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Addicted To Your Smartphone And Social Media? It Could End Up Being Harmful

It’s not hyperbole to say smartphones, social media, and technology in general has become the center of our lives. We communicate, work, play, date, take photos, and do a million other activities, all at the click of a button. It helps to make tasks effortless and quick.

But as the rule with all good things, there comes a problem. Social media and smartphones can have very addicting tendencies that are becoming increasingly obvious. According to a 2021 Pew Research Center study, 49% of U.S. adults on Facebook — seven-in-ten users — say they visit the site several times a day, with 22% visiting at least once.

For Snapchat, 45% visit several times a day, while Instagram has 38% of users logging on frequently. The increased activity is especially prevalent throughout younger age groups, which apps like Snapchat are catered too.

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Of course, just visiting a platform doesn’t mean you’re necessarily addicted, especially if it’s only for a few seconds each. But, as Wall Street Journal family and tech columnist Julie Jargon explained, there a number of ways to tell if you’re obsessed with your phone and social media.

Jargon explained that if you find it hard to put your phone down, it could mean you’re using it compulsively, indicting addiction. Some examples of this might be a person refusing to do an action — such as going to the bathroom or walking down the street — without checking their phone.

This can certainly end poorly in a number of ways, from not looking while crossing the street or when driving, leaving both yourself and others in potential danger. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, texting while driving can reduce a driver’s attention by 37%.

Like with all habits, these compulsions can be hard to break. However, you have a weapon at your disposal: your phone’s settings, which can allow you to slowly chip away your need to be looking at the screen, even it’s its forced.

“Try logging how often you check your feeds in a day, including those brief glances during spare moments,” Jargon said, emphasizing turning off app notifications, turning on Do Not Disturb, and configuring settings that don’t allow the receiving of texts while driving. Finding other activities to put in place of the moments you use for your phone time can also help to fill the void.

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Among other signs to look out for include using social media to satisfy yourself, suffering withdrawal symptoms when not using a device, convincing yourself you have an audience you need to serve, or that social media use is getting in the way of your life and preventing you from time with family and friends.

All of those possible signs can have a draining impact on your self-esteem and relationships, while an addiction can also lead to other potential problems that can threaten mental states. Studies have found potential links between excessive phone usage and cognitive functions, emotional reactions, and medical problems that include a lack of sleep, unhealthy eating habits, and physical loss.

So, what else can be done to help? Jargon suggested developing a schedule for social media and phone use, helping you to give yourself much-needed no-screen time while not cutting yourself off completely. Therapy can also be helpful for those that have developed serious conditions.

Caffeine

People are Vaping Caffeine—But Why?

For better or for worse, vaping has become all the rage lately — not only is an entire generation of young people growing up with nicotine addictions thanks to the success of companies like Juul, but people are also vaping marijuana in record numbers as a result of the proliferation of THC cartridges, which are distributed both in the states where marijuana has been legalized and on the black market where it has not. Seeking to capitalize on this trend, various companies have introduced products that allow users to vape a variety of substances, including vitamin blends and melatonin. Though the long-term effects of vaping various substances is currently poorly-understood, companies are advertising products that allow users to vape some common, legal drugs, like caffeine. Eagle Energy, for instance, sells a vape pen that delivers caffeine directly into the lungs, causing the drug to reach the bloodstream within minutes, much faster than the usual routes of administration like coffee and tea.

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Caffeine is widely considered to be one of the safest drugs available, with 90 percent of Americans consuming the stimulant in some form. Caffeine is known for enhancing alertness and preventing tiredness, and while most side effects are minor and uncommon, it can be dangerous in very high doses. While Eagle Energy advertises its product as providing “natural, plant-based energy,” it’s important to keep in mind that caffeine is still technically classified as a drug, even though it is derived from natural ingredients, and the extremely rapid route of administration caused by vaping may lead users to experience the effects of the caffeine more rapidly than intended.

