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Understanding, Treating and Preventing Digital Addiction

In recent years, the world has been consumed with technology. The digital age has exploded in the modern world, and reliance on technology increases every day. Most people know when to take a break from their laptops, tablets and smartphones to just relax and enjoy the world outside, but some people become too invested in their tech. The issue has become so bad that new mental health problems have developed as a result. 

What is Digital Addiction?

Addiction is characterized by a need to use digital devices to the point where people do it compulsively and ceasing to do so over a significant period of time causes great emotional and physical duress. When this issue reaches a point where it negatively impacts the person’s life, it becomes a mental health problem and treatment becomes necessary. 

Digital addiction is separated into three groups; phone, Internet and social media addiction. Phone addiction is hallmarked by a reliance on a smartphone specifically. People with phone addiction constantly have their phones in their hands, check their phones incessantly, use their phones frequently in social situations and even develop anxiety when they don’t have their phones on them. 

Internet addiction is a reliance on the Internet through the use of any device. They spend a bulk of their time online, and some cases get so severe that the sufferer might develop difficulties discerning reality from the virtual world. Internet addiction can also lead to gambling problems or a gaming addiction.

Finally, social media addiction is an impulsive need to constantly check, scroll through and update social media pages such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and more. Not being able to keep updated on these social media pages causes feelings of depression.

How is Digital Addiction Treated?

The first step to treating a tech addiction, as with any addiction, is realizing the problem. With tech use being so common in today’s world, it can be very difficult to determine when the line has been crossed into developing an addiction. Friends and family members can help draw the person’s attention to the issue, but, ultimately, the person needs to realize what’s happening for themselves and seek treatment.

Once the person is already on the road to seeking help, the next step is making sure this addiction isn’t a symptom of another problem. Tech addiction is commonly a problem branched off from other mental health problems including, but not limited to;

• Anxiety disorders

• Obsessive-compulsive disorder

• Depression

• ADHD

• Schizophrenia

If the addiction is the only issue, the next step is digital detox. Just as it sounds, a digital detox involves breaking away fully from the Internet, social media and all manner of Internet-ready devices like phones and tablets. However, it’s not purely about quitting technology altogether. It’s about socializing face to face, getting some fresh air outdoors, enjoying sports and other physical games, taking up a hobby, developing a skill and reestablishing life without the reliance on the digital world.

Additionally, going through a digital detox allows for the development of healthy tech use practices. Unlike many other addictions where the addictive behavior can be dropped entirely, like with drugs, alcohol or smoking, it’s difficult to drop Internet, social media and device usage since they’re so deeply ingrained in everyday life. 

Developing healthier patterns in tech use allows people to return to the digital realm without becoming leashed to it. 

Behavioral therapies have been effective for treating addictions to technology. These therapies introduce healthier alternatives to Internet or device usage to help alleviate feelings of anxiety, depression, stress and more that comes from the deprivation.

Group therapies have also been successful in both providing a support network to people with an addiction to technology and giving them the resources to recover on their own time. Some drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities may also provide care for people with non-drug related addictions. 

In addition to therapy, several programs have been developed to help cut down on Internet, social media and device usage. For example, there is a software that limits Internet use over the course of a day. Once the limit has been met, the connection shuts off until the following day. Similar software limits the usage of select social media websites, and there are even blocks to prevent access to the Internet and certain websites entirely for however long the user needs.

If there are other underlying mental health issues behind the addiction, like anxiety or depression, a therapist may prescribe medication to help deal with the effects. 

How to Prevent Tech Addiction

With the prominence of technology in modern day society, anyone could be susceptible to a technology addiction. Avoiding this issue is very possible, and it doesn’t require massive changes to a person’s everyday life.

Make it a rule to go out and do something every day. Even if it’s simply a nice walk, playing a game outdoors or relaxing with a book on the porch, substituting one hour a day for some fresh air outside can stave off the urge. If the weather isn’t accommodating, try cleaning a room in the house, spending quality time with a friend or family member or getting some other household chores done.

