If there's a "gaming disorder", why isn't there a "smartphone disorder"?

The WHO proposes a "behavioral addiction pathology" for excessive video-game playing. But not one for a similar pattern of compulsive, harmful, endlessly looping use associated with smartphones and the internet in general. Ian Bogost writes that the proposed diagnosis reflects a desire to cast negative behaviors as the result of individual mental defects rather than more complex social, political, and economic factors at hand. The discrepancy between digital dependencies considered pathological and those considered perfectly normal may simply come down to pleasing lobbyists--or avoiding their displeasure.

But what about computers, smartphones, or the internet more broadly? Proposals for internet addiction have been advanced for possible inclusion in the DSM-V. In those cases, a similar reliance on the substance-abuse model persists, along with suspicions regarding the legitimacy of withdrawal and tolerance as diagnostic criteria. The WHO told me that it began evaluating the public-health implications of excessive use of computers, smartphones, and the internet in 2014, in response to concerns from its community. But despite those concerns, gaming disorder made it into the ICD-11 draft as the only “clinically recognizable and clinically significant syndrome” related to the broader category of computing and the internet.

Some researchers wonder if the WHO might be under pressure to codify gaming disorder. In 2017, an article in the journal Professional Psychology: Research and Practice argued that two members of the WHO advisory group, Geoffrey Reed and Vladimir Poznyak felt political pressure to identify gaming disorder, particularly from member states where the consequences of excessive online gaming have been particularly extreme.

Read the rest

Giant heroin spoon installed outside of OxyContin manufacturer's headquarters

On Friday, Stamford, Connecticut gallerist Fernando Luis Alvarez and artist Domenic Esposito kindly installed Esposito's large sculpture of a burnt spoon outside of Purdue Pharma, developers of the OxyContin. Police calmly arrested Alvarez and charged him with "obstruction of free passage" and "interfering with police." The current group show at Alvarez's gallery is about the opioid epidemic. He had previously agreed to take the fall for the art action. According to Esposito, the spoon sculpture, titled "Purdue," was inspired by his brother who struggles with drug addiction. From the Hartford Courant:

In 2007, Purdue pleaded guilty in federal court to mislabeling OxyContin and misleading the public about the risk of addiction, and had to pay $600 million. Three company executives were convicted of criminal charges. The firm has been and remains the target of numerous lawsuits, with legal actions against it increasing since the opioid epidemic reached a critical stage...

Robert Josephson, a spokesperson for Purdue, released a statement Friday morning.

“We share the protesters’ concern about the opioid crisis, and respect their right to peacefully express themselves. Purdue is committed to working collaboratively with those affected by this public health crisis on meaningful solutions to help stem the tide of opioid-related overdose deaths.”

photos: Brian O'Neil

Read the rest

Public ignorance about “drunk/drugged up losers” is expensive and deadly

Opioid overdoses now kill more Americans every year than guns, breast cancer, or car accidents. 20 million Americans suffer from addiction to alcohol, illicit, or prescription drugs. On the second anniversary of Prince’s death from fentanyl overdose last weekend, the President of the United States demonstrated a deep ignorance of this medical epidemic, calling someone he considers an alcoholic and addict a “drunk/drugged up loser.”

Days later we learn that Dr. Ronny Jackson, the physician Trump nominated to lead the country’s largest healthcare system, the Veterans Administration, is known to have a drinking problem and is nicknamed “The Candyman” because of his reputation for freely distributing controlled substances to White House staff. With 1 in 10 soldiers seen by the VA for problems with alcohol or drugs – the majority as an outgrowth of being treated for chronic pain – Jackson was a dangerously ignorant choice.

Both the president’s regressive drug policy and his impulsive social media outbursts are conflicting, misinformed, and poorly executed, so his recent post about addicts being “losers” must seem pedestrian to most. In the same tweet he also managed to insult a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and engage in thinly veiled witness tampering before taking off for a round of golf while his wife attended Barbara Bush’s funeral. Numbed and spotty outcries ensued, and we moved along to the next week’s insults. It became just more white noise.

Leadership and policy drive the public’s attitudes about addiction and these opinions have very real consequences in people’s lives, as it did for Prince. Read the rest

Confession: You can't trust a junkie with a new laptop

There's still plenty of life left in my 2015 MacBook Pro. But sooner or later, I'll ditch my computer in favor something new.

