Addiction Sameness

Alcohol, Opiates, Fat and Sugar are all Addictive Substances: this blog is about that "addiction sameness".

Monday, October 31, 2011


A Nation of Vidiots | NationofChange:

by Jeffrey Sachs

Published: Sunday 30 October 20

“Many neuroscientists believe that the mental-health effects of TV viewing might run even deeper than addiction, consumerism, loss of social trust, and political propaganda.”

The past half-century has been the age of electronic mass media. Television has reshaped society in every corner of the world. Now an explosion of new media devices is joining the TV set: DVDs, computers, game boxes, smart phones, and more. A growing body of evidence suggests that this media proliferation has countless ill effects.

The United States led the world into the television age, and the implications can be seen most directly in America’s long love affair with what Harlan Ellison memorably called “the glass teat.” In 1950, fewer than 8% of American households owned a TV; by 1960, 90% had one. That level of penetration took decades longer to achieve elsewhere, and the poorest countries are still not there.

True to form, Americans became the greatest TV watchers, which is probably still true today, even though the data are somewhat sketchy and incomplete. The best evidence suggests that Americans watch more than five hours per day of television on average – a staggering amount, given that several hours more are spent in front of other video-streaming devices. Other countries log far fewer viewing hours. In Scandinavia, for example, time spent watching TV is roughly half the US average.

The consequences for American society are profound, troubling, and a warning to the world – though it probably comes far too late to be heeded. First, heavy TV viewing brings little pleasure. Many surveys show that it is almost like an addiction, with a short-term benefit leading to long-term unhappiness and remorse. Such viewers say that they would prefer to watch less than they do.

Moreover, heavy TV viewing has contributed to social fragmentation. Time that used to be spent together in the community is now spent alone in front of the screen. Robert Putnam, the leading scholar of America’s declining sense of community, has found that TV viewing is the central explanation of the decline of “social capital,” the trust that binds communities together. Americans simply trust each other less than they did a generation ago. Of course, many other factors are at work, but television-driven social atomization should not be understated.

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Certainly, heavy TV viewing is bad for one’s physical and mental health. Americans lead the world in obesity, with roughly two-thirds of the US population now overweight. Again, many factors underlie this, including a diet of cheap, unhealthy fried foods, but the sedentary time spent in front of the TV is an important influence as well.

At the same time, what happens mentally is as important as what happens physically. Television and related media have been the greatest purveyors and conveyors of corporate and political propaganda in society.

America’s TV ownership is almost entirely in private hands, and owners make much of their money through relentless advertising. Effective advertising campaigns, appealing to unconscious urges – typically related to food, sex, and status – create cravings for products and purchases that have little real value for consumers or society.

The same, of course, has happened to politics. American politicians are now brand names, packaged like breakfast cereal. Anybody – and any idea – can be sold with a bright ribbon and a catchy jingle.

All roads to power in America lead through TV, and all access to TV depends on big money. This simple logic has put American politics in the hands of the rich as never before.

Even war can be rolled out as a new product. The Bush administration promoted the premises of the Iraq war – Saddam Hussein’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction –in the familiar colorful, fast-paced, and graphics-heavy style of television advertising. Then the war itself began with the so-called “shock and awe” bombing of Baghdad – a made-for-TV live spectacle aimed at ensuring high ratings for the US-led invasion.

Many neuroscientists believe that the mental-health effects of TV viewing might run even deeper than addiction, consumerism, loss of social trust, and political propaganda. Perhaps TV is rewiring heavy viewers’ brains and impairing their cognitive capacities. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently warned that TV viewing by young children is dangerous for their brain development, and called on parents to keep children under two away from the TV and similar media.

A recent survey in the US by the organization Common Sense Media reveals a paradox, but one that is perfectly understandable. Children in poor American households today not only watch more TV than children in wealthy households, but are also more likely to have a television in their room. When a commodity’s consumption falls as income rises, economists call it an “inferior” good.

To be sure, the mass media can be useful as a provider of information, education, entertainment, and even political awareness. But too much of it is confronting us with dangers that we need to avoid.

