Episode 62 – Maia Szalavitz – Unbroken Brain

Maia Szalavitz is one of the premier American journalists covering addiction and drugs. She writes for TIME.com, VICE, the New York Times, Scientific American Mind, Elle, Psychology Today and Marie Claire among others.She has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Elle, Newsday, New York Magazine, New Scientist, Newsweek, Salon, Redbook, O: the Oprah Magazine, the New York Daily News, the Village Voice,Brill’s Content, Cerebrum and other major publications. She has appeared on Oprah, CNN, MSNBC and NPR.

Maia Szalavitz has also worked in television– first as Associate Producer and then Segment Producer for PBS’s “Charlie Rose”, then on several documentaries including a Barbara Walters’ AIDS special for ABC and as Series Researcher and Associate Producer for the PBS documentary series, “Moyers on Addiction: Close to Home”.

She was the 2004 recipient of the American Psychological Association’s Addiction Division Award for “Outstanding Contributions to Advancing the Understanding of Addictions” and the 2005 recipient of the Drug Policy Alliance’s Edward M. Brecher Award for Achievement in Journalism.

She studied as an undergraduate at Columbia University and received her B.A., cum laude, in psychology from Brooklyn College.

One of her best selling books, co-written with leading child trauma expert Bruce D. Perry, MD, PhD, is 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). The book explores how trauma affects the developing brain and why love is the most important ingredient in recovery.
She is also the author of Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids (Riverhead, 2006). It serves as the first book-length expose of widespread abuse in largely unregulated teen “tough love” programs and boot camps. Szalavitz’s work has helped spur increased activism and legislative attention to the plight of thousands of teens held in these programs.

She is 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). This is the first evidence-based consumer guide to addiction treatment; most other books on this subject press a particular approach to addiction and recovery (usually 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous) rather than looking at the data. It also includes both positive and negative perspectives from addicts on treatment.


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In this episode we spoke to Maia about addiction, some of it’s misconceptions and more. 

Editorial Reviews on “Unbroken Brain”:

“Maia Szalavitz is one of the bravest, smartest writers about addiction anywhere. Everything she writes should be read carefully – I guarantee you’ll have a lot to think about, and you’ll know far more than at the start.”
– Johann Hari, New York Times bestselling author of Chasing the Scream

“Maia Szalavitz is one of our most incisive thinkers about neuroscience in general and addiction in particular and her writing is astonishingly clear and compelling. In the timely, important, and insightful Unbroken Brain, Szalavitz seamlessly interweaves her moving personal story with her investigation into what addiction is (and isn’t) and how we can most effectively prevent and treat it.” –David Sheff, New York Times bestselling author of Clean and Beautiful Boy

“Through the lens of her own gripping story of addiction – supported with empirical evidence – Szalavitz persuasively shows that addiction is a disorder of learning, not one characterized by progressive brain dysfunction.” –Carl Hart, Ph.D., author of the Pen/Faulkner award-winning High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society

“Of the countless writers out there who’s focus is addiction, no one can begin to touch the brilliance of Maia Szalavitz. She is by far my favorite addiction writer, perhaps one of my favorite writers ever. Her passion and exceptional writing talent combined with her exhaustive research, create a book that will inspire, educate, enrage, and entertain. I can only promise one thing: if you read this book, you will never be the same again.”
–Kristen Johnston, actress, author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Guts, addiction advocate, founder of SLAM, NYC

“As more professionals realize that addiction isn’t really a disease, our challenge is to determine exactly what it is. Szalavitz catalogs the latest scientific knowledge of the biological, environmental and social causes of addiction and explains precisely how they interact over development. The theory is articulate and tight, yet made accessible and compelling through the author’s harrowing autobiography. Unbroken Brain provides the most comprehensive and readable explanation of addiction I’ve yet to see.” –Marc Lewis, author of The Biology of Desire

“… a new way of looking at drug addiction that offers a fresh approach to managing it. [Salavitz] writes frankly about her background …. In a heartfelt manner, she exposes her own fears and pain … A dense blending of self-exposure, surprising statistics, and solid science reporting that presents addiction as a misunderstood coping mechanism, a problem whose true nature is not yet recognized by policymakers or the public.” –Kirkus

“Journalist Szalavitz offers a multifaceted, ground-up renovation of the concept of addiction–both its causes and its cures.”-PW


Find Maia and her work HERE.

Check maia out on TIME magazine HERE.

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Huge thanks to Maia for being on the show   
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