Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sciences say heads of white people in America are actually growing.

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

Anthropologists regularly assert that larger skulls hold larger brains, and that larger brains tend to depict greater intelligence. So, when I read that forensic anthropologists at the University of Tennessee found that Americans of European descent have shown skull growth over the last one hundred years, I got curious.

It's True... heads are getting bigger!

Forensic anthropologists at the University of Tennessee looked at 1,500 skulls from the 1800's to the mid 1980's. Because they needed a large sample size they only looked at skulls of Americans of European ancestry. The numbers are interesting. The researchers reported that skull size increased 6.8 percent, while body size increased 5.6 percent, and femur (thigh bone) length has increased almost 2 percent.

The forensic anthropologists made a point to say they didn't know for sure why the heads of Americans of European ancestry were growing so much.  (You can fill in your own joke here: ______________) They did speculate that it was likely because of better nutrition, better health care, less physically demanding work, and/or intermarriage.

My thought on the subject... that it is most likely better nutrition overall and, more specifically, better nutrition in the first five years of life. Other research has shown the importance of early childhood nutrition on overall adult body health and height.

Unfortunately, I don't think there is any evidence that our cranial size increase has lead to any societal increase in intelligence... but maybe I'm just being flippant.


The findings were presented on April 14, 2012 in Portland, Oregon, at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, by Lee Jantz, coordinator of the University of Tennessee's Forensic Anthropology Center (FAC); Richard Jantz, professor emeritus and former director of the FAC; and Joanne Devlin, adjunct assistant professor.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Where to get safety recall info?

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

Almost everyday you hear that something is good for you or bad for you. Caffeine is a life saver, or shortens your life. One research article says this, another says that.

Most of the time I have low expectations for the accuracy of the information as reported in the major media. I expect that most of the time the data will be misinterpreted and reported incorrectly. I am surprised when they get it right.

But in the area of product safety I need correct reporting. I trust one source above all others and consult their website regularly. This website brings together valuable information from many government departments such as:

  • drugs 
  • vaccines 
  • medical devices 
  • other biologics 
  • blood and plasma products 
  • veterinary products 
  • appliances 
  • clothing 
  • electronic / electrical 
  • furniture 
  • household 
  • children's products 
  • lighting / lighter 
  • outdoor 
  • sports / exercise

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the U.S. Department of Transportation provides recall information including vehicle and equipment campaigns from 1966 to present. The campaigns include motor vehicle products which experienced a safety-related defect or did not comply with federal motor vehicle safety standards:
  • motor vehicles & related equipment 
  • child safety seats 
  • tires

  • provides the latest information on all food recalls and alerts as well as food illness outbreaks
And others...

The site is

recallsdotgov banner

The website has a wealth of information concerning dangerous products and food. You can get daily emails concerning all the areas they cover, or you can specify which ones you are interested in - for example, maybe you only want recalls concerning infant and children, or school buses.

If you have an Android Smartphone you can get an app that allows you to put in a product by name and see if it has any safety issues. This mobile app is great for garage sale buyers. Before you buy that gently used crib, make sure it is safe for your pride and joy.

Look for in the Android app store. Or learn more and download the app at: - Android Apps on Google Play

To my surprise, I could not find this app in the Apple app store. Hopefully it will show up soon.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Parent Alert: Tide Pods may look like candy to children

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that a popular new form of laundry detergent may be mistaken by children as candy:
Since 2010, laundry detergent pods have become a growing component of the U.S. laundry detergent market, and have been available in other countries. Based on data from other countries, exposures to laundry detergent pods more often occur among children, and exposure to laundry detergent from pods appears to be associated with adverse health effects more often than does non-pod laundry detergent exposure.

