For Clinical Psychologist Neil Rocklin, Addiction Education Can’t Begin Soon Enough

This article was written by Noozhawk Intern Sarah Webb as part of Day 8 in Noozhawk's 12-day, six-week special investigative series. Related links are below.

The Noozhawk's Prescription for Abuse series is a special project exploring the misuse and abuse of prescription medications in Santa Barbara County. Our series is a result of an exciting and unique partnership with USC's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, which awarded Noozhawk a California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship to undertake this important work.

Through our reporting and presentation, we will establish an independent baseline of where our community is with respect to the misuse and abuse of prescription medications; how the problem is affecting health care, education, law enforcement, criminal justice, addiction and treatment, and our culture and society; what we as a community can do to educate ourselves about prevention and controls; and how we can perhaps reverse what appears to be a very troubling trend.

Noozhawk staff writers Lara Cooper and Giana Magnoli are the lead reporters on the project, and they've been assisted by managing editor Michelle Nelson; reporters Alex Kacik and Sonia Fernandez; interns Kristin Crosier, Jessica Ferguson, Tim Fucci, Kristen Gowdy, Jessica Haro, Daniel Langhorne, Alexa Shapiro, Sam Skopp, Erin Stone and Sarah Webb; photographers Garrett Geyer and Nick St.Oegger; content producer Cliff Redding; and Web development staffers Will Macfadyen and Edgar Oliveira.

Ashley Almada, Garrett Geyer, Hailey Sestak and Billy Spencer of the Santa Barbara Teen News Network filmed more than two dozen public-service videos featuring many of our story sources.

The project is sponsored by the Santa Barbara Foundation in partnership with KEYT, sbTNN and Zona Seca. The Annenberg School is assisted by the Renaissance Journalism Center at San Francisco State University.


Day One:

» Quiet Epidemic of Prescription Drug Abuse Taking a Toll on Santa Barbara County

» After Losing It All, Former Drug Addict Looking Forward to Renewed Life

» USC, California Endowment Unite to Support Health Journalism at the Source

» Bill Macfadyen: Prescription for Abuse Project Is a Series of Opportunities

Day Two:

» Local, National Statistics Reveal Alarming Jumps in Misuse and Abuse of Medications

» Marijuana Use Trends Higher, Especially Among Young Adults, Sparking Public Health Concerns

» Alcohol Plays a Role All Its Own in Setting the Stage for Local Abuse, Overdoses

Day Three:

» Understanding Addiction Key to Dealing With Prescription Drug Abuse

» Donna Genera Has Seen the Price and Perils of Drug Addiction from All Sides

» Rich Detty Bears Burden of Not Knowing Extent of Dead Son's Drug Use

Day Four:

» Escalation of Drug Overdose Deaths Includes Increased Presence of Prescription Medications

» Santa Barbara Teen News Network Adds Another Dimension to Prescription Drug Abuse Series

» Dr. Chris Lambert Sounds Warning on Mixing Prescription Drugs with Alcohol

Day Five:

» Local Oversight of Prescription Medications Is Far More Focused Than State, Federal Controls

» Elderly Are Particularly Vulnerable to Both Misuse and Abuse of Prescription Drugs

» Second-Generation Pharmacist Peter Caldwell Fills a Vital Role with Patient Health Care

Day Six:

» Early Education for Parents and Youth Emerges as Critical Tactic to Thwart Drug Use

» Student Highs Can Lead to Tragic Woes with Addiction's Hook Just One Fateful Step Away

» From an Early Age, Shereen Khatapoush Saw the Horrors of Substance Abuse

» As a Parent Herself, Prosecutor Von Nguyen Brings Empathy to Job in Juvenile Justice

Day Seven:

» Law Enforcement Fights Battle Against Prescription Drug Abuse from Outside and Inside

» Sheriff Bill Brown a Strong Supporter of Re-Entry, Drug Abuse Treatment Efforts

» Speaking from Experience, Zona Seca's Kevin Smith Keeps Drug Abusers on Road to Recovery

Day Eight:

» Prescription Drug System Is Rife with Loopholes, Fraud and Lack of Oversight

» For Clinical Psychologist Neil Rocklin, Addiction Education Can't Begin Soon Enough

Day Nine:

