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Renowned Psychiatrist Dr. John Sharp on Addiction, the Teen Brain and Early Intervention

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

We’re thrilled to share the following video featuring Dr. John Sharp, a renowned psychiatrist, bestselling author and faculty member at both the Harvard Medical School and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

In this video, shot by Clio award-winning director Lori Hoeft, Sharp discusses the genetics of addiction, the developing teen brain and the importance of early intervention.

Sharp encourages parents to take action early. “Your role is critical,” he says. “You can influence the behavior of your loved one. You want to continuously let him or her know how much you care and what your support can mean.”

Learn more about the teen brain and the steps you can take if you think or know your child is drinking or using drugs. For guidance, call our Toll-Free Parent Helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373) or visit Time To Get Help.

Want to hear more from Dr. John Sharp? Keep an eye out for his feature article on Join Together, coming out this summer.

Posted by  |  Filed under Addiction, Confronting Teens, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Drugs, Family members, parenting, Uncategorized

6 Comments on “Renowned Psychiatrist Dr. John Sharp on Addiction, the Teen Brain and Early Intervention”

molly says:
June 2nd, 2013 at 7:20 am

I started to experiment with druggs at age 11, marijuana was the first drug i was introduced to in my own home. at 13 i tried cocaine and continued to use till the age of 40. i started to use heroin at the age of 18 mainlined it at age 22. it was a life of violence and no childhood for me, i always had an excuse to use at 5 i was molested byb a neighbor,it continued til we left puerto rico at age 7 when i told my parents i got beat for according to them i was lying, common sense what child at the age of 5 know what i told my parents? at 13 i was so strung out on coke school didnt matter i went to juvenile jail at 16 while pregnant my boyfriend of 27 at the time forced me to inhale cocaine while pregnant. serious consequences happened although my child appeared to look normal. right now she has problems with bipolar disorder and addicted to marijuana herself shes mother waws diagnosed with cancer while i was pregnant at 16 and i just started to use more to cover the pain,2 months later i gave bit=rth toA PREMATURE her 10th month i lost her FATHER in a drugdeal gone bad i turned toheroine to cover all the pain concentrated in such short dad died 2 years later and i still had not been able to mourn my mom or my boyfriends deaths. i decided suicide would come easy abusing alchohol n drugs. by age 20 i met a new man also an addict and a dealer and my family was all tied up with mexican cartels and drugs was all i knew as far as college drugs were my expertize. i know how to wigh cut test use i knew anything that had to do with drugs i hope to write a book someday soon about my life. it landed me on a spree of robberies and other crimes which landed me a trip to prison it was then i decided it was enough and sought god as my refuge i came home and battled addiction full force ahead and 10x wiorse it seemed. it wasnt untill i gave my life completely to god and a methadone program that i finally was able to put the breaks on my habbit. today i am living in chicago and been totally clean for the first time in my life outside of prison for 3 years i am 45 and lost the majority of my life to drugs. its never too late if you are an addict seek help fast. not everything works the sane for everyione so you have to find what is comfortable for you and works for you. i hope this short part of my story helps someone, if anyone can help me write my book please contact me at may god be with you and god bless always….

molly says:
June 2nd, 2013 at 7:29 am

p.s. molly was raped various times by gangbangers and drugdealers, turning to the worst things to obtain money to support her habbit at one time she dealt the drugs her family supplied her with to bring in proffits and support her $150 heroin habbit and another $100 on cocaine speedball a mixture of heroin and cocaine which causesd an euphoria that made men ejaculate at the throw of the hit for me it was just a great rush and all day n night id chase that rush. days became weeks weeks became months ,months became years, before i knew mylife had been wasted in bad relationships that included domestic violence. i,d like to name my book life goes by so fast.when i finally woke up from the reality i had lived i was 42 years old, life was wasted in deed, life passed me by indeed.

LindaT says:
June 3rd, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Hi Molly,
My name is Linda and I work for The Partnership at I’d like to thank you for sharing your story and encourage you to post it on our story sharing site at Again, thanks for sharing. Good luck with everything.

Todd says:
June 11th, 2013 at 3:43 am

Thank you Dr. Sharp for focusing on the vital role of parents. Your explanation of why Alcohol and Drug Problems (ADP) is so dangerous for teens is perfectly stated.

Sadly, there remains a large gap between the realities of us parents and expert advice. As a parent and long-time professional in the field of addiction treatment, I struggle to accept that the best we can do is affirm our love for our child and to push them towards getting professional help.

It has long since been known that the vast majority of persons with Alcohol and Drug Problems (ADP) neither want help or even benefit from help. Treatment can be helpful but far less than most of us in the field want to fully admit. The lure of ADP is quite powerful. My hope is that we can equip parents with tools suited to “outsmart” addiction. As far as I can tell, we are far from providing early intervention techniques that achieve this.

A case in point of the gap is the reluctance to instruct parents on how to properly use drug testing. There is a way to use drug testing without it becoming a weapon; sadly our field and researchers have not spent the time to develop this.

