Tag: addiction

Screen-Addicted Teens Are More Likely Unhappy

Happiness is not a warm phone, according to a new study exploring the link between adolescent life satisfaction and screen time.

Teens whose eyes are habitually glued to their smartphones are markedly unhappier, said study lead author and San Diego State University and professor of psychology Jean M. Twenge.

To investigate this link, Twenge, along with colleagues Gabrielle Martin at SDSU and W. Keith Campbell at the University of Georgia, crunched data from the Monitoring the Future (MtF) longitudinal study, a nationally representative survey of more than a million U.S. 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders.

The survey asked students questions about how often they spent time on their phones, tablets and computers, as well as questions about their in-the-flesh social interactions and their overall happiness.

On average, they found that teens who spent more time in front of screen devices — playing computer games, using social media, texting and video chatting — were less happy than those who invested more time in non-screen activities like sports, reading newspapers and magazines, and face-to-face social interaction.




Twenge believes this screen time is driving unhappiness rather than the other way around.

Although this study can’t show causation, several other studies have shown that more social media use leads to unhappiness, but unhappiness does not lead to more social media use,” said Twenge, author of “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — And Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.”

Total screen abstinence doesn’t lead to happiness either, Twenge found. The happiest teens used digital media a little less than an hour per day.

But after a daily hour of screen time, unhappiness rises steadily along with increasing screen time, the researchers report today in the journal Emotion.

Looking at historical trends from the same age groups since the 1990s, the researchers found that the proliferation of screen devices over time coincided with a general drop-off in reported happiness in U.S. teens.

Specifically, young people’s life satisfaction, self-esteem and happiness plummeted after 2012. That’s the year that the percentage of Americans who owned a smartphone rose above 50 percent, Twenge noted.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Gaming Addiction Classified As Disorder By WHO

Its 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD) will include the condition “gaming disorder“.

The draft document describes it as a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour so severe that it takes “precedence over other life interests“.

Some countries had already identified it as a major public health issue.

Many, including the UK, have private addiction clinics to “treat” the condition.

The last version of the ICD was completed in 1992, with the new guide due to be published in 2018.




The guide contains codes for diseases, signs and symptoms and is used by doctors and researchers to track and diagnose disease.

It will suggest that abnormal gaming behaviour should be in evidence over a period of at least 12 months “for a diagnosis to be assigned” but added that period might be shortened “if symptoms are severe“.

Symptoms include:

  • impaired control over gaming (frequency, intensity, duration)
  • increased priority given to gaming
  • continuation or escalation of gaming despite negative consequences

Dr Richard Graham, lead technology addiction specialist at the Nightingale Hospital in London, welcomed the decision to recognise the condition.

It is significant because it creates the opportunity for more specialised services. It puts it on the map as something to take seriously.

But he added that he would have sympathy for those who do not think the condition should be medicalised.

It could lead to confused parents whose children are just enthusiastic gamers.

He said he sees about 50 new cases of digital addiction each year and his criteria is based on whether the activity is affecting basic things such as sleep, eating, socialising and education.

He said one question he asked himself was: “Is the addiction taking up neurological real-estate, dominating thinking and preoccupation?

Many psychiatrists refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the fifth edition of which was published in 2013.

In that, internet gaming disorder is listed as a “condition for further study“, meaning it is not officially recognised.

Lots of countries are grappling with the issue and in South Korea the government has introduced a law banning access for children under 16 from online games between midnight and 06:00.

In Japan, players are alerted if they spend more than a certain amount of time each month playing games and in China, internet giant Tencent has limited the hours that children can play its most popular games.

A recent study from the University of Oxford suggested that, although children spend a lot of time on their screens, they generally managed to intertwine their digital pastimes with daily life.

The research – looking at children aged eight to 18 – found that boys spent longer playing video games than girls.

Researcher Killian Mullan said: “People think that children are addicted to technology and in front of these screens 24/7, to the exclusion of other activities – and we now know that is not the case.

Our findings show that technology is being used with and in some cases perhaps to support other activities, like homework for instance, and not pushing them out,” he added.

Just like we adults do, children spread their digital tech use throughout the day, while doing other things.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Hug Hormone Oxytocin Boosts Bonding By Releasing Cannabis-Like Molecules

Whichever persona you prefer – the love molecule, cuddle chemical or hug hormone – oxytocin plays a big role in bonding.

Spraying monkeys with the stuff, for example, has been found to positively affect their social behavior, making them more communicative and promoting interaction with others.

Among many other things, weed also exerts similar effects on human behavior, but how exactly it does this has been hazy.

Now, a new study is offering us clues, and a link between these two very different substances.

