Categories
Addiction

Are College Years Really the Time of Your Life?

It is believed that your college years are “the best years of your life.” When discussing prospective colleges that are considering taking you into their campuses, there is always at least one family member or friend talking about the friends and memories they had made during their own college years. However, many people forget the overwhelming amount of homework and studying, peer pressure, adapting to a new environment, meeting entirely new people, and working to try to earn money. When combining all of these terrifying and overwhelming aspects of “the college years,” it can be hard to see it as the best time of your life. These experiences lead to feelings of stress, depression, anxiety, and loneliness which in turn can lead many students looking to drugs for relief or enhancement of their performance.

Many of the drugs that are commonly abused on college campuses include Vicodin, Percocet, marijuana, Adderall and Ritalin (Spencer, 2017; Anders, 2017). Use of these drugs turned into an epidemic that seems to be running rampant on college campuses. The stresses experienced in college push these students to abuse Vicodin, Percocet, and marijuana. in order to get relief from their stress and anxiety. At times, these drugs even provide students relief from loneliness (Spencer, 2017).

Other drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin provide more performance enhancement than relief. These are stimulant drugs, which are typically prescribed to those suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (RxList, n.d.). These drugs are typically used by college students to pull all-nighters to study for an exam or get a paper done before an 8 AM class. They are also used because they are believed to help students perform better on their homework, studying and exams. Findings by Curries, Stabile & Jones (2014) dispute the allegations that stimulants improve students’ performance in school and claim that they don’t improve school performance and reiterating the fact that the harmful effects outweigh the beneficial ones. Even for those taking these drugs for a legitimate reason such as ADHD.

Unfortunately, this continues to be a dangerous and common problem in universities all over America. Universities do have the opportunity to simply enact new programs to show support for students that are struggling with this problem and to limit the risk of new students developing it. By creating mandated programs for students, parents and all staff at the university, at-risk individuals can be taught how to recognize the symptoms of substance abuse, what to do when someone is abusing drugs/overdosing and what these commonly abused drugs. To go a step further, institutions can apply for more recovery programs, place overdose reversal kits in every building, implement drug tests in dorms and increase the number of psychological services available (Spencer, 2017).

Students in college suffering from drug abuse are commonly seen as “failures,” “bad people,” but they don’t see that “having a substance use disorder is like having diabetes or a heart condition” (Spencer, 2017). Despite mental illnesses being hard to see the visible aspects of them, their effects are real and damaging much like physical illnesses. So, the very least universities can strive to help these students feel more positively about seeking help instead of furthering the stigmas associated with drugs.

References:

Adderall vs. Ritalin. (n.d.). RxList. Retrieved from https://www.rxlist.com/adderall_vs_ritalin/drugs-condition.htm

Anders, C. (November 17, 2017). College Students Far Overestimate Student Abuse, Research Finds. Indiana Daily Student News. Retrieved from http://www.idsnews.com/article/2017/11/ciadhd

Currie, J., Stabile, M., & Jones, L. (2014). Do Stimulant Medications Improve Educational and Behavioral Outcomes for Children with ADHD? Journal of Health Economics, 37, 58-69. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhealeco.2014.05.002

Spencer, K. (October 30, 2017). Opioids on the Quad. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/30/education/edlife/opioids-college-recovery-addiction.html

Categories
Addiction

The Media’s Portrayal of Parental Addictions

Parents dealing with drug addictions is the latest trend in media and news outlets coverage. It seems like every time you turn on the news, a recently surfaced video of drug-addicted parents dealing with their addictions while taking care of their children is running. News outlets are sure to portray these parents as harmful, negligent, and selfish. While sensationalism is rampant, there are compassionate ways to portray parents dealing with addiction. A video of fourteen-year-old Tori Brinkman showed how traumatizing and difficult having a parent with an addiction can be (Snow, 2017).