Don’t look to devices as a cure for boredom. Instead, take up a hobby, listen to some music or go to a movie.

Part of addiction is a rewards system. Just like drugs and alcohol trigger feelings such as euphoria, using the Internet and social media provide rewards through entertainment, a feeling of achievement through games or enjoying attention through likes on social media. Avoiding addiction through a similar rewards system is very beneficial. For example, for every hour not spent on social media during the day, put a dollar in a savings fund for something fun like a vacation or a new outfit.

It’s also a good idea to do everything to stop the rewards system of the addiction. For instance, turn off phone or desktop notifications for social media websites to reduce the constant feeling of rewards when the notification sounds.

The same limiting software that help with technology addiction recovery is also a great tool for preventing addiction in the first place. It’s not necessary to utilize software that automatically turns off devices, Internet connections or access to social media pages, but being cognizant of the usage and tracking it through these programs helps people understand when they might be developing a dependency. 

If there is a significant concern over developing a dependency on the Internet or social media, have a friend or family member help with monitoring usage. Not only does having a partner help prevent overusing technology, but they can be a great emotional support to help make it through the rough times and make the successes that much more gratifying. 

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What is Kratom and Why is it a Threat?

Kratom is a plant in the coffee family with opioid-like properties and some stimulant properties. It grows predominantly in Southeast Asia and has been used in the region as traditional medicine and herbal remedy for years. Kratom’s usefulness and safety are still unknown since there has not been much quality research done yet. Many people classify kratom in the category of opioid alternatives, but more research needs to be done on its safety. Some even look to the drug as a natural alternative to the opioid crisis.

Traditional Uses of Kratom

Throughout history, kratom has long been acknowledged as a form of traditional medicine in many regions throughout Southeast Asia. The leaves of the plant are usually chewed to relieve muscle pain, boost energy, increase appetite, and even as an aphrodisiac. The drug also has a medical application and can be used to cure pain and provide treatment for physical injuries. The drug is used extensively by doctors in Thailand to cure many ailments. 

Modern Uses of Kratom

Kratom taken in small amounts has a mild soothing stimulant effect but taken in larger doses, it can have euphoric effects and pain-relief effects similar to opiates. This has led to kratom becoming a popular recreational drug with many claiming that the drug can calm the user, cure depression, and even have a use in drug rehab clinics. The thought is that it can be used as a substitute similar to methadone and become another one of these opioid alternatives. Time will tell if mass adoption of kratom in the United States will take place or not, but more clinical trials will be conducted to determine if there are any underlying long-term effects of the drug.

Application in Drug Rehab Clinics

Many look to the application of kratom to aid people who are going through drug rehab. This is due to the drug having effects that are similar to morphine and containing similar qualities of other opioid alternatives. Kratom has been proven to help with the negative effects of withdrawal, but repeated use may actually lead to addiction. As of now, kratom is legal at the federal level in the United States, although it is banned in some states. Some even suggest that kratom can be used as a safer alternative to conventional opiates and could help curtail the opioid crisis.

Dangers of Using Kratom

Because the drug is often abused as a recreational drug, there are a number of adverse effects reported and even potential dangers posed to users. The side effects of taking kratom include excessive sweating, loss of appetite, hypertension (high blood pressure), and in extreme cases, even seizures. 

There have also been deaths reported that seem to be somehow linked to kratom usage, however, it could not be determined that kratom was the actual cause of death due to other drugs being present in the toxicology report. There are reports that even suggest that the use of kratom has been directly linked to the triggering of psychosis. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) namely the Poison Control Center say calls regarding overconsumption of kratom have spiked recently, and may soon become a serious threat, especially among young people.