At the very least, we can minimize those dangers. Successful approaches around the world include limits on TV advertising, especially to young children; non-commercial, publicly-owned TV networks like the BBC; and free (but limited) TV time for political campaigns.

Of course, the best defense is our own self-control. We can all leave the TV off more hours per day and spend that time reading, talking with each other, and rebuilding the bases of personal health and social trust.

“Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Jeffrey D. Sachs, click here.”

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Mindful Cafe: Learning to think outside box about teen drug use - The Naperville Sun

Mindful Cafe: Learning to think outside box about teen drug use - The Naperville Sun:

Some people are hard to help. There are particular problems laden with complications making the most experienced therapist fret and deliberate.

Imagine the father of a 15-year-old daughter who is constantly frustrated when she isolates herself in her room and stays on the phone too late. He complains that she rolls her eyes when he tries to ask, “How was your day at school” or “Why don’t you ever want to talk to me anymore?”

When you tell him to leave her a Post-it note message on her bathroom mirror, try texting her to say he misses her, or suggest that he take dinner into her room to join her while she listens to music, he ponders those suggestions and shrugs them all off as pointless.

“That won’t make any difference,” he says.

Or the 16-year-old son who screams about how his guardian grandparents don’t understand him, that they don’t trust him, and are constantly accusing him of lying or talking to his old drug-using friends. You encourage him to invite friends over to the house for a change, suggest to him to take his grandparents to an open support group for family members, to which he adamantly responds, “Why would I do that? They’re the ones who need to change.”

We have a term for this struggle in therapy: the “help-rejecting complainer.” In its most mild form, it is observed in a person venting their stress in one form or another, and when offered guidance or pointers, they find a subtle or at times overt way to reject the help. At that point, we have to recognize this as a sign to shift from advice giving to understanding what their resistance is really about.

Sometimes it is simple denial, other times it can be fear based, a lack of resources, or even lack of confidence to take the help because of the perceived risks involved. Many times the help-rejecting complainer has so many self-imposed barriers that they don’t even give themselves permission to solicit remedy for their stressor.

With all the heat on families to protect their homes from every kind of drug monster, people seem struck by the blitz. Parents are overwhelmed. I’m hearing more and more from parents their lack of comfort in even talking to their kids about drugs. They want to help their teens avoid drugs but don’t have a good idea where to start.

Some fear their child doesn’t have safe adults to talk to. Others are worried about how to reconcile their personal experiences with substances and the advice they got from their parents. Many parents have said things like: “Maybe the line between parent and friend is getting too gray,” and “Tell us what to do to make sure my kid doesn’t use heroin.”

I was impressed to meet a group of about 28 parents who showed up at an open drug education night at one of Naperville’s largest high schools. Though the small turnout could have been disheartening, those parents were energized and ready to take action.

As one father said about passing the knowledge forward, “If we each just tell five parents we know, those five can tell five others, and we can make a difference.”

Maybe the help needs to be packaged in a different way.

Several of those energized parents said their friends and neighbors didn’t want to attend the open forum because they didn’t want others to assume their teens were using. Others agreed saying they too feel pressured that people will judge their kids differently just because they as parents went to a drug education night.

Ask yourself: are you one of those parents who says they are frustrated by all the media buzz about drug problems to the point that you feel helpless? Do you feel the suggestions offered are too lofty to execute at home? Or is your family member one of those that you advise and support but never do anything with the help offered? Of course, the increased awareness is beneficial, but the true benefit occurs when we take action.

When we brainstorm and strategize together in the community, we can take action outside of the box and implement change. But contemplating really great ideas isn’t going to be enough. We must move forward and organize ourselves in this movement to halt the growth in drug use.

On Wednesday, Nov. 9, Naperville Police Chief David Dial, his detectives and the Naperville Fire Department will join with addiction treatment experts of Linden Oaks at Edward to host a community forum called “Right in Your Own Backyard: What Every Parent Needs to Know.” It will meet from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Edward Education Center Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public. It’s an opportunity to hear from a panel of experts and from community members about how to be “help-accepting changers.”

Stephanie Willis is a mental health and addictions therapist with Linden Oaks at Edward and Willis Counseling & Consulting. She can be reached at and 630-481-6463.

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