New Guidelines Take On Youth Screen Addiction

kids therapist harm reduction
kids therapist harm reduction

Plus: COVID is causing therapist burnout; Australia lowers alcohol-related harm; and research on drugged driving

By William Wagner

February 2, 2021

Addiction comes in many forms, and one that is particularly relevant in this tech-dominated period in history relates to internet screen time among adolescents. Fortunately, there are potential solutions. We also explore therapist burnout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, promising alcohol harm reduction strategies out of Australia and the mounting danger of drugged driving.

From JAMA Pediatrics:
A Plan for Managing Online Screen Time

If you watched the 2020 Netflix docudrama The Social Dilemma, you might have been deeply unsettled once the final credits rolled. It’s easy to understand why: The film vividly lays out the addictive and corrosive repercussions of overindulging in social media. For example, something as seemingly benign as a “like” on one of your social media posts can have the same effect as cocaine, amplifying the pleasure-and-reward chemical dopamine in your brain. Scary stuff, especially if you’re the parent of an adolescent who spends hour upon hour fixated on a screen.

A newly published editorial in JAMA Pediatrics, however, provides recommendations on how families can work together to safely navigate the complexities of the online universe. “Managing screen use in an ever-evolving media landscape is a challenge for many families, particularly families with adolescents,” the piece states. “Whereas with younger children, parents can more readily restrict access to screens and monitor screen use, adolescents are often in situations without direct parental oversight.” At the core of the article’s suggestions is clearheaded, nonconfrontational communication between parents and their adolescent children, which, of course, can be a feat in itself.

Whereas with younger children, parents can more readily restrict access to screens and monitor screen use, adolescents are often in situations without direct parental oversight.”—JAMA Pediatrics editorial

From Forbes:
COVID-Induced Therapist Burnout

What happens when the people treating patients need treatment themselves? Jessica Gold, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis, probes that very question in a January Forbes article titled “We Need to Talk About Another Pandemic Mental Health Crisis: Therapist Burnout.” She cites a study in The American Journal of Psychiatry from this past summer in which 78% of psychiatrists surveyed were experiencing high levels of burnout. One suspects that percentage has only grown larger since then. Through her research, Gold found “there has been a steady and exponentially increasing demand for mental health services throughout the pandemic that has occurred at a pace that has been hard for [therapists] to maintain.”

From Anaesthesia and Intensive Care:
Alcohol Harm Reduction Policies in Australia Seem to Be Working

Perhaps we here in the United States should take note of what’s happening Down Under. Reforms in Central Australia in 2018 such as liquor inspection officers and a banned drinkers register led to a relative 38% decrease in hospital intensive care unit admissions, according to research headed by Paul Secombe from Flinders University in Bedford Park, Australia. The study cautions, however, that “ICU outcomes are only one measure of alcohol-related harm.”

From the Journal of Safety Research:
Drugged Driving on the Rise

Drunk driving gets a lot of attention—and with good reason—but drugged driving is gaining in the rearview mirror. Using data culled from the 2016–2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, researchers from the University of Cincinnati determined that 8.52% of the adults had driven under the influence of alcohol in the past year while 4.49% had operated a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana during the same time frame. In a news release, one of the researchers—Andrew Yockey, a doctoral student at University of Cincinnati’s College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services—said: “We need to focus our efforts on drugged driving, in addition to drunk driving, because drugged driving causes such a high level of fatalities.”

Photo: Annie Spratt