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 Kathy Griffin Debacle: Yet Another ‘Everyone’s An A-Hole’ scenario

Do I look shocked? I’m trying to do my best ‘shocked’ face. No? Eh, whatever.
Source: TMZ

Well, I think I’ve let this issue smolder long enough where I can safely discuss it.

For those who somehow managed to escape the raging dumpster fire that is the current American political landscape (god, I envy you…), there was a big to-do amongst the bizarre political choices and ego-centric tweets when stand-up comedian, writer, and actress Kathy Griffin took her criticism to the extreme by posing for photos while standing with a blood-soaked head resembling that of Donald Trump.

Naturally, folks lost their minds. People immediately ran to verbally lambaste and defend Kathy in a flurry of unhelpful rage.

Let’s keep this short and sweet, shall we? I have absolutely NO LOVE for Trump as a light search on my Twitter feed will reveal. I think he’s immature, incompetent, self-serving, and rude. What’s more, he lacks the intelligence to run his own business effectively, let alone an entire country.

That said, what Kathy did was stooping down to his level in my mind. This was her equivalent of Trump’s “bomb the s*** out of them” line; an empty threat that she can’t possibly deliver on and served no purpose other than to get everyone pissed off because blind rage is more effective at getting a message out than gentle understanding.

Of course, there’s also the plaintiff cries of how, not long ago, we endured 8 years of similar threats to Barrack Obama and that those offended now are being hypocritical. Rest assured, those people do exist and are just throwing a temper tantrum about THEIR idol being mocked at best and genuinely horrible human beings at worst. But, just because “they” did it first doesn’t give “us” the right to be just as terrible. Don’t you hear how infantile that sounds when you describe it?

Besides, such thinking disregards those who refuse to condone such behavior and robs them of their voice in the matter. There are some people out there who would call Kathy AND the Anti-Obama folks out equally for being childish, barbaric or both… people like me, for instance.

I’m of the opinion that we should be living in a world where we are mature and intelligent enough to recognize such obvious hyper-inflated bombast through violence as the weak attempts at humor/social commentary that they are and not give such people the dignity of occupying valuable space in our brains. I, for one, put to much value on my thoughts to pay attention to idle threats and long to hear some actual, meaningful dialogue on the topic that can ACTUALLY fix the problem so that I and everyone else on this blue-green space rock that I love so dearly can go on living constructive and meaningful lives.

In conclusion, I offer this message to the world; put away your effigies and torches, calm your butt-hurt feelings down, and try to contribute to the discussion on how to fix what you – in all likelihood – helped to break for a change.

A Discussion on Men’s Fashion (or “Shut Up About Rompers”)

Shown here: happy, confident men. Not shown: judgment from me.
Source: upgruv.com

Okay, let’s make this one quick so I can get back to more important (read: ‘entertaining’) matters.

Apparently, the latest fad among us digital natives is the mainstream use by man of a piece of fashion once the exclusive domain of women. Yes, we’re talking about the romper meme.

For those who are just as fashion blind as me a mere few hours ago, rompers are, in essence, a one-piece jumpsuit that was worn primarily by women until some dude discovered that they actually do a damn good job of showing off his glutes and didn’t want to miss an opportunity to advertise that he doesn’t skip leg day at the gym.

Of course, that’s not entirely true; men have ALWAYS rocked jumpers like this. It’s just that it’s a big deal now because the speed of information via the internet makes things seem much bigger than they actually are. My earliest experience was in the 1964 movie Goldfinger when the debonair James Bond rocked a stylish, baby blue terry cloth onesie while parading about a swank resort. And I think we can all agree that if it’s good enough for Sean Connery, it’s good enough for anyone.

Look, this isn’t my first rodeo; I’ve seen this kind of thing before. Men have always come under fire for doing things that someone thought were ‘femme’ or ‘girly.’ From shaving body hair to wearing utility kilts to the use of make-up, there’s always some d-bag that can’t handle minor, easily ignored changes and dedicates themselves to making others feel bad about it. All this talk we’re hearing now is the same thing we’ve been hearing since the first millennial man realized that the hair bun was actually a convenient way of wearing long hair.

So, you got all that: It doesn’t matter if you personally think that rompers look awful because YOU DON’T HAVE TO WEAR THEM. And if you’re offended that you have to look at guys in them – TOUGH TITTY. I don’t care for them either, but I can at least respect that it’s the wearer’s call to make and their choice has no effect on me and how I live my own life.

Besides, let’s not lose sight of the REAL fashion criminals; those a-holes at Gucci that charge upwards of $600 to dress up in something that I could make for one-eighth of the price to cosplay at an anime convention.

Embracing Darkness and Why The Agent Hates to Self-Silence

“No, me; I will NOT shut up. This is some important s***.”
Source: Thinking Healthy

Just a quick stream-of-consciousness style rant today to discuss how I apparently have a ‘bad habit’ among my more private circle of friends.

I keep a private Facebook page exclusively for friends and family where I allow myself to get much darker in my speech and tackle weightier topics that I don’t discuss here simply because I treat this corner of my part of the internet like a business and I don’t want to drive people off.

But, if I’m being honest, that kind of pisses me off. I hate having to do that.

However, I got reminded of why I do that recently. You see, I share those dark stories and thoughts because it’s my way of letting others who may be struggling with depressing crap that I’m somebody that can relate, is listening, cares about what you have to say, and wants to see the world change for the better. I legitimately want people to turn to me for emotional support.

The problem is that when people see a long string of sad posts saying how I relate to people with depression, praising artists for speaking out against bullying, or sharing stories commending parents for being aware of the danger their kid may be involved in, they think that I’m about to go off my nut.

And while I may get annoyed with the ever-echoing mantra of, “are you okay,” don’t begrudge those people for wanting to check up on me. After all, they’re just as worried about me as I am about them. And I’d like to think ALL of us are worried about the state of the world. It’s only natural to want to be concerned with the each other.

But the fact of the matter is this; I talk about dark, depressing things because I feel that denying them is to deny serious look into the human condition. I want people to see just what’s happening in the world and understand how people are feeling until they have no choice but to do something about it as a collective whole.

Of course, I realize that part of the fault is my own. Nobody likes being told how much of a crap-sack the world is when there’s obviously plenty of good in it that keeps getting ignored (why do you think I post #GoodNewsFriday on Twitter every week?), but it seems just as easy these days to just ignore the horrible stuff and act like it never happens.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that we all have a duty to speak up and act when we see injustice and inequality in the world and remind those that are suffering that we want to help them. Go and enjoy the good things in life that keep you going; that’s your right and what we all need every day. But don’t forget to step into the shadows every once and a while so you can remind yourself and others when and where there’s a candle that needs lighting.

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 Dying Art of Debate and Why We Need To Save It

See these dumbasses? They're doing it wrong. Source: Eligible Magazine

See these dumbasses? They’re doing it wrong.
Source: Eligible Magazine

Just a quick one while I’m bouncing back from a nasty cold.

Unsurprisingly, given the recent string of political events around the world, my Twitter and Facebook news feeds have been clogged with a depressing amount of posts calling other people stupid with little to no facts given – Just a seemingly endless stream of name-calling and bile-spitting.

That’s when I stopped to ask myself, “why don’t people debate anymore?”

I touched on this lightly on my Thanksgiving vacation announcement, but I wanted to go into it more here. It seems that people are genuinely afraid to debate back and forth on issues and fall back on schoolyard taunting these days and I want it to stop.

This is just me spitballing ideas based on my own experiences, but I feel the problem is that people look a debate as a win-lose game rather than a combination mutual education session and problem-solving process. Each side is convinced that they have to win because the other is ignorant, evil, or worse. So rather than work things out in a civil manner, they demonize each other to avoid debate and achieve easy success by shaming each other.

We see it every day; Democrats think Republicans are under-educated buffoons clinging to guns and religion when they’re just honestly worried about how deviation from tradition will affect them. Republicans think Democrats are spineless children crying over how everything offends them when they just want a country that anyone could be happy and honored to live in. People keep turning to broad generalizations of the opposing side rather than actually getting to know what they want.

Look, I get it; debating is hard work. I know; I had to do it to graduate college. But it’s honestly the best system we have to figure out what works and what doesn’t. We need to stop seeing it as a battle and understand that debate should be an intellectual growth event for all parties involved. If one or both people have left a debate unchanged from the time they started, then they both failed to do their job.

That’s why I say not to shy away from a debate when it comes your way. It’s a chance to edify yourself as well as someone else. Who knows, the two of you may stumble upon a way to fix the world.

Remember; the chaos of debate may be uncomfortable and intimidating, but those choppy waters never go stagnant.

Archive News: Thanksgiving Wishes and Blessings From The Agent

So, as I’m sure many of you may have guessed, I’ll be off with family tomorrow for Thanksgiving meaning that I won’t have new material for you this week. That said, I do want to share some brief thoughts with you before I head out.

Thanksgiving is notorious among families as the day when, while trying to enjoy our day, someone will often pipe up with some sort of opinion or religious/political view that starts a HUGE argument that puts everyone off the meal. And given the tumultuous and nerve-racking events of the past year, especially in the past few weeks, that tradition not only seems much more likely to happen but seems likely to be more heated than usual. And that’s an even bigger problem for those who already don’t feel welcome in their own families (seriously, who’s the genetic defective that thought it would be a good idea to place Election Day so close to a day of family gatherings ?).

I feel that’s part of the reason the recent ‘Friendsgiving’ trend has gotten so big; I already know a lot of people who are much closer to their friends than their blood relations. Hell, even I refer to one of my best friends as ‘my little sister.’

But, in regards to the topic of uncomfortable conversations at dinner this year, I want to urge you to not diffuse or distract from those dialogs. Instead, encourage civil discussion on the topic. Encourage free-thinking from all parties involved (that means you as well) and try to clear the air. Turn the heated debate into a friendly problem-solving session.

And just to be clear, I’m not saying you should LOOK to start something. But, if something comes up, be the one to defend yourself IN A CIVIL MANNER and try to make peace while working out your differences.

Say what you will about this year, but everything that has happened so far has made for fertile grounds for a new golden age of pride, discourse, and activism. In other words, this could be a world where people like me who thrive on civil debate and discussion can be at our best. Go out, be proud, say your peace with grace, and stuff your face in joy and self-respect.