The Difference Between Types of Addiction (And Why It’s Important to Know Them)

That’s only true if you don’t know anything about the SCIENCE of addiction.
Source: nyacyouth.org

So, here in my home state of New Hampshire, we’ve been working through cannabis legalization for some time. And last month, we saw a huge step towards decriminalization.

Of course, one issue I keep seeing come up is people questioning or challenging the idea of whether marijuana is addictive or not. Well, as someone who studied the science and psychology behind addiction as part of his college life, I wanted to explain something about addiction that most people overlook; there’s a very real chance that you’re using the word ‘addiction’ wrong and that’s because people use (or misuse, as the case may be) the word to describe three very different problems that I’d like to explore with you.

Physical Addiction

This is what most people in the scientific community mean when they talk about whether or not something is addictive.

The way things we do or consume that make us “feel good” work is by triggering the release of stored dopamine that binds to dopamine receptors in the brain and creates a feeling of mild euphoria as a reward to encourage that behavior.Drugs like cocaine, nicotine, and alcohol (yes, cigarettes and booze are drugs) work by increasing dopamine production and, essentially, flooding your brain in dopamine.

There’s a problem though; having too much dopamine in you all at once can cause the aforementioned receptors to become desensitized while natural dopamine production drops off. This means that you need more of your fix to get less than stellar results over time.

Cannabis, however, doesn’t work like that. While it does trigger dopamine release, it doesn’t directly increase its production. As such, it doesn’t desensitize receptors or reduce natural production with extended use. Therefore, It’s NOT physically addictive.

That said, you can’t exactly sleep on cannabis. While physical addiction isn’t a problem, you still have to contend with…

Physical Dependency

Have you ever skipped your morning coffee and felt like complete ass the rest of the day until you finally get your caffeinated bean buzz? Well, congratulations; you are the victim of a physical dependency.

Physical dependency occurs when the long-term use of a particular drug results in negative, often painful, withdrawal symptoms after being taken off the drug in question. It’s basically your body’s version of the time you were running late and couldn’t find your car keys causing you to freak out because, “GODDAMN IT, IT WAS JUST HERE!”

This is a serious issue with cannabis and withdrawal symptoms DO exist. However, it’s worth noting that the withdrawal symptoms of Cannabis are arguably no worse than caffeine withdrawal. And unlike dependencies with other drugs like heroin (which have the potential to be lethal), the symptoms are often manageable enough to be handled without a doctor using nothing more than drinking water and exercise.

Now you’d think that would close the issue, right? It’s possible to be dependent without being addicted. Ergo, Cannabis is non-addictive but can result in dependency if used too often or starting use too young. However, there’s another form of “addiction” we need to discuss…

Psychological Addiction

Typically speaking, medicine doesn’t delve into psychological addiction. That’s because, in psychological addiction, the problem isn’t physical; it’s mental.

That’s not to say psychological addiction is psychosomatic or “not a real problem;” it’s just harder to pin down the cause. The causes for psychological addiction include genetic disposition, environment, mental health, and much more.

But, the point in cases of psychological addiction is this; the object of obsession is NOT the primary cause. The problem is that the person has formed a mental/emotional link to an object to the point that they can’t function normally without it.

So, there is a potential for cannabis to be psychologically addictive. However, 1) cases are extremely rare, 2) Weed is not the problem, and 3) by the definition of the term, ANYTHING can be psychologically addictive. That’s why people are constantly claiming addiction for things like social media, video games, and sex. The objects themselves aren’t addictive; the “addict” is just using them the same way Linus from Peanuts used his security blanket and similarly freak out without them (though not always to the same degree).

Why Know The Difference (Beyond Just Cannabis)?

So, beyond making a credible defense against the anti-weed crowd, why should YOU care so much about knowing the difference between these three categories?

Well, for starters, addiction is a very serious problem that damages the physical and mental health of those that suffer as well as puts a strain on friends and family. By constantly misusing the term “addiction,” we diminish the problem for sufferers and those close to them.

What’s more, knowing the different types of addictions/dependencies helps provide insight on how to better treat suffers. By finding solutions to the physiological end of the problem (i.e. finding ways to repair damage and weaning the body off a chemical safely) while providing for the victim’s psychological needs (addicts have been found to respond to treatment better when kept mentally amused and allowed to socialize), we can give these people the help they ACTUALLY need when they need it.

The Agent on Diets and Calorie Counting (or “A Case For Body Positivity”)

It’s not a good sign when you identify with the people in photos of a study on starvation.
Source: BBC News

I’ve made it no secret that I am deeply in favor of the notion body positivity. I believe that a person has the right to be happy in the flesh they’re in without feeling like they have to remold themselves to appease others. And if they DO remold themselves, it should be of their own volition – because they want to see themselves become their own ideal; not the ideal of others.