It can be hard to portray a parent’s suffering from an addiction as anything but dysfunctional, however, Eileen Fragiacomo (2017) portrays a different picture from what is typically seen on the news. Eileen was the daughter of a drug-addicted mother, Helen, who had Eileen picking up drugs for her by the age of nine years old. In her article, Eileen describes her fear of how her mother would behave and the drugs she would have taken when Eileen got home from school. Helen was similar to the news portrayals of drug-addicted parents; she was negligent towards Eileen and placed her daughter in reckless and dangerous situations to fulfill her addiction’s needs. When she was a child, Eileen explains her feeling at fault for her mother’s behavior, assuming that a lack of love is what leads her mother to disappear for multiple days at a time. It is obvious why the children of drug-addicted parents can be so emotionally and mentally distraught when growing up in a home that promotes such negative feelings and situations.

When Eileen describes her mother in these ways, she also thanks her mother for what she has learned from her. Eileen says that her mother was “…funny, wildly creative and wonderful… when she was sober. But she was a drug-addicted recluse – and had been since before [Eileen] was born. [Eileen] simply didn’t know her any other way” (2017). It is hard to look at the good when growing up in such a tough situation, but Eileen explains the good that was in her mother to remind readers that her mother was still a person, nonetheless. This is one thing that the media and news constantly forget to add. Angie, Eileen’s guardian, and grandmother taught her granddaughter that Helen was simply sick and once she had recovered, things would go back to normal, promoting a positive hope in Eileen. Angie made sure to teach Eileen that her mother was not a bad person for having an addiction. After her mother’s death, Eileen has come to the realization that because of her mother, she is now a kinder and stronger person, and understands what unconditional love for someone is now after living her life with a drug addicted parent (2017).

Thus, we come to a conclusion that prompts us to wonder: are the news and media covering parents suffering from drug addiction correctly? Eileen writes about her mother without judgment and remembers that her mother was a person like everyone else. When compared to the news outlets painting these parents as selfish, negligent and harmful, we must ask: is this a story that would inspire parents to get help for themselves and their children or continue their addictions from fear of being judged as such? It is unfair for parents wanting to get help for their addictions, but who are afraid to get help due to people considering them a selfish parent or a negligent parent.

References:

Fragiacomo, E., (2017, October 10). “Surviving My Mother’s Drug Addiction.” Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/surviving-my-mothers-drug-addiction_us_59e67f97e4b00905bdad5770

Snow, K., (2017, October 9). The Nightly News with Lester Holt. New York, NY: NBC News Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/video/opioid-crisis-14-year-old-on-mother-s-addiction-1066965571670

Categories
Depression

Could Technology Be Making Our Children More Depressed?

My childhood days were mostly spent outdoors at the park. I would run around with the other kids, tumble in the dirt, and adventure around our made-up kingdom; aka the playground. However, over the years, the way I spend my leisure time has changed. This is in part due to the rapid advancement of technology. From cells phones to laptops, it is right in our hands, occupying our attention while simplifying our work.

Technology also provides leisure for our children. Tablets have become quite a popular gadget among our kids. Their lightweight and large screens allow children to hold a whole new world of internet and apps at their fingertips. Furthermore, devices such as chromebooks are being integrated into schools as part of classroom teaching methods. However, how much time should children spend in front of a bright screen? And what effects does it have on them?

The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that the time in front of a screen should be limited, with children under the age of two receiving no screen time at all. The recommended time is no more than about two hours a day. However, a study conducted at the University of Washington found that about 66% of children under the age of five exceed that limitation by spending an average of about four hours a day. Overall, research has found that the increased use of technology has led to an increase of ill-being, even when accounting for a poor diet and low physical activity.

Physiologically, the increase in electronic usage has been linked to an increase in body mass index. Being overweight has been correlated with depression, especially in females, with increased weight leading to unhappiness with appearance or bullying. Additional negative impacts of excessive screen use during childhood include an association with lower cardiorespiratory fitness and raised serum cholesterol by their mid-twenties. A longitudinal study observed individuals, aged 10-15 years old, who watched a screen for more than four hours a day. The researchers found that they were five times more likely to smoke. Another New Zealand study also demonstrated that increased television usage was related to increased cigarette smoking during adulthood.

According to a study done in Australia, increased electronic usage has been linked to not only physical health issues, such as increased obesity and poor sleeping habits but also maladaptive mental and social health. Children adhering to these trends have found to be more isolated and suffer depression or depressive symptoms. They were also found to experience problems in attention, learning, and behavior. Additionally, these individuals suffering from attention and concentration problems also had reduced creative imagination and creative play. Another longitudinal study followed families during their first year of implementing the internet. Within that first year, the children experienced increased loneliness and a decrease in mood.

Overall, our children’s utilization of technology is inevitable. Electronic devices provide education as well as leisure for our children. However, too much screen time can have negative impacts on their physiological and psychological well being. These adverse effects can lead to disruptions in child development and mental health. Thus, limiting the use of it is vital. Instead, children should be taken outdoors more often where they can enjoy their natural environments and be exposed to more Vitamin D. They may also seek physical activity, fresh air, and perhaps explore an imaginative kingdom of their own.

References:

Hancox RJ, Milne BJ, Poulton R. Association between child and adolescent television viewing and adult health: a longitudinal birth cohort study. Lancet. 2004;364(9430):257-262.

Jasienska, G., Ziomkiewicz, A., Górkiewicz, M., & Pająk, A. (2005). Body mass, depressive symptoms and menopausal status: An examination of the “Jolly Fat” hypothesis. Women’s Health Issues, 15145-151. doi:10.1016/j.whi.2005.02.002

Kraut R, Patterson M, Lundmark V, Kiesler S, Mukopadhyay T, Scherlis W. Internet paradox: a social technology that reduces social involvement and psychological well-being? Am Psych. 1998;53(9):10171031.

Martin, K (2011) Electronic overload: The impact of excessive screen use on child and adolescent health and wellbeing. Perth, Western Australia: Department of Sport and Recreation

Rosen, L. D., Lim, A. F., Felt, J., Carrier, L. M., Cheever, N. A., Lara-Ruiz, J. M., … Rokkum, J. (2014). Media and technology use predicts ill-being among children, preteens and teenagers independent of the negative health impacts of exercise and eating habits. Computers in Human Behavior, 35, 364–375. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.01.036

Categories
Addiction

Are Creative People More Prone to Addiction?

What do F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Eric Clapton, Carrie Fisher, and Robin Williams all have in common? All of these people made a career out of working in the arts- whether it is acting, writing, or music, and they all have struggled with addiction. Throughout history, many individuals who worked in the arts were also known to abuse alcohol and other drugs. This reputation dates centuries back, where writers and poets were notorious for substance abuse. Poet, Charles Baudelaire was known for opium use while Edgar Allen Poe, a writer, was known to struggle with alcoholism. That brings into question- is there something about having a creative personality that makes someone more prone to addiction? Or in other words, are the people who pursue careers in writing, acting, and music more likely to have an addiction or are there certain factors that make this trend appear more common than it actually is?

Prior to the 1960’s drugs were not largely seen in association with addiction. Awareness of the problem began to appear throughout artistic outlets such as music. Songs referencing drugs and addiction, such as Heroin by The Velvet Underground, surfaced in the 1960’s when drug use became prevalent in the music industry. A number of famous musicians during this time passed away at the young age of 27 including: Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, and Janis Joplin. While each of these musicians engaged in a similarly risky lifestyle, the motive behind their substance abuse is not very clear. Factors like stress and the social pressure to continue producing original music may remain unaccounted for. As Atte Oksanen discusses in his research article, artists took to rock autobiographies to address the topic of surviving drug addiction, causing it to be a main characteristic of the music industry during this time period.

Thus far, no links have been made specifically connecting substance abuse to creativity.  Factors like genetics play about a 40% role in determining if someone suffers from addiction.  David Linden, a neuroscientist explains there isn’t necessarily a direct connection between creativity and addiction but rather “There is a link between addiction and things that are a prerequisite for creativity.”  Factors like personality traits, experiencing traumatic events in the past, and the presence of other mental illnesses all contribute to an individual’s vulnerability when it comes to addiction.

