Parents! Collect Those Cell Phones Before Bed and Watch Your Teenager’s School Performance Improve

TeenOnPhoneWhen my house was full with eight children, most of them teenagers, most with cell phones, it was obvious that cell phone use after typical bed time hours was contributing to daytime fatigue and suspected poor school performance. With my daughter who simply couldn’t unplug from socializing, we collected her phone before bed.  I learned years later, that she would do chores for her older brothers to get access to their phones!

The study Effects of Instant Messaging on School Performance in Adolescents found that students with the most cell phone use after lights out reported the least sleep duration, a higher rate of daytime sleepiness, and poorer academic performance.

The solution is simple. Have a family policy that all phones and smart anything (Ipads, laptops, etc.) are turned in for overnight charging to a location like the parents bedroom!

Training your child and your family in general to unplug from this constant need for connectedness will improve more than just sleep and academic performance. You might even find that your teenager comes and says good night and tucks you in at night!


Dr. Paul

PaulThomasDr. Paul Thomas, M.D. is an award-winning Dartmouth-trained pediatrician with nearly 30 years of experience in pediatrics. In addition to being board certified in Pediatrics, he is an expert on addiction and board certified in Addiction Medicine. His practice, Integrative Pediatrics, serves some 11,000 children in Portland, Oregon. He is the co-author of the forthcoming book, The Vaccine-Friendly Plan: Dr. Paul’s Safe and Effective Approach to Immunity and Health—from Pregnancy through Your Child’s Teen Years (Ballantine 2016).

Is Your Television Killing You?

tvAs a pediatrician, I’m constantly reminding parents to limit their children’s screen time. We try to keep children under two as screen-free as possible. The whole family is better off health wise, especially the children, when non-education video game playing, mindless Internet surfing, and passive solitary TV watching is limited.

Now a recent study, “Causes of Death Associated With Prolonged TV Viewing,” published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, suggests that TV watching is bad for grown-ups as well.

A team of researchers from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, followed nearly a quarter of a million healthy 50 – 71 year olds for an average of 14 years. They found that those adults who watched between three and four hours of television per day were 15 percent more likely to die from any cause than those who watched less than one hour of television per day.

Even more disturbing, adults who watched seven or more hours of TV a day were 47 percent more likely to die than those who watched less than an hour a day. 

Diseases significantly linked to increase TV time include cancer, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, influenza/pneumonia, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, and suicide.

The take-away message: Watching television is bad for your health.

Is TV bad in and of itself? The researchers aren’t saying that. But we all know that watching television is a solitary, isolating occupation that keeps you sedentary. Sitting in front of the boob tube reduces the time you have available to exercise, interact with your family, read books, and be outdoors. This new research dovetails with other studies, which have linked excessive TV time to obesity and higher rates of cardiovascular disease.

I’ve been talking to parents about their kids but the most important message may be for parents and grandparents: watching too much television can jeopardize your whole family’s health.

This new study should be a wake-up call to all adults. Stay active. Go outside. Spend time with your spouse and your children with the television off. Read a book and do crossword puzzles to stimulate your imagination and your brain. Reduce your screen time as much as you can.

The National Cancer Institute researchers suggest that watching TV is a public health issue. The price we are paying for our technology-driven lives may be much higher than we previously realized.

Now please excuse me while I switch off the tube.


Dr. Paul




Dr. Paul Thomas, M.D. is a board-certified pediatrician and an addiction specialist. He has over 11,000 children in his integrative practice based in Portland, Oregon. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, and follow him on Facebook.


Ten Tips for Autism Spectrum

Autism2Below is the entire outline as it speaks for itself.  Most important for us all to remember, is that Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are just labels. If you had cancer you would not go around saying I am cancer or I have cancer.  We are individuals who are experiencing unique challenges to our neurotransmitters and chemistry. Many of us suffer from immune-mediated issues and gastro-intestinal issues, and frequently we experience severe anxiety and are very sensitive to noise or touch or sensory overload etc. This was pulled from the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and can be found here…


The article begins here-

Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

Volume 53, Issue 11, Pages 1145–1146.e3, November 2014

Autism Spectrum Disorders: Ten Tips to Support Me

The recently revised American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Practice Parameter for the Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorder1 highlights the importance of clinicians maintaining an active role in family and individual support. Its evidence-based recommendations coincide with those of the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions, the European Society for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Autism Europe.2 In contrast, in Europe, there is a greater emphasis on an approach to children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder that is based on rights, participation, and quality. Inclusion Europe3 leads a campaign for making information easily understandable as an essential mechanism to foster citizen participation, ensure informed choice, and protect human rights.