Tide Pods laundry detergent

 The bright packaging may be confusing to children:

The CDC advises:

To children, laundry detergent pods might look like candy. As with other household cleaners, these products should be kept out of reach and out of sight of children. Laundry detergent pod exposures might be associated with increased frequency and severity of adverse health effects when compared with non-pod exposures.
Parents and caregivers should be particularly aware that young children might be drawn to laundry detergent pods because of their candy-like appearance, and that exposure to laundry detergent from pods has been associated with more severe adverse health effects. Parents need to ensure they can prevent children from gaining access to household cleaning products, particularly laundry detergent pods. Clinicians and caregivers are encouraged to report laundry detergent exposures and cases of associated illness to their local poison center by calling 1-800-222-1222.

Health Hazards Associated with Laundry Detergent Pods — United States, May–June 2012

On a positive note

Procter & Gamble Co., the maker of Tide announced it will make Tide Pods more difficult to open.

A double latch will be put on the lid of Tide Pod tubs and should be in markets in the next couple of weeks, P&G spokesman Paul Fox said.

Friday, August 31, 2012

How to use a condom.

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

Last week I ran a post called Moms want school to teach Sex Education accurately. It got a lot of attention and many questions. Thanks! (I only got 2 flaming hate emails... less than usual.)

One question was, "How do you teach someone how to use a condom? " Great question, and I appreciate those of you who asked it.

Let's face it, it is uncomfortable to talk about sex. Our society is hung up with sex and it is often a contentious political subject. But information is important. Only with accurate information can we all make informed decisions.

If you care for someone, but are uncomfortable about having a discussion this explicit in nature, let this blog help.

Print out the following information and make it available. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention answers this question in a matter of fact manner:

How do you use a condom

To achieve maximum protection by using condoms, they must be used consistently and correctly.
The failure of condoms to protect against STD/HIV transmission usually results from inconsistent or incorrect use, rather than product failure.
Inconsistent or nonuse can lead to STD acquisition because transmission can occur with a single sex act with an infected partner.
Incorrect use diminishes the protective effect of condoms by leading to condom breakage, slippage, or leakage. Incorrect use more commonly entails a failure to use condoms throughout the entire sex act, from start (of sexual contact) to finish (after ejaculation).

How to Use a Condom Consistently and Correctly:

Get this complete fact sheet for free: CDC - Condom Effectiveness - Condom Fact Sheet In Brief

Customer review:

Want more information about condoms

 Condom - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A condom (US /ˈkɒndəm/ or UK /ˈkɒndɒm/) is a barrier device most commonly used during sexual intercourse to reduce the probability of pregnancy and spreading sexually transmitted diseases (STDs—such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV). It is put on a man's erect penis and physically blocks ejaculated semen from entering the body of a sexual partner. Because condoms are waterproof, elastic, and durable, they are also used in a variety of secondary applications. These include collection of semen for use in infertility treatment as well as non-sexual uses such as creating waterproof microphones and protecting rifle barrels from clogging.
In the modern age, condoms are most often made from latex, but some are made from other materials such as polyurethane, polyisoprene, or lamb intestine. A female condom is also available, most often made of nitrile.
As a method of birth control, male condoms have the advantage of being inexpensive, easy to use, having few side effects, and of offering protection against sexually transmitted diseases. With proper knowledge and application technique—and use at every act of intercourse—women whose partners use male condoms experience a 2% per-year pregnancy rate with perfect use and a 15% per-year pregnancy rate with typical use.[1]
Condoms have been used for at least 400 years. Since the 19th century, they have been one of the most popular methods of contraception in the world. While widely accepted in modern times, condoms have generated some controversy, primarily over what role they should play in sex education classes. They are considered unacceptable in almost all situations by certain religions, notably the Catholic church.

The section on the history of the condom is fascinating, informative, and a little funny.

Customer review:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Moms want school to teach Sex Education accurately

Health educator Mica Ghimenti and registered nurse Aubree Smith have filed a civil lawsuit against Clovis Unified School District in Fresno, California. The two mom’s are concerned that the district is not teaching sex education in accordance with the California law enacted in 2003.