Unfortunately, there’s always been one aspect of body positivity that I’ve always failed at and struggled with – namely, applying it to myself.

You know the old saying by now; “You are your own worst critic.” And quite frankly, I’ve always been guilty of harshly judging myself; sometimes to the point of self-hate. I could talk at length about the various flaws I see in my personality, but this is about hating my body and I have plenty to talk about in that regard alone.

I hate how flat my butt looks in a mirror. I think that my pudgy, Scottish chin is disgusting. Seeing the thick, masculine carpet of hair on my arms and chest makes me feel unclean. I’ve always felt physically weak and pathetic compared to other people; especially when compared to my father – a former U.S. Army Sergeant and body building enthusiast with access to training and conditioning I could never hope to get and I doubt I could even live through.

So, last week, I lost that positivity and self-love. I caved in and started a strict calorie counting regiment.

I didn’t even make through Sunday before I remembered why I needed that positivity.

This diet was VERY tight. I was barely eating over 2,000 calories a day and burning more than TWICE that much through my day job and regular exercise which consists of a daily 3-mile (just under 5-kilometer) power walk through a heavily forested park. I knew that this was a stupid idea, but I stuck with it because I hated myself so much that I was going to see myself change or destroy myself in the process.

Combine this forced malnutrition with a sudden heat wave in the area, stress from work, a lack of a consistent sleep schedule and guilt at taking my frustrations at ALL OF THIS out on others, and it’s no surprise that my moment of realization at what I was doing to myself came to me in the form of a bout of sleep paralysis and vivid hallucinations involving nauseating fractal patterns, faces contorted in agony and (inexplicably) a leopard-faced man that I’m still trying to figure out whether he was supposed to be the demon Flauros or King from Tekken.

The most absurd thing about all of this though is that I should have known better. This is a similar scenario to what I went through back in middle school when I would skip lunch because of people taunting me. It left me pale, sickly, thinly drawn and so weak that I couldn’t even leave the house some days. I had forgotten that my self-hate had nearly killed me over 20 years ago and I almost let it try to do me in again.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, in terms of health improvement goals, you really need to pay attention to your body instead of the criticisms of yourself and others. The numbers that your Fitbit churns out might give you some insight as to the whys and hows, but they can’t tell you what you ACTUALLY need. Push your body to new levels, but not to the point of self-destruction. Know your limits and steadily condition yourself over time.

Remember, it’s YOU and no one else that needs to want the change and change requires time. Clarity, patience, and effort; those are the keys to self-improvement and self-love.

Three Things We Were Told Are Bad But Are Good If Used Properly (and How To Do Them Wrong)

“Sola dosis facit venenum.” The dose makes the poison.

This is the most basic principle of the study of Toxicology. It’s the simple fact that anything can be made lethal or even just detrimental by misusing or abusing it.

So why do so many people still insist that some things are just plainly bad for you?

I hate the idea of being told that something has no practical benefit and I often check out as soon as someone that thinks that way speaks. To me, it’s an indicator of narrow-minded and unquestioning thinking that I have no respect for.

So today, let’s discuss the things that we are told will put us in an early grave that, in reality, can be beneficial as long as you aren’t stupid about using them.

Marijuana

Eh, I would have put the snakes and the staff head around and on top of the center leaf, but the point is clearly made. Source: Weedist

Eh, I would have put the snakes and the staff head around and on top of the center leaf, but the point is clearly made.
Source: Weedist

As always let’s get the big one out of the way from the get-go.

EVERYBODY knows that there is a long list of medical uses for marijuana. What’s more, the LD50 (the dosage of a substance required to cause death in 50 percent of cases) of THC is so astronomically high as to be practically impossible; especially when you compare it to its effective dosages and even MORE especially when you compare it to the LD50 of alcohol and tobacco.

That said, you CAN get stupid with the stuff. People whose brains are still developing (read: under 18) are at risk for a loss of mental faculties and, needless to say, you shouldn’t be driving or operating heavy machinery while under the influence. But seeing as those problems tend to drop off after legalization, the problem seems self-correcting. Still, it’s best to bake responsibly.

Caffeine

As someone who works overnight shifts for a living, I practically live on coffee. So all that caffeine can’t be good for me, right?

Well, much like our friend weed above, the ratio of caffeine’s effective dose and its LD50 are massive. You would need to drink 80 to 100 cups of coffee in one sitting to have a 50/50 shot at getting penciled in for a visit from Azrael.