Recognizing the complementary strengths in these approaches, my colleagues and I have produced a tool to empower stakeholders, guide caregivers, and provide a rationale for advocates. The document was originally produced by its author and then reviewed, edited, and formally endorsed by a self-support group of young persons with Asperger disorder and by the Board of Families from the Gipuzkoa Autistic Society, the largest autism community program in southern Europe.

It is hoped that this document, also accessible in Basque, French, and Spanish will become a framework for clinical practice and global advocacy.


Autism Spectrum Disorders: 10 Tips to Support Me

  • I am not “autistic.” I am first, foremost, and always a person, a student, a child, and I have autism. Do not confuse me with my condition. And, please, do not use the term in a negative or inconsiderate way. I deserve to be respected.
  • I am an individual. Having autism does not make me the same as other people with autism. Make an effort to know me as an individual, to understand my strengths, my weaknesses, and me. Ask me—and my friends and my family, if I cannot reply—about my dreams.
  • I deserve services, just like all children. Services for me begin early. Autism is—or it will be, when recognized—a public health issue in many countries of the world. There are instruments to screen it. They should be applied in the framework of screening for other developmental disabilities. If you start soon, my life will be different! And remember that about one quarter of my siblings will have autism or other problems. Help them; they are an important part of my life.
  • I belong in the health care system, just like all children. Include me in regular health care. The health care system should adapt to me, limiting waiting times and ensuring that I understand what is to be done, by using, for example, easy-to-read materials, pictograms, technologic means, and so forth. Other patients also will benefit.
  • I belong with other children. Do not separate me from them because you want to treat me, educate me, or care for me. I can, and I should, be placed in regular schools and regular community settings, and special support should be provided to me in those places. I have something to teach other children and something to learn from them.
  • I belong with my family. Plan with me for my future and my transitions. I am the one who should decide, and, when my ability to do so is limited, my family and friends will speak for me. No government agency can take the place of my family, and, please, make sure that our society values my family’s generosity when they support me on society’s behalf.
  • I deserve the right to evidence-based services. These may not be convenient or easy, but when I get them, I do better. Do not substitute my educational, health, and social support with medication. I may require medication, and I look forward to new developments in biological treatments, but you must be cautious in their use. Count on me for research ventures; get me involved, with all my rights protected. I also want to help others.
  • I belong in society. Engage me in vocational training. I want to contribute. The services I need during my adult life should be guided by self-determination, relationships, and inclusion in all the activities of my community. Your goal must be to adapt the environment I have to face and modify settings and attitudes. It also will make our society better.
  • I have human rights, and I face discrimination for many reasons. Many of us live in poverty with no community support system. Some of us are immigrants or minorities, including sexual minorities. Keep a gender perspective. Girls and women with autism are often at greater risk of violence, injury, or abuse.
  • I belong in the world. I have a role to play. We, and my legal representatives, want to be involved in policy making, its development, and its evaluation. You need my help to know what should be done. Empower me. Remember my motto: nothing about me, without me.


Dr. Paul


Marijuana’s Affect on the Amygdala Explains it’s Effects on Anxiety, Brain Damage on PET Scans

marijuanaOh do I get tired of hearing all the pro-marijuana folks argue about it’s virtues (it’s natural, it helps my ….. this that or the other … it’s my medicine,…it’s better than alcohol which is legal, it helps my anxiety, it helps me sleep, etc.)

Problem is it is also the leading cause of anxiety, depersonalization, and that can happen the first time you try it, the 10th time of the 1000th time. There is no guarantee, just because you are ok with it now, that you will always be ok.  Often once brain damaged, it is a struggle to get your normal brain back.  Taking THC or marijuana is like playing roulette with your brain and mental health.  The very conditions you are “treating” with THC, like anxiety or insomnia, are the very conditions it creates.  Try stopping and if it’s difficult, that is all the more reason you should.