While it’s clear that substance use was (and sometimes still is) popular in the music industry, it doesn’t necessarily explain why so many artists, actors, and writers are prone to addiction. It could be that drug and alcohol use is considered a common component of the trade. Or perhaps those who tend to be more creative are also more susceptible to the other factors that trigger addiction. Alcohol and drugs are commonly used as vices to deal with the stresses of public scrutiny that these professions often face. The increased media and fascination in the lives of artists could also draw attention to the issue, making it appear that those working in creative fields turn to substances more often; however, more research would need to be conducted in order to provide a clear link between addiction and creativity.

References:

Biello, D. (2011, July 26). Is there a link between creativity and addiction. Retrieved April 9, 2017, from Scientific American website: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-there-a-link-between-creativity-and-addiction/

Drug addiction. (2014, December 5). Retrieved April 9, 2017, from Mayo Clinic website: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/basics/risk-factors/con-20020970

Knafo, D. (2008). The senses grow skilled in their craving: Thoughts on creativity and addiction. The Psychoanalytic Review, 95(4), 571-595.

Oksanen, A. Oksanen, Atte (2012) To Hell and Back. Excessive Drug Use, Addiction and the Process of Recovery in Rock Autobiographies. Substance Use & Misuse 47: 2, 143–.
Sober celebrities: Famous people in recover. (2015, October 9). Retrieved April 9, 2017, from Amethyst Recovery Center website: https://www.amethystrecovery.org/sober-celebrities-famous-people-in-recovery/

Categories
Addiction

Hobby vs. Habit: When Exercise turns into an Addiction

The gym- it’s become a common part of American culture. While Americans are often stigmatized as being lazy and overweight by other countries, a new trend of fully embracing a fit lifestyle has caught on, especially among younger generations. The fitness crave and the growing obsession on looking a certain way is especially evident on social media, including accounts aimed to provide inspiration to those trying to get in shape. It’s good that society is becoming better educated about health, fitness, and nutrition but it’s possible that some people take these healthy habits too far- pushing their bodies to unhealthy limits, both physically and mentally.  The term “Exercise Addiction” has recently been used to describe these obsessive behaviors.

Even though gambling is currently the only behavioral addiction recognized in the DSM-5, research has increased regarding exercise and addictive health behaviors.  Exercise addiction has been defined by modifying the criteria for substance dependence. Major factors that separate exercise enthusiasts from exercise addicts include: tolerance, withdrawal, lack of control, reduction of other activities and continuation despite being aware of the damaging physical, social, and psychological effects. For example, if someone needs to constantly increase their exercise routine to feel a sense of accomplishment and he or she feels guilty or anxious when missing a workout, they may be susceptible to exercise addiction. Over-exercising is also common among people with eating disorders which causes people to severely restrict or alter their caloric intake.

It’s easy to see the damaging effects of a drug or alcohol addiction, but it’s difficult to understand the detrimental effects of too much exercise. One story that represents the difficult complications of this issue is that of a girl named Lisa, who was a student at Bridgewater State University. She feared gaining the freshman 15, or the extra weight people often gain when going off to college. To try to ease this fear she decided to dedicate a major amount of the time at the gym.  Lisa rarely missed a workout and if she did, she would be overcome with guilt. She explains “Every aspect of my life was dictated by exercise and food and the need to control it all.” As a result of extreme exercising she stopped menstruating for six years, and suffers from osteoporosis in her hips and back. Along with health issues, people often suffer socially; spending all their time in the gym can impact relationships with friends and family.

Although the effects of this addictive behavior can leave long-term damaging effects, there are ways that this habit can be better controlled. Kindal Boyle, a blogger and lover of fitness, wrote describes how her obsession over fitness and health consumed her. She states, “It sounds silly… there are people fighting for their lives due to drug and alcohol addictions and here I am trying to run three more miles or 100 more push-ups.” To try to control this problem she puts rules in place to help her overcome her exercise addiction. Although it is difficult for her, Kindal allows herself to take a full week off from working out and sets non-negotiable rest days. She also doesn’t use food as a reward or punishment based on her workouts in an attempt to change from her old mindset where the amount of calories burned determined how many calories she could consume.

While society’s growing interest in fitness is good to encourage people to become more active, it’s possible that society also influences people to push too far. Excessive exercise can negatively impact a person’s physical and mental health, especially when the motivation behind the workouts aren’t strictly to be healthier. Exercise should be seen as a celebration of what your body can do rather than a punishment for what you ate.

References:

Boyle, K. (n.d.). 6 rules that helped me recover from exercise addiction [Blog post]. Retrieved from Lifting Revolution website: http://www.liftingrevolution.com/6-rules-that-helped-me-recover-from-exercise-addiction/

Freimuth, M., Moniz, S., & Kim, S. R. (n.d.). Clarifying exercise addiction: Differential diagnosis, co-occurring disorders, and phases of addiction. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3210598/

Zimmerman, R. (n.d.). Exercise addiction: How to know if you’ve crossed the line between health and obsession. Retrieved May 20, 2016, from http://www.wbur.org/commonhealth/2016/05/20/exercise-addiction-health-obsession

Categories
Addiction

Society and Smoking: a Deadly Combination

It’s likely that in today’s media you’ve seen some shocking anti-smoking ads. Many commercials feature former smokers offering advice on how to deal with major physical issues like losing limbs or lungs, which can happen after years of smoking. It would seem that these commercials succeed at their intended purpose of scaring people away from smoking, but smoking is still a major health issue in the US. While the rates of current smokers have decreased over the past ten years, nearly every 15 out of 100 people still smoke. Tobacco use has a long history in America and many social factors continue to keep this deadly addiction alive.

Many Native American tribes smoked tobacco through pipes for religious ceremonies.  Once the creation of the colonies, tobacco quickly became a cash crop. In the 1800’s cigarettes quickly gained popularity and tobacco was secured as an essential part of the US economy (“History of Tobacco”).

Smoking quickly became a social norm in American culture. The United States Army provided servicemen with free cigarettes during both world wars because so many soldiers smoked and it was used as a way to relax during such stressful times. Meanwhile, tobacco companies targeted the housewives and working women back home (“History of Tobacco”).

One of the major driving forces behind the growing popularity of smoking was Hollywood. Through movies and magazines, cigarettes quickly became a symbol of glamor and sex appeal. Smoking became iconic in classic movies during the 1950’s. For example, the portrait of Audrey Hepburn with a cigarette holder in her hand from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s has been reproduced thousands of times over the years. The Marlbolo man, known for his masculine and tough image, quickly became the successful advertising icon for Marlbolo Cigarettes. However, several actors who played this role have passed away due to smoking-related diseases.

Today, the government and health organizations work to educate a person on the dangers of smoking, however, that wasn’t always the case. The general surgeon warning, stating that cigarettes may be bad for your health, didn’t appear on packages until 1965. Many smokers claim that cigarettes have benefits that help to balance out the extreme health risks. For example, many smokers claim that cigarettes help to alleviate stress, but one study showed that nicotine use actually raises stress levels.

A final factor that increases the likelihood of smoking, is whether or not the individual grew up in a household where his or her parents smoked. Having a parent that smokes, increase the chance of adolescent smoking by 50%. Other factors that play a role include parental control over rules in a household and emotional attachment between the parents and adolescence.

Considering the deep-rooted history of cigarettes, the long-standing influence of media, and personal factors, it’s clear to see why smoking is still an issue in American society. In order to successfully improve this common and life-threatening addiction, it’s important to take into consideration all the complex reasons that influence an individual to start smoking. Simply informing the public of the health risks is not enough; cigarettes need to be separated from the social norm that allowed the addictive habit to become such a large part of modern culture.

References:

Becky’s tips [Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/resources/videos/becky-videos.html#becky

History of tobacco. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://healthliteracy.worlded.org/docs/tobacco/Unit1/2history_of.html

Pilat, K. (n.d.). Hollywood and smoking: a brief history. Retrieved from https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2010/07/the-glitz-the-glamour-the-smoke.html

Parrott, A. C. (1999). Does cigarette smoking cause stress?. American Psychologist, 54(10), 817.

Schwarz, J. (2005, September 28). Children whose parents smoked are twice as likely to begin smoking between ages 13 and 21 as offspring of nonsmokers. Retrieved from http://www.washington.edu/news/2005/09/28/children-whose-parents-smoked-are-twice-as-likely-to-begin-smoking-between-ages-13-and-21-as-offspring-of-nonsmokers/

Categories
Addiction

PTSD and Addiction: A Duel Diagnosis

At some point, whether in real life or Hollywood movies, you’ve probably heard someone say, “I need a drink” after dealing with a stressful situation. Many people use alcohol to help them relax and unwind.

Studies have shown that one is likely to consume more alcohol after a stressful event rather than during it. While enjoying a drink or two after elevated stress levels isn’t necessarily harmful, it’s important to consider the role alcohol and drugs play when someone is dealing with an ongoing chronic stressor or a stress-related disorder. These substances might not be used as an aid to occasionally calm down, but instead as an unhealthy (and usually unsuccessful) coping mechanism. Using alcohol to cope distracts the person from the issue at hand, but often allows the person to remain in denial or misplace blame and judgment.

One of the illnesses that addiction is commonly comorbid with is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.  Post-traumatic stress disorder refers to the avoidance of intrusive memories from a traumatic event. Symptoms like nightmares, flashbacks, and increased stress due to internal or external cues often result, making this mental illness especially intrusive and debilitating (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Due to its precursor of experiencing a distressing event, PTSD is common among sexual assault victims and military veterans. A study in 1997 suggested that women suffering from alcoholism were two to three times more likely to be comorbid with PTSD due to sexual and physical abuse. However, this statistic has likely changed, due to the increased awareness of PTSD among military veterans. When surveying 140,00 veterans who are incarcerated, a shocking 60 percent reported addiction and substance abuse problems. Another study found that nearly 1 out of every 10 returning veterans has experience substance use disorder.

Thomas J. Brennan, a sergeant in the Marine Corps, serving in both Afghanistan and Iraq, wrote for the New York Times about the drinking culture in the United States military.  He explains that underage drinking is common, and that not a lot of action is taken to prevent it.  He goes on to state how many soldiers diagnosed with PTSD used alcohol to self-medicate and relieve their symptoms, something he admits to doing it himself for a short period of time.

While society is becoming more aware of the issues that post-traumatic stress disorder can cause, particularly for military personnel, the US still struggles to treat addiction.  Medication can help reduce the effects of PTSD, while Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help both PTSD and addiction (“PTSD: National,” 2015).  It is critical for society to recognize the comorbidity between PTSD and substance abuse in order to allow for the creation of more effective treatments and resources.  Because while drinking to relieve stress may be seen as a common part of culture in the United States, heavy substance use can increase complications and negative effects, especially when paired with other illnesses such as PTSD.

References:

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Brennan, T. J. (2013, October 1). In the military, the drinking can start on day 1. Retrieved February 26, 2017, from https://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/01/in-the-military-the-drinking-can-start-on-day-1/?_r=0

Newman, L. (2013, August 1). Break the silence: The reality of alcohol in military life. Retrieved February 26, 2017, from https://www.veteransunited.com/network/break-the-silence-the-reality-of-alcohol-in-military-life/

PTSD: National center for PTSD. (2015, August 13). Retrieved February 26, 2017, from http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/problems/ptsd_substance_abuse_veterans.asp

Volpicelli, J., Balaraman, G., Hahn, J., Wallace, H., & Bux, D. (1999). The role of uncontrollable trauma in the development of PTSD and alcohol addiction. Alcohol Research and Health, 23(4), 256-262.

Categories
Addiction

Social Media: Can you get Addicted?

