Some addictions waste away…

Eating disorders are becoming increasingly prevalent and are also classified as types of addictive behavior.  It is reported that half of all Americans know someone with an eating disorder and approximately 11 percent of high school students have been diagnosed with an eating disorder.  Eating disorder statistics may or may not hit home for some people, but when you are presented with the fact that eating disorders result in the highest mortality of any mental illness, you know that it is something that needs attention and needs to change.

There are a few different kinds of eating disorders.  Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that causes people to obsess about their weight and the food they eat. People with anorexia nervosa attempt to maintain a weight that’s far below normal for their age and height. To prevent weight gain or to continue losing weight, people with anorexia nervosa may starve themselves or exercise excessively.  Anorexia (an-oh-REK-see-uh) nervosa isn’t really about food. It’s an unhealthy way to try to cope with emotional problems. When you have anorexia nervosa, you often equate thinness with self-worth.  Bulimia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder. People with bulimia (bu-LEE-me-uh) nervosa may binge and purge, eating large amounts of food and then trying to get rid of the extra calories in an unhealthy way. For example, someone with bulimia nervosa may force themselves to vomit or do excessive exercise.

What is the cause of eating disorders?  Many researchers say that it is partly due to the ultra skinny and fit figures that are seen as the beautiful and successful men and women of our society. According to the MAYO clinic, they list a few possible reasons for causes of eating disorders:

  • Biology. There may be genes that make some people more vulnerable to developing eating disorders. People with first-degree relatives — siblings or parents — with an eating disorder may be more likely to develop an eating disorder too, suggesting a possible genetic link. It’s also possible that a deficiency in the brain chemical serotonin may play a role in the development of bulimia.Some people may be genetically vulnerable to developing anorexia. Young women with a biological sister or mother with an eating disorder are at higher risk, for example, suggesting a possible genetic link. Studies of twins also support that idea. However, it’s not clear specifically how genetics may play a role, although researchers have discovered an area on chromosome 1 that appears to be associated with an increased susceptibility to anorexia nervosa.
  • Behavior. Certain behaviors, such as dieting or overexercising, can contribute to the development of bulimia. For example, dieting is a primary factor in triggering binge eating. In addition, dieting helps encourage rigid rules about food, which when broken can lead to loss of control and overeating.  They may have obsessive-compulsive personality traits that make it easier to stick to strict diets and forgo food despite being hungry. They may have an extreme drive for perfectionism, which means they may never think they’re thin enough.
  • Emotional health. People with eating disorders may have psychological and emotional problems that contribute to the disorder. They may have low self-esteem, perfectionism, impulsive behavior, anger management difficulties, family conflicts and troubled relationships, for instance.
  • Society. The modern Western cultural environment often cultivates and reinforces a desire for thinness. Success and worth are often equated with being thin in popular culture. Peer pressure and what people see in the media may fuel this desire to be thin, particularly among young women.  However, anorexia and other eating disorders existed centuries ago, suggesting that sociocultural values aren’t solely responsible.
  • It may also be that some people have a genetic tendency toward perfectionism, sensitivity and perseverance, all traits associated with anorexia. There’s also some evidence that serotonin — one of the brain chemicals involved in depression — may play a role in anorexia.

Here is a short clip about a mother’s story of her daughter that struggled with bulemia and how we can make a difference.

It is a natural tendency for each one of us to wish for adjustments or modifications, whether big or small, too make our appearance more desirable.  Unfortunately, society has helped to shift the idea of an innate sense of worth to a largely based appearance- and performance-type of worth.  Many feel the pressure to attain and maintain that perfect figure… but do they themselves know what their limit is, or when their perception of “not skinny enough” is actually “too skinny”?

