Fix Columnist Maia Szalavitz Wins Media Award
In recognition of her groundbreaking journalism about addiction and neuroscience, Fix columnist Maia Szalavitz was awarded the 2012 American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) Media Award on Monday night. Szalavitz is not only one of the nation's leading reporters working this beat—she is also one of the most versatile, and the ACNP honor testifies to her persistence in looking at the many complexities of the disease, including the science of the mind and the brain. Szalavitz is also a strong advocate of pharmacological interventions in the treatment of addiction and co-addictions.
"My own experience was the inspiration for my work on addiction. I learned one set of myths about addiction on the street, another set in rehab, yet a third from the media and antidrug education," Szalavitz tells The Fix. "It wasn't until I started studying the science that I really understood it. And it outraged me that this information wasn't more widely available since our policies and treatments are often based on practices that are harmful or counterproductive—as shown by the science."
In bridging the fields of neuroscience and addiction, Szalavitz says that one of the greatest challenges is confronting "conventional wisdom" and fixed assumptions. Many people hold to common myths such as "marijuana causes schizophrenia," even when scientific evidence contradicts these claims, she says. "Editors want you to present 'both sides' when, similar to the climate change situation, the data is overwhelmingly on one side. Presenting a 'balanced' picture doesn't do justice to the reality."
Szalavitz has published four books on drugs and addiction, including Recovery Options: The Complete Guide (co-written with Dr. Joe Volpicelli)—the first evidence-based consumer guide to addiction treatment. She is also the author of Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids—which led to congressional hearings on the regulation of boot camps and other programs for troubled teens.
Szalavitz is currently a health reporter at Time and a blogger for its "Healthland" site. At the Fix, she writes the "On the Contrary" column as well as a new column, "Ask Maia," where she answers your toughest questions about addiction.