with broken and inadequate support. Today’s teenagers are no more immune than any other age group. They are at a high risk with the myriad unique stressors they experience in their stage of development. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that in 2014, an estimated 2.8 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode or visited an alcohol treatment center; this equates to 11.4% of the U.S. population aged 12 to 17. How is our culture treating this issue? Some receive psychotherapy. Some “…lead lives of quiet desperation”.  Far too many are prescribed psychotropic drugs—specifically, the drugs marketed as “antidepressants”.

A new study published by The Lancet exposed the reality behind “antidepressant” medication and how it measured up against an inactive placebo (sugar pill): “Most drugs treating kids and teens suffering major depression are majorly ineffective – and even dangerous.” This study collected data on 34 trials with 5260 participants and 14 different psychiatric drugs marketed as antidepressants (note that the term antidepressant is not a scientific term, but a marketing term). The drugs in this study included: amitriptyline, citalopram, clomipramine, desipramine, duloxetine, escitalopram, fluoxetine, imipramine, mirtazapine, nefazodone, nortriptyline, paroxetine, sertraline, and venlafaxine. The results of this meta-analysis are far more than disappointing; they are alarming. The conclusion was that only Fluoxetine (marketed as Prozac—the first SSRI) somewhat helped—barely more than a sugar-pill—while all the other medications actually caused more damage than good. It should be noted that Fluoxetine was barely better than placebo and required multiple advantages (i.e., cheats) to achieve statistical significance.

The authors wrote: “When considering the risk-benefit profile of antidepressants in the acute treatment of major depressive disorder, these drugs do not seem to offer a clear advantage for children and adolescents.” This is a striking admission, when physicians across the country are prescribing these drugs with such alarming frequency.


Teenage brains do not respond or react to psychiatric drugs exactly the same way an adult brain does. For a teenager, the danger is much greater. The adolescent brain responds in more deleterious ways, including more frequent suicide attempts and more successful suicides—despite having less access to lethal means than adults.
The fact is, there is a proven increased risk of teen suicide after begin antidepressants treatment. The FDA uses the most severe warning label on antidepressants called “black box” because they are aware of how great the increase of suicide and suicide attempts are in children and teenagers. It boggles the mind when one realizes that there are many approaches to treating depression that are far safer and far more effective. Of course, psychotherapy is one. Exercise is another. Improving diet and sleep are another. Religion/spiritual focus and involvement is another. Meditation/mindfulness, improving relationships, changing lifestyle, and dozens of alternatives exist that can fundamentally heal the truly depressed person. Is there really a necessity to risk a child’s life just for the convenience that comes from a mythical magic pill?  There are pills that one can get addicted to and experts from Help 4 Addiction can help overcome the issue.

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Children’s Personality Traits of Intelligence

Researchers have been attempting for decades to identify which personality traits correlate to higher intelligence, particularly in children. A compilation of studies by a dozen or so researchers, including Justin Kruger, David Dunning, and Zoher Ali, found eight personality traits that correlate to higher intelligence scores:

  • A child’s perseverance and flexibility allows for your child to thrive and adapt to new environments, as well as build an arsenal of coping mechanisms to deal with adverse situations.
  • Intellectual Humility. Children who understand and acknowledged how much they don’t know open the door to a strong self-image because they are not afraid of being wrong or temporarily ignorant. The thought that one can always learn what one doesn’t know and that one does not always need to know everything is exceptional.
  • Childhood intelligence and openness to experience go hand in hand, which allows oneself to be fascinated and excited about learning or finding out an answer. These children are intellectual sponges.
  • This allows a child to seek out alternative viewpoints, always weighing the pros and cons. This makes them less likely to make impulsive decisions. Being open-minded is not akin to being susceptible or gullible; it simply allows a child to hear all the options before making a decision.
  • Enjoying one’s own company. This is not to suggest that children who do not have friends or play with others are more intelligent; rather, children can be on their own and be content spending time by themselves. Alone-time promotes spontaneous thought, imagination, and mindfulness.
  • Strong self-control. Without cognitive self-control, impulsivity becomes the hobgoblin of success. When a child has the skills to resist, stop, and consider the best options at hand, it inevitably reflects strong intelligence. Children with this executive function solve difficult problems and can make complex, hard decisions.
  • Sense of humor. A witty sense of humor reflects intelligence because it shows a greater understanding of situations and an ability to create a positive out of what could be frustrating and stressful states. It is also one of the stronger coping mechanisms.
  • Children who can take another’s perspective are sensitive to other people’s experiences, and they can essentially put themselves in other’s shoes. This reflects strong emotional intelligence.

Parents reading-childare wise to allow and create time for children to explore and follow the meandering paths their own curiosity takes them. They must be provided the space to be able to experiment. Children need guidance, of course; modeling the aforementioned traits will provide an excellent opportunity for them to mimic and copy those traits.

Intelligence is far more than academic prowess; it is the natural set of life skills that blossoms from exploration, experiences, opportunities, guidance and support.

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Warning about Virtual Violence and Children

What is your child’s “media diet”? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) investigated what the average “media diet” looks like for a child in the US: how much television children watch and how much of that is violent in nature.  The results they found in their 2009 study were shocking:

  • The average American watches about five hours of TV per day.BB13
  • A typical hour of TV consists of six different violent exchanges.
  • 70 percent of children’s programs contain violence.
  • 91 percent of video games that are labeled as appropriate for 10-year-olds include significant, often graphic Game_controllerviolence.
  • In spite of a “Mature” label, numerous children in grades 4-12 play video games that have substantial graphic violence.

This is shocking, especially when one considers the dire consequences evaluated by the AAP: “A sizable majority of media researchers both in pediatrics and psychology believe that existing data show a significant link between virtual violence and aggression.”

So far the AAP is taking steps to ensure that children have less access to violent media. Furthermore, the AAP is addressing the entertainment industry about their violent content, requesting that it be better controlled, monitored, as well as created with caution. The unfortunate reality is that three out of four children have access to a smart phone, which creates an additional, more private avenue for children to absorb disturbing media. Pediatric researchers from Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Stanford University highlight this, suggesting that with a smart phone, a child has more access to watch others commit violence, share violence, and even record themselves doing violent things (both real and fictional).


Here is what the AAP suggest you can do as a parents to protect your children:

  • Gain awareness.
  • Request your pediatrician help your family navigate the effects of virtual violence on your children.
  • Co-view games and movies with your kids.
  • Make a media plan for your family.
  • Protect children under age ten from all violent media.
  • Encourage friendships with parents who have similar boundaries and limits regarding media.

Elements of Shiny Media Buttons VectorBe the benevolent Chief Social Engineer of your family. Just as you wouldn’t allow your child to ingest poison orally, you must protect  your children from the moral and visual poison that is available to so many children.

For more information: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/pediatrics-groups-issues-warning-virtual-violence-children/story?id=40663989


Finding the Perfect Balance

Everyone needs to have healthy relationships, especially friendships. What do your children’s relationships look like? Is your child isolated most of the time? Do they have lots of friends? How about friends on social media? All these are questions that as parents we think about, but is there cause for worry?

Social Media

With some kids, you name it they have it: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat; but how many real friends do they have? What do they generally do when they are using their social media accounts? Do they appear troubled by missing out on posts made by their friends on social media? These conversations are important to have with your children.


First, pre-teens should not have access to any of these. Just as 16-year-olds are barely capable of driving safely and have the worst driving records, pre-teens are simply unable to navigate the highly complex, deeply consequential world of social media. For reasonably responsible teens, check in with them to see how they are managing, then offer support.

Professor Sonia Lupien, PhD, found that “although the stress hormone cortisol decreased for teens who engaged in liking friends’ posts and sharing supportive messages, it increased for teens who have more than 300 friends”. Cortisol is the stress hormone that controls changes that occur in the body in response to stress. Too much cortisol is asking for trouble. Dr. Lupien discovered that the development of depression later in life for kids ages 12-17 was strongly correlated with those who feel overwhelmed by their perceived obligations to their perceived friends on social media.


The other dangerous side of the social coin is isolation. Having friends is essential to one’s physical health; the benefits appear to start early in life, as reported by a recent study of 14,000 Americans by Dr. Kathleen Mullan Harris, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina. She found that social isolation in adolescence clearly raised the risk of physiological distress and symptoms of disease (including inflammation, which often leads to hypertension).

Be interested and aware of who your children’s friends are, how they interact with their friends, and don’t forget to ask them how they are managing daily stress! The most important tool for adolescents in learning how to manage stress: modeling. Manage stress healthily yourself and your children will follow in your footsteps.

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Pregnancy & Psychiatric Drugs

0b7c0650892ac67d296f1667952937d6Many women who take antidepressants (remember, this is a marketing term, not a scientific term) struggle with the decision to continue or wean off of their Prozac, Zoloft, or Lexapro if they become pregnant. Of course, each situation is unique and should be made with an informed health care professional. One of the challenges involves getting the most accurate information and education about the effects of your medication and the effects it will have on the developing child.

In a recent study by Dr. Bryan King, a child psychiatrist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, data were collected from 145,500 pregnancies in Quebec; the researchers followed the babies for ten years. This study found that the children of women who were taking antidepressant medication (specifically SSRI’s like Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa) while pregnant had a significantly higher chance of having a child with autism. The researchers found that mothers who used these drugs during the second or third trimester were particularly vulnerable to a greater chance of Autistic Spectrum Disorder in their child. Here is the residential treatment programs at Renaissance Recovery that you can check out to get help with overcoming addiction.

Researchers believe that the potential damage may be due to the drug sparking imbalances of serotonin—one of the neurotransmitters babies need for healthy brain development (antidepressant medication floods synapses with serotonin and can pass through the placental wall, effecting the developing fetus).

Simply understanding these potential consequences does not necessarily mean that stopping psychiatric medication is the best decision. Because depression can be extremely debilitating and going off of any psychiatric drug can be very difficult, doing so without proper guidance and supervision can wreak utterly devastating consequences. Each woman must make the best decision for herself; however, not necessarily by herself.

Psychotherapy is a far safer and more effective treatment for depressive and anxiety symptoms; psychotherapy with a skilled clinician is at least as effective in treating and managing the “slings and arrows” of life when compared to psychiatric drugs, which have common and often debilitating side effects.

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