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Maia Szalavitz
Maia Szalavitz is a journalist who covers health, science and public policy. Her most recent book is Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction.

She is co-author, with leading child trauma expert Bruce D. Perry, MD, PhD, of Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential-- and Endangered, (Morrow, 2010). They previously co-authored The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook: What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love and Healing (Basic, 2007).

She is also the author of Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids (Riverhead, 2006) and co-author, with Dr. Joseph Volpicelli, M.D., Ph.D. of the University of Pennsylvania, of Recovery Options: The Complete Guide: How You and Your Loved Ones Can Understand and Treat Alcohol and Other Drug Problems (John S. Wiley, 2000).

Entries by Maia Szalavitz

What Marijuana Can Teach Us About Addiction

(1) Comments | Posted April 18, 2016 | 11:51 AM

When people think of the ravages of addiction, they tend to imagine needles in arms, broken bottles, flickering crack torches and trembling hands -- not someone smoking a joint in front of the TV. But marijuana can be addictive, too -- and understanding why helps explain how our drug policy...

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Empathy and the Internet

(3) Comments | Posted June 17, 2010 | 2:27 PM

Lately, the media has been abuzz with concern about the possible negative effects of the internet and mobile devices on our ability to connect with each other. For example, in its recent series on the emotional and cognitive perils of internet use, the New York Times emphasized the problems that...

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Shocker: Empathy Dropped 40% in College Students Since 2000

(69) Comments | Posted May 28, 2010 | 8:21 AM

College students who hit campus after 2000 have empathy levels that are 40% lower than those who came before them, according to a stunning new meta-analysis by University of Michigan researchers, which includes data from over 14,000 students.

Although we argue in Born for...

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AP Thinks Heroin's Got a Brand New Bag, Misses Story

(12) Comments | Posted May 25, 2010 | 9:36 AM

Big news! Heroin is now more pure and deadly than ever--and comes in $10 bags! According to an investigation by the AP, today's heroin dealers are taking their cue from the crack dealers of the "1970's" and making their product cheaper and higher quality in order to attract...

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Cocaine, Bad Boys, Nerds... and Twitter

(3) Comments | Posted April 28, 2010 | 8:32 PM

Some mornings, when I check Twitter, I feel like a rat pressing on a lever. Will this be the push that delivers a fine hit of recognition and praise -- or will I instead feel like the nerd on the edge of the playground?

It's embarrassing, this sensation. It makes...

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How Orphanages Kill Babies-- and Why No Child Under 5 Should Be in One

(10) Comments | Posted April 23, 2010 | 12:22 PM

For most people, the word orphanage conjures cold Dickensian images of cruelty to children -- and yet whenever I write that children under five should never be kept in institutional care, I hear from people who vigorously defend such facilities.

With public attention focused on the horrifying...

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Save a Mom's Life -- and Learn How to Get People to Give

(2) Comments | Posted April 21, 2010 | 2:06 PM

Irene Katrandjian, a 52-year-old mother of three, never thought she might need a stem cell transplant herself someday when she joined a donor registry several years back. "I heard that a little boy needed stem cells. I thought, 'Why wouldn't you help?' To me, it was a no-brainer."

Now, her...

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The Joy of Empathy: Why It Matters & How to Teach It to Your Kids

(1) Comments | Posted March 29, 2010 | 1:25 PM

One of the least-praised pleasures in life -- and yet one that is probably most likely to bring lasting happiness -- is the ability to be happy for others. When we think about empathy, we tend to think of feeling other people's pain -- but feeling other people's joy gets...

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How To Launch A Nationwide Drug Menace

(6) Comments | Posted March 19, 2010 | 8:44 AM

Last week, the media was filled with headlines like "Sniffing Trumps Weed for 12 Year Olds," (CBS) and "Inhalant Abuse a Deadly Middle-School Concern," (U.S. News and World Report/HealthDay). The stories came out of a Washington press conference touting news from the Substance Abuse and Mental...