That being said, Eagle Energy goes to great lengths to convince potential customers that its product is safe. On the FAQ page of the company’s website, representatives from Eagle Energy claim that their product is not harmful, especially relative to nicotine vape pens, as the plant-based ingredients are vaporized at a lower temperature than nicotine is and as such the vapor is gentler on the lungs. Eagle Energy also claims that as their product delivers caffeine via vapor, the effects of caffeine are felt in five minutes and last for about an hour, whereas ingesting caffeine via energy drinks takes a half hour for the effects to be felt, and the effects last for five hours or more. As such, Eagle Energy argues that inhaling caffeine rather than ingesting it allows for more precise control of how much users are consuming.

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Experts, however, worry that the rising popularity of vape devices for vitamins, melatonin, and caffeine may draw people to start vaping nicotine. While the CDC has linked the recent outbreaks of lung illnesses with vitamin E acetate, a compound found in illicit THC cartridges, experts warn that more research needs to be done to determine what the long-term effects of vaping are, and as such they cannot as-of-yet be considered with certainty to be completely safe. Experts also warn that the stimulating effects of vape products may be a placebo, as caffeine vape pens may not deliver enough caffeine to cause a stimulating effect.

For these reasons and more, it’s likely best to just stick with tea or coffee to get your caffeine fix, at least until more is known about vaping caffeine and what the research says the effects of doing so are.

Kratom

Potentially Dangerous Drug, Kratom, Surges in Popularity

Some use the drug in an attempt to rid themselves of an opioid addiction, while others simply use it to get high. The drug has been used in herbal medicines in Asia for hundreds of years, but little research has been conducted on its effects on the body. Despite the potential danger of using it, the drug is legal throughout most of the United States, as regulators have not yet caught up with its growing popularity. The drug, derived from a tree indigenous to Southeast Asia, is called kratom, and while some swear by its supposed healing properties, others warn that it could carry as-of-yet unknown dangers.

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In the United States alone, between ten to fifteen million people use kratom, for a wide variety of reasons. Though it is not itself an opioid, kratom has some opioid-like effects, as it’s often used to provide relief from chronic pain. While the scientific evidence for its effectiveness in treating addiction is scarce, many people who are addicted to opioids turn to kratom in desperation, and some swear by kratom’s effectiveness for this person. Others use the drug in a purely recreational way, as it generates a sense of euphoria, lasting for two to five hours. While the drug is not strictly speaking a hallucinogen, in high doses it can lead to psychosis. It has a number of other serious side effects as well: some users report nausea, vomiting, and constipation, while others experience dangerous effects like decreased rate of breathing, seizures, and addiction. At very high doses, kratom is potentially fatal.

For these reasons, the federal government, as well as many state governments, are pushing for a ban on the drug. While many view this as a necessary step to prevent the rise of another drug-related public health crisis, others warn that banning kratom could prevent people who are struggling with opioid addiction from accessing a potentially effective treatment. Kratom users believe that the drug offers a wide range of beneficial effects, from improving eyesight, to clearing skin, to boosting the immune system. Unfortunately, however, the scientific research that currently exists about the drug is far too sparse to justify any of these claims.

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The research that does exist, however, ought to be sufficient to dissuade any reasonable person from using kratom, despite its mild euphoria-inducing effects. When taken with some prescription medicines, kratom causes abnormal brain function, leaving a person unable to communicate and experiencing a severe headache. Kratom has also been found to be harmful to fetuses when used by pregnant women, leading to an infant who is born with withdrawal symptoms as their access to kratom is cut off. And it can be difficult to tell whether kratom has been mixed with other drugs to alter its effects, posing even more and unpredictable dangers to the user. Kratom is even sometimes sold mixed with dirt and mold by careless dealers. Despite these risks, however, kratom has become a trendy drug just like CBD has, and kratom is sold openly in cities like Portland. What’s important to keep in mind, though, is that just because a drug is legal, that doesn’t mean it’s safe.

