Category Archives: research

Addictive Social Media Behavior

Plenty of research has demonstrated that the addictive quality of social media is very real. And according to a new study, heavy social media use may also contribute to a different type of addiction.

Psychologists at the University of Albany found that not only is social media (particularly Facebook) itself potentially addictive, those who use it may also be at greater risk for impulse-control issues like substance abuse.

The researchers surveyed 253 undergraduate students, asking questions about their social media use, Internet addiction, emotion regulation and alcohol use. They found that roughly 10 percent of users experience “disordered social media use,” meaning that they exhibit addictive behaviors in the way they use platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. To assess disordered social media use, the researchers included questions that reflected modified diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence, such as, “How good does Facebook make you feel?” and “Do you check Facebook first thing when you wake up in the morning?”

Those who were struggling with social media addiction were more likely to report Internet addiction (as measured by scores on the Young Internet Addiction Test), challenges with emotion regulation (such as poor impulse control), and drinking problems.

Psychologist Julia Hormes, who led the study, said that Facebook was found to have especially addictive properties. The respondents spent an average of one-third of their online browsing time on Facebook, and 67 percent received Facebook push notifications on their phones.

“New notifications or the latest content on your newsfeed acts as a reward. Not being able to predict when new content is posted encourages us to check back frequently,”Hormes said in a statement. “This uncertainty about when a new reward is available is known as a ‘variable interval schedule of reinforcement’ and is highly effective in establishing habitual behaviors that are resistant to extinction. Facebook is also making it easy for users to continuously be connected to its platform, for example by offering push notifications to mobile devices.”

The researchers hypothesize that disordered social media use is likely a symptom of poor emotion regulation skills, which heightens susceptibility to a variety of types of addiction.

“Our findings suggest that disordered online social networking may arise as part of a cluster of risk factors that increase susceptibility to both substance and non-substance addictions,” Hormes said.

The new findings join a growing body of research investigating the addictive potential of Internet social media use. MRI data has shown that the brains of compulsive Internet users to exhibit similar changes to those seen in people with alcohol and drug addictions. Harvard research conducted in 2012 provided some insight into why using Facebook in particular seems to be so highly addictive. Disclosing information about ourselves, the researchers found, is intrinsically rewarding. It activates the Nucleas Accumbens, a brain area that also lights up when cocaine or other drugs are ingested. But it’s not just posting on Facebook that’s addictive — it’s also receiving all those likes and comments. Another study found that receiving positive feedback about ourselves also activates the brain’s reward centers.

However, Hormes’ and other research can’t be taken as conclusive evidence that disordered social media use constitutes a full-blown addiction.

“The question of whether or not disordered online social networking use can be considered a ‘true’ addiction is a tough one,” Hormes said in an email to the Huffington Post. “I think the answer really depends on your definition of ‘addiction.’ Many people think of addictions as involving ingested substances. However, if we think about addiction more broadly as involving some kind of reward then it is easier to see how behaviors may be addictive.”

The new findings were published in the December issue of the journal Addiction.

Advertisements

Research Identifies How Stress Triggers Drug Relapse

Recent research from Brown University could pave the way for new methods of treatment for those recovering from addiction. Researchers identified an exact brain region in rats where the neural steps leading to drug relapse take place, allowing them to block a crucial step in the process that leads to stress-induced relapse.

Prior research has established that acute stress can lead to drug abuse in vulnerable individuals and increase the risk of relapse in recovering addicts. But the exact way that stress triggers the neural processes leading to relapse is still not clearly understood. The Brown study provides new insights on how stress triggers drug abuse, and could lead to more effective treatments for addiction.

According to the study, stress has significant effects on plasticity of the synapses on dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), the brain region where the neural activities leading to a stress-induced drug relapse take place.
Stress activates kappa opioid receptors (KORs) in the VTA, and the researchers found that by blocking the KORs, they could prevent the rats from relapsing to cocaine use while under stress.

Published this week in the journal Neuron, the study shows blocking these receptors may be a critical step in preventing stress-related drug relapses in humans, as well. The chemical used to block the receptor, “nor-BMI,” may eventually be tested on humans, according to the study’s authors.

