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.

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“Exterminate All Rational Thought”: The Horror, Tragedy, and Weirdness of Naked Lunch

That guy on the left… That’s Mugwump. He is the most normal thing in this movie.
Source: monsterbrains.blogspot.com

So, lately I’ve been getting a lot of love from fans of Horror movies. And honestly, I’m glad. I’m one of them. I’ve discussed in the past why Horror is so important to art and society, so it’s no surprise that I’m a fan.

So today, in honor of our monster mash of new Field Operatives here at The Archive and the approaching Halloween (the holiday starts for me when the coffee shops break out the pumpkin spice), I’d like to share my love for one of my favorites in the genre; a psychedelic, drug-fueled, semi-biography turned Body Horror exploration into the symbiotic nature of creativity and addiction called Naked Lunch.

Now before anyone gets up in arms about me labeling this film based on the book of same name by beat poet legend William S. Burroughs as Body Horror, let me explain my thinking.

Body Horror is defined by Collins English Dictionary as an entry in the horror genre, “… in which the main feature is the graphically depicted destruction or degeneration of a human body or bodies.” Firstly, this is absolutely a Horror film; it’s goal is to depict a terrifying situation and how our hero copes with it. Secondly, while no one gets mutilated (well, ALMOST no one), the imagery centers around people and objects morphing and mutating into psychotropic hallucinations that are unnervingly inhuman. In that regard, it’s not that much of a departure from director David Cronenberg’s other works – The Fly comes to mind in particular thanks to Naked Lunch‘s insect fixation.

So, why do I love this film? Well, it comes down to the goal of all horror – to depict the terrors and anxieties of the real world in an artistically exaggerated manner so as to make a social commentary on the topic. These terrors take multiple forms throughout the film as our hero – former exterminator turned writer William Lee (Peter Weller) – copes with addiction, guilt, and pressure to create. We can identify with many of these fears and they humanize his character more when you realize that he’s meant to be an analog for Burroughs himself.

Almost everything Lee experiences through a drug-induced haze happened to Burroughs including the murder of his wife (Burroughs accidentally shot his wife during a drunken game of William Tell), his adventures in the country of Interzone (Burroughs spent several months in the Tangier International Zone), getting advise from his fellow writers (Lee’s friends Hank and Martin are stand-ins for Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg), and his penchant for breaking out into improv routines during conversations (my favorite is the infamous ‘Talking Asshole’ routine).

There’s something creepily familiar to me about Lee/Burroughs and the joint nature of creativity and addiction. I’ve never done drugs before, but I can attest to the fact that writing is a lot like an addictive drug to me. It takes an infeasible amount of effort to come up with what I’ll say – to get my fix, if we’re using the drug analogy. But, If I don’t get it in time, I start feeling lethargic, depressed, and even physically weak; like a junkie suffering withdrawal symptoms.

Basically, to sum up an essay of over 600 words into a single sentence, I like this movie because it’s a love letter to a great writer that I admire, has some of the most amazing special effects animatronics I’ve seen in film (courtesy of Jaime ‘Yes, THAT Jaime Hyneman‘ Hyneman in part), made me think, and because I – as a writer – identify with the notion of being in the grip of a deadly muse (he says mere minutes to midnight the night before publishing as he finishes his second cup of coffee during the writing/editing of this article).