Depressed Man

“Deaths of Despair” Reach Unprecedented Levels in US, Experts Say

Perhaps one of the most objective statistical indicators of the health of a society is the life expectancy of its citizens. In the United States, life expectancy has risen from 69.7 years in 1960 to 78.69 years in 2016, a gradual increase mirroring the success of medical advancements, public health campaigns, and general economic growth over the course of the modern era. However, American life expectancy has been on the decline in recent years, as a result of the epidemic of obesity as well as so-called “deaths of despair,” which include drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, and suicide. 

In a certain sense, this problem is unique to the United States, as other developed nations around the world have not seen a similar, concurrent decline in life expectancy. This worrying development persists despite the fact that the United States spends more on health care per capita than any other developed nation and that the quality of healthcare in the US, for those who are able to receive it, is comparable to that of most advanced countries. As such, experts believe that factors like “income inequality and mental distress” are the root cause of the increase in rates of death across the country, as the experience of despair leads people to make decisions that increase the chances of early death.

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When viewed as a public health issue, the specific factors that lead to early deaths among Americans become clear, as many Americans, even those who do not suffer from diseases of despair, can recognize the social factors that lead to the development of these illnesses either through their personal lived experiences or through the experiences of people they know. According to Anne Case, a contributing author of the book “Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism,”  “the pillars that once helped give life meaning—a good job, a stable home life, a voice in the community—have all eroded.” 

In Case’s account, the nationwide rise in despair has its roots in economic and political factors, as workers without college degrees have been left out of the increasingly-harsh labor market, men’s wages have remained stagnant for half a century, and companies have been eliminating decent-paying jobs with good benefits, instead outsourcing low-skill work to cheaper economies. Despite the changes in the distribution of wealth in the American economy, the government has failed to adjust to changes wrought by the rapid and accelerating pace of technological innovation and globalization, generating an atmosphere of despair among much of the American public, Case argues.

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While the highly-complex relationship between societal factors, despair, unhealthy behaviors, and early death requires more study, experts view the rise of drug abuse, particularly opioid abuse, as symptomatic of larger social pressures that reduce in people a sense of their meaning in life, instilling in them an attitude of nihilism and apathy that drives them to make unhealthy choices in pursuit of relief from their suffering. According to one study, rates of overdoses and suicides have been on the rise since the 1990s, suggesting that the problem is not just related to the current political environment, but also to longstanding social trends as well as substantial increases in the availability of illicit drugs. 

That being said, there are signs of hope that society is beginning to tackle the public health crisis of despair, as the stigma surrounding mental illness has diminished in recent years and an increasing number of businesses are prioritizing the health of their employees, including when it comes to problems like drug addiction and mental illness. If you’re experiencing despair, keep in mind that there exist resources to help with mental health problems, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), which is available 24 hours a day.

Vaping

Is Vaping Safer than Smoking?

When e-cigarettes were first introduced to the American public, they were marketed in large part as a safe tobacco-cessation aid, promising to help people quit smoking by allowing them to gradually reduce their nicotine intake over time. E-cigarettes and vaping generally were also marketed as healthier alternatives to cigarettes, as e-cigarette vapor does not contain much of the same tar and other harmful chemicals as cigarette smoke. In fact, Juul, one of the world’s largest e-cigarette companies, was found to have directly marketed to high-school kids, leveraging designs and flavors meant to appeal to teens and telling them that their products were “totally safe.” E-cigarette use has exploded in popularity in particular among young people, threatening decades of work done by the government to dissuade the younger generation from using recreational drugs like nicotine.

