Wednesday, January 23, 2013


If you are wondering why I posted a a few paragraphs about Autism and the new website, it is because last year for the first time, I had parents of children with autism and two adults on the spectrum, with addictions. For some reason any link between addiction and families managing children with autism never crossed my mind. But the pressure some folks are feeling when they have a child with autism causes depression and anxiety. In turn, they seek medication for relief. In some cases this becomes a dependence and may even lead to abuse. Combined with alcohol it can be lethal. We use drugs and alcohol to change the way we feel. I have written many times that once in a while this is not harmful. But when we rely on substances to help us escape from our responsibilities, we are on a slippery slope. The first duty of a parent is not to love their child, but to keep them safe. That means being in the moment, fully present at all times. And if the child has special needs, it is even more important to know what is going on. As this website develops, I will keep you in the loop. And if you have any questions about parenting and addiction, feel free to write to me.

MODERN PRODIGY - AUTISM is being developed to offer a different perspective to the way we think about Autism. Many see it as a disability; a frightening abnormality without any cure or possibility for complete recovery. Children diagnosed on the spectrum, most likely cannot communicate. They do not engage with other children and adults. They often exhibit stereotypical movements. They are not easy to reach emotionally. These things make them different. And when something is different and difficult to understand we shy away from it.

Modern Prodigy presents the child with autism in another light. They do communicate, just not the way we are used to seeing. They do think, just not in an organised fashion similar to our thinking. These children do not look us in the eye because they are seeing things in a larger visual field using their peripheral vision. Because they do not respond the way we want them to does not mean that they do not understand.
We  are asking, you the reader, to open your minds to the possibility that these are the child prodigies of the future. Our job is to try to welcome them as a gift to society.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


When we talk about addiction, we often think about drugs and alcohol. But some behaviors have just as many negative consequences when we depend upon them to fill a void within us. Shopping is one of those behaviors. A national study three years ago identified 17,000,000 people in the United States - or about 6% of the poplation as having a compulsive shopping disorder. Some of my patients who come in to address prescription abuse or alcohol dependence reveal more than one addiction. Compulsive shopping is very common as a crossover addiction. Shopping as a way to avoid feelings related to everyday struggles, and buying things a person does not need to substitute one feeling for another is a problem. Not paying rent or utilities and squandering monies on frivolous purchases only sets the stage for more struggles. Depression sets in because the person is not dealing with responsibility and they shop more. It becomes a vicious cycle. Watching a recent reality show about folks who are compulsive shoppers, I was struck by the fact that short-term intervention to change the shopping behavior was seen as the panacea to the problem. The reality, however, is that it takes more than an intervention on a 60-minute show. The important piece of the puzzle is to find out what preciptating event started the shopping behavior in the beginning. Was it something in childhood, or something more recent? Is the patient able to cope with crisis? Does the person have the skillset to manage his or her life. Behavior change takes a good year of weekly therapy to uncover causes for compulsive shopping. Some patients may need pharmacotherapy. Others will benefit from self-help in addition to therapy. But it is imperative to weed things out and make changes slowly. 60 minutes is a necessary time frame for a television show. But television only reflects reality. It is not reality - though the lines are definitely blurred

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Hello readers! Last year, we covered a variety of addiciton topics. Everything from Whitney Houston's passing to parents who give their young children Marijuana. This year will be no different. We will look at teens and drug abuse, veterans and the mix of alcohol and suicide rates, and pregnant women who drink. I welcome your feedback and any questions you may have. Just a note about the lack of information after August 2012. In September I had surgery and a wealth of complications. In fact, I almost died twice. By Thanksgiving I was out of the hospital and on my way to Chicago. It was a long haul, but I am better than ever and ready to re-group. I am looking forward to a healthy, sober and addiction-free 2013. And I wish the same for all of you. Sincerely, Dr. McGowan