Toxicology Details

At low doses, there are mostly only stimulant effects. Typical side effects include narrowing blood vessels and raised blood pressure. Both of these can lead to flushing of the face and smaller pupil size. Adverse effects at this level include anxiety, paranoia, and agitation. There have also been notably some opioid-related effects such as itching, nausea, and loss of appetite.

At moderate doses, the opioid effects generally begin to show. Negative side effects include excessive sweating, heart palpitations, confusion, and low blood pressure all of which can be dangerous.

Continued use of kratom at high doses could cause serious side effects such as tremors, anorexia, sudden weight loss, seizures, and even psychosis. Additionally, frequent high dose users who attempt to quit using kratom could also have symptoms similar to opioids withdrawal. The symptoms include anger, agitation, raised blood pressure, loss of appetite, and insomnia.

Respiratory Depression

Respiratory depression is one of the biggest threats to opioid users. Also known as “hypoventilation”, it basically means that the body is unable to process the involuntary air exchange which is usually automatic (involuntary). So this may lead to bigger problems like a stroke or aneurysm if the blood vessels don’t receive oxygen for a certain amount of time. Many believe that kratom is not immune to the risk of respiratory depression. Acting in a similar fashion to many other opioids, the hypothesis is that the symptoms are the same, although more testing needs to be done. However, there have been tests done on animals, and the evidence shows that respiratory depression does, in fact, occur at very large doses in animals

Liver toxicity

It has also been reported that regular users of kratom may experience liver injuries and have symptoms such as malaise, abdominal discomfort, and irritability. Liver injury is a dangerous condition that may in some cases, also lead to renal failure. This is a serious health risk but has rarely been reported in kratom use cases except at extremely high doses.

Other Health Risks

  • Anorexia
  • Obesity
  • Seizures
  • Death (potentially)

Conclusion

Kratom may not be all it is cracked up to be. On the surface, it looks like a great alternative for people going through opioid withdrawals, but once you dig a little deeper, you quickly see that this drug may not be any safer than the opioids they are supposed to mimic. For these reasons, kratom should be used with extreme caution, and under close supervision. Although used in low doses, kratom can be beneficial to the user, the threats of overuse are numerous and severe. More research should be done on this drug before people start using it, and thinking of it as a morphine or methadone alternative. The drug is too new in the United States and while it may one day lead to many people surviving through the opioid crisis, it is better to be safe than sorry. For now, we should just wait for the FDA to do more studies on the drug’s applications for modern society.

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What We Know About Depression

Awareness of mental health conditions are on the rise, which is important for helping everyone to feel emotionally strong. While people have been dealing with depression since the beginning of time, we now know so much more about how to help people overcome symptoms such as severe exhaustion and apathy. 

Sadly, the symptoms of depression affect more than just the person with the condition. More than half of all families with a loved one living with depression in their home report having trouble maintaining healthy functioning. Untreated depression can also lead to a person losing their job, ending relationships and making unhealthy choices that limit their future. Fortunately, no one has to sit idly by and let depression take over. Instead, understanding this important information about depression helps a person to make the best choices for their mental health.

Know That Depression is Different From Sadness

People who are unfamiliar with depression tend to wonder why it is such a big deal when everyone is sad sometimes. The difference with depression and sadness is that the symptoms of major depressive disorder tend to last far longer than a couple of weeks. With regular sadness, a person is usually just responding to a recent disappointment such as a breakup. They may also be able to snap out of their bad mood by doing something fun. Depression can often have no obvious cause since it involves chemical changes within the brain that require treatment before a person can feel better. 

Watch Out for These Risk Factors

There is not a single factor that causes depression to develop. Instead, genetics and brain chemistry play a heavy role in a person’s risk for developing the condition. Certain types of life events are also associated with the development of depression. For instance, a person is at higher risk for developing the condition after losing a loved one or experiencing a trauma. For people that have experienced depression in the past, going through a major life change such as having a baby or losing a job are signs that it may be best to seek mental health counseling to prevent the symptoms of depression from getting worse.