It turns out that oxytocin might make social interactions more rewarding and pleasurable by stimulating our own cannabinoid system.

According to the research, it does this by triggering the release of another wonderfully nicknamed chemical, the “bliss molecule” anandamide, coined as such due to the fact that the brain receptors it activates lead to increased motivation and happiness.




This is the first time that this marijuana-like neurotransmitter has been shown to contribute to the reward of being social, and also offers us further insight into how oxytocin acts on the brain.

Importantly, these findings could help us understand the mechanisms underlying certain social impairments, for example in those with autism, suggesting a possible avenue to explore for treatment.

Rewinding a little bit, endocannabinoids, like anandamide, are molecules our own body produces that act on the same system that cannabis does, binding to receptors on various cells throughout the body called the cannabinoid receptors.

Previous work has found that the endocannabinoid system is involved in regulating neuronal signaling from the nucleus accumbens (NAc), a brain region shown to be critical for the effects of oxytocin on social reward.

To scrutinize these links further, scientists from the University of California, Irvine looked at the brains of juvenile mice reared in groups that had been isolated from their peers for 24 hours, then either returned to the group or kept in isolation for a further three hours.

They found that social contact increased the release of anandamide in the NAc, whereas isolation had the opposite effect. The resulting cannabinoid receptor activation, they found, reinforced the rewards of social interaction.

Taking this one step further, the team wanted to see how oxytocin, known to reinforce both parental and social bonding, fits into this emerging story.

After stimulating oxytocin-producing cells in the brain, they noticed a subsequent boost in the mobilization of anandamide in the NAc.

But when they blocked oxytocin receptors with drugs, the same response was not observed.

Tying the results together, the team found that boosting anandamide levels by blocking its degradation with a drug promoted social reward, causing mice to spend more time interacting with others when compared to those given a placebo, which could have implications for those with social deficits, for example in autism.

We think that there is a disruption in cooperative oxytocin-anandamide signaling in autism,” lead researcher Daniele Piomelli told IFLScience. “

Animal models of autism have multiple disruptions in endocannabinoid signaling.

In these models, Piomelli said, increasing anandamide levels in the same way as before corrected social reward deficits.

This raises the possibility that similar effects could be achieved in humans, helping those with autism socialize more.

The study has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Smartphone Addiction Can Lead To Chemical Imbalance In Brain

Smartphone and internet addiction can cause a chemical imbalance in the brain, especially in young people, according to new research released this week at the Radiological Society of North America.

As scientists continue to evaluate the physical and emotional effects of an increasingly screen-dependent population, researchers in South Korea found that teenagers addicted to their smartphones had increased levels of two types of neurotransmitters involved in a number of emotional and cognitive functions.




They included gamma aminobutyric acid, or GABA, which slows down brain signals and is involved in vision and motor control and helps regulate emotions including anxiety.

The second chemical is glutamate-glutamine (Glx) and is known to cause neurons to fire more rapidly.

The study evaluated 19 young people with an average age of 15, who were diagnosed with an internet or smartphone addiction, compared to 19 healthy-controls.

The addicted youth also reported higher instances of depression, anxiety, insomnia severity and impulsiveness, in comparison with the “healthy” controls.

Using a Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) brain scan, researchers found that the addicted youth had higher elevations of both GABA and Glx compared to the controls, although the researchers said more study is needed to understand the exact implications of the imbalance.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

A New Study Suggests Gaming Addiction Isn’t A Real Disorder

There are those that take their gaming time too far, to the extent that it negatively impacts their lives, their careers, and their relationships with friends and family.

But according to a new study from Cardiff University, gaming addiction might not be a real condition – at least, not as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes it.

There are currently nine criteria for “internet gaming disorder,” an area of interest for the American Psychiatric Association that has not yet properly been classified as a mental disorder.




The study reports that almost nobody fits the five of nine criteria necessary for diagnosis.

Of more than 2,000 regular online game players surveyed, only nine met the criteria for the disorder. When the participants were questioned again six months later, none still met the requirements for diagnosis.

The study suggests that rather than game addiction itself being a problem, those who struggle with too much game time are instead filling a hole caused by sources of unhappiness in other areas of their life.

Symptoms of gaming disorder had been reduced in participants who had found greater satisfaction in other areas of their life.

It seems none of this is to say that spending too much time in-game, but rather that gaming addiction serves as a symptom of more general unhappiness.

Nonetheless, psychological organizations and game developers alike have taken steps to mitigate gaming’s role in those problems.

The British National Health Service began treating game addiction in 2015 alongside porn and online shopping habits, Valve even began adding healthy gaming timers in Dota 2 last year.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

The Complete Guide To Breaking Your Smartphone Habit

Smartphones are magical.