Since the rise of personal computers and smartphones, the amount of time people spend on social media has become a popular topic of conversation and often criticism. As a society, we’re on our phones during all times of the day- whether it’s waiting in line for a cup of coffee, hanging out with friends, or before falling asleep, it’s clear that smartphones play a large role in our daily routines and how we interact with others. But when does social media usage cross the line between staying connected and up to date on current events to becoming obsessed? Many of my friends joke that they’re addicted to using their phones and constantly checking social media- but there’s surprisingly recent research suggesting that social media can cause behaviors similar to those with an addiction.

A recent study examined the relationship between Internet use and gratification. Seven different factors were taken into consideration when examining the reasons for why individuals use the Internet. Factors ranged from more practical uses like gaining information to more socially charged reasons, such as access to a virtual community and improving personal status. It was discovered that these factors, which often result in different types of gratification, could cause addiction-like tendencies depending on the factor, although normally mild among the majority of the population (Song, Larose, Eastin, Lin, 2004). However, this study provides interesting supporting evidence that could possibly help alter the way we view our time spent on the Internet.  

However, just because social media can cause behavior that is similar to those of people with an addiction, it’s crucial to not belittle the seriousness of drug addiction or alcoholism. While most of us are online an excessive amount of time, and sometimes do so without realizing- most people can still function successfully in their day to day lives. Social media use rarely results in many of the life-ruining consequences that drug or alcohol dependency creates.  

Nevertheless, the sneaky habit-forming behaviors of social media can result in serious consequences. For example, feeling the need to constantly stay connected can cause fatal car crashes when texting and driving. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that an average of 8 people a day are involved in fatal car accidents that result from distracted driving. Many of these cases involve the use of a cell phone.

Another study examined the result of social media on mental health. While the majority of social media’s impact is still under question, it has been suggested that improper use of social media can result in depression-like symptoms. This doesn’t mean that someone who uses Facebook to stay in touch with friends will feel depressed, but rather if someone uses Facebook to secretly check up on ex-friends and partners, rather than engaging through comments, likes, and sharing they may experience a depressive-like mood (Chappellet-Lanier, 2015).

While the term addiction has recently been used to describe social media and technology usage, it’s important to remember that the term should be used loosely.  While frequently using social media can occur often without consequences it doesn’t hurt to be more mindful about the way we use technology.

References:

Chappellet-Lanier, T. (2015, February 4). Does Facebook cause depression? Depends on how you use it. Retrieved November 15, 2015, from http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/02/04/383775091/does-facebook-cause-depression-depends-on-how-you-use-it

Distracted Driving. (2016, March 7). Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/

Indeok Song, Robert Larose, Matthew S. Eastin, and Carolyn A. Lin. CyberPsychology & Behavior. September 2004, 7(4): 384-394. doi:10.1089/cpb.2004.7.384.

Categories
Addiction

An Issue with Mainstream Culture

If you were to flip through the radio searching for a familiar tune, it wouldn’t take long to find a song that references alcohol. From upbeat party anthems to wistful country ballads, the idea of alcohol consumption is ingrained into mainstream aspects of American society.  The beloved substance has a long, complicated history and its presence is expected on holidays such as New Year’s Eve and Saint Patrick’s Day as well as events such as the Super Bowl.  While drinking alcohol is acceptable in moderation, it is important to consider how the American drinking culture can influence younger generations and how it impacts alcoholics and those recovering from addiction.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Defense, 1 in 12 adults struggle with alcohol dependence and abuse. While this number seems high, we can better understand it by looking at the social pressure surrounding drinking.  When alcohol consumption becomes a strong social norm it is no surprise that over 17 million people are struggling. In addition to influencing alcoholics and recoveries, it’s also important to consider society’s attitude toward alcoholism.

When I had a conversation with my roommate a while back, she said something that struck me. She said, “I feel that most families have a member that’s an alcoholic.”  Although this seemed an overstatement, it has been reported that over 50% of Americans have a family history of alcoholism or alcohol abuse (“Facts about,” 2015).  Perhaps the reason this issue is overlooked is because it is so common. While many families accept the fact they have a member that drinks in an unhealthy manner, less consideration is taken into account on addressing the problem.