Recognize the Symptoms of Depression

The most well-known symptom of depression is persistent sadness that typically lasts for longer than two weeks and does not respond to self-care. It is also important to be alert for the other symptoms of depression that can include some or all of the following:

  • withdrawal from one’s previous favorite activities
  • changes in eating habits-some people eat more while others eat less
  • feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • sleep difficulties such as insomnia or oversleeping
  • difficulty concentrating on tasks
  • making poor decisions
  • increased reliance on substances such as alcohol
  • thoughts or statements about suicide or just giving up
  • feeling exhausted or weighed down by life
  • physical complaints such as headaches, muscle pain and nausea

Understand That Depression is Different for Everyone

Although there are certain symptoms that are common among people with depression, it is important to note that not everyone feels or expresses them the same. In fact, there are some notable differences in how men and women experience depression. A person’s age may also affect how they deal with their symptoms.

  • Women-Women make up the largest group of people who suffer from depression, and approximately seven percent of women will experience some form of the condition in their lifetime. The current understanding regarding the reason this occurs is that women have more risk factors such as hormonal fluctuations that make them more likely to experience mood changes. 

Women who are depressed tend to feel more of the emotional symptoms such as feelings of worthlessness. They may even feel guilty about their inability to just snap out of it or that they are not managing all of their responsibilities well. On the upside, women are more likely to reach out to their loved ones for help, and they are usually the first to seek treatment for depression when they notice the symptoms.

  • Men-When a man is depressed, they tend to feel more anger than guilt. They may also be irritable and lash out at their loved ones. Some men also withdraw or begin to use drugs or alcohol in an effort to mask their symptoms. Although things are changing, man men still feel stigmatized about being depressed, and they may need additional encouragement from their support network to seek treatment.
  • Teens-Depression often first appears during the teen years, and it may be due to changes in their risk factors such as going through puberty and dealing with new types of stress such as social pressure. Since teenagers are often unaware that their feelings are not normal, they rely upon their parents, teachers and other trusted adults to call attention to the need for treatment.

Parents often miss the early warning signs of depression in teens by simply thinking that it is just part of them growing up. However, a simple way to determine if a teen needs mental health counseling is to check to see if their symptoms are affecting their life. For instance, a teen who is oversleeping and skipping school needs help treating their symptoms so that they can manage their responsibilities.

  • Children-Younger children can also develop depression. This often occurs after a major life event such as moving to a new home or losing a loved one. Children this age may become clingy, whiny or experience developmental regressions such as wetting their bed.

Learn About the Different Types of Depression

These are the main types of depression that a person may be diagnosed with, and knowing which type they have makes it easier to create a personalized treatment plan that helps them feel better.

  • postpartum depression
  • major depression
  • persistent depressive disorder
  • psychotic depression
  • bipolar disorder
  • seasonal affective disorder

Be Willing to Reach Out for Help

One of the most important things to know about depression is that every type is treatable. While some types, such as major depressive disorder, may require more intensive counseling to treat, it is possible to feel better. Anyone who recognizes the symptoms of depression in themselves or a loved one can start by talking to their doctor. When doing so, it is important to be open about all of the symptoms that one is dealing with in their life. A doctor may also ask patients about their current life situation to find out if there are any changes that could be contributing to the symptoms. After checking for physical causes of the symptoms, a doctor may then refer the person to a mental health professional such as a counselor

For those who do not currently have a primary care doctor, it is still possible to seek help by reaching out for mental health counseling on their own. Many counselors and therapists are open to new patients who simply call and explain how they are feeling.

Explore Treatment Options 

Professional treatment for depression is the best way to find relief from the symptoms. A person’s treatment plan may include one or all of the following types of care.

  • medication
  • psychotherapy, or talk therapy
  • cognitive behavioral therapy
  • interpersonal therapy

Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions that is known today, and it is important to know that there is hope when a person feels hopeless. In fact, no one with depression is ever alone since professional counselors are available to help them ease their symptoms and learn how to move forward with a greater sense of mental wellbeing.