» Drug Abuse Treatment Programs, Expertise Are Plentiful on South Coast

» Dr. David Agnew Sees Pain as Pathway to Abuse But Cautions Against Overreaction

Day Ten:

» Awareness, Disposal Key Elements to Reversing Tide of Prescription Drug Abuse

» Dr. Joe Blum Keeps Focus on His Veteran Patients Despite Health-Care System's Restraints

Day Eleven:

» Operation Medicine Cabinet Gets the Drop on Prescription Drug Disposal

» Lacey Johnson Gives UCSB Students an Education in Dealing with Drug Abuse and Addiction

Day Twelve:

» Santa Barbara County Officials Look for Solutions in Battle Against Prescription Drug Abuse

» Noozhawk Journalists Recount Lessons Learned from Prescription Drug Abuse Series

» Annenberg Fellowships Take a Diverse Approach to Community Health Journalism

» Dr. Nancy Leffert Champions Antioch University's Role in Fight Against Substance Abuse

» Professionals Working in Addiction Field Often Share Roots at Antioch University Santa Barbara

Name: Neil Rocklin Ph.D.

Location: Camarillo

Occupation: Clinical psychologist/psychology lecturer

When clinical psychologist Neil Rocklin teaches CSU Channel Islands students about addiction, he uses wisdom teeth to get on their level.

“I ask for a show of hands for how many people have had their wisdom teeth pulled out,” he said.

He sees a full room of raised hands.

“I ask how many people had a prescription for Vicodin,’” he continued.

The hands stay up.

“Then I ask how many people took some of the medication,” he said. Some hands stay up.

“How many took all of their medication?”

All but two hands go down.

Rocklin uses this social experiment to fuel an important question: “Why would a physician prescribe the medication knowing that 95 percent of the people don’t need it?”

It’s an issue that is plaguing the pharmaceutical industry and affecting the way Americans deal with and use prescription medications.

Rocklin experienced firsthand a major component to prescription drug addiction: convenience thanks to overprescribing. After open-heart surgery to replace a valve, the pharmacy couldn’t wait to send him his refills.

“They want to sell me more medication than I need,” he said.

“It’s all in terms of profit incentive. That’s one of the most disturbing elements in any discussion about health care.”

At Rocklin’s Woodland Hills practice, where he works mainly with elementary school-aged children, substance abuse sometimes surfaces as an issue with prescription drugs.

“I have seen, over the course of my practice, children ages 12, 13, 14, who during the course of treatment for a different kind of referral, have been identified as substance abusive,” he said.

“Addiction is what we call a disorder of the brain,” he explained about substance abuse. “It’s chronic, so the disorder begins typically in childhood.”

From his experiences, Rocklin suggests that addiction may start at a much earlier age than previously thought. That is why he proposes early education at an even more intense, scientific level.

“We need to get into schools and teach kids at a very early age about neurotransmitters,” he said, “and about how you have to be sensitive and value your body and the way in which your body functions.”

Rocklin stresses even more the necessity to teach children the importance of maintaining a healthy body and mind without drugs.

“Not everybody is going to feel good all the time, and there are going to be periods of your life when you are going to feel unhappy,” he said. “You’re going to have to figure out how you’re going to deal with that.”

Rocklin suggests options like exercise and a healthy diet instead of abusing different substances.

One aspect of addiction that Rocklin wants people to understand is its classification as a true mental disorder, which affects the brain and cannot be controlled.

“We generally think of addiction as a disorder that somebody has control over,” he said. “We have these oversimplified, over-expected ideas that you should just get over it and stop doing it. But it just doesn’t work that way.”

He proposes that treatment programs for both addicts and those arrested for drug possession are the most effective way to counteract substance abuse.

“Deferring people into treatment programs will help by providing a better outcome as well as being less expensive,” he said.

Rocklin says Americans must be willing to fund such programs, regardless of whether they affect their lives. Only then, he says, can society make headway against addiction.

“There is this conflict between what the public expects and wants and what the public is willing to pay for through their tax dollars,” he explained.

“It’s a huge issue because we tend to not want to provide the kind of funding for people who are sick,” he said. “But if we don’t accept that in these situations there are people who are substance abusive and we pretend it doesn’t exist, then we won’t make any progress.”

Noozhawk intern Sarah Webb can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Noozhawk on Facebook.