A device that’s small enough to fit in your pocket, allows you to instantly communicate with virtually anyone on earth, take breathtaking photos, and access humanity’s collected knowledge. Amazing!

But like any magical implement, the smartphone’s power can be so consuming that all you want to do is stare into its comforting, glowing, little screen.

Unsurprisingly a growing number of people feel disconcerted with the insatiable pull their phones exercise on them, and are unhappy with the amount of time and attention they give to these devices in return.

Below are such a game plan with all the tools and techniques you might consider implementing in order to get a handle on your smartphone habit.




The Negative Effects of Chronic Smartphone Use

For many folks, checking and twiddling with their smartphone has become a habit boarding on addiction.

Yet research shows that heavy smartphone use can also have a deleterious effect on several different aspects of our lives:

  • Loss of empathy and connection with others
  • Loss of sleep.
  • Loss of focus and the ability to do deep, meaningful work.
  • Loss of the ability to be fully present in your life.

How to Break the Smartphone Habit

Are you tired of being unable to really engage in conversations with your friends because you’re always checking your phone?

Do you feel guilty about how often your kids catch you staring at a screen when you should be interacting with them?

Are you sick of ending each day bemoaning your utter lack of focus and productivity at work, and how little progress you’re making on your goals?

While the bad news is that chronic smartphone use can have a negative impact on your life, the good news is that research demonstrates that the restless, distraction-producing itch they exercise on us can be reversed.

It just takes some work and discipline to get a handle on your habit. Here’s how to do it:

  • Perform an Audit on Your Cell Phone Use
    The first step in breaking the smartphone habit is to measure how much time you’re actually spending on your phone throughout the day.Just seeing hard numbers on how much time you’re spending on your phone can affect your use.
  • Going Nuclear, or Getting a “Dumbphone
    It’s been a week, and you have a good idea of how much you’re using your smartphone and what apps you’re using.Maybe you’re so appalled by the results of your smartphone audit that you decide the best course of action is to completely chuck your smartphone altogether and downgrade to a rudimentary “dumbphone” that just allows you to make calls and send simple text messages.
  • Making Your Smartphone Dumber
    After seriously considering ditching the smartphone, you’ve decided owning a dumbphone just isn’t going to be a viable option for you.Maybe your work requires you to answer email from your phone and use other apps. Or maybe you like being able to snap high-quality pics of your kids using your phone’s built-in camera.The question then becomes how do you take advantage of all the benefits that come with your smartphone while not getting sucked into the smartphone-checking habit? The answer is to make your smartphone dumber.

  • Turn off notifications
    The easiest thing you can do to instantly reduce the itch to check your smartphone is to turn off notifications.One of the things that makes these devices so irresistible to check are the pings, buzzes, and flashing lights that go off whenever you get a new email.You can curb this technological salivation by getting rid of notifications. You’ll be amazed how this one little change will dramatically reduce how often you check your smartphone.
  • Turn off cellular data and wifi
    Let’s assume you’ve turned off notifications, but you still have the itch to pick up your phone to check email or other apps.You can change the settings on your smartphone to make it temporarily dumb for certain periods of time.  All you need to do is turn off your cellular data and wifi.When you turn these services off, you’ll still be able to make calls and send simple text messages.

I hope this guide will help you get a handle on your own smartphone habit, so you can use your phone in a way that maximizes its benefits and minimizes its drawbacks.

Give these apps and techniques a try if you’re looking to be a more productive, industrious, and successful man.

Be the master of your technology, not its slave!

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Pass it on: Popular Science

The Science of Addiction

Is it the drugs that get people hooked… or is it something else? The science behind addiction and how our drug laws approach it the wrong way.

Special thanks to Jac St. John at The Vegetarian Baker https://www.youtube.com/user/TheVeget…

and Sarah Hardy of Sensational Finds
https://www.youtube.com/user/Sensatio…

For their help with the intro to this video. This was shot as part of the YouTube NextUp program in August, at the YouTube space in New York. The set was constructed for a series on Great Big Story starring Philipe Cousteau: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTvvv…

Check out the video Jac shot in the submarine for his channel!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pb2ib…

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LINKS LINKS LINKS:

Johann Hari’s TED talk on addiction: https://www.ted.com/talks/johann_hari…

Portugal https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/w…

Rat Park Comic http://www.stuartmcmillen.com/comics_…

Statistics from National Overdose Day http://www.overdoseday.com/resources/…

The science of addiction http://www.shatterproof.org/pages/sci…

Portugal’s drug policy and its results http://www.independent.co.uk/news/wor…

Kurzgesagt https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao8L-…

Nuggets (a short animated film that hauntingly depicts the process of addiction) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUngL…