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November 2010

My Participation in ADHD Expert Roundtable

by Barry Lessin

November 29th, 2010

I recently had the opportunity to participate as an expert contributor to an online "roundtable discussion" of ADHD at, the major website of Everyday Health, Inc., a leading online health company.

The bewildering array of information available about ADHD combined with the confusing set of symptoms and behaviors that are often seen in children with ADHD make it difficult for parents to decide what direction to take when there's concern that your child may have ADHD.

The multidisciplinary panel I was a part of had a chance to answer some important questions that will help you make better decisions about getting help for your child.

Here's a link to the roundtable.

No More Four Loko: A Great Opportunity for Parents?

by Barry Lessin

November 24th, 2010

The recent news about the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to pull caffeinated alcohol drinks such as Four Loko off the market triggers a mixed reaction for me.

Part of me gets annoyed at how the media approaches issues relating to the dangers of drinking or drug use among our children. There is often a focus on fanning the fears of parents about the various “dangers lurking out there” for our kids. It’s scary, but the reality is that if a teenager really wants to get high or drunk, they will often find a way to do so.

A bigger part of me is glad the media hypes it because it’s an excellent opportunity to hear what our kid’s have to say about the issue. Given the opportunity, they’ll express their (often strong) opinions about the various aspects of the issue—the government involvement angle, the beverage-marketing angle, how the beverage does or doesn’t impair people, etc.

Research suggests that when we talk openly with our children about drugs and drinking, they are more likely to have better self-control and develop more negative perceptions about these risky behaviors.

The caffeinated-alcohol drink issue is a great opportunity to let our kids express their opinions about these drinks. When we’re able to put aside (for the moment at least!) our parental fears and judgments and just listen, there’s a greater likelihood that we’ll get a glimpse into the thoughts and lives of our teen, an opportunity to make a positive connection with our them, and to possibly help them reduce their risky behavior.

Get more info: US News and World Report article on FDA ban of caffeinated alcohol drinks.

Mental Health and Primary Care Medicine

by Barry Lessin

November 20th, 2010

Since my practice is located within a family medical practice where I act as a behavioral health consultant, I read with interest, and posted a comment on the article's website, about the following article:

Health Highlights: Nov. 19, 2010 - US News and World Report

What's very encouraging is that primary care medicine has begun to recognize the value of integrating mental health consultants into their practices. On-site psychologists in primary care practices, serving as behavioral health consultants/resources, when added to traditional medical staff/team helps to ease patient access to oft-needed counseling or psychotherapy.

As a psychologist located within a family medical practice, I see first-hand how the stigma associated with seeking mental health is reduced by my presence in the practice, and how the coordination of care between mental and physical health increases the likelihood of improvement in physical health.

It's Not Necessarily "How Much"

by Barry Lessin

November 17th, 2010

This following self-test designed by professors at Harvard is a simple, quick way for parents to get a better understanding of the importance of negative consequences and specifically, the types of consequences in determining whether their child has a problem with substance abuse.

Kids usually will focus on the frequency or amount of their use as “proof” that there isn’t a problem. The frequency or amount is often not as important as the consequences as a result of their use.

I find with my clients that a general discussion of the potential negative consequences of getting high, focusing initially on their friends behavior, is often a "user-friendly" way to start to have him /her thinking about the issue in a different way.

Easy Test to Determine Problem Drinking Among Teens

"But I Only Smoke Pot"

by Barry Lessin

November 16th, 2010

The following article from U.S. News and World Report isn't a surprise to me.

It confirms what we already know from research over the past 15 years about the effects of substances on the developing child's brain. The kids I see in my practice usually focus on the idea that "it's only pot" and/or "it's not addicting" (not true, but that's another topic for another time). They don’t acknowledge any effects on their own brain development.

Parents who may have smoked marijuana when they were growing up may be conflicted about their own experience and knowledge of whether marijuana really is harmful. Marijuana use in our culture has become more accepted, aided in part by the recognized medicinal uses of marijuana. As a parent, what’s important is to be able to offer kids accurate, unbiased information like this when we discuss the choices our children make today.

We've come a long way from "Just say no"!

By the way, the “executive functions” that the article refers to are the same brain information processing skills that are impaired by ADHD. US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT ARTICLE

For more good information on marijuana use and kids, see NATIONAL INSTITUTE ON DRUG ABUSE INFO ON MARIJUANA.

Is My Teenager Getting High?

by Barry Lessin

November 14th, 2010

The thought of your teenager getting high is likely to make you very uncomfortable.

“My kid?”

When you say those two words to yourself, you don't want to believe that your child could be involved in using drugs or alcohol, but you also don't want to ignore the possible early warning signs. So what do you do? We are often so worried that we become immobilized and lose sight of one of the basics of human communication:


If you think your child is drinking or using drugs, the most important thing to do is to come right out and ask. Research suggests that when we talk openly about drugs and drinking, children are more likely to have better self-control and develop more negative perceptions about these risky behaviors. The work you put into opening up lines of communication now can make all the difference in the future.

Some tips for how to ask:

1. Begin by preparing:

  • Role-playing with your husband or partner to anticipate possible responses
  • Get as much information about your child from other people (teachers, friend’s parents, etc).
  • Get into their world first, try to understand where she’s coming from.

2. Use a tone of concern, not interrogation. You’re not trying to “catch” her lying or pressure her to share information she’s doesn’t want to. You want to be having a regular conversation with you expressing genuine interest.

3. Find an opportunity when your child is available, during their down time. It’s never a good idea to talk while they’re in the middle of/on their way to an activity.

4. Ask questions about the general availability of drugs and alcohol in the community or if they know anybody getting high. Ask them about their friends’ behavior and express interest in their opinion about their friends’ risky behavior.

Remember that we were teenagers once. Reflecting on our own experience as teens can help us understand better what works when talking to our kids about these difficult issues.

Realize that determining whether your child has a drug and alcohol abuse problem is a process that will have ups and downs over time. Asking is the first step in this process.

Learning as much as you can about this process will increase your success in early identification of a problem. You’re already on that path by being here. Good luck….

In coming blog entries, I’ll share with you some ideas about taking the next steps in the process.

In the meantime you can learn more about these steps yourself by checking out TIME TO TALK.

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