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While e-cigarettes have long been assumed to be safe due to the lack of combustion involved, recent events have introduced doubt about the safety of these devices. A few months ago, a string of vaping-related hospitalizations, some of which led to death, renewed fears that vaping is in fact more dangerous than companies like Juul have let on. In the aftermath of these mysterious illnesses, Walmart decided to stop selling e-cigarette devices, and some states even moved to ban flavored vaping products in an effort to minimize use among children and teenagers. The federal government has contemplated banning the sale of flavored e-cigarette ingredients as well, but has not yet done so. Eventually, the CDC tied the incidences of sudden, severe lung illness to counterfeit THC cartridges that were distributed in the black market, but an overall attitude of skepticism towards vaping in general persisted. Specifically, the researchers found that the ingredient vitamin E acetate, which is used as an additive to alter the consistency of THC oil, was to blame in this particular phenomenon.

While this year’s major health scare related to vaping turned out to be limited to counterfeit products, perceptions about the dangers of vaping persist and are supported by new evidence that suggests vaping can be responsible for some long-term illnesses. Specifically, an article published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine details a large study that compared the lungs of people who used e-cigarettes with cigarette smokers and those who did not consume nicotine over three years. Unsurprisingly, the last group had the lowest risk of developing a lung illness, but while e-cigarettes were found to cause problems in their own right, they were nonetheless considered safer and healthier than smoking.

“E-cigarettes should not be recommended.”

While differing in severity, the long-term health complications associated with vaping are similar to those associated with smoking cigarettes, and include chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The most dangerous form of nicotine consumption mentioned in the study was “dual use,” which is a combination of vaping and smoking, as not only does this practice maximize the amount of nicotine one consumes but it also exposes the lungs to the most amount of smoke or vapor. Dual use is the most common pattern of use the researchers found, signalling trouble for the millions of teenagers whose nicotine addictions are fueled by multiple vectors of drug consumption. The results of the three-year study corroborated animal studies on the effects of vapor on the lungs. Worryingly, the study also found that certain harmful ingredients, like propylene glycol, diacetyl, and even metals were present at a higher concentration in e-cigarette vapor than in combusted cigarette smoke. 

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Overall, the study is extremely critical of e-cigarettes, suggesting they are only valuable in a limited number of cases, and it concludes with the line “E-cigarettes should not be recommended.” In a small number of cases, e-cigarettes can be a good option for people who are trying to quit smoking as long as they use the devices with discipline and respect. While still harmful, e-cigarette vapor is less harmful than smoke, and vaping formulas can be adjusted over time to gradually reduce their nicotine content. That being said, as a result of the high prevalence of “dual use,” using e-cigarettes while trying to quit smoking can backfire, and indeed for most people using an e-cigarette is connected with an even lower chance of successfully quitting smoking. Other tobacco cessation aids, like nicotine-infused chewing gum or skin patches, are more effective in helping people quit and pose no threat to the health and safety of the lungs.

Girl Vaping

Researchers at Yale use Virtual Reality to Fight Teen Vaping

The phenomenon of teen vaping has certainly drawn a tremendous amount of concern this year, as a record number of teens report using vaping products and public health officials worry that a generation of kids will grow up to suffer from lifelong nicotine addictions due to the explosion in popularity of e-cigarette brands like Juul. Regrettably, while much of the work that’s been done to discourage young people from smoking cigarettes has been successful, teens are developing nicotine addictions nonetheless due to the marketing success of e-cigarette companies, which have been found to deliberately market tobacco products to young people and non-smokers. While vaping is widely considered to be healthier than other forms of tobacco consumption, it carries with it its own set of health risks, as the long-term effects of consuming nicotine via vapor are as-of-yet unknown and a series of vaping-relating hospitalizations earlier this year demonstrated that some vape products can be dangerous and even deadly.