“If we understand how kappa opioid receptor antagonists are interfering with the reinstatement of drug seeking we can target that process,” senior study author Julie Kauer said in a statement. “We’re at the point of coming to understand the processes and possible therapeutic targets. Remarkably, this has worked.”

Kauer noted that the study builds upon over a decade of research on how changes in brain synapses relate to behaviors like addiction. The advance is significant, and could accelerate progress towards a medication for those struggling to recover from addiction.

“If we can figure out how not only stress, but the whole system works, then we’ll potentially have a way to tune it down in a person who needs that,” Kauer said.

Ten Myths About Psychotropic Drugs

Dr. Peter Gotzsche has created a controversy and sparked criticism over what he sees as a damaging over-prescription of drugs by psychiatrists.

Gotzsche recently compiled a list of ten common myths held not only by the general public, but also trained psychiatrists concerning the safety of psychotropic drugs, and the rationale for their use.1pillst

As an internist, Gotzsche remarked that since he was outside of the political orthodoxy of the world of psychiatric medicine, he was free to express what he believed to be the sentiments of many psychiatrists who must remain quiet in their objections for fear of hurting their careers.

1.  Mental diseases are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain

“We have no idea about which interplay of psychosocial conditions, biochemical processes, receptors and neural pathways that lead to mental disorders and the theories that patients with depression lack serotonin and that patients with schizophrenia have too much dopamine have long been refuted.”

2.  It’s easy to go off antidepressants any time you want to

Here, Gotzsche points to drug trails involving agoraphobics and people suffering from panic disorder, whom were not depressed.  Fifty percent of the patients found it difficult to come off antidepressants even though they were gradually reducing their doses.  It could not be that the patients saw their depression returning, as they were not depressed to begin with.

3.  Psychotropic drugs are to mental illness as insulin is to diabetes

“When you give insulin to a patient with diabetes, you give something the patient lacks, namely insulin. Since we’ve never been able to demonstrate that a patient with a mental disorder lacks something that people who are not sick don’t lack, it is wrong to use this analogy.”

4.  Psychotropic drugs reduce the number of chronically ill patients

“In 1987, just before the newer antidepressants (SSRIs or happy pills) came on the market, very few children in the United States were mentally disabled. Twenty years later it was over 500,000, which represents a 35-fold increase. The number of disabled mentally ill has exploded in all Western countries.”

5.  SSRIs don’t cause suicide in children and adolescents

“The companies and the psychiatrists have consistently blamed the disease when patients commit suicide. It is true that depression increases the risk of suicide, but happy pills increase it even more, at least up to about age 40, according to a meta-analysis of 100,000 patients in randomized trials performed by the US Food and Drug Administration.”

6.  SSRIs don’t have side effects

“Patients care less about the consequences of their actions, lose empathy towards others, and can become very aggressive. In school shootings in the United States and elsewhere a striking number of people have been on antidepressants.”

7.  SSRIs are not addictive

“The worst argument I have heard about the pills not causing dependency is that patients do not require higher doses. Shall we then also believe that cigarettes are not addictive? The vast majority of smokers consume the same number of cigarettes for years.”

8.  The prevalence in depression has increased a lot in recent history

Gotzsche points out that this is difficult if not impossible to determine, as the criteria for being diagnosed as clinically depressed has been drastically lowered over the last 50 years.

9.  The main problem is not overtreatment, but undertreatment

“In a 2007 survey, 51% of the 108 psychiatrists said that they used too much medicine and only 4 % said they used too little. In 2001-2003, 20% of the US population aged 18-54 years received treatment for emotional problems.”

10.  Antipsychotics prevent brain damage

“Some professors say that schizophrenia causes brain damage and that it is therefore important to use antipsychotics. However, antipsychotics lead to shrinkage of the brain, and this effect is directly related to the dose and duration of the treatment.”

Read the rest of the article here:http://www.designntrend.com/articles/10379/20140123/danish-doctor-offers-ten-myths-psychotropic-drugs.htm