Smith told NBC News, "Our kids need complete, accurate information to help them protect themselves against STDs and unintended pregnancy.”

According to the ACLU of Northern California, legal counsel for the two moms, the California Comprehensive Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Prevention Act (SB 71) requires that sex education in public schools be based in public health science and teach teens about building healthy relationships, the benefits of delaying sexual activity, and accurate information about condoms and contraception.

Phyllida Burlingame, reproductive justice policy director at the ACLU of Northern California told NBC News, The civil lawsuit is the first of its kind in California since the passage of a 2003 law requiring that sexual health education in public schools be comprehensive and medically accurate.

Clovis Unified School District spokeswoman, Kelly Avants, released the following statement:
"It appears from an initial review that the concern raised in this lawsuit stems from a question of differing interpretations of the depth and breadth of a school district's obligation to cover detailed sexual content in its family life-sex education materials.
"The District notes that some of the information contained in the suit does not accurately describe existing procedures and practices in Clovis Unified related to parent notification. 
“We will continue our review of the suit in order to better understand the concerns raised by the plaintiffs, but Clovis Unified has fully complied with both the California Education Code and the State’s content standards.”

Sex Education in California Public Schools, report

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco, released a report, Uneven Progress: Sex Education in California Public Schools in November of 2011. In this report they stated, “The passage of SB71 was a key landmark on the road towards ensuring the health of California youth, but there is much work still to be done.”

Also noted, “One out of five districts (19%) reported that in their instruction, birth control methods were mentioned, but most of the time was spent on the benefits of abstinence. Furthermore, 16% of districts reported that they teach that “condoms are not an effective means of preventing pregnancies and STDs/HIV”, an inaccurate statement.”

Accurate, science based information

A major goal of this blog is to bring accurate, science based information to my readers. On the subject of condoms and public health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states:

Consistent and correct use of the male latex condom reduces the risk of sexually transmitted disease (STD) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission. However, condom use cannot provide absolute protection against any STD. The most reliable ways to avoid transmission of STDs are to abstain from sexual activity, or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.  However, many infected persons may be unaware of their infection because STDs often are asymptomatic and unrecognized.

You can get this Condom Fact Sheet In Brief, for free, from the CDC: CDC - Condom Effectiveness - Condom Fact Sheet In Brief

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why send a thank you note?

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

Josh asked a good question, "Why send a thank you note?"

Josh is off to UC Davis in the fall and was looking for an inexpensive bike to take with him. His mom asked around, and a friend had a bike he was happy to pass on to Josh for school. It turned out to be an amazing bike that Josh has fallen in love with.

Being Dad I asked Josh, "Did you send a thank you note?"

"I thanked him profusely, he knows how much I appreciate the gift," Josh explained.

"So, did you send a thank you note?" I repeated.

"I really did thank him, why send a thank you note?"

A really good question

I thought about Josh's question. Was I wanting him to send a thank you note because my mom taught me to send them? It does seem to be the polite thing to do... but that is not the reason I think Josh should send the note.


I think we should send notes of thanks because, it is very easy to verbalize thank you. Someone holds the door for me, I have no problem saying thank you. In fact, it would feel impolite if I didn't say thank you.

By sending a note, I am making an action out of my feelings. It shows my sincerity and my appreciation. I thought so much of someone's niceness towards me that I wanted them to feel my thanks and respect for them.

How do you write a thank you card?

On a piece of nice paper or note card I write a thank you note in 5 sections.

  1. Opening
  2. Talk about what they did for me
  3. Tell them what I feel and /or what I am doing with their gift
  4. Closing
  5. P.S.


Something fitting the relationship I have with the receiver.

Hi Bob,
Dear Robert,
Dear Mr. Thompson,

Talk about what they did for me

In this section talk about the gift giver:

Thank you so much for giving me the...
I really appreciate the time you gave me...
It was very kind of you to...

