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.

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.


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.


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 Horrors of Romanticizing Abuse and The Psychology of Harley Quinn

So… This is your idea romance, eh?
Source: BJA007 on Imgur

I’m going to try hammer this one out quickly on the grounds that, while it clearly needs to be said, it’s not something I enjoy talking about.

So, with the release (and subsequent lukewarm reception) of Suicide Squad, it seems that DC Fans have started clamoring about a topic that never fails to infuriate me whenever people start talking about it; the relationship between well-known Batman villains Harley Quinn and The Joker.

Nearly everyone I know has, at one point, said that they want a romance like these two. But here’s the rub – they often say this without realizing or even in spite of the fact that The Joker is an abusive and manipulative sociopath and Harley is most likely suffering from deep mental scars that extend far beyond even the damage he’s done.

For those not familiar with her backstory, Harley – real name; Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel (yes, the bubble-headed, bleach blonde, jester girl has a PhD) – was a graduate of Gotham State University where she excelled in Gymnastics and Psychology. After finally getting a job at Arkham Asylum and eager to start analyzing their most notorious super-criminals, she found herself locked in a battle of wits and egos with The Joker that ended with him seducing her to aid his escape on multiple occasions and eventually to join up as his most frequent collaborator.

But here’s the thing, The Joker is largely incapable of returning that love. If he has any love in his heart, it’s for the pain and chaos he causes. The closest he can be said to have come to loving a human being is his obsession with Batman. And that love for inflicting pain and disregard for human life is shown in the way he routinely scolds and beats Harley. For god’s sake, he threw her out of a 3-story window!

What’s more, Harley’s behavior is supported by psychology. There are the obvious implications of Stockholm Syndrome, but even her slowly growing to believe she could identify with Joker is supported by science. While working in Arkham, she clearly spent enough time with him for Emotional Contagion – the tendency for humans to subconsciously imitate the emotions of others – to set in. With enough time under her skin, it was only a matter of time before Shared Psychotic Disorder (also known as Folie à deux or ‘madness of two’) took hold and she started emulating his Anti-Social Personality Disorder under the delusion of romance.

So, are we clear here? Harley and Joker are not romantic; they are sick. Harley needs counseling to deal with her years of abuse and Joker needs to be placed in solitary confinement. When you say you want a love like theirs, you aren’t being Bonnie with Clyde (which would be bad enough) – you’re being one of those weirdos that send love letters to serial killers.

Seriously, the best thing that Injustice: Gods Among Us ever did was give us the moment that the comics took forever to do; having Harley figuratively nail Chuckles the Ass-Clown to the F***ING wall.

Why “The Dress” Bothers Me (And Why It Should Bother You)

Seriously, this whole thing is a load of crap.
Source: Just Jared Jr.

By now, I’m sure most of you have either seen or at least heard of the infamous dress color debate that started on Tumblr and quickly spread throughout the internet like a plague.

A lot of people are already hating this new meme and I count myself among them. However, I’m willing to bet that I despise this inescapable fury for a different reason than most.

There are plenty of theories as to why people aren’t agreeing to the color of the dress. The most popular theory claims that it’s an optical illusion involving the light that the photo was taken in. But many others claim other explanations from varying monitors to simple trolling.

But all of these theories don’t touch on the reason I never want to hear about this monstrosity again. What’s more, my hatred stems further than just hearing about it too much. Instead, I hate what it represents.

I hate this dress because it demonstrates just how easy it is to polarize people and turn them against one another.

Instead of finding a rational explanation to what is admittedly a very petty issue, I watched people engage in verbal combat with one another over the shade, tone, and hue of a rather (in my humble opinion) unimpressive body covering.

What’s worse is that, while people were arguing about this like five-year olds on the playground, the company that makes the dress took advantage of it; boasting a huge jump in sales and most likely laughing maniacally at us all the way to the bank.

And that’s to say nothing about the time lost in productivity from complaining and debating such a useless thing. Think about the things you could have done with the collective time people spent on this crap. I could be out having the time of my life right now. But instead, I’m writing about this because this is apparently what everyone wants to talk about (I exaggerate, of course, but it’s still stupid).

Sadly, it is as it always was. We’ve always been quick to debate anything that offends our senses or ideologies. That’s why political debates run as hot as they do – too many people looking to defend their thoughts rather than seek an acceptable and logical answer that can satisfy us all.

It’s the painful truth and I know it; It’s just not nice to be reminded of it.

So, can we lay this thing to rest now and move on with our lives already? I have a lot of happy things planned in the coming weeks and I don’t want the failings of the human psyche weighing me down.

The Power of (Justified) Anger

Normally, I’d add a witty remark, but this serves the purpose of setting the theme all on its own.

While looking for weird things online to comment on, I found this article on The Huffington Post where a man conducts an amazing experiment in social behavior. Countless people confronted him and gave him a thorough dressing down for wearing a placard that read “F*** The Poor”, but not one stopped to help his cause when he changed his sign to read “Help The Poor.”

This, to me, illustrates an uncomfortable aspect of our society and in human psychology; we are much more likely to act on anger than on kindness.