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Dissuading young people from vaping is a difficult task for a number of reasons. For one, nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs that exists, and vaping products allow users to easily consume very large amounts of nicotine relative to smoking cigarettes or other methods of tobacco use. Additionally, as their brains are still developing, teenagers have difficulty assessing risk and making smart long-term decisions for the future, making it harder for them to appreciate the dangerous impact vaping could have on their lives. Teenagers are also notorious for their resistance to authority, and can have a natural inclination to reject messages from authority figures, instead taking cues from their peers in order to fit in with their social environment. Many young people believe vaping to be safer than other forms of nicotine addiction, and while this could be true, such a belief can cloud a person’s judgment when considering whether to start vaping. As such, researchers and doctors must come up with novel solutions for persuading children and teenagers not to engage in dangerous behaviors like vaping.

Like vaping, virtual reality is a new technology that has taken off in recent years

One such solution was imagined at Yale University, where researchers developed a virtual reality video game with the intent of discouraging vaping among teenagers. Like vaping, virtual reality is a new technology that has taken off in recent years, as display technology and advancements in computer graphics have made a product which for decades has been confined to science-fiction stories a reality. The game is called “Invite Only,” and puts players in the role of a student in a high school environment as they engage in scenarios such as being offered a vape pen at school or at a party and encouraging a friend to quit vaping. In addition to its educational value, the game is meant to be fun, engaging players with various activities and mini-games.

Though the project was developed at Yale, it was funded by Oculus, a virtual reality technology company owned by Facebook, and was created in collaboration with PreviewLabs Inc., a New Haven-based game developer. The game is the subject of an ongoing experiment, involving 300 students, designed to assess whether virtual reality technology holds promise as an educational and public health tool. The educational aspect of game-play involves players choosing from a number of dialogue options when engaging in conversations with in-game characters, which tests their knowledge about the effects of vaping products and the availability of resources to help people who want to quit. For instance, the game teaches players that they can text the word “quit” to 47848 for information about vaping-cessation resources, and that they should consult with a trusted adult, such as a parent or doctor, for help with their nicotine addictions.

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In the past, similar programs that leverage gaming to send an anti-drug-use message have been developed, with varying success. But the researchers hope that virtual reality will do a better job by immersing children and teenagers in a virtual environment that helps them imagine how drug use can impact their own lives as well as the lives of their peers, particularly in a world that is densely saturated with tablets and smartphones, which compete for young people’s attention. While the cost of virtual reality has decreased dramatically in recent years, the price of a virtual reality headset can still impose a burden on some, as the Oculus Go headset for which “Invite Only” was developed costs $150 or more. However, if schools are willing to invest in virtual reality technology, researchers hope that this platform can be leveraged not only to dissuade kids from vaping, but for other educational opportunities as well. The Yale researchers expect to have final results from the experiment by next year.

Happy Woman

Life Expectancy in America Declining According to Latest Study

A study published in the journal JAMA has highlighted some reasons behind the latest news that life expectancy in the United States has started decreasing, despite having been on the increase for several years.

The study discovered that Americans between the ages of 25 and 64, or “working age,” are dying younger due to a combination of suicide, hypertension, and drug abuse as well as over 30 more different causes.

It has also been discovered that other wealthy countries around the world have a longer life expectancy to those in the US, which appears to be declining at a dramatic rate. And with working age adults seeing the biggest increase in deaths Steven H. Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine believes it is a “distinctly American phenomenon.”

Woolf, who is co-author of the study alongside Heidi Schoomaker, explained that “death rates among working age adults are on the rise. We have known for years that the health of Americans is inferior to that of other wealthy nations, but our research shows that the decline in US health relative to other countries began as early as the 1980s.”

Both Woolf and Schoomaker looked at over 50 years worth of US life expectancy data with the results appearing to show that although life expectancy began to rise annually between 1959 and 2014, these figures stabilized around 2011 before declining again.

And America’s relationship with opioid abuse seems to be one of the main reasons, along with suicide and alcohol abuse, especially among young and middle aged adults. The figures increased amongst those who did not finish high school.

Strangely, the decline in life expectancy was higher in areas including Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont – all in New England, while those living in the “Ohio Valley” – Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana – were also affected.