Lawrence Osborne, an author and self-admitted lover of alcohol wrote about this issue very eloquently:

“The worst time of year for the drinker is Christmas and New Year’s.  It may be the worst time for everyone, but for the determined and solitary drinker it has a coercive and dismal quality, because suddenly your private vice becomes a public virtue in which you are obliged to participate as if nothing has changed. Drinking not only increases and becomes more social; it becomes part of the actual rite of this long devastated Christian holiday, which would be better renamed the Winter Solstice with shopping and antidepressants. (Osborne, 74).”

Osborne’s quote helps solidify the impact that social drinking in Western cultures has on people struggling with alcohol use.  It’s important to realize that social settings can be extremely difficult for recovering and current alcoholics.  Even though drinking has been a substantial part of American culture for such a long time, it should be taken into account how alcohol consumption culture negatively affects the recovery of those dealing with alcoholism.

References:

Facts about alcohol. (2015, July 25). Retrieved November 6, 2016, from https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/alcohol/facts-about-alcohol

Osborne, L. (2013). The wet and the dry. Crown.

Categories
Addiction

Caffeinated: Society’s Everyday Addiction

A professor of mine once said “Addiction must feel similar to how I feel trying to get a cup of coffee in the morning.” The students in the room responded to her comment with a little chuckle but she stopped us and said, “I’m serious.  When I wake up the first and only thing I’m thinking about is how to get a cup of coffee. But once I have the coffee, I’m okay and I can go about my day.”    

Her comparison intrigued me; she is definitely not the only person who greets the day in search of a caffeine fix. Personally, it is difficult to start my morning routine until I have begun drinking my morning coffee.  On the way to class, I pass the endless line of students outside Starbucks waiting as long as half an hour to get their fix of coffee. Think of Dunkin Donuts’ slogan, “America runs on Dunkin.” As dramatic as that seems, it’s not entirely false.  According to the Harvard School of Public Health, over 50% of Americans age 18 or older drink coffee every day.

As a society, we are hooked on caffeine.  Those who have an aversion to coffee still rely on an energy boost through soda, energy drinks, or tea.  When consumed in moderation, caffeine truly works in getting people up and working on tasks they have. However, excess caffeine can create health problems such as increased heart rate, tremors, and nausea while also impacting mood by inducing things such as anxiety or depression (“Caffeine in the diet,” 2015).  The DSM-5 has a subset of caffeine-related disorders under the substance related and addictive disorders category.  These disorders include: caffeine intoxication, caffeine withdrawal, other caffeine-induced disorders, and unspecified caffeine-related disorders. To many, this may seem a stretch to consider caffeine consumption as an addiction, especially because it’s so prevalent in today’s culture.  However, while caffeine-related disorders generally don’t have life-threatening symptoms or consequences, it doesn’t mean we should ignore it completely (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Recognizing that people have a dependence on legal substances such as caffeine can possibly help society become more understanding of intense forms of addiction like alcohol and drug abuse. Caffeine is similar to other habit-forming substances in that it alters the chemistry in the brain and has to be metabolized throughout the body to have an impact (“Caffeine in the Body,” 2016).

Although relying on a cup of coffee to wake up every day is common, it is not nearly as debilitating as an addiction to alcohol or heroin.  Caffeine won’t likely cause a person to be imprisoned nor act in a violent manner that other substances are known to do.  However, thinking about relying on a substance similarly to how my professor did may help society gain clarity in the mental complications involved in addiction. After all, the best way to help those struggling from addiction is to sympathize with the problem needing treatment.

References:

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing

Caffeine in the body. (2016). Retrieved October 23, 2016, from http://coffeeandhealth.org/topic-overview/caffeine-in-the-body/

Caffeine in the diet. (2015, April 24). Retrieved October 30, 2016, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002445.htm

Coffee by the numbers. (2010). Retrieved October 23, 2016, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/multimedia-article/facts/