Please visit this site to learn more about the signs and symptoms of someone who may possibly have an eating disorder.  It is important to remember that a person does not need to be underweight or even average to have an eating disorder.  Most often, food and weight are not the issue, but they are trying to compensate for deep emotional or psychological issues and trying to control that or another aspect of their life through their eating habits.  If you know someone who you think may be suffering from an eating disorder, here are some tips on approaching them:

  • Avoid talking about food and weight, those are not the real issues
  • Assure them that they are not alone and that you love them and want to help in any way that you can
  • Encourage them to seek help
  • Never try to force them to eat
  • Do not comment on their weight or appearance
  • Do not blame the individual and do not get angry with them
  • Be patient, recovery takes time No Iframes
  • Do not make mealtimes a battleground
  • Listen to them, do not be quick to give opinions and advice
  • Do not take on the role of a therapist

For more information on how to talk to someone with an eating disorder, please read the information listed on this website.  Every boy and girl, young and adult man and woman need to understand that their worth or value is not based on their weight or appearance.  Below is a small analogy used to illustrate this principle:

A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, who would like this $20 bill? Hands started going up. He said, I am going to give this to one of you, but first, let me do this. He proceeded to crumple the bill up.  He then asked, who still wants it? Still the hands were up in the air. Well, he replied, what if I do this? He dropped it on the ground, and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty. Now, who still wants it? Still hands
went into the air.  My friends, you all have learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it, because, it did not decrease in value. It was still worth 20 dollars. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel that we are worthless.  But, no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value, dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who love you. The worth of our lives comes not in what we do, or who we know, but by who we are.

There is hope and there are many resources available for coping and recovery.  Here is only one of many resources that may give you additional ideas for someone struggling with an eating disorder.  I hope that whoever reads this will understand that worth is not defined by the world, but that each individual is of great worth and value.



Filed under Behavioral Addiction

Hope is infinite.

Many of us are familiar with celebrities who go in an out of drug rehabilitation.  Some names that we hear on the news include Lindsay Lohan and Robert Downey Jr., who actually has been sober for 7 years.  Robert Downey Jr., who was in an out of drug rehab and jail especially between 1996 and 2001, said to the BBC News, “It’s like I have a loaded gun in my mouth and my fingers on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gunmetal,” in August 1999.  He admitted in 2010 to Rolling Stone that he felt the safest he’s ever been when behind bars. “When the door clicks shut, then you are safe,” says the veteran actor, who spent a good amount of time between 1996 and 2001 in prison for drug use and possession. “There is nothing aside from a rogue correctional officer that can do you harm if you have the right cellie. You are actually in the safest place on Earth. Safe from the intruders.” For Downey, those intruders were his addictions – which started when his father, Robert Downey Sr., reportedly began giving him drugs when he was just 8 years old and didn’t stop.

He was 8 years old when his father gave him drugs.  8 years old!  Society has a stereotype that labels drug addicts as menaces who threaten and jeopardize society.  If only we knew the circumstances that first involved them with drugs.  Of course, there are the drug addicts who are completely at fault, and even in Robert Downey Jr.’s case, he “should have had the willpower to stop”.  But so many times, they are driven by a substance that controls their self-choice and their self-agency and unfortunately, too many times wins the battle of “I know I shouldn’t, but…”  Lindsay Lohan, after failing a drug test in 2010, said, “Substance abuse is a disease, which unfortunately doesn’t go away over night. I am working hard to overcome it and am taking positive steps forward every day. I am testing every single day and doing what I must do to prevent any mishaps in the future.”

Although I would like to devote an individual blog to each type of substance abuse addiction, for this blog I will group the majority of substances together, excluding alcohol and prescription drugs.  Of course, we all know that drug addictions do not only exist in the far away land of Hollywood.  They are in our communities, and many of us know someone who has dealt with it personally, either themselves or in their families.  Below is a personal story of a young man who dealt with a methamphetamine addiction, unknown to his parents.

Easy Cheap Deadly

By Ned Wicker

By all accounts, “Josh” was the ideal teen son. He was an athlete, got good grades and the kids at school all liked him.

But it wasn’t enough. His mother and father never saw the problem coming, and being solid, middle class, suburban professionals, knew that they were the right kind of parents that would never allow their child to get into that sort of trouble.

Mom and dad did their best to protect their son from the evils of the world. When the football coach swore at the team in a moment of passion during practice, they bypassed the coach, the athletic director and made certain that the superintendent of schools to swift and harsh action.

If Josh was singled out by a teacher for a disciplinary issue, his parents straightened it out. He was given a generous allowance, a cell phonefor emergencies and his parents made sure he understood the need to prepare for college. When the news came they were shocked.

Like the other kids at the high school, Josh was aware of the kids who smoked marijuana or drank alcohol. There was an incident a few years back with his older brother, who joined thebaseball team at a beer party. The whole team was busted for the affair, but Josh’s parents made sure that the coach and athletic director listened to reason.