The nerd in me is wicked excited with the notion of using an ultra light laptop with an external graphics processor, for several reasons. I've always wanted to own a gaming laptop, but I could never justify the price, or the weight of one in my bag. Going with a computer that can connect to an external GPU means that I could invest in the laptop first, and then the GPU when I could afford it. And since the GPU for the rig is external, I wouldn't be forced to carry around a heavy bastard of a computer with me every time I needed to take off on assignment. That said, I was hesitant to buy one without seeing how it'd perform, first and foremost, as a work machine. I really like the look of the Razer Blade Stealth: the laptop's industrial design is what Apple might have come up with if their design department had a shred of edge or attitude. So, relying on the privilege of my position as a tech journalist, I asked Razer if I could borrow one.

They said yes.

I spent the past month working on Razer's insanely well-built ultrabook. It was pimped out with 16GB of dual channel RAM, and an Intel Core i7 2.70Ghz processor. It's zippy! But then, that's in comparison to my daily driver: a three year old Core i5 with 8GB of RAM. Read the rest

Selfie addiction: the struggle is real

Junaid Ahmed takes 200 selfies a day, enough to land him on UK's Obsessed with my Body. Read the rest

Apps to help free you from addiction to apps

You can't game your way out of the ludic loop any more than you can smoke your way out of a crack habit, but Katie Bloom's found some interesting apps that aim to help us take back control.

My favorite tool for doing this is Forest, an app that costs $1.99 and looks like it was designed for children, which is sort of pleasantly degrading. It’s been the #1 productivity app in the App Store for over a year; its only purpose is to help you stop touching your phone. Tap a button, sprout a little digital plant, and leave your phone alone until the allotted time is up. I use Forest every day, which has made me realize how often I pick up my phone for no reason, a feeling like walking into a room only to forget what I was planning to do there. It is depressing but instructive. As the stakes are technically nonexistent, I imagine this app is only truly useful for Catholics and others with a highly refined guilt palate.

Read the rest

Scientist who synthesized the active ingredient in the powerful psychedelic salvia also broke ground on open access publishing

Salvia divinorum is a plant that is legal in most of the USA and the world, a uniquely powerful psychedelic whose effects are as short-lived (5-10 minutes from first onset to the end of the experience) as they are profound (users generally need to have a "sitter" nearby because they lose control over their bodies and perceptions). Read the rest

"Gaming disorder" to be recognized

The New Scientist reports that the World Health Organization is to include "gaming disorder" in its International Classification of Diseases (Amazon). The wording is yet to be finalized, but will encompass gaming “to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests” and meets various criteria of adverse effects such as anxiety, antisocial conduct and withdrawal symptoms. The Independent:

Last year, researchers from the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute undertook a study to investigate the percentage of gamers who are addicted to video games.

The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, found that only 2 to 3 per cent of the 19,000 men and women surveyed from the UK, the US, Canada and Germany admitted that they experienced five or more of the symptoms from the American Psychiatric Association checklist of health symptoms.

In the past, game addiction has generally been pooh-poohed. But public perception is changing, not least due to the widespread introduction of gambling mechanisms into mainstream games and hardcore Gamers' growing reputation for bug-eyed tweaky behavior in general. Read the rest

The Sackler Family: best known for philanthropy, they made billions promoting Oxycontin

Purdue cynically created the American opiod epidemic through a combination of bribing medical professionals to overprescribe Oxycontin, publishing junk science, and aggressively lobbying regulators at every level to turn a blind eye to the destruction of the lives of millions of patient; while the company settled a record-setting criminal case, the name of the secretive family of billionaires who run Purdue and profited from the Oxy epidemic is best known for philanthropy, not profiteering: the Sackler family. Read the rest

New gamblers who see a short video about slot-machine psychology don't get tricked

Video slot machines pull a lot of tricks to make it hard to tell how fair the game is; one of them is to ring up "wins" that are actually losses (you put in $1 and get $0.75 back, say), with a lot of fanfare and hoo-rah. These tricks are calculated to hook players into the game by stimulating their reward centers with intermittent stimulus, a powerfully addictive combination. Read the rest

A deep dive into kratom, the herb that helps with opioid withdrawal

Kratom (previously) is a widely used herb that has been very effective in treating opioid withdrawal and other chronic, hard-to-treat conditions -- it also became very controversial this year because the DEA decided, without evidence, to class it as a dangerous drug, and then changed its mind (unprecedented!) after a mass-scale petition that included interventions from members of Congress. Read the rest

Letter to my black daughter under a Trump presidency

Hi Kid,

On Election Night, you went to bed crying, and this time, I couldn't fix it. Like half the country, you thought you would be going to bed with your candidate as the president-elect. I wiped away a big, globby tear from the end of your nose, proud of you for caring so deeply about your country. I said it was going to be OK. I explained that, "politics goes back and forth, and this year it just wasn't our turn. Remember when I was for Obama and you were for Hillary, and she lost the primary, but you ended up liking Obama?" Your thirteen year-old defiance broke through your tears, as you declared, "No, this is different!"