That said, it’s not impossible. Reported deaths from caffeine overdoses are usually from those abusing pep pills or mainlining pure caffeine. And that’s to say nothing of the risks of Stimulant Psychosis that comes with abuse; especially for those who already suffer Psychosis through conditions like Schizophrenia.

But, for most normal and healthy humans, even the withdrawal symptoms are more like minor hindrances than serious issues. Just make sure that you stick to the coffee and energy drinks for your buzz.

Video Games

Can we start calling IQ points 'Brain Levels?

Can we start calling IQ points ‘Brain Levels?” I feel that would make my life more fun.
Source: LifeHacker

Not a drug, I know. But it’s still an issue… Why it’s still an issue I’ll never know.

All my life I was told that Video Games were bad for me and that I was going to grow up to be a mentally warped, violent freak for playing them.

But here’s the thing, while games can increase aggressive tendencies (as most competitive activities do), evidence shows the rate of violent crime DROPS with new major releases as a result of providing a time waster for those destructive desires. Also, as I mentioned last week, gaming provides useful mental exercise for those looking to keep their minds sharp.

But on the subject of exercise, let’s not forget that gaming is a largely sedentary hobby. So, it may behoove you to drop the controller once an hour to go on a 10-minute walk. Also, maybe we should replace the chips and energy drinks we often nurse with roasted nuts and iced tea.

Three Things I Hate About Dealing With Depression

It's time to start mending myself... Source: Everyday Health

It’s time to start mending myself…
Source: Everyday Health

Oh dear, I’m in one of my funks again.

Normally when my depression hits on posting day, I’ll make up an excuse for being too overwhelmed to work and take the week off. But I made a promise at the start of this year; this is the #YearOfTheIronWoobie and I owe it to myself and the people that look to me for wisdom, inspiration, and simple entertainment to press on.

So then, to help others understand that depression is a lot more than just unexplainable sadness (as an unfortunately large number of people tend to think), here are just a few of the struggles that I deal with that have suddenly been getting on my tits today.

Feelings of Inferiority

You know that feeling where it seems you can never make anyone happy with you despite your best efforts and it seems that you are just naturally built to suck at everything you do and you lose the drive to even try anymore?

Yeah, that’s usually the first sign that I’m having another episode.

This is probably the worst part of depression for me since it means that I lose interest in the passions that would be perfect for pulling me out of the stygian abyss of my crippling apathy because I don’t think I’m good enough to do them right. It creates a downward spiral that I feel I can’t break out of. And when I do break the cycle, I’ll never know what I did to get me out when it comes around the next time.

Self-Hatred

I’ve made it a point of advocating anger as a motivator (when used properly) and I make a clear difference between anger and hate. But you want to know what the worst kind of hate is? Self-hate.

Hating yourself accomplishes nothing. All it does is urge you to metaphorically rip yourself apart when you should be rebuilding your mind and body.

It’s okay to be angry with yourself. Sometimes we just do stupid stuff and can’t believe we would ever do something that terrible for us. But depression helps it to linger and become toxic – preventing us from taking steps to rectify our mistakes.

Misguided Frustration

Remember when I said that the feeling of inferiority was the worst thing about depression? Well, I hate to contradict myself in the same article but, no; THIS is the worst part.

It’s bad enough that I’m being compelled to destroy my own sense of self-worth by an irrational force I can’t comprehend, but having that anger and frustration get thrown on to people I care about because they don’t understand how I’m struggling with my own emotional state makes matters even worse as it drives away people that could have helped me.

Of course, if people aren’t bothering to take the time to understand you and stay with you despite your rough patches, they hardly count as good friends. But that lingering guilt stays with you and makes it harder to move forward.

Wow, I feel a lot better already. Thanks for hearing me out, folks. And I hope you’ll hear out your other friends who struggle with depression as well.

The Agent on Fitbit (or How Wearable Technology Has Changed Me)

It’s amazing how I reflexively look for these things on people now.
Source: fitbit.com

So, I mentioned how I’ve been losing weight like crazy recently. In fact, I stepped on a scale for the first time in over a year to see that I’ve dropped nearly 30 pounds.

In light of this, my roommate was generous enough to grant me the gift of a new Fitbit. Honestly, with my love of transhumanist technology, you’d think I would have embraced wearable tech long ago.

My problem was that I wrote it off as a gimmick; no different than virtual reality headsets and 3D televisions. I thought it was just another useless toy to gather dust on my shelf… until I actually snapped it on.