Tell them what I feel and /or what I am doing with their gift

I love the green and white sweater you gave me. I plan on wearing it to work on Monday. 
I really needed a new hard drive, I will put it to good use backing up my college papers. 

If you are given money, please avoid using the word 'money', it sounds cold or even a little greedy.

Bad example: Thanks the the cash. I really need money so I appreciate you giving me the dough.

Good example: 
  • I appreciate your generosity. Your kind gift will help me get to school on safe tires. 
  • Your gift will help me pay for books at school this semester.
  • Your kindness will help me...


The closing should reflect your relationship with the gift giver.

With respect,
Again thank you,
Be well,

Avoid 'sincerely' unless you are thanking a bank. It sounds cold and robotic.

P.S. (post scriptum, meaning "written after")

Repeat how you feel about the gift at the level of the relationship you have with the reader. Readers often read the P.S. first. Thus, they tend to read it twice.

Just want you to know how happy the ________________ made me feel.
I appreciate how much you care for me.
It was kind of you to see me.

In closing:

Don't over think the thank you note. Just tell the truth. It is OK to be a little vulnerable, the gift giver was kind to you and did something considerate for you. Be kind in return. A little humility and vulnerability is good for the soul.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lead is Very Dangerous

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

Lead is a heavy metal that plays havoc with the human nervous system. Over time lead can build up in the body. For children under age 6, lead is devastating to mental and physical health. Most small children get lead poisoning from chewing on things covered with lead paint. (i.e. toys, plates or windowsills in older homes [paint chips].)

Lead contaminated plate

Many years ago, I worked with a family whose child started having lots of problems in school. The 3rd grader went from top marks to failing grades over a 6 month period. It turned out that the family had taken a trip to Mexico over the Christmas holiday. The boy got a cup and bowl from a bazaar. He loved his cup and bowl and used it at almost every meal. You have probably guessed it, the cup and bowl were not made safely and contained a high level of lead. After treatment, all was well... but, it does go to show that lead is very dangerous.

Learn more about the symptoms of lead poisoning from the Mayo Clinic.

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed the regulations concerning lead in the body. The CDC will no longer state a particular level is safe in children.  It now states that no level of lead in the blood stream is safe. The goal is to focus on eliminating exposure to lead.

Read the CDC report, a free PDF download.

The lead contaminated plate pictured above was part of a study conducted by Thomas Jefferson University Hospital's physician Gerald O'Malley, DO, a toxicologist and the director of clinical research and emergency medicine. More information on how to check items like toys or plates.

Plates that are sold as "decorative" are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. That means that these may have lead in them, and outside the state of California they are not required to let you know. If you handle a decorative plate, even just to dust it, it is advisable that you wash your hands before eating or touching your face.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Who is better with numbers, college students or guppies?

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

He we have an adorable Blue Grass Guppy. Atractive and not lacking is some math skills.

Many animals seem to understand small and large numbers. Dogs and chimps seem to understand what is 1, 2 or 3. Many animals seem to understand the concept of many: 1 versus 50. So scientists wanted to know how far back in the evolution of vertebrates (animals with a back bone) did this number ability start. Is estimating large numbers new, and therefore required a big brain? Or older, needing only a smaller brain.

Researchers from the University of Padova, Italy and the University College of London, United Kingdom devised an ingenious way to find out. As it turns out, guppies seem to like being in larger groups with others of their own type. So when a single guppy is put in the middle between two groups of guppies, say 3 guppies and 30 guppies,  the single guppy quickly swims and joins the larger group. To test their estimating skills the scientists had multiple trials with different ratios of group sizes. Did the guppies count? In other words, could they tell the difference between 20 or 23 in a group? Or did they estimate small group verses bigger group. "That group is way larger than the other group so I'm joining the larger group... you know it is safer in numbers."

The researches also tested college students.  How do big brained college students do compared to little brained guppies?

Both guppies and students counted when the group was under 4 and estimated when the groups were larger.

Researchers came to the following conclusions concerning when math skills first developed:

...the building blocks of uniquely human mathematical abilities may be evolutionarily ancient, dating back to before the divergence of bony fish and tetrapod lineages.

The question posed on the TV program was "Are you smarter that a 5th grader?" But maybe it should be "are you smarter than a guppy?"

Read this study:

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Learn About Real Money by Playing a Game

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

Adults can learn about real money and homeowner issues by playing a game.

The U.S. Treasury Department recently gave money to five states to help set up programs to educate adults about real money issues. The New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority used their grant money to develop an interactive money game to teach finance and homeownership money skills. It's not restricted to New Hampshire residents, it is open for everyone to play.

Financial Freedom Island Cruise

You start the game by "winning" $400 in a bingo game. From this meager amount you get to practice sound money management skills in a fun way. By making the money lessons fun, the game helps keep you interested while you learn real money skills.

It is all free! And the site has no advertising. Yeah!

At the end of the game you will have in your real world:
  • One or more financial savings goals
  • A family budget
  • A plan for reducing your debt and reaching your goals
  • Three credit reports
  • A series of credit scores and a plan to improve them
  • Strategies for protecting your identity

We are not born with any money sense. All money knowledge is learned. Knowledge is power. 

Learn more or sign up to play at:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

How Well Does Your State Score on Science Education?

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

According to a report by the  Thomas B. Fordham Institute most American states are failing in science education from K through 12 grade. From their press release:
Since the Sputnik launch of 1957, Americans have regarded science education as crucial to our national security and economic competitiveness. Just recently, a National Science Board report found that the U.S. could soon be overtaken as global leader in supporting science and technology, and advocates educational improvement as crucial to America maintaining its role as the world’s engine of scientific innovation. But The State of State Science Standards, which reviews and analyzes the guidelines that inform K-12 science curriculum and instruction in every state and the District of Columbia, concludes that what states presently expect of their schools in this critical subject is woefully inadequate.
In this comprehensive appraisal, more than 75 percent of states received grades of C or lower, and a majority received D’s or F’s. California and the District of Columbia earned the only straight As—while Indiana, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Virginia received A-‘s for their excellent state science standards. But most states lack rigorous, content-rich standards. Seven of them received B-level grades; 12 states received Cs; 16 states received Ds; and 10 states received failing F grades. 
I point this information out to you because I am concerned that if our children do not get a sound science education they will not be ready for adulthood in a world that is increasingly complicated and science based.

The foundation's press release points out four major problem areas:
  1. While many states are handling evolution better today than during the last Fordham review in 2005, anti- evolutionary pressures continue to threaten and weaken science standards in many jurisdictions.
  2. A great many standards are so vague for educators as to be completely meaningless. Only 7 states earned full- credit scores for clarity and specificity while 29 earned a one or zero out of three.
  3. Science educators, curriculum developers, and standards writers have focused excessive attention on “inquiry- based learning”—attempting to help students learn through “discovery” instead of direct instruction of specific content. In too many states, these inquiry standards are vague to the point of uselessness—depriving students of an education based on substantive scientific content.
  4. Mathematics is essential to science, yet few states make this link between math and science clear—and many seem to go to great lengths to avoid mathematical formulae and equations altogether. Students cannot adequately learn physics and chemistry without understanding mathematical concepts and mastering quantitative operations. 

I have posted the A and B graded states below along with links to a free PDF of the complete report:

The State of State Science Standards: Grades in Rank Order A's and B's only

State Science Standards Grades, 2012

Read more:

The State of State Science Standards 2012 January 31, 2012

State reviews by Lawrence S. Lerner, Ursula Goodenough, John Lynch, Martha Schwartz, and Richard Schwartz
NAEP review by Paul R. Gross

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Helping Your Children With Homework

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

Dear Dr. Phil,

My son is learning fractions. I cannot help him. He says he is not good at fractions. But he does not try. He is smart but very stubborn. He is not doing his homework because he is saying he doesn't understand it.

Nina in Fresno CA

Hi Nina,

Thanks for this great question. Let's take your son at his word and help him to understand fractions. First I want you to talk to his teacher. Maybe there is a tutoring program at his school. Maybe there is some problem at school you don't know about. It's a good idea to have regular contact with the teacher.

But, what if the school is not enough?

How do you help your children with their homework if you do not understand their homework yourself? First, be honest with yourself. I know it is painful, but you cannot answer every question your child can come up with. It is OK to not know everything. Honestly tell your child, "I don't get that math... Let's find someone who can help us."

There is help... Great help and it is free!

There is a free and amazing website every parent should know about: It is a non-profit organization set up to teach the world... for free.

I went to the website and in their search box I typed FRACTIONS. It brought me to a window with lots of lessons on fractions. The first was the most basic lesson on the subject: fractions... what are the parts of a fraction called?

The student is offered a video lesson. It is calm and short. Then the student is asked if he would like to do some practice questions. No presure, it is all at his pace.

Let's go to school

Let's look at the 2 1/2 minute video about the parts of fractions:

A student can view the video as many times as they wish. He can back it up and rehear and see any part he wishes.

Then he can work some practice questions by clicking the green PRACTICE THIS CONCEPT BUTTON.

The Khan Academy website is even set up to track your son's progress as he learns, if the two of you want to.

This site is open to everyone. If you want to learn something from days gone by... Khan Academy will be happy to teach you. Adults are welcome. And it is free!

Parents should start here

The Khan Academy site is massive and growing daily. I advise you to grab a cup of tea and sit down for an informative adventure. Start at: Khan Academy | Where do I begin? How should I get started

In my humble opinion, Salman Khan, the mastermind behind Khan Academy, is Nobel Prize material.


Dr. Phil

Thursday, April 19, 2012

How Tobacco & Alcohol Companies Advertise to Your Children

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

You may have heard that tobacco and alcohol advertising is banned on youth oriented programming and in kids magazines, so you think your kids are safe from their influence, but you would be wrong.

While you won't find ads on Sponge Bob or in Highlights Magazine, the tobacco and alcohol companies didn't have to try very hard to find ways around this. A 2001 survey found that the average teen saw 250 ads for alcohol on TV, and 30% saw upwards of 800 ads. Companies know that kids and teens watch programs that are not specifically marketed for children. A recent survey found ads for alcohol on 13 of the 15 most popular shows with teens. This goes for product placement in movies too, like when Super Man is thrown into a Marlboro delivery truck, or there is an ad for Cutty Sark scotch on the brick wall behind the villain. Some people say, well that's okay in movies for adults. Okay - of 145 popular movies reviewed in 2008, 79% of the R rated movies had product placement for tobacco or alcohol, compared to 82% of the PG-13 movies. Movies most of our children over the age of 10 watch.

Magazine advertising has a similar story. Alcohol and tobacco companies know that plenty of teens read magazines such as Sports Illustrated, Cosmopolitan, and even Time. (Many hundreds of schools use it as part of their social science curriculum). These magazines, while not specifically written for teens are nonetheless read by them in large numbers, and the tobacco and alcohol companies know this too. In 2008 the alcohol industry spent 4 Billion - with a B, dollars on advertising. And most of this is marketed to teens. More money is spent advertising alcohol than for soda, potato chips, juice drinks, and sneakers - combined.

One half of all alcohol is sold to those addicted to it or to teens under 18. In fact, JAMA -the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that people under 21 consume 19.7% of all alcohol. Remember, the legal drinking age in the US is 21.

Why is this demographic so important to the alcohol and tobacco industries? Teens have had less experience in judging advertising critically. Most young people have yet to pick a brand. Studies have found that 47-88% of all cigarette advertising is for the three most popular brands with teenagers. That's right, teenagers, not adults. Advertisers have found that there is little point in advertising to existing customers, they've picked the brand they like are not likely to be swayed. That's why you will find little advertising, if any, for alcohol and tobacco in magazines such as Fine Woodworking, or Good House Keeping, publications that teens don't tend to read. If teens aren't reading it, the tobacco and alcohol advertisers have found there is little profit in advertising in it. So yes, they are advertising to your children, clear and simple.

What can you do? Obviously you can't shelter your underage children from all forms of advertising, but what you can do is talk to your children about viewing these ads critically. You can start with young kids, after all, why do companies put toys in cereal boxes or Happy Meals? I have had many conversations in the cereal aisle explaining that we don't buy cereal for the toys, we buy it to eat, and we need to start our day off with good food.

Point out to teens the images that the alcohol and tobacco companies use and discuss why. Let them come up with answers. This begins to lead them down the path to critical thinking. While it won't completely stop them from being influenced by advertising, they will begin to approach ads with a more cautious eye. Seat belts don't stop accidents from happening, but they protect you from worse harm when you get in an accident. The same is true for teaching our children to view ads critically. If they know the tobacco and alcohol companies are trying to manipulate them - and what teen wants adults to manipulate them - they will have some protection when they are "hit" with an ad.

The numbers in this article came from an excellent video put out by Human Relations Media called: Targeted: How Tobacco and Alcohol Companies Try to Get You Hooked. You can watch a short preview of this at:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How would you start an international conversation about drug usage?

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

If you had a limited budget, but you really wanted to talk to lots of people around the world about drugs, how would you get the word out?

The Israel Anti-Drug Authority got creative and used Facebook... 
until they were forced to stop.

Take one minute and 43 seconds to learn what happened:

Drugs set your timeline from Israel Anti-drug Authority on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Are You As Smart As A Bacterium?

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

Tool making

Today let's have a little fun with the concept that using tools separates us humans from the animals. You have probably heard that humans and a few other animals use tools to get the jobs we need to do... done. Tool use shows intelligence, right?... well maybe not.

Otters use rocks that they place on their tummies to help them break open stubborn clams.

Crows use tools to get to food. They even use multiple toods in sequences to get their needs met.

Monkeys, chimps, and gorillas use tools such as large sticks or stones as powerful weapons. They also use small sticks to gather food.

The adorable dolphin uses sea sponges to protect its nose when foraging for food that is hiding in sandy ocean floors. (Not a happy day for the lowly sea sponge.)

More info see: Mystery of Dolphin Tool Use Solved by GU Researchers - Georgetown University

But what about a bacterium

Bacterium is a single bacteria. Bacteria are amazing, they can help us digest our food (in our intestines) or kill us, depending on what kind they are. Bacteria are single celled microscopic organisms, tiny for sure, but plentiful. In fact, if you add all the bacteria of the Earth together their biomass would be greater than all the plants and animals of the Earth combined.

But are they tool using little germs?

According to Douglas Fox in the April 2012 issue of Discover Magazine the answer is yes.  Scientists report that P. syringae bacteria are tool users. 
"...syringae bacteria on leaves actually use ice crystals as crowbars to rip open plant cells and grab their nutrients."
Not bad for a single celled organism with no arms or opposable thumbs.

Bacteria were here first, we are evolving on their planet. Have a nice day!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Parenting is hard work

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

y son Josh sent me the little video clip at the end of this blog entry. It shows a mom cat taking care of her mischievous kittens.

I have shown this to a few moms in the last week and each mom said about the same thing. "I wish I was a better mom."

The pressure to be a "Great Parent" is astronomical. But often the pressure is self imposed and self defeating. Most parents do a great job... but... we only notice the screw ups. I once bopped my oldest son's head on the car door frame as I was putting him into his car seat. He didn't even cry. He just looked at me in a way that I interpreted as, "This is not good... my dad is an idiot."

All parents make mistakes. But most of what we do is wonderful. We tend to remember the screw-ups and beat ourselves up with them. This is not psychologically healthy for us.

This mommy cat shows us how hard it is to be a good parent. So my advice is to take it easy on yourself. Learn from your mistakes and don't dwell on them. In fact it is probably good to laugh at your mistakes as you learn from them.

That being said, my oldest boy is now 23 and I am still talking about how I hit him on the head with the car door frame.

Be kind to yourself,

Dr. Phil
Parenting is a lot of work!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Drug use and mental health problems in the Unitied States for 2010

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

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Drug use and mental health problems

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recently released the statistics for drug use and mental health problems in the Unitied States for 2010. The numbers are staggering.
Because statistics can be very boring, I am going to limit the actual numbers in this article. But, if you want to read the whole report you can get it for free from: 
First a small quiz…
1. What percentage of adults in America had a severe mental illness in 2010?
The answer 5 %. That equals over 11 million adults.
2. Who are more likely to have a serious mental illness, men or women?
Answer: Women are about twice as likely to have a serious mental illness.
3. True or false: In 2010, 31.3 million adults (13.7 percent of the population 18 years or older) received mental health services during the past 12 months.
Answer: True
Interesting graph:

The 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), is an annual survey of the civilian, noninstitutionalized population of the United States aged 12 years old or older.

Highlights of the report

In 2010, there were an estimated 45.9 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States with any mental illness (AMI) in the past year. This represents 20.0 percent of all adults in this country. Among adults aged 18 or older in 2010, the percentage having serious mental illness (SMI) in the past year was 5.0 percent (11.4 million adults). 
  • Women aged 18 or older were more likely than men aged 18 or older to have past year AMI (23.0 vs. 16.8 percent) and SMI (6.5 vs. 3.4 percent). 
  • In 2010, an estimated 8.7 million adults (3.8 percent) aged 18 or older had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year. Among adults aged 18 or older, 2.5 million (1.1 percent) made suicide plans in the past year, and 1.1 million (0.5 percent) attempted suicide in the past year. 
  • Among the 45.9 million adults aged 18 or older with AMI in the past year, 20.0 percent (9.2 million adults) met criteria for substance dependence or abuse in that period compared with 6.1 percent (11.2 million adults) among those who did not have mental illness in the past year. Among the 11.4 million adults aged 18 or older with SMI in the past year, 25.2 percent also had past year substance dependence or abuse compared with 6.1 percent of adults who did not have mental illness. 
  • In 2010, 31.3 million adults (13.7 percent of the population 18 years or older) received mental health services during the past 12 months. 
  • Among the 45.9 million adults aged 18 or older with AMI in 2010, 17.9 million (39.2 percent) received mental health services in the past year. Among the 11.4 million adults aged 18 or older with SMI in 2010, 6.9 million (60.8 percent) received mental health services in the past year. 
  • Among the 2.9 million adults aged 18 or older in 2010 with both SMI and substance dependence or abuse in the past year, 64.0 percent received substance use treatment at a specialty facility or mental health treatment in that period. Included in the 64.0 percent are 14.5 percent who received both mental health treatment and specialty substance use treatment, 45.0 percent who received mental health treatment only, and 4.3 percent who received specialty substance use treatment only. 
  • In 2010, there were 1.9 million youths (8.0 percent of the population aged 12 to 17) who had major depressive episode (MDE) during the past year. Among youths aged 12 to 17 in 2010 who had past year MDE, 37.2 percent used illicit drugs in the past year compared with 17.8 percent among youths who did not have past year MDE. 
  • In 2010, 2.9 million youths aged 12 to 17 (12.2 percent) received treatment or counseling for problems with emotions or behavior in a specialty mental health setting (inpatient or outpatient care). The most common reason for receiving specialty mental health services among youths was feeling depressed (47.6 percent). 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Mental Health Findings, NSDUH Series H-42, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 11-4667. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2012.

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