You then spouted off a litany of things I didn't know you thought much about:

"It's different because Donald Trump doesn't have the basic morals of everything our country stands for. He doesn't even have the morals of a normal Republican. It's not that the other side won. It's that the person who won is literally against half of the people in the country. He doesn't like Muslims, Mexicans, anyone who is LGBT, he definitely doesn't like women, or people of color. He doesn't like ME. It seems like he only likes people like himself -- white males. How can he be our president?"

He's our president because people voted for him and he won the election. I will be raising you under a Donald Trump presidency until you go to college in four years. Read the rest

Video about using psychedelic drugs to treat anxiety, addiction, and OCD

In the last decade, researchers at Johns Hopkins University and elsewhere have launched new studies investigating whether psychedelic drugs, from shrooms to LSD to DMT, can treat mental disorders ranging from depression and PTSD to anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Vox reporters German Lopez and Javier Zarracina surveyed the state of medical research on hallucinogens:

In a recent study, British researchers used brain imaging techniques to gauge how the brain looks on LSD versus a placebo. They found big differences between LSD and the placebo, with the images of the brain on LSD showing much more connectivity between different sections of the mind.

This can help explain visual hallucinations, because it means various parts of the brain — not just the visual cortex at the back of the mind — are communicating during an LSD trip.

This, researchers argued, may show not just why psychedelic drugs trigger hallucinogenic experiences but also why they may be able to help people. "In many psychiatric disorders, the brain may be viewed as having become entrenched in pathology, such that core behaviors become automated and rigid," the researchers wrote. "Consistent with their ‘entropic’ effect on cortical activity, psychedelics may work to break down such disorders by dismantling the patterns of activity on which they rest."

"The fascinating, strange medical potential of psychedelic drugs, explained in 50+ studies" (Vox)

Read the rest

Prince: death by ignorance and fear

There it was on my Facebook feed this week: Trending: Prince. Why was Prince a trending topic when he’d been found dead a month ago? Then I learned his official cause of death had just been released: “Accidental Fentanyl toxicity.” In other words, he unintentionally overdosed on a drug he was taking to treat chronic pain. After reading the comments on the various new Prince articles, it hit me: though Prince’s body died of opioid overdose, the autopsy report may as well have said “death by ignorance and fear,” both his own, and the public’s.

If “death by ignorance and fear” sounds inflammatory and sensational, stop and think about it. Why on earth would anyone wait to get medical help for something that could kill them? Would you furtively seek treatment if you realized you had something potentially fatal? Would you wait until things were so bad that your life was literally falling apart and you were afraid you might die? No. You’d rightly engage in proactive self-care and get professional medical treatment, with no fear that anyone would proclaim you as weak-willed and morally bankrupt. You would do it with no fear that it might permanently damage your reputation, your career, or negatively affect your family. But that’s not the case with addiction and mental health.

Because of his fear of what had become his “secret” getting out to the public, Prince passed off an emergency plane landing due to overdose as “the flu.” The public’s eyes were on him, and treatment that would have saved his life was delayed. Read the rest

Prince died of a pain medication overdose

Updated: Fentanyl.

A law enforcement official told the Associated Press today that tests show Prince died of an opioid overdose. The iconic musician was found dead at Paisley Park, his home and studio in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on the morning of April 21, 2016. He was 57. Read the rest

Grieving mom says 'dirty' police detective stole dead son's money after heroin overdose

A police detective in Rock Falls, Illinois has been arrested for stealing more than $1,700 in cash found on the body of a man who died of a heroin overdose. Detective Sgt. Veronica Jaramillo, 43, was taken into police custody on May 17, 2016 by Illinois State Police and charged with theft and official misconduct. Read the rest

House passes bill to help children who are born hooked on opioids

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously passed legislation to improve safety planning for babies born dependent on opioid drugs. Read the rest

More posts