It’s amazing just how much of myself has changed in just four days after starting to use what I initially thought of as nothing more than a glorified watch/step counter. More so than just my physical health, my Fitbit has contributed to my mental health as well by changing the way I view and do things every day. I exaggerate nothing when I say that, since getting my Fitbit…

I’m more proactive

A Fitbit is more than a step counter. Depending on the model you get, you’ll be getting a device that carefully tracks your specific actions (walking, moderate/strenuous activity, sleep habits, diet, etc.) and gives you set goals you work towards for each one.

I find that being given a solid data set to achieve gives me a more tangible finish line-like end goal to strive for. As such, it feels like I’m actually doing something as opposed to just running around like the proverbial headless chicken. And with an actual goal in sight, I’ll make any excuse to reach those goals.

“Oh, you’ve got coupons for Bed Bath & Beyond? Let’s go browsing so I can get some walking in!”

“You need help moving your furniture? That’s cool; I needed to get my active minutes in anyway!”

“Dinner at Applebee’s? Well, I have been PAINFULLY underbudget on my calorie intake the last few days. Why not?”

Yes, it’s not as altruistic as I’d like it to be, but at least I’m contributing.

Also, these activities often rope other people in on my fitness crusade. This means they get the benefit as well. Which brings me to the fact that…

I’m more competitive

One of the features of Fitbit is that it acts as a fitness-centric social media network. You can add all your friends with devices, compare progress with one another, and challenge others to outperform you.

Basically, Fitbit taps into my most primal instincts as a gamer.

But it’s not just about wanting to outperform others, I actually want to see them race ahead of me. Remember, these are my friends. I want to be the best I can be, But I also want to keep just far enough ahead of them to cheer them on and goad them into trying to overtake me.

Yup, I’m The Gingerbread Man of physical fitness; constantly keeping my sweet, tasty, sugar-frosted ass just far enough ahead to shout, “you’ll never catch me.”

I’m more confident

One of the problems I share with my father – one we were recently discussing, by coincidence – is how I feel terrible  if I take a day of rest because I don’t get anything done. The problem is that I actually DO get things done; I just don’t see them because I’m doing them for  people other then myself.

You know who does see it? My Fitbit.

I wear this thing 24/7 (with the exception of showers when I plug it in to recharge), including at my day job. And I will tell you now – I now know where all of the weight I lost is going.

My job can best be described, according to my Fitbit,  as roughly seven hours of light walking covering over a mile an hour only intermittently broken up by a collective 30 minutes to an hour and a half of heavy lifting (depending on how much the previous shift left for me to do) taken in 15 to 30-minute intervals. The end result of my evening’s work burns over 3,600 calories a day and I can typically only fit HALF that in my stomach before bedtime during the work week.

Oh, and I’m quick to remind you that, because New Hampshire labor laws are BULLS***, I don’t get scheduled breaks.

Once someone (or something, in this case) made me realize that, you’d better believe I feel indestructible.

Fitbit made me realize that I’m stronger – physically and mentally – than I ever gave myself credit for.

I understand my body better

Another cool feature of Fitbit is how it links to other Fitbit products. Namely, our apartment scale.

The scale not only measures and tracks your fluctuations in weight, but your body fat percentage as well. This gives some nice insight on how the body works.

For example, I’ve actually managed to put a few pounds back on in the last few days. HOWEVER, my body fat percentage has been steadily dropping. The reason for that is simple: muscle mass is four times denser than body fat. So a cubic inch of muscle is going to have more weight than a cubic inch of fat. I may not be losing weight, but I am trimming and shaping my body.

This in conjunction with the sleep tracker to identify what keeps me awake, the water tracker to remind me not to dehydrate myself, and more, the act of having such a thorough data set helps me to understand my body far better than if I was going alone.

Now would be the part where I’d write a witty send-off, but the roomie just challenged me to a daily jog-off and I have to make her earn it. Take care, Field Operatives!

The Agent’s Thought Dump

I have too many thinks! Emergency trepanning, STAT!
Source: Know Your Meme

So, after last week’s barrage of righteous vitriol and the pain of the blooming trees surrounding my apartment assaulting my sinuses, I just need something simple and calm to work on in order to decompress as the seasonal allergies pass. As such, I’m going to take a page out of “MovieBob” Chipman’s playbook and do some spring cleaning with my idea files.

Like Bob, I often run into the problem of having tons of ideas and not being able to get them on digital paper. Sometimes they get lost in the shuffle of other more relevant/prominent thoughts. Sometimes I don’t feel I have enough info to work of off. And sometimes I just need a few days of mental prep before I can work up the nerve to tear something apart.