No action was ever taken against his older brother, on any member of the team. After all, his parents, like many others, looked at beer and marijuana as mere rights of passage, but their son would never do that.

Josh thought nothing of smoking grass with his friends, mainly because he viewed it as harmless. His older brother did it and he was doing fine, so why not? But unlike his older brother, Josh had an entirely different relationship with the drug. He enjoyed the experience of getting high, much more than his older brother, as he felt a sense of relief and relaxation, a kind of euphoria. And, unlike his older brother, he wanted to repeat that experience far more often.

What his parents didn’t see coming, was the third most-abused drug in their Midwestern town, methamphetamine. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “The drug has limited medical uses for the treatment of narcolepsy, attention deficit disorders, and obesity.” The NIDA, however, warns that the drug is highly addictive.

The illicit production of the street drug is produced in both big and small labs, often found in private homes, commercial buildings and even hotel rooms. They are light weight, portable and present a problem for law enforcement. The drug is also smuggled into the United States from Mexico, and in some areas of the country, it has surpassed cocaine and heroin in sales.

On the street it’s called Speed, Meth, Ice, Crystal, Chalk, Crank, Tweak, Uppers, Black Beauties, Glass, Bikers Coffee, Methlies Quick, Poor Man’s Cocaine, Chicken Feed, Shabu, Crystal Meth, Stove Top, Trash, Go-Fast, Yaba, and Yellow Bam, according to the NIDA.

For Josh, it was just something that gave him an intense high. He had no awareness of any kind that this highly toxic chemical can raise havoc with brain function. Josh like the marijuana high, but he craved the meth high, and unlike the marijuana, once he used meth, he was quickly addicted.

The intense high was created by massive release of the neurotransmitter dopamine into the pleasure areas of the brain. This flood of dopamine can actually cause an increase in body temperature, convulsions and be lethal.

His parents never suspected meth. But clearly something was wrong. Josh had become paranoid, and lost interest in football. He told his parents that football was a distraction from his studies. He wanted to concentrate on school. They bought it.

His mood swings were a sign, and his altered ability to reason was disturbing. Josh became depressed and told one of his friends that he was thinking of committing suicide. The meth high that he was craving was harder to achieve, mainly because he was building a tolerance to the drug. He was losing weight and admitted that he didn’t sleep much.

One day his behavior became violent at school. For some reason, something triggered an outburst and he lashed out at one of his friends. Josh was hearing or seeing something that wasn’t there and his friend happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The incident turned out to be good for Josh. Nobody got hurt, but Josh’s behavior had to be dealt with by school officials. His parents were called and Josh was soon taken to the family doctor for an examination. His friends also told of his meth use.

It was a wake up call for mom and dad, a call for action for the school and a lifesaving event for Josh. He got into treatment, but so many do not. The drug robs them of any life they might have made for themselves, as they become a walking pile of skin and bones.

The craving for the intense high is so powerful that food, sleep, family relationships or any outside activities are of no importance. Meth addicts are out of control, literally killing themselves for a high.

What fooled Josh’s parent was that meth addicts are not skid row bums as much as they are suburban professionals, or promising athletes, or otherwise upright and valuable citizens. The drug grabs them quickly and holds on until there is nothing left. Josh was lucky, so far.

As onlookers, we can tend to think, “why don’t they just quit?”  Drugs, however, not only have temporary effects that induce pleasure, relaxation, or excitement.  However, with continued use, the body becomes dependent on the drug and physiological changes actually take place in the brain.  Drugs affect the various areas of the brain and change normal brain activity.  The need for more and more persists and the addict must increase the dosage to get the same effect.  There are other long term adverse effects of drug use.  Prolonged use of amphetamines for example, may cause hallucinations and intense paranoia.  First-time users of cocaine — even teens — of both cocaine and crack can stop breathing or have fatal heart attacks. Using either of these drugs even one time can kill you.  Even after one use, cocaine and crack can create both physical and psychological cravings that make it very, very difficult for users to stop.  For marijuana, prolonged use can cause respiratory problems, lung damage and cancer, along with memory and concentration impairments.  There is also a high prevalence of significantly decreased motivation among long-time users of marijuana.  These are just some of the effects of drug use and abuse.  Listed here is additional information and effects of other drugs after both prolonged use and even just daily functioning.

