Vol. #15, No. 7
Welcome to the October edition of Tips & Topics (TNT). Thanks for joining us this month.
David Mee-Lee M.D.
It is the surge in dopamine activity in subcortical reward centers which explains the peak in sensation-seeking during adolescence.
- Increased drug use in adolescence is related to a rise in sensation-seeking.
- Less drug use later on in life is related to the decline in sensation-seeking that occurs later in adolescence, as well as transition to adult roles. Neither of these may require greater frontal brain control as the explanation.
- Experience gained during the adolescent period may help adults to recognize the hazards of some forms of risk-taking or to cultivate skills to limit such risky behavior.
- Youth with greater sensation-seeking show that they are better in their ability to delay gratification. This idea may seem odd at first, but it suggests that experience with risk-taking is itself a promoter of self-control and helps them to think before acting impulsively.
- This finding is also consistent with another apparently odd finding that adolescent criminal offenders are better at self-control as they age. Their repeated arrests provide the experience to weigh the odds and make a decision for self-control.
- An experienced driver knows that if the car wheels slide off the side of the shoulder of the road, reflexively jerking the steering wheel back could actually turn the car over.
- Giving the teen the supervision needed to gradually and gently guide the wheels back to the road can prevent the more dangerous reflex to jerk the steering wheel.
- Allowing the young driver to experience loss of traction of the car tires that starts the fishtailing sway of the back of the car can satisfy the need for a risky thrill. Showing the teen how to steer their way out of that dangerous situation can provide life-saving experience to prevent the car spinning and crashing.
- Encouraging activities stimulating to the dopamine system (such as sports and physical activity) can be a way to safely channel sensation-seeking.
- Direct your prevention efforts for high sensation-seeking youth to providing high-thrill, safe activities. The goal is to increase control over risk-taking impulses without experiencing adverse consequences. e.g. rock-climbing
- A “few” friends came over. Then the word got out to the teens of the town that it was party time at the Mee-Lee’s.
- Uninvited “friends” were banging on the front door, climbing over the back fence, assembling in the backyard, smashing bottles in the street…you get picture.
- Neighbors noticed the commotion!
- She quickly realized things were getting out of hand and called the police to help.
- “Whatever you decide to do about substance use, really do it with your eyes wide open about the dangers e.g., riding with others who are intoxicated; knowing how much could cause an overdose of alcohol”
- “If you do use, call us anytime rather than ride with someone intoxicated or drive yourself home.”
- “Talk to us about anything. There are no silly questions and you are not alone. If you don’t want to talk to us, we’ll find someone you are comfortable to talk with.”
- Substances – Besides addiction which is treatable, there are consequences that can be irreversible: acute intoxication causing a fatal accident or overdose, or a head injury with permanent cognitive impairment.
- Sex – In the midst of making out, it is not the time to examine your values and practices about abstinence, safer sex, pregnancy and abortion.
- Speed – I don’t mean stimulants, I mean cars and driving fast. When the tire blows out and the car rolls, or the car upfront suddenly stops, or the road is wet and the brakes don’t work well – that is too late to think about speeding.
- Seat belts – When the car is rolling or you are heading for the windshield, it is too late to buckle up.
- Sleepiness – A sleepy driver is as dangerous to self and others as a drunk driver. When my son sideswiped the median barrier dozing off for a split second after a late date, sleepiness was added to the list.
- Education or high intelligence
- Sexual orientation
- Skin color
- Social class or socio-economic status
- Parent – child
- Counselor/therapist – client
- Doctor – patient
- Supervisor – supervisee
- Older sibling – younger sibling
- Rich – poor
- Housed – homeless
- Landlord – renter
- Husband – wife
- Expensive fast-car owner – modest low horsepower, slow car owner
Until next time
I’m glad you could join us this month. See you in late November.