It’s like George Carlin once said, “I got a lot of good ideas. Trouble is, most of them suck.” So today, I’m going to share all of those sucky ideas with you in the hope that they may prove interesting and that some day they’ll be more organized and less sucky.

Let us waste no more time as we delve into the recesses of my mind and ponder the mysteries that only I care about like…

“Whitewashing” in films is becoming a problem again, isn’t it?

Between the upcoming Ghost in the Shell and Doctor Strange movies quickly approaching, there’s been a lot of complaints about Asian characters being portrayed by caucasian actresses.

The problem I’m having is that I’m seeing both sides of the issue and can’t make a definite stance either way. On one hand, as a stage performer myself, I know how much of a pain it can be to find the right person for the role and you have to make due with what you have (we never went as far as race swapping, but we did have to have performers cross-dress in order to fill roles).

On the other, there’s no denying that this is a missed opportunity for a few minority actors and actresses to break out and find an audience. And as someone who like to see fresh talent at work, that’s kind of sad.

Overall, at least for now until new information surfaces, I’m more forgiving towards Doctor Strange since their whitewashing is in service to removing the Asian mysticism stereotype and feels like it wasn’t intentionally racist. Ghost in the Shell; not so much. I love Scarlett Johansson, but she should have known better than agree to play a Japanese woman in a Japanese setting in a movie about Japan.

I’m losing weight… and I don’t know how to feel about it…

This one comes from the personal thoughts and quandaries file, but it’s one of those thoughts I feel needs to be broadcasted on the off chance that someone else feels the same and needs some comforting.

So, ever since I moved out roughly eight or nine months ago, I’ve been steadily dropping pounds like a clumsy British banker. I’ve lost at least six inches off my waist since this started.

And while I’ve been getting my fair share of compliments on the subject, I can’t help but be spooked by it. It’s happening very quickly, my clothes are hanging off of me, and – while I feel healthy – I think that I look drawn and exhausted. Add to that the fact I rarely get breaks on the job and am in constant motion (New Hampshire labor laws suck, remember?), and I worry that I’m headed for a bad time.

It may just be over-thinking on my part, but it is a concern and I hope that others in the same boat might be able to identify with the feeling.

Meghan Trainor betrayed me… AGAIN.

What is this, Meg – the third time you stabbed me in the back after I stood up for you?

Many of you may recall my regrets at calling Meghan Trainor a feminist icon in music while still defending her as an artist. Well, she went and diddled me again!

Between the successes of Dear Future Husband and NO, it’s pretty obvious that I was completely wrong about Trainor. She’s more than just not pro-woman; she’s anti-man.

I know that sounds like I’m being a Men’s Right Activist, but if you listen to her long enough (as the radio at work has forced me to do), you start to notice repeating themes of taunting and self-interest in her lyrics that are inimical to feminist theory and assert her false sense of authority over men and women alike; with men seeming to be her preferred target.

I’ll probably do a lyrical breakdown of NO at some point to prove my stance, but it’s like I said in the beginning. Last week just sucked all the joy from me and I don’t have the strength to deal with Meg’s B.S. at this point. Just know that her day of reckoning is coming.

What I Learned From Coming Out Of Isolation (or What To Expect As a Former Hikikomori)

The cloistered life is not for me.
Source: Arizona Capitol Times

Recently, as many of you are quite aware, I moved into a new apartment last week. I’ve made a new home with an old friend and things are going much better than planned.

In fact, making a home with people has made me realize what a toxic life I was living.

I’ve always said that I’m afraid of becoming isolated and withdrawing from humanity – becoming a Hikikomori to use modern parlance. But, in my efforts to focus on my own life so intensely so I can stabilize myself, I fell into that very trap I labored to avoid without even noticing.

I’ve gotten actual human interaction for the first time in what feels like years and I’m here to tell you how it feels.

The first thing I noticed was how strange and alien it felt being around people again. I was unsure of how to act or what to do around them. It lasted for only a short time, but thinking back on it reveals just how much of an other I felt like being around fellow humans.

The shock only increased when I realized that I had forgotten what it was like to share emotions with people. As I say, I was unsure of how to act around my friends at first. However, when I let go and allowed myself to be a part of the group again, I was overwhelmed. I started laughing with them and couldn’t stop. I almost wanted to cry because it felt like something was striping yards of chains off of me.

Like I said, I didn’t even notice that this was happening to me until I re-entered the social world. To me, that’s the scariest part. In a relatively short amount of time, I lost a major part of my personality that I’m only now starting to recover. Thank god that I have friends that were there to pull me out of that mire before it was too late. If you’re reading this, thank you.