We all know that it’s wrong that so many people who work hard to make ends meet and fail or want to work hard and aren’t given the opportunity exist, but it seems that it’s only when people are somehow directly offended by it that they are motivated to do something about it.

Now, this is a problem because it means that true altruism becomes a rarity within a society. In addition, anger is a force that is very difficult to turn off once it has been started and can become toxic when left unchecked.

However, it doesn’t take much effort to see that many changes for the better came as a result of the wrath and frustration of others. Women’s rights have made leaps and bounds because one group of 68 women (and the 32 men that supported them) were sick of not having the comforts and rights of men. Racial and ethnic minorities became more recognized when they called out their oppressors.

Obviously, I’m not saying that everyone should riot in the streets over the injustices that we face today. I am saying, however, that it seems that being angry enough at a problem to want change it is a necessary phase; messy and undesirable as it maybe.

To put it in the geekiest terms I can muster, the movie Network was right; before any change for the better can happen, you have to be mad enough to say, “I’m a human being, Goddamn it! My Life has Value!

How To Care For Your Introvert

Part of the challenge that comes with introvert pairings.
Source: Meet the Introverts

With this last stretch of my college life coming to an end and my newly obtained knowledge in the psychology of personality, I felt the need to exercise that skill my talking about a common personality trait that, for some reason, still gets a lot more flack that it should and that I proudly flaunt.

Today, we will discuss introverted personalities and how to treat them respectably. Why? Because whether it’s your child, a parent, a sibling, a loved one, or just a close friend, they are human and deserve just as much love and care as you would want. As such, here is a list of things to keep in mind when dealing with an introvert.

Introversion Is NOT Shyness or Being Antisocial

You’d be surprised at how much we can say without talking.
Source: Blaine, Jr’s Blog

When identifying someone as an introvert, it’s important to not confuse their personality for shyness. Shyness would suggest a repulsion to social interaction and a desire to avoid it when unnecessary. An introverted person, on the other hand, relishes social interactions but is easily drained by them and can’t stand constant social movement without a break to digest it. This the main difference between introverts and extroverts; an extrovert goes to a party and builds momentum and energy over the evening while an introvert has to excuse themselves after 20 minutes to regain momentum and energy.

Also, NEVER call an introvert “antisocial.” Antisocial behavior is a serious mental condition that, as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), results in “significant impairments in personality functioning manifest by impairments in self functioning… and impairments in interpersonal functioning.” One suffering from Antisocial Personality Disorder is typically egocentric, acts only on self-gratification regardless of circumstances, and lacks concern for others. Got that – introversion is a personality factor, antisocial behavior is a mental disorder.

Understand How Introverts Socialize

I had a witty observation about introversion to go here, but now I’m amused by the concept of literal satellite communication.
Source: Twist Your Thinking

As stated above, introverts have a very different way of engaging others from other personality types. To reiterate, introverts need to break off from intense social interactions occasionally to regather steam and internalize the thoughts and information they’ve gathered. Trying to keep pushing more info into their heads will just result in them getting frustrated and angry.

Also take note that when they do engage others, they tend to encourage the other to speak first, listen to what they have to say, and react rather than initiate contact. Never force an introvert to engage if they aren’t prepared; it will just result in them retreating back harder. Also, don’t force an introvert to make idle chit-chat or gossip; they only want to talk if they feel have something of substance to share.

Speaking of preparing, you may notice that introverts tend to take longer pauses between back and forth conversations. This is because they value silence as a chance to think about what they’ve heard and what they’ll say next. More often that not, an introvert will take time to internalize their thoughts prior to sharing them. Like the ents from Lord of the Rings, an introvert will never say anything that’s not worth taking a long time to say.

Recognizing The Things Introverts Hate

This is a legitimate fear of mine.

While it’s easy to make jokes at the things introverts hate, most of them are surprisingly spot on and accurate.

Introverts tend to hate being interrupted. They spent a good long time thinking about what they what to say to you and you stepping on their toes tends to translate as, “I don’t give a damn what you think.” When an Introvert speaks (be fair, when anyone speaks), wait your turn.

Telephones are a source of unease for introverts. There exists no real efficient and socially acceptable way to tell the other person you need a break without lying or sounding like a jerk. Most of this is due to the lack of body language that comes with phone conversations. Also, phones seem specifically designed for rapid fire exchanges which, as we have discussed, are not the introverts strong suit. If you must call an introvert, be mindful that they prefer to keep the exchange short and to crucial information – no gossip. Also, don’t be offended if they need to quit on you to recollect themselves; it’s just how they work.

Noise, however, is probably an introverts greatest enemy. Remember how they love to listen to others and need to internalize their own thoughts. Well, they can’t internalize if they’re busy listening. That’s right; it’s possible for an introvert to LITERALLY have things so loud they can’t hear themselves think. If an introvert says they need peace and quiet, they probably have a lot on their mind. Let them work it out first, THEN ask them what what was on their mind.

Hanging With Introverts Is Great!

Introverted people are actually really good to have around. Their methodical nature makes them great listeners when you have a problem.

An introvert, if handled well, can be a great friend… They just can’t be everybody’s friend all of the time.