Scary Trends: Nicole

Scary Trends: Nicole
Dr. Phil has advice for learning to bond with a child you don't like.

A few months ago, 15-year-old Nicole was sent home from school with what she said was food poisoning. Her mom, Diana, didn't believe it: "I said, 'What the f*ck did you take?' and she said, 'Mom, I have food poisoning.' And I said, 'Nicole, you're a f***ing liar.'"

 

Nicole finally admitted that she had taken a high dose of cold medicine, and Diana

rushed her to the hospital. "The doctor told me that Nicole could have a stroke, heart attack, seizure, any number of things could have happened," Diana explains.

 

Nicole's dad, Scott, is shocked. "I'm totally surprised why somebody wants to take cough medicine to get high," he says.

 

Diana was so worried about Nicole that she decided to tape her phone conversations. On the tapes, Nicole tells her friend, "I'm addicted to pills. I love feeling sick beyond my control. I love my eyes being opened and I feel like I can't close them anymore. I love it!"

 

Diana grounded her daughter. She says through tears, "When I listened to the tape, I thought 'Who is this girl on the phone?' I couldn't believe what she was saying."

When Diana found out that Nicole had alcohol and cough syrup in her school locker, she called the principal and told him to search it. The police ended up taking her away in handcuffs. Nicole's father was shocked. "Nicole has always been, to me, a goody-goody child," he says.

 

"I like taking the cold medication because it feels cool. I'm just there relaxing," Nicole confesses. "Most of me wants to stop taking the cough medications, but the other half doesn't because I don't want to go back to being a good girl. I want to live a

little."

 

"I panic every time the phone rings because I'm thinking that someone's calling to tell me that Nicole is dead," a worried Diana says.

 

Dr. Phil confronts Scott. "You found out that she had taken this stuff and she wound up in the hospital, and you didn't even come home," he points out.

 

Scott says that he was out-of-state driving his truck. "She was going to keep me posted," he explains.

 

"What kinds of conversations did you guys have with Nicole?" Dr. Phil asks.

 

"I was just concerned with how she got the idea of doing this, and if there was anything we could do to solve the problem," Scott states.

Dr. Phil asks Nicole why she is doing it.

 

"Just for a change from what I used to be," she says, explaining that she used to be "good" and "never did anything."

 

Dr. Phil explains that high doses of DXM, the active ingredient in cold and cough remedies, can cause inability to move arms, legs or even to talk. It slows breathing, can create permanent brain damage and cerebral hemorrhage, and can lead to stroke, paralysis

or death. "Does it even register with you that you could wind up in a wheelchair paralyzed the rest of your life because you're tired of being the good girl?" Dr. Phil asks.

 

"Yeah," Nicole says.

 

"Yet you continue to do what you have done," Dr. Phil points out. "That tells me you don't have a lot of insight about this. That you're continuing to put yourself in harm's way."

Nicole resents her mother for taping her phone calls, but Dr. Phil thinks it was the right thing to do. "I think we have to have boundaries and I think we have to respect our children's privacy, but when you have a warning sign, when you have indications that a child is putting their life in jeopardy, then at that point, all bets are off," he says.

 

"Dad, I'm kind of concerned that you're just kind of hands off with this and leaving it your wife, is that true?" Dr. Phil says to Scott. For example, Scott didn't like that Diana taped Nicole's phone conversations, and he didn't come home when he found out that Nicole had overdosed and gone to the hospital.

 

"It's a little bit hard for me to sometimes come home when I'm driving the truck," Scott says. "I would have if they would have told me that something ... "

 

Dr. Phil finishes Scott's sentence, saying, "If something significant had happened?" He asks Scott, "Define significant for me."

 

"Well, I guess it is serious," Scott realizes. "I guess trying to find some place to get into an airport to fly home would have been my problem."

"You've got two questions you've got to answer here," Dr. Phil says. The first is why Nicole is doing this. "You say you're just bored with being good," he says to Nicole. "That's one theory and I think that's something that should be considered." Dr. Phil offers another possibility, pointing out that Nicole was unhappy with the family's recent move to a smaller, less active town.

"You're just basically bored," he tells Nicole. "You're just looking for a party in a bottle. You're looking for something that will give you a lift."

 

"Yeah, I guess."

 

"I think also that you have to consider that this beautiful, young woman here, for some reason, doesn't have a lot of self-esteem," Dr. Phil continues, and Nicole agrees. "The reason I know that about you is because if you valued yourself, if you loved yourself, you wouldn't put yourself in jeopardy. You wouldn't lower the bar so low that you were willing to take drugs. You would say, 'No. I'm not putting that poison in my body. I'm worth more than that,'" Dr. Phil explains.

 

"The second question, perhaps more important, is what do you do about it," he says. "What you have to assume is that she is medicating herself for something, whether it's low self-esteem or depression. You have to assume that she's filling a void in her life in some way and you have to assume that she does not have the ability to predict the consequences of her actions."

He emphasizes that this is not just Nicole's problem, but it's the family's problem. Everyone in the family must be involved in the solution.

 

"Getting in her face and telling her she's an f***ing liar, is probably not the most therapeutic approach to someone who's not got a lot of self-esteem to begin with," Dr. Phil says to Diana.

He turns to Scott. "Not bothering to come home because you don't know where to park your truck and how to get to an airport when your daughter's OD'd in the hospital, is probably not the best message ... I would rather live in a tent with all of my children alive and well, than live in a house with one of them dead," he explains. "You've got to make a decision about what your priorities are and this is all about family."

 

Dr. Phil addresses Nicole. "You have made bad decisions and you need to love yourself enough to stop that," he tells her. "You are an intelligent, beautiful, energetic young woman, and you are better than what you're doing. You are better than taking those drugs." She need not be boring to be good; there are other ways to get excited and feel passionate about her life.

 

Dr. Phil offers to arrange family therapy for them.

Dr. Phil introduces Joe Simitian, a California State Senator who is lobbying to make cough and cold medicine out of reach for minors.

California is one of three states that is considering taking cough syrup and cold pills off the shelves and requiring minors to have a prescription for it.

 

Last year we had a very simple approach. We said, 'Look, kids are going to make bad choices. We know that's happening already not only in California, but around the country. Let's just require a prescription for anyone under the age of 18," Sen. Simitian explains. "That was all the bill did, and we struggled to get it through two different committees. We got it to the floor of the California State Assembly and just didn't have the votes." He says that they are going to try again this year to push the bill through.

 

For more information on Sen. Simitian's work, visit: http://democrats.sen.ca.gov/senator/simitian