A second matter that breaks my heart, is the failure of our field to explain exactly how parents can “negotiate” with the teen or young adult over such matters. Us as parents are left to our own inclinations which is largely either “too strong” or “too soft” an approach.

Typically parents are instructed to seek professional help. Insurance does not pay for parents to receive professional help to manage their child’s ADP. Furthermore very few, if any, are trained since there really has been no viable techniques to give to parents.

Our field knows that many who suffer from ADP will struggle for decades and yet we spend so little time giving parents and key loved ones exactly what they most want: step by step instruction on exactly what to do and how to do it.

I suspect that grass root websites may need to s develop such detail.

Todd Barlow

pat says:
June 15th, 2013 at 4:45 am

I am an addict. I ve been to AA, MA, CODA. 3 shrinks, and an anger mananagement counselor. Usually addicts are spiritually bankrupt. Lord Jesus Christ is our Savior, if you come to him. NO human here on earth can do what Jesus can for addiction. Humans fail. they can theorize but they cannot put in your heart what you need to become whole. Shrinks cannot forgive unrepented sin. We are the sins of our parents, follow the line back to the sinful natures of Adam and Eve. Save your money, turn your life over to Christ. I no longer smoke, drink, and no longer codependant on others. The desire is no longer there.

Patti Herndon says:
June 27th, 2013 at 5:58 pm

We need a ‘Menu of Options’. Parents that are ‘too hard or too soft’ regarding their reactions to their child’s substance use/substance benefit from learning/practicing methods of interacting with their son/daughter in ways that utilize positive reinforcement.

As a culture, we have mostly leaned toward punitive, controlling, confrontational approaches to addiction …Approaches that do not work… Have not worked… Will not ever work -for the vast majority of people.

Often times parents are stuck/mired in a repeating cycle of their own anxiety (anger, fear, shame, blame, guilt etc.) about their child’s substance use/substance use disorder. As a result we do not have/are not utilizing the energy/spirit required to respond and interact in ways that facilitate the development hope and self efficacy -both, in ourselves and our kids.

It’s really less critical as to ‘the why’s’ that substance use/substance use disorder has ‘happened to us’ and more critical to invest the lion’s share of our energies in learning how to effectively interact and respond to the problems associated with substance use disorder in ways that facilitate healthy change. Less ‘reacting’ and more deliberate ‘responding’.

While it is important to discover the contributors to substance use disorder in our individual family systems, we know that addiction is not the product of ‘spiritual deficit’. That is not to say that our faith doesn’t play a big role in helping us feel more peace and strength about the journey through addiction into recovery. But, it’s helpful to remind ourselves that addiction/substance use disorder is infinitely more complex than chalking it up to ‘a selfish, dishonest person in need of the Lord’. Yet, we see these kinds of stigma-making attributions levied and perpetuated regarding those with substance use disorder, all the time -And it’s simply nonsense. Even sadder, there are those who are challenged by substance use disorder who have been socially cued/influenced to accuse themselves of character deficits such as, ‘lack of spirituality’ and ‘sin’ and ‘evil’ as the reason for their addiction. And, it’s just not the reality.

Addiction is ‘maladaptive coping’. It’s learned. It can be unlearned, in time.

Change is a process. Sustainable change occurs little by little. We parents need to work toward development and maintenance of healthy expectations that reflect our individual circumstances. This means doing away with ridged, inflexible boundaries that do not consider our child’s ‘individual’ needs and strengths. Just because someone from a parent peer group/or parent blog advises that ‘what you need to do about your son/daughter/your problem is ___’; it doesn’t mean that the advise is appropriate/healthy for your particular circumstances, your individual son/daughter and family dynamic.

As we aim at developing more confidence in our own ability as parents to discern what spirit of interaction/decisions and responses will ‘best’ support our particular son/daughter in making healthy change, we find our anxiety does not control us/our reactions…and we find ourselves seeking the encouragement and support of others, rather than being in a position to be advised with common ‘one size fits all’ suggestions that can be counter-productive, even risk/harm-increasing.

We need tools/resources that help us learn, hope, change and grow. As we invest in those resources -that support our sense of self efficacy as parents- we discern better and better what it is that will support our specific son/daughter to discover their own reasons for change.

The goal should be to become the best advocate we can be in order to help our son/daughter. We won’t do everything right at every turn. It’s not possible to. However, consistent investment toward the goal of being ‘self-sufficient’ as a parent, confident in our ability to make those decisions that reflect that we are continuing to develop and build on a deep understanding of our son/daughter’s challenges and needs, so we can support them in a way that has the best odds of them facilitating their own momentum in healthy change… that we are invested in maintaining reasonable expectations for our individual circumstances -All of this culminates into the stuff that fuels strides in hope/self efficacy…RECOVERY.

Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.

Parents please check out Self Management and Recovery Training Friends and Family (Smart Recovery Friends and Family. It a kind of evidence based approach/support that is designed to help you move the anxiety (worry, fear, anger, resentments, blaming etc.) out of the way, so that you can reclaim your energy resources for positive/productive use in the journey on behalf of advocating increasingly better-effectively for your son/daughter.

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