Here is a great video from a professional baseball player who overcame his drug addiction.  There are moments when it cuts out but then it comes back 🙂

There is hope.  People DO recover, every day.  There is a website for possible resources for recovery options at  Also, at this website, there are numerous stories of those who have been successful and still live every day working for sobriety and recovery.  If you or someone you know is suffering from an addiction, don’t lose hope.  There are so many people who are praying and routing for those who suffer from addiction, and working to make it possible for addiction to be conquered.

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Filed under Behavioral Addiction

Too much of a good thing can be harmful

Everyone knows that exercise has numerous benefits to our physical, mental, emotional and social health.  Different health organizations have different guidelines for recommendations for the amount of exercise that is optimally beneficial.  The U.S. Health and Human Services in 2008 came out with official physical activity guidelines:

  • Regular physical activity reduces the risk of many adverse health outcomes.
  • Some physical activity is better than none.
  • For most health outcomes, additional benefits occur as the amount of physical activity increases through higher intensity, greater frequency, and/or longer duration.
  • Most health benefits occur with at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking. Additional benefits occur with more physical activity.
  • Both aerobic (endurance) and muscle-strengthening (resistance) physical activity are beneficial.
  • Health benefits occur for children and adolescents, young and middle-aged adults, older adults, and those in every studied racial and ethnic group.
  • The health benefits of physical activity occur for people with disabilities.
  • The benefits of physical activity far outweigh the possibility of adverse outcomes.

Exercise has been touted to do everything from treat depression to improve memory, with the power to cure a host of problems while preventing even more. In particular, exercise leads to the release of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that alleviate pain, both physical and mental. Additionally, it is one of the few ways scientists have found to generate new neurons. Much of the research done in this area has focused on running, but all types of aerobic exercise provide benefits. Although the exact nature of these benefits is still being determined, enough research has been done to provide even skeptics with a motivation to take up exercise. Exercise exerts its effects on the brain through several mechanisms, including neurogenesis, mood enhancement, and endorphin release. This paper not only examines how these mechanisms improve cognitive functioning and elevate mood states, but also proposes potential directions for future research. Furthermore, it provides an explanation for exercise’s generally non-habit forming nature, despite effects on the reward centers of the brain that mimic those of highly addictive drugs like morphine.  To read more effects of exercise on the brain, click here.

So don’t get me wrong, I love to exercise and I personally have experienced the benefits from regular exercise.  However, it is possible to develop such a dependency on exercise that it becomes “maladaptive” or detrimental to the person’s health instead of beneficial.  Only 8% of gym users meet the criteria for exercise addiction. In the classic pattern of addiction, exercise addicts increase their amount of exercise to re-experience feelings of escapism or the natural high they had previously experienced with shorter periods of exercise. They report withdrawal symptoms when they are unable to exercise, and tend to go back to high levels of exercise after a period of abstinence or control. Three percent of gym users feel they cannot stop exercising.

Often, it is common to find someone with an exercise addiction who also has an eating problem or disorder, such as anorexia or bulemia.  The individual may restrict the number of calories he or she consumes and then will exercise relentlessly to burn more energy than taken in.  This can be very dangerous and have numerous adverse health effects.  It is important to be aware of these, both for those who desire to increase their exercise routine, as well as being able to recognize this among friends and families.

Know the signs of unhealthy exercise addiction

American Running Association

Running is unconditionally great for the body, the soul, and the mind, right? Almost, but not quite.

Almost anything harm when taken to an extreme — even the most benign or beneficial activities.

Even the sacred domain of exercise is not protected from this universal truth. When a commitment to exercise crosses the line to dependency and compulsion, it can create physical, social, and psychological havoc for those among us who appear outwardly to be the very fittest. Runners are particularly vulnerable.

A “positive addiction” is a healthy adaptation to the barriers to exercise in life, since commitments to work, family, and other healthy pursuits must compete for time to work out. Sometimes, however, the line between commitment and compulsion is crossed.

Richard Benyo, writing on the subject of exercise addiction for the Road Runners Club of America, says that there is a negative side to exercise that gradually, insidiously, can take over the positive.

“In an ironic way, nature balances the situation when the thing obsessed turns on and bites the obsessor.”

Exercise addiction is not just another term for overtraining syndrome. Healthy athletes training for peak performance and competition can suffer overtraining symptoms, which are the short-term result of too little rest and recovery.

Exercise addiction, on the other hand, is a chronic loss of perspective of the role of exercise in a full life. A healthy athlete and an exercise addict may share similar levels of training volume — the difference is in the attitude.

An addicted individual isn’t able to see value in unrelated activities and pursues his sport even when it is against his best interest.

Recognizing addiction

The exercise addict has lost his balance: Exercise has become overvalued compared to elements widely recognized as giving meaning in a full life — work, friends, family, community involvement — in short, the fruits of our humanity.

When emotional connections are passed up in favor of additional hours of training; when injury, illness and fatigue don’t preempt a workout; when all free time is consumed by training — exercise addiction is the diagnosis.

Warning lights for addiction include withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, irritability, and depression that appear when circumstances prevent you from working out.

To the addict, there is no exception to the rule “the more the better.” More training, more hours, more miles, more intensity: more is absolutely always better. Anything that interferes with the lust for more exercise is resented.

Blurred boundaries

The paradox inherent in exercise addiction is the blurred boundary between what is healthy, admirable and desirable, and behavior that is over the edge and dependent. As runners and fitness enthusiasts, we value individuals who seem to epitomize the true athlete who achieves success by virtue of discipline, sacrifice, and hard work.

Peak fitness and excellence, which we aspire to achieve with our own running, require a dogged commitment to training despite circumstances and moods that would conspire against your resolve. Once we accomplish a training routine and the necessary commitment, isn’t it normal to feel irritable and a little depressed when we miss our run?

Part of the paradox for the exercise-dependent is that levels of achievement are often beneath what is expected for the obviously high level of commitment. Performance suffers when value is placed only on working out.

The addict answers poor performance with running more and resting less. A healthy athlete looks at the big picture and adjusts training programs allowing for rest and recovery among all the training variables.

Who is at risk?

Experts have argued as to whether exercise addiction is linked to the highly touted “runner’s high,” due in part to the release of beta-endorphins during and after intense exercise. Most agree though, that exercise addiction is the result of psychological factors.

“Intense, high-achieving perfectionist individuals are particularly vulnerable to this addiction,” says psychologist Sharon Stoliaroff, Ph.D.

In the case of exercise addiction, the underlying psychological causes are usually linked by low self-esteem, which finds gratification in the gains made by training.

“Unfortunately,” Stoliaroff warns, “denial is a frequent component of any addictive process.”

Don’t run away

If you see a little too much of yourself in these paragraphs, don’t run the other direction. Find a good counselor or someone else whose opinion you trust and discuss the possibility of exercise addiction.

As you work with a counselor, change the emphasis of your exercise from “more is better,” to quality. Objective progress can be made by planning your workouts with an experienced trainer on a weekly basis, with rest and recovery given the emphasis they deserve in a well-balanced training program.

Write down a seven-day schedule, planning mileage, intensity, rest, and any cross-training activities with specific, reasonable goals relative to your skills. Working with a trainer, set outside limits for number of workout hours in any given week.

Count all exercise in your total — stretching, warm-ups, cool-downs, cross-training, walking, yoga — everything. Do not exceed the mileage, time, or intensity that you’ve planned.

Never work out just because you found an extra hour or two in your day. Train only to the extent that you’ve planned. If you find extra time, spend it with a friend, a book, a movie, call your mother. Set goals in other aspects of your life besides training. Learn something new — gourmet cooking, sailing, knitting.

Become a mentor to someone in your community who needs you. If you miss a day, scratch it off your schedule. Never make up a missed workout by doubling up the next day.


The exercise-addicted runner will almost always suffer the consequences of his addiction. It is not a coincidence that few exercise addicts can be lifetime runners.

As Benyo said, “the obsession bites back” in the form of chronic injuries, impaired relationships and other problems. The exercise-obsessed runner may one day complain that running ruined his life, but it was running out of balance that was the ruin.

Remember that working out should always have an element of play. If working out loses all aspects of fun, something has gone wrong. The most competitive professional athletes still love their sport, love to run because it gives pleasure, and not because it has become a compulsive need.

Renowned running writer Dr. George Sheehan put it this way: “The things we do with our bodies should be done merely because they are fun — not because they serve some serious purpose. If we are not doing something that is enjoyable on its own account we should look for something that is.”

Sheehan ran right to the end of his life. He could not separate his identity from his running. Running and being were synonymous. As a result he achieved great things as a runner. Running didn’t subtract from the rest of his life, it added. He was also the father of 12, a doctor, prolific writer, philosopher and thinker. He found balance. Look for balance. Running enhances life. It can’t stand alone.

Have you gone over the edge?

Rate yourself as honestly as you can below with the following checklist:

  • I have missed important social obligations and family events in order to exercise.
  • I have given up other interests, including time with friends, in order to make more time to work out.
  • Missing a workout makes me irritable and depressed.
  • I only feel content when I am exercising or within the hour after exercising.
  • I like exercise better than sex, good food, or a movie — in fact there’s almost nothing I’d rather do.
  • I work out even if I’m sick, injured, or exhausted. I’ll feel better when I get moving anyway.
  • In addition to my regular schedule, I’ll exercise more if I find extra time.
  • Family and friends have told me I’m too involved in exercise.
  • I have a history (or a family history) of anxiety or depression.If you have checked three or more of these items, you may be losing your perspective on running and working out. Exercise is healthy as long as it is in balance with a full life. Speak with a mental health professional or your doctor for help.(Sharon Stoliaroff, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Chevy Chase, MD, developed this checklist.)

    Volume 18, Number 6, Running & FitNews
    The American Running Association


    Filed under Behavioral Addiction

    Not Just a Choice

    One of the hardest things about all addictions is the devastating effects on those surrounding the individual, and more specifically, their family members.  For families who are unfamiliar with addictions, at first their initial reactions and responses may actually enable the addict in whatever behavior he or she is participating.  This is very true of gambling addictions.  An individual who starts to engage in and continually participate in gambling, he or she may be indirectly enabled when a family member or close friend continues to supply money or resources for he or she to use in gambling situations.In America alone, problem gambling affects more than 15 million people. More than 3 million of these are considered severe problem gamblers, otherwise known as gambling addicts or pathological gamblers.

    Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling, is a type of impulse-control disorder. Compulsive gamblers can’t control the impulse to gamble, even when they know their gambling is hurting themselves or their loved ones. Gambling is all they can think about and all they want to do, no matter the consequences. Compulsive gamblers keep gambling whether they’re up or down, broke or flush, happy or depressed. Even when they know the odds are against them, even when they can’t afford to lose, people with a gambling addiction can’t “stay off the bet.”

    I’m sure we’ve all felt that “adrenaline rush” once or twice in our lives, the feeling of risk and the great probability at maybe enhancing our current situation, purely by luck.  Even in harmless and amateur settings, the drive of another chance at succeeding even more may lead us to continue.  However, most feel that instinct of when to stop and are aware that it is not reality.  Whatever choice an individual either transports them from that world of risk and chance to normal day life, or transports that individual to a world of endless possibilities and adventure… as long as the resources don’t run out.  According to the American Psychiatric Association, an individual who meets at least five of the following criteria is considered a compulsive gambler:

    1. The individual is preoccupied with gambling (i.e. preoccupied    with reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, or thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble.

    2. The individual needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement.

    3. The individual has repeated unsuccessful at stopping.

    4. The individual is restless or irritable with attempting to cut down.

    5. The individual gambles as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (i.e., feeling of helplessness, guilty, anxiety, and depression).

    6. The individual after losing money gambling, often returns another day to get even (“chasing” one’s losses).

    7. The individual lies to family members, therapist or others to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling.

    8. The individual has committed illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, theft, or embezzlement to finance gambling.

    9. The individual has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, education or career opportunity because of gambling.

    10.The individual relies on others to provide money or relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling.


    Gambling is also similar to other addictions in that it provides help through a 12-Step program in a society called Gamblers Anonymous.  This can serve as a starting point for those seeking help from a gambling addiction.  The National Council on Problem Gambling has set up a website to show the potential resources for help in each state.  In an article in the New York Times, researchers examine the correlation of gambling with other destructive behaviors, as well as suicide:

    Suicide Rate Higher in 3 Gambling Cities, Study Says

    Published: December 16, 1997

    The dramatic increase in legalized gambling in the United States may be leading to a significant increase in suicide rates among both residents of and visitors to communities where casinos are thriving, according to a new study on suicide and gambling.