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The rise of the opioid epidemic appears to be one of the main reasons in these areas, especially since the collapse of the manufacturing industries that were a strong source of income in the regions. In fact, since 2010 over one third of “excess deaths” were reported from the Ohio Valley states since.

However those living along the Pacific coast – Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington – saw their life expectancy increase during 2010 and 2017.

The authors of the report claims that data from previous years shows that Americans began to slip behind those in other countries as far back as the early 1980s.

“Historically this [period] was the beginning of the opioid epidemic, the shrinking of the middle class and the widening of income inequality,” Woolf said.

And although there were economic shifts around the world as a whole during this time, Woolf believes the lack of support experienced by struggling families contributed to the drop in America stating that “in other countries, families that fall on hard times have programs and services available to cushion the blow. In America, people often have to fend for themselves.”

With few social services to help families it may help us to understand why there was a larger increase in death among females as they “have even fewer support systems, and more childcare responsibilities.”

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Howard Koh commented on the study, saying that although the “most exhaustive and detailed analysis of this topic to date” has helped us find the main causes of death the citizens of America should start “embracing the leading causes of life.”

For instance, by looking at how social connections alongside strong communities are affecting our wellbeing.

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“Other countries spend relatively more in terms of social services. Health is much more than what happens in a doctor’s office. It starts where people live, learn, labor and pray.”

So what can we do to improve our life expectancy? Harvard Medical School has a few suggestions and while most of them are both obvious and easier to do, some may have you asking why!

For instance, we all know that smoking, excessive drinking and drug abuse will seriously damage our health but did you know that people who have quit smoking could repair some of the damage caused by cigarettes, cigars and even marijuana?

Once you stop smoking your risk of heart disease starts to reduce after only a few months, matching that of a non-smoker after around 5 years. Likewise with strokes. Giving up tobacco can see a reduction in the risk of having a stroke within two to four years while the mortality rate from colorectal cancer also reduces each year.

And while these statistics apply to most people, quitting smoking before you reach 50 will make the health benefits stronger, sooner.

There have also been discussions on the dangers of vaping, with many calling for the fruit flavored options to be banned.

A healthy diet, keeping fit and building a good network around you are also key to keeping you healthy and strong and therefore living longer.

By doing these things we can hopefully turn the trend on the average American’s life span before we are in “a future in which declining life expectancy may be the new norm.”

Man with Alcohol

Ketamine Studied as Treatment for Alcoholism

Ketamine is a powerful drug with a number of medical applications. While it is sometimes taken recreationally for its sedative and hallucinatory properties, it has also been used as a surgical anesthetic, particularly during the Vietnam War. It can also provide pain relief, and is even being used in the treatment of severe depression. Now, recent research shows that the drug may also be useful for treating alcohol addiction by disrupting positive memories associated with drinking in patients.

Drug addiction is a serious illness, and while alcohol is a legal drug, the effects of alcoholism are devastating, causing psychological and physical problems and leading in some cases to death. Alcohol is also a notoriously difficult drug to quit, as the drug causes physical dependency as well as withdrawal symptoms upon cessation. As such, there exists significant interest in exploring pharmacological aids that can help with alcoholism, and ketamine has emerged as an unlikely candidate.

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The theory for how ketamine can help with alcoholism has to do with the role memory plays in perpetuating addiction. One of the most difficult things for people who are looking to free themselves from drug addiction to navigate is the numerous positive memories they have built up in association with the drug over time, and how these memories inform their decision making. Ketamine is well-known for causing memory loss, and this is the effect that doctors hope will soon be widespread in treating alcoholism.

The research in question involved the use of anesthetic ketamine to deliberately dismantle positive associations people had with alcohol. In the study, heavy drinkers who used ketamine under the direction of the researchers “reduced their alcohol consumption for at least 9 months,” a promising development for the long-term treatment of alcoholism. While ketamine is not a drug that is fully understood, scientists have determined that the drug blocks NMDA receptors in the brain, which are instrumental in allowing the brain to form and restabilize memories.

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In the study, the treatment was targeted to only disrupt positive memories associated with alcohol use. Volunteers were initially presented with images of alcoholic beverages and then prompted to drink a beer. On their next visit, these volunteers were shown the images again, but instead of drinking alcohol received a high dose of intravenous ketamine. The researchers wanted to surprise the volunteers in order to allow the brain to re-write some of the memories associated with alcohol, using ketamine to break the brain’s association between alcohol and rewarding feelings. This group of volunteers was tested against a control group, who received a placebo instead of ketamine, and a third group who were shown pictures of orange juice instead of beer.

After ten days, the group who were shown images of beer and then given ketamine reported a significant decrease in their urge to drink a beer, while the other two groups showed little change. In the following days and months, all three groups reduced their drinking, but the first group showed the most significant reduction in alcohol consumption. After nine months, they had cut their weekly beer intake approximately in half, while the control groups saw a reduction of 35%.

While the results are impressive, the subject needs more research to determine whether the effects can be replicated and exactly how ketamine works in the brain to change memories. The study did not involve brain imaging data, and as such, scientists don’t know exactly what happened to the volunteers’ memories. Also, as ketamine is not completely understood, it’s not clear if there are other effects of the drug that affect alcohol consumption. However, given these promising early results and the relatively good safety record of ketamine use, this recent study provides a good foundation for further research.

Video Game Controller

National Health Service Opens Clinic For Video Game Addiction

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) is making history by opening the first ever clinic specifically made for treating video game addiction, according to IGN. IGN is a video game and entertainment online magazine owned by IGN Entertainment Inc., they report on all things relevant to the video gaming community. The clinic is aiming to help the 13 – 25 year old demographic and has opened in response to the rise in popularity of games such as Call Of Duty and Fortnite especially. 

Fortnite has become a widely popular game within the generation Z and millennial demographic. The opening of this clinic is no surprise, as the games owner, Epic Games Inc., has already been making headlines for a recent lawsuit against them claiming that the game is as addictive as cocaine. 

“The addiction to the game Fortnite has real consequences on the lives of players, many of whom have developed problems such that they do not eat, do not shower and no longer socialize. Moreover, rehabilitation centers specifically dedicated to addiction to Fortnite have opened to treat people for addiction” according to the lawsuit reported on by the New York Post

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Crowd of fans witness the Fortnite World Cup

The clinic is called the “Clinic For Internet and Gaming Disorder,” according to IGN, and will begin patient treatments in about a month, however, doctors can begin making evaluations and referrals now so that the clinic can be prepared for the patients they’ll be expecting. The growing need for clinics such as this one stems from the World Health Organization officially announcing video game addiction as a legitimate disease. “Gaming Disorder” is defined by the World Health Organization as the  “impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”     

The symptoms need to be present in an individual for at least 12 months for it to be considered a disorder, and the disease will be officially recognized by medical professionals worldwide starting in 2022. Those already being affected by it, however, luckily have some options. Clinics specifically designed with programs for video game addictions are popping up more internationally, the United Kingdom, Quebec, and France being a few. Addiction counseling for the internet and support groups also exist, however, clinics built with a team of professionals specifically trained to treat Gaming Disorder are new.  

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Medical professionals in England along with the NHS are calling on internet, gambling, and video game companies to help with the funding for the clinic and additional programs that will begin to appear more. They feel there’s a certain moral obligation that these companies should be held accountable for since their products are the ones affecting the customers who find themselves developing this disorder. 