The first study (which you can read here… )  “Multiple Mechanistically Distinct Modes of Endocannabinoid Mobilization at Central Amygdala Glutametergic Synapses,” demonstrated the mechanism by which THC alters the stress response and emotional learning.  What studies are showing is that we all have an internal endocannabinoid system that regulates anxiety by dampening the excitatory signals that involve the neurotransmitter glutamate. Acute and chronic stress and emotional trauma can reduce the natural internal buffering of the endocannabinoids resulting in anxiety. Marijuana works to reduce stress short term by the external application of cannabinoids thus reducing (for a time) anxiety and the stress signal, but paradoxically, chronic use down-regulates the receptors which increases anxiety.  Like most addictions, the initial desired effects of the drug eventually disappear leaving you worse off than you were when you started.

In a second study (found here… ) PET scans of cannabis users showed a 20% reduction in CB1 receptor activity, showing the brain damage caused by the chronic use.  Thankfully this study showed the damage to be reversible when participants stopped using cannabis.

Results of the study show that receptor number was decreased about 20 percent in brains of cannabis smokers when compared to healthy control subjects with limited exposure to cannabis during their lifetime. These changes were found to have a correlation with the number of years subjects had smoked. Of the original 30 cannabis smokers, 14 of the subjects underwent a second PET scan after about a month of abstinence. There was a marked increase in receptor activity in those areas that had been decreased at the outset of the study, an indication that while chronic cannabis smoking causes down regulation of CB1 receptors, the damage is reversible with abstinence.

If you are pregnant, think long and hard about the damage you are causing your unborn child.  The third study (seen here… ) shows permanent neurobehavioral and cognitive impairments from the binding of THC to the fetal brain, with repeated exposures disrupting the endocannabinoid signaling and has the ability to rewire fetal brain circuits. If you are the dad or other adult around a pregnant woman, you have no idea the damage you are causing, and don’t expect the pregnant woman to do what you can’t do.  Sorry to sound “Big Daddy” here, but I’ve seen too much damage not to make a strong statement on this point.  You only get one chance in the womb to do everything you can to minimize harm and maximize the nutrition for your growing baby.

Even if marijuana (pot, THC) is legal, that does not mean it is safe.  This study, (found here… ) “Daily use, especially of high-potency cannabis, drives the earlier onset of psychosis in cannabis users,” adds to many others showing that earlier onset of frequent pot use triggers earlier psychosis (schizophrenia, bipolar, psychotic episodes). The study looked at more than 400 adults who were admitted to the hospital for their first psychotic episode.  Those who started using cannabis at age 15 or younger or who preferentially smoked high potency cannabis more often had earlier onset of psychosis than those who started after age 15.  Male users of cannabis had their first psychotic episode at average age of 26 compared to age 30 for non-users.  For women cannabis users, the first episode was at 29 compared to 32 for non-users.

Just as alcohol and tobacco are associated with significant health problems for frequent users and abusers, cannabis is associated with significant psychiatric morbidity. As states and governments look at the question of legalization, the bigger question should be whether or not legalization increases or reduces the use and abuse of this health hazardous product.

In the study published in the periodical Schizophrenia in 2013, (which you can find here… ) brain abnormalities and memory problems were found in individuals in their early 20’s, two years after they had stopped smoking marijuana suggesting there is persistent damage to important regions of the brain. Memory-related structures of the brain appeared to shrink and be collapsed inward, possibly reflecting loss of neurons/ brain cells.

In our push as a society to legalize marijuana, will this result in more or less intoxicated drivers on the road?  We already have 25% of teens who smoke marijuana acknowledging driving under the influence of marijuana. You can learn more about that here…

We now have a new cannabinoid to worry about: K2/ Spice which resulted in 28,531 emergency room visits in 2011.  These synthetic cannabinoids are frequently associated with psychosis.

In the study published in the journal Neuron, (and found here… ) schizophrenia symptoms were found to be linked to a faulty “switch” connecting  two important regions of the brain, the insula and the lateral frontal cortex. Drug use, particularly cannabis and stimulants are 3- 4 times (300-400%) more likely to go on to develop psychosis or schizophrenia.






Dr. Paul


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