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The WHO Rules Gaming Disorder a Mental Health Classification

The World Health Organization’s announcement to include gaming disorder a medical diagnosis.

Through the years, video games have gotten a bad rap. They are seen as a major distraction, with tech addiction affecting people of all ages and all genders. They have remained controversial through the years with their graphic topics covering violence and sexuality. And now, video games have taken the limelight globally for being recognized as an alarming disorder.

Last may 25, the World Health Organization, also known as WHO, voted to include gaming disorder as a form of behavioral addiction in its International Classification of Diseases. What many parents scream to their kids about how their video gaming addiction is terribly annoying and how tech addiction is ruining their lives have just now become officially and dangerously real. There are several parameters to receive this gaming disorder diagnosis:
A person needs to show 12 months of continuous symptoms
Gaming and screen addiction takes up many hours of the technological addict’s time
Prioritizing gaming over health, hygiene, work, and social relationships

Gaming Figures

This declaration by the WHO on gaming disorders comes at a time wherein the impact and clout of the gaming industry is at its peak. Last year alone, this video and online gaming industry made up to $44 billion in sales; making them even more popular than streaming services and movie theaters. In the United States alone, research indicated that 167 million citizens played some form of electronic game, with majority of those figures playing online.

Gaming has overtaken the place of older social media apps, leaving less time for those with a video gaming addiction to spend on FB, IG, or Snapchat. This diagnosis has, of course, alarmed parents across the globe because data indicates that 97 percent of teen boys and 83 percent of teen girls play games on some kind of device. Some form of digital detox or detoxification from excessive gadgetry is necessary.

Conflicting Community

The WHO’s voice is without a doubt one that is filled with authority and power. However, it must be noted that they are not the only word, nor the last word in the field of science. In fact, there are those up in arms over this diagnosis. Of course, the video game companies are not happy over this declaration. But even in the community of scientists, there is quite a split between supporting tech addition as the real deal or whether this is a gross exaggeration.

It is important to note that technology addiction doesn’t even appear on the bible of the psychiatric profession in the United States. The closest it comes to being mentioned in the latest edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is something called Internet Gaming Disorder. However, it not listed as an alarming condition that’s a cause for concern. The term was just mentioned briefly with notes that stating this disorder needs further study.

This lack of a medical sounding diagnosis is a vital one. This omission is important because it shapes therapists’ and doctors’ understanding of their patients and the tools they need in order to extend help. And more significant, it is harder to bill insurance providers without this official code in the official manual.

Still Alarming

There is no official term in the United States yet, but clinicians and researchers find screen addiction still ever so alarming. Patterns of behavior associated with excessive video games consumption continues to be a cause for concern, especially because the bulk of the people involved in doing it are children.

In the book, Glow Kids:  How Screen Addiction is Hijacking Our Kids, Dr. Nicholas Kardaras said there are brain-imagine effects of spending too much time on screen. He noted treating teenagers who come into his office being so wrapped up in their games that they don’t even make eye contact. The worst case scenario is they are so afraid to be distracted for fear of losing their games that they do not even get up to use the toilet, even if they really need to go already.

A doctor by the name of Douglas Gentile from Iowa State University admits to facing this video game addiction and excessive internet use concept with a lot of skepticism. But he that all the data and hard evidence are already staring everyone in the face but people struggle in accepting, facing, and handling the truth. The serious dysfunction this addiction affects includes multiple aspects of a person’s life and it is not imaginary but very real.