“Whilst the NHS has a duty of care and is adapting to these modern challenges, it and taxpayers can’t foot the bill alone. Online gaming firms and global social media firms who make millions of pounds of profit must take more responsibility by keeping their platforms safe, and introduce safeguards to reduce the burden on the health service,” said Fiona Smith, a professional lead for children and young people at the Royal College of Nursing to IGN

So far Microsoft has been the only major company to be public with their agreeing of Fiona’s opinion and will hopefully help with some of the costs. The gaming industry is taking a lot of heat now, especially with video game addiction being classified as an actual disease. The young demographic, however, has a lot of individuals playing devils advocate, and stating that the parents need to get more involved. However, like with any addiction, as their kids get older it’s harder for parents to manage their child’s decisions 24/7, and the reality is addiction can easily develop while going unnoticed. 

Girl Vaping

Health Scares Spell Trouble for Vaping Industry

Recently, a string of vaping-related hospitalizations made headlines and led to growing concerns about the safety of e-cigarettes marketed as healthier alternatives to cigarettes and other tobacco products. In the aftermath of this news, a number of states have moved to ban flavored vaping products, and the federal government even contemplated the idea of banning all flavors of vapor except tobacco nationwide. This sudden spike in concern has led to problems for the vaping industry, as blame is being placed squarely on the manufacturers of nicotine-containing products for the public health epidemic, and as the growing popularity of vaping among teenagers and young people threatens to undo the work of several decades of public campaigns aimed at curbing nicotine addiction.

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Juul, a brand which has become synonymous with vaping as it controls roughly 70% of the e-cigarette market, recently saw a change of leadership as it replaced its CEO with a former tobacco executive. A sudden change in leadership is never a good sign for a company, particularly one as large as Juul, and this news comes amidst other troubling developments for the company. Recently, the F.D.A. claimed that Juul broke the law by implying that e-cigarettes were safer than traditional cigarettes despite the lack of scientific evidence concerning the long-term health effects of using the products. Even more disconcertingly, the F.D.A found that Juul was marketing their products to teenagers in high schools as part of a campaign ostensibly targeted at reducing tobacco use by young people. Juul has said that it intends on fully cooperating with the F.D.A.’s regulations, and has announced it will not fight a proposed ban on flavored nicotine cartridges. Next year, e-cigarettes are scheduled to be banned in San Francisco, and Juul is considering whether or not they should abandon a ballot initiative to overturn the ban.

In order to stay on the market in the United States, Juul and other similar companies have to be able to prove that their products promote public health more than they harm it, which is growing increasingly difficult as the news reports of vaping-related hospitalizations and an epidemic of nicotine addiction in young people. While initially envisioned as a tool to help people quit smoking, vaping has instead become a fashionable trend, and many who are addicted to nicotine have no history of smoking cigarettes. The rise in popularity of e-cigarettes has been explosive, and while F.D.A. regulations concerning the sale of nicotine products have long been in effect, regulatory bodies have yet to catch up with the specific public health problems that e-cigarettes in particular pose. 

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Health professionals across the country are in virtual consensus in advising against the use of e-cigarettes, except as replacements for cigarettes as smoking cessation devices. Even then, there are nicotine delivery systems, such as chewing gum and patches, that are likely safer than vaping as they do not involve any inhalation of chemicals. The director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, said that e-cigarettes should be clinically tested to determine whether they are effective as smoking cessation tools, and if they are they should only be available by prescription, which is the same standard to which other potentially dangerous drugs are held.

While recent develops certainly don’t bode well for the e-cigarette industry, it’s difficult to make any concrete predictions about the fate of affected companies. Famously, the tobacco industry spent millions of dollars lobbying against the notion that cigarettes cause cancer and other health problems, and were very successful in doing so for several years. Vaping has become so widespread that its popularity perhaps even eclipses that of the tobacco products that preceded it, and as a result, the industry has a lot of money to spend on resisting regulatory efforts. However, the government has fought Big Tobacco before, pioneering widespread public health campaigns in an attempt to stop tobacco use, and as such has plenty of relevant experience to apply to fighting Juul and similar companies. Meanwhile, a meaningful segment of an entire generation of young people who otherwise would not have been exposed to nicotine are addicted to vaping, and only time will tell how they will be able to get their nicotine fix in the years to come.