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.

Why I Simultaneously Love And Hate Fidget Spinners

So… This is a thing now, I guess…
Source: Learning Express Toys

Part of my duty as a social and cultural commentator is to follow trends and fads so that I may analyze their significance and greater meaning in society.

Of course, this often means that I find myself taking an unnecessarily fine lens to some of the seemingly smallest pieces of fluff. Case it point: fidget spinners.

Also known as hand spinners – my preferred nomenclature (more into that later), these little plastic doo-dads have become a runaway sensation lately. They’ve already spawned collectors, customizers, and – you guessed it – dedicated YouTube channels. So, why so much buzz of such a simple toy.

Well, that simplicity may be at its core. Fidget spinners are essentially just three or four small wheel bearings from a skateboard placed together in such a way as to make a tiny toy that can be spun in a number of different ways. It’s so simple, you can actually build one yourself from home. In fact, a light search reveals that almost everyone has a different method of constructing them that gives them a unique flair.

That uniqueness lends itself quite nicely to their collectability. When every single one has a different feel and look to it, you naturally want to try them all.

Then there’s the ‘fidget’ part of the name. In defiance of everything we were told by frustrated parents and teachers, fidgeting is actually good for you. Small, frequent movements help keep your blood flowing smoothly and often provide a release for stress and anxiety that improves focus.

Unfortunately, the fact that people are starting to realize that leads into my problems with them. Now that certain people are aware that this little trinket can have some mild benefit, their first instinct is to do anything they can to make a quick buck from it. They churn out these cheap, mass-produced bits of plastic and charge way too much for them. No joke, I’ve seen these things that can be built for free at home sold in gas stations for $10 a pop!

And how do they convince people to pay a ridiculous amount for something they used to get for free? By preying on their insecurities and making them feel bad for fidgeting. Little things like twitching, foot tapping and the like aren’t seen as socially acceptable. So, they push overpriced plastic on people to give them a way to do something that’s perfectly normal that they won’t be judged for… you know, sort of like how the Health & Beauty industry sells make-up and fad diets.

Of course, when you denormalize something like fidgeting, you end up making people self-conscious which only contributes to stress. This is why I prefer the name “hand spinner.” It takes the fidgeting element out of it and makes it normal for everyone to enjoy.

So, yeah – I don’t mind that people are getting into hand spinners. What I mind are the people trying to use them to make cash through predatory manipulation. So, if you must keep them spinning, learn to make them yourself and join the global community of artists (yes, I’m pretentious enough to call hand spinners an artform).

And to send us out on a happy note, an appropriate musical interlude. Play us out, Three 6 Mafia.

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!