Points to Consider in Problematic Use

The advent of technology in this very advanced and fast paced world has exposed every single person to a device. Gadget use has been very prevalent that even young kids have to grapple with its consequences due to early and too much exposure. There are many adverse issues raised against excessive use of technology. Aside from just physically damaging the eyes due to the radiation emitted by the devices, the exposure to so much screen time can cause the brain to change. As mentioned above, there are printouts of brain images that show the actual effect of gadgets on the brain of real live subjects. As a result, these alarming changes in the brain are the ones that are feared to create the real physical dependency.

On top of that, overuse of gadgets, games, and media is seen as a bigger symptom of something deeper such as issues on depression, ADHD, or anxiety. In a study called A Parent Report Measure of Screen Media Addiction indicated that parents are alarmed by their children’s behavior. Taking away the gadgets only seem to make their children more rebellious. It also does not guarantee they will not have access to it in school or in other social settings. But what they do know is that excessive gadget consumption has the capacity to affect their kids’ health (staying up late nights make them prone to illnesses), impact the grades, affect time spent with family, and interfere with social relationships.

Proposed Treatment

Rather than just taking the gadgets away, which will cause more harm and drama than good, there must be harm reduction through digital detox. Taking the gadget away does not really eliminate the problem because these will always be present in the modern world. Confiscating the gadget is akin to throwing it under the rug and pretending it doesn’t exist. Instead discipline and healthy use of gadgets must be taught through mindful usage and controlled consumption.

Going cold turkey on video games may not be plausible because for the users it does provide them some measure of positivity such as entertainment, making them feel good, or helping them socialize with their online friends. However, there can be steps done to ensure that the temptation to keep on playing or using the device s kept at bay. For instance, keeping devices out of bedrooms is one way to ensure that these gamers get quality sleep. It is also important to make sure that young people attend school, make time for friends, and spend time outdoors.

Addiction is real, and although the numbers may not be that high in video games use, it doesn’t mean that it is not happening. That being said, branding someone as an addict is especially dangerous, especially for teens who are still in the difficult stage of conceptualizing their identities. What is more important is realizing that negative habits need correction and proper guidance must be given to correct these unpalatable types of behavior. The word addiction and disorder both drum up attention. They are controversial. Nowadays, where people can’t even leave the house without their mobile phones, controlled consumption has become harder and harder to do. But one thing is clear, no one needs an official doctor’s diagnosis to get people to put down their devices more often.

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Alcohol Detox, Austin Texas

An estimated 17 million Americans suffer from alcohol abuse. Americans that have problems with alcohol qualify them for diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder, and the cost of alcohol abuse and use in the country is estimated to be significantly over $200 million per year. This places the burden on society as a result of alcohol abuse, this does not include the impact on productivity. A large portion of the costs associated with alcohol addiction are due to medical complications associated with moderate to heavy alcohol abuse. For alcoholics in recovery from an alcohol use disorder, a significant portion of their initial success involves being able to deal with the complications associated with physical addiction to alcohol. The physical dependence that occurs as a result of having an alcohol use disorder can result in severe withdrawal symptoms that can even be deadly. Medically assisted detox is often required to help the person maintain their abstinence from alcohol in the early stages of recovery.

Alcohol Dependency

Alcohol dependence, aka alcoholism, is the most serious form of drinking problem and describes a strong, uncontrollable, desire to drink. An alcoholic is powerless over the drug. Alcohol is one of the most powerful, underestimated, socially accepted and readily available drug in the world.

Drinking dictates the day to day life of an alcoholic, over time, excessive drinking leads to increased physical tolerance or experiencing withdrawal symptoms if they stop.

There are varying degrees of alcohol dependence and they don’t always involve excessive levels of drinking. If you find that you need to have a bottle of wine most nights of the week, or always go for a few drinks after work, just to unwind, you’re likely to be drinking at a level that could impact your long-term health.

You could also be dependent on alcohol. If you find it very difficult to enjoy yourself or relax without having a drink, you could have become psychologically dependent on alcohol. Physical dependence can follow, that’s when your body shows withdrawal symptoms, such as sweating, shaking and nausea, when your blood alcohol level falls.