    In the study, Dr. David Phillips, a professor of sociology at the University of California in San Diego, examined death certificates in major gaming cities in the United States — Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Nev., and Reno — and found that suicide rates were up to four times higher than in comparably sized cities where gambling is not legal.

    Because there is a long lag in the compilation of death certificates nationwide, it was not possible to determine whether the 24 states that have legalized casino-type gambling within the last 10 years have experienced a similar increase in suicide rates, said Dr. Phillips, an expert on suicide.

    The study by Dr. Phillips is reported in the December issue of the journal Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. It is the first large-scale statistical investigation of gambling and suicide.

    Earlier studies have shown that compulsive and pathological gamblers have many problems, including alcoholism and drug addiction, that contribute to suicidal behavior.

    Still, several smaller studies have found gambling to be associated with increased suicide rates, white-collar crime, substance abuse and child abuse, Dr. Phillips said. For example, one study found that 3 of the 6 Atlantic City suicides for which the researchers had information probably occurred because of gambling problems.

    Americans love to gamble, Dr. Phillips said, and spend nearly as much on gambling (6 percent of the G.N.P., according to a Standard & Poor’s Corporation 1996 survey) as they do on family groceries (8 percent).

    Dr. Lanny Berman, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology in Washington, praised the study as ”quality sociological research,” and said the next step would be to design smaller studies that compared gamblers and non-gamblers — matched for age, occupation and other factors — over time, to see whether gambling itself was the direct cause of higher suicide rates.

    But Frank Fahrenkopf, president of the American Gaming Association, an organization in Washington that represents major hotel and casino companies, said legalized gambling might have very little to do with suicide.

    Mr. Fahrenkopf cited studies that say that people moving to the American West, where suicide rates are highest, find themselves isolated and without personal support systems and that these factors, not gambling, explain why they kill themselves.

    Dr. Phillips said he got the idea for his study after talking to people who run Gamblers Anonymous telephone lines in Texas. He said callers would say, ”I’ve embezzled all the company’s funds, my kids can’t go to college, there’s no money left for groceries and I don’t see any way out.”

    To look for an association between suicide and gambling, Dr. Phillips examined death certificates that tell how people died. Las Vegas has the highest suicide rate in the nation, he said.

    Based on suicide patterns, one would expect a city the size of Las Vegas to have had 310 suicides in 1990, for example, but he found that the actual number in Las Vegas was 497.

    Visitors to Las Vegas also kill themselves at a higher rate, Dr. Phillips said. For most cities nationwide, 1 in l00 ”visitor deaths” on average is recorded as a suicide. A visitor death means that someone from another state dies while visiting the city in question. In Las Vegas, 1 in 25 visitor deaths on average is a suicide, four times the national average.

    ”In the case of Atlantic City, we can trace what happened before and after gambling was legalized,” Dr. Phillips said. (A similar analysis cannot be done for Las Vegas and Reno because gambling there was legalized in 1931 and mortality statistics do not go back far enough to allow such comparisons.)

    Atlantic City legalized gambling in May 1978. Before casinos opened, the residential suicide rate for the city was indistinguishable from adjacent communities in New Jersey. In 1975, the expected number of suicides for Atlantic City was 45 and the actual number was 52, a statistically insignificant difference. In 1990, after gambling had been in place for more than a decade, the expected number of suicides remained the same, but the actual number of suicides was 64 — a statistically significant increase. In Atlantic City, 1 in 53 visitor deaths is a suicide, roughly double the national average.

    The study cannot say for certain which people are killing themselves at a higher rate, Dr. Phillips said. It could be the local gamblers or visiting gamblers, spouses or children of gamblers, non-gambling relatives of gamblers or non-gambling residents who work in the industry. Nevertheless, he said, gambling or some factor associated with gambling is linked with the suicide levels.

    Gambling also creates economic benefits in many communities, providing jobs where unemployment used to be high. Some groups may benefit while others lose, Dr. Phillips said, a trend that should also show up in mortality data. ”I am starting to study that question now,” he said.

    However, the end of the story can be “happily ever after”.  There is hope and recovery for gambling addicts.  A trusted, non-profit resource can be found to help you or someone you know find available recovery or help options.  Just like all other addictions, they are winnable battles, and you may be the one to help someone you know or love to win theirs’.



    Filed under Behavioral Addiction

    Sometimes it’s better to shed the med…

    According to Medline Plus, a service of the US National Library of Medicine, most people take medicine only for the reasons their doctors prescribe them.  However, an estimated 20 percent of people in the United States have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons. This is prescription drug abuse. It is a serious and growing problem.

    According to a statewide report on drug-related deaths in Florida, tagged as the nation’s capital for “pill mills”, prescription drugs have overtaken cocaine and heroin as the deadliest drugs.  A survey by The Partnership for a Drug Free America also reveals that one in five teens admit of experimenting with legal medication. This disturbing trend in prescription drug abuse is also causing significant damage to our youth, who may be getting their drug fix within their very own homes.   In 2000, about 43 percent of hospital emergency admissions for drug overdoses (nearly 500,000 people) happened because of misused prescription drugs.

    Medline Plus says that experts don’t know exactly why this type of drug abuse is increasing. The availability of drugs is probably one reason. Doctors are prescribing more drugs for more health problems than ever before. Online pharmacies make it easy to get prescription drugs without a prescription, even for youngsters. There may also be a perception, especially among younger people, that prescription drugs are safer than illegal street drugs. Most people don’t lock up their prescription medications, nor do they discard them when they are no longer needed for their intended use, making them vulnerable to theft or misuse.

    The chart below shows the amount of Americans (measured in by the millions) who reported using prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes in 2003.  More than 6.3 million Americans are reported according to the chart using these specific prescription drugs (stimulants, sedatives and tranquilizers and pain relievers), but in 2003, approximately 15 million Americans reported using a prescription drug for nonmedical reasons at least once during the year.

    Some people experiment with prescription drugs because they think they will help them have more fun, lose weight, fit in, and even study more effectively. Prescription drugs can be easier to get than street drugs: Family members or friends could have a prescription. But prescription drugs are also sometimes sold on the street like other illegal drugs. A 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that among all youths aged 12 to 17, 6% had tried prescription drugs for recreational use in the last month.  In this video, youth and other individuals tell of their experimenting and addiction to prescription drugs.

    In a recent article based in Georgia, one man who is an ex-addict of prescription drugs says that, “It’s an epidemic.  fIt’s going to take people who are willing to step up and do something about it.”  According to the Mayo Clinic staff, teens and adults abuse prescription drugs for a number of reasons. Some of these include:

    • To feel good or get high
    • To relax or relieve tension (painkillers and tranquilizers)
    • To reduce appetite (stimulants)
    • To experiment
    • To be accepted by peers (peer pressure) or to be social
    • To be safe — it’s a false belief that prescription drugs are safer than street drugs
    • To be legal — it’s a mistaken thought that taking prescription drugs without a prescription is legal
    • To feed an addiction

    The Mayo Clinic also provides links for treatments and drugs, as well as coping and support information.  There is also information found here that can help you or someone you know to get help now.  The Mayo Clinic staff also provides guidelines for prevention.


    Filed under Behavioral Addiction

    “Safe” addictions can also be dangerous.

    Compulsive eating is also sometimes known as a food addiction.  This is becoming ever more prevalent in a world of processed and packaged foods with decreased levels of physical activity.  We can all probably identify with a “comfort food” that we enjoy, whether it be a delicious piece of chocolate cake, drizzled with caramel, or whether it be a nice big bowl of buttery and cheesy macaroni and cheese.  Just because we enjoy these delicious foods occasionally does not mean we are food addicts.  However, an individual suffering from compulsive overeating disorder engages in frequent episodes of uncontrolled or binge eating, which may result in a feeling of no control, and often consuming food past the point of being comfortably full. Binging in this way is generally followed by feelings of guilt and depression.  Many individuals do not take an attempt to shed their binging with purging behaviors like bulimia (vomiting), fasting or using laxatives.  However, if an individual with an overeating problem does try to compensate for overeating, many times he or she will relapse and launch into an episode of overindulgence.  Compulsive overeaters will typically eat when they are not hungry and they will often eat alone.  Compulsive overeating usually leads to weight gain and obesity, but not everyone who is obese is also a compulsive overeater.  Many think of compulsive over-eaters as obese or overweight, individuals of a normal weight and size can also be affected.

    