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.
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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Prince died just before addiction treatment doctor arrived

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Prince died the day before he was to meet with a California physician who specializes in opioid addiction:

Dr. Howard Kornfeld, a national authority on opioid addiction treatment, was called by Prince representatives the night of April 20 because Prince “was dealing with a grave medical emergency,” said William Mauzy, a prominent Minneapolis attorney working with the Kornfeld family.

Kornfeld, who runs Recovery Without Walls in Mill Valley, Calif., could not clear his schedule to meet with Prince the next day, April 21, but he planned to fly out the following day.

So he sent his son, Andrew Kornfeld, who works with him, to Minnesota, with plans for him to go to Paisley Park to explain how the confidential treatment would work, Mauzy said...

When Andrew Kornfeld arrived at Paisley Park at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Prince’s representatives could not find him, Mauzy said. Andrew Kornfeld was one of three people at Paisley Park when the musician’s body was found in an elevator a few minutes later — and it was Andrew Kornfeld who called 911

"Prince died amid frantic plans for drug addiction treatment" Read the rest

More people are smoking dead scorpions to get high in Pakistan

Pakistan's daily news service Dawn reports on the rise in scorpion smoking there:

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Trigger Windows Solitaire victory animations with a single click

Here is a startlingly compelling implementation of the classic Windows Solitaire victory animation: simply click and win! The creator is Richard Cabello, who has perhaps played enough Windows Solitaire for one lifetime. Read the rest

“Alcohol and the Human Body,” a cautionary film from 1949

On the science of alcohol and alcholism, from 1949, Encyclopedia Brittanica films. Booze: “a potential menace to community safety as well as personal health”.

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"Pre-gaming" leads to riskier behavior and more alcohol consumption, groundbreaking study finds

A Swiss study has found that "pre-drinking," "pre-funking," "pre-gaming"—basically, the ritual among college-age young adults of drinking before you go out to drink, leads to "excessive consumption and adverse consequences."

Pre-gaming didn't have a name when I was their age; it's interesting how the phenomenon (is it even a phenomenon?) has become a media meme this year. This NYT story is another example.

I realize the newly-released study provides citeable evidence about a behavior with dangerous consequences, but the results are kind of like, yo, thanks, Captain Obvious.

"Increased drinking was associated with a greater likelihood of blackouts, hangovers, absences from work or school or alcohol poisoning. Pre-drinkers were also found to engage more often in unintended drug use, unsafe sex, drunken driving or violent behavior."

Sounds about right. More in the LA Times. Read the rest

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