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Crack Law: Not only Cruel and Racist, But Scientifically Wrong

(4) Comments | Posted March 12, 2010 | 10:25 AM

For years, those concerned with fairness in America have been distressed by the alarming racial disparities seen in the criminal justice system. Currently, one in eight young African American men are under criminal justice supervision--either in prison, on parole or on probation--and black men serve almost as much...

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Shocking Stupidity: Boston Globe Ignores Research to Support Dangerous Autism Program

(62) Comments | Posted March 9, 2010 | 4:43 PM

The Boston Globe ran an op-ed today that perfectly characterizes a key failure of American journalism: that is, it reports on a medical question that can be answered by scientific research, but fails to even mention that such data exists or should exist.

The piece, headlined "Shocking Truths,"...

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The Dark Side of The Secret: Empathy and Inequality

(4) Comments | Posted March 5, 2010 | 2:36 PM

If you have more than one child-- or have ever been in a situation where there are many small but verbal kids-- you've probably heard an outraged cry of "That's not fair!" more than once. But-- as we note in Born for Love-- this isn't something most parents...

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Empathy and the Economy

(3) Comments | Posted February 21, 2010 | 6:47 PM

Sunday's New York Times headlined a front page story on long-term joblessness, "Millions of Unemployed Face Years Without Jobs."

Reading the now-depressingly familiar story of decent Americans struggling to avoid homelessness, I was struck by this quote:

"American business is about maximizing shareholder value," said Allen Sinai,...
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Addiction: Tough Love Or Tough Luck? Empathy Works Better

(2) Comments | Posted February 17, 2010 | 8:37 AM

One of the main reasons I wanted to write about empathy in my forthcoming book with Bruce Perry, MD, Phd, Born for Love, was my experience of the lack of empathy we show towards people with addiction. As a former heroin and cocaine addict, I was horrified by...

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Liberals, Conservatives, Spanking and the NY Times

(3) Comments | Posted February 15, 2010 | 11:55 AM

Nicholas Kristof had an interesting column in Sunday's NY Times about liberals, conservatives, spanking and brain wiring.

Unfortunately, he misunderstands the idea of "hard wiring," and how flexible the brain is during development. He cites research that finds that conservatives have a more easily triggered startle response --...

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Really Special Education: State Investigation Confirms "Lap Dance Therapy" Allegations

(90) Comments | Posted November 4, 2009 | 11:21 AM

Are lap dances an effective therapy for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or drug addiction? It doesn't seem like a question that should require a serious answer -- but a state investigation of Oregon's Mount Bachelor Academy (MBA) has substantiated allegations made by students and staff that such "therapy" was part of...

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Do Lap Dances and Humiliation Treat ADHD -- and Should Public Schools Pay?

(15) Comments | Posted April 17, 2009 | 8:57 AM

In today's Time Magazine online, I have an article about a school -- Mount Bachelor Academy -- which is part of a Supreme Court case to be argued on April 28. The Court will answer the question of whether parents can sue to get reimbursement for private residential schools...

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Is the Media Finally Getting it On Drug Policy?

(5) Comments | Posted April 2, 2009 | 11:45 AM

I have been following drug policy for -- eek -- more than twenty years. While there have always been a few brave, high-profile journalists and pundits who dared to question the drug war, for the most part, the American press has been as gung-ho in cheering it on as our...

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The Enchantress of Numbers

(3) Comments | Posted March 24, 2009 | 11:42 AM

Though this is outside my usual obsessions, I agreed to blog for Ada Lovelace Day today, celebrating women in technology.

Ada Lovelace was probably the world's first programmer: although her program never ran because the machine it was designed for was never built, she wrote it for Charles Babbage's...

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Incarcerating Kids will Solve the 'Sexting' Problem Like Incarcerating Drug Users Has Created a Drug-Free America

(14) Comments | Posted March 20, 2009 | 7:10 PM

Because I write about drug policy, I encounter daily massive ignorance, complete stupidity and utter idiocy. But this piece by Ashleigh Banfield on the Daily Beast blows most of it out of the water on the dumb-o-meter.

Banfield wants harsh legal penalties applied "with zeal" to teenagers who send...

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