From left, Dr. Jonathan Bone '94 and Dr. Amy De La Garza from Equilibrium Clinic today led a Lincoln Street Campus Coffee and Conversation on the physiology of addiction. Following up on the Freedom from Chemical Dependency Parent Forum and our school's work with middle and upper schoolers, the dialogue revolved around how addiction operates in the brain and how we can help our children avoid this all-too-common disease. Listen to event audio.
Paraphrased quotes are below.
Some highlights from the experts:
- "Kids don't respond well to 'should' or 'shouldn't.' I have kids and young adults ask themselves the question, 'How's this behavior going to help me, and how's it going to hurt me?' Get them to pause for two seconds to ask that question and to think about it. If they can get that integrated into their thinking—how it will help versus how it will hurt—it lets them feel like they're making that choice for themselves."—Dr. Bone
- "Addiction is a disease of the brain. Kids' brains are so plastic and dynamic: think about how fast they can learn language, skiing, or math. They could learn addiction just that fast."—Dr. De La Garza
- "Kids that use substances before they're 21 have a 20% greater chance of developing a substance abuse disorder when they're older."—Dr. De La Garza
- Both doctors agreed parents should start teaching kids at a young age about addiction—around fourth grade.
On assessing the situation after discovering substance use:
- "We don't want to be alarmist about it. If you look at it diagnostically, you look at the different domains of life: health, relationships, education, occupation, legal, financial—how is use impacting each of those domains? That's how we differentiate between mild, moderate, and severe substance-abuse disorder. We can take that approach with our kids: how are they doing socially, how are they doing academically? Are they sticking with their sports team? Do they give stuff up? You take an inventory of what is going on with them globally. And if you find a joint, that's different than finding a bottle of oxycodone. You're also looking at the risk of the substance."—Dr. Bone
- "Emergency rooms, detox centers—those are really scary places for kids and it stigmatizes them. You have to do a good risk assessment, and if you can't do that yourself, call someone: your pediatrician, your family practice doctor, one of us."—Dr. De La Garza
- "We want to keep kids at the lowest level of care possible for as long as possible. I'm very conservative with raising that level, and it's really well-contemplated. If kids have a plan to hurt themselves, for example, that's when they go to the hospital."—Dr. Bone
Dr. Bone is a 1994 Rowland Hall graduate who holds a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Denver, and he's worked with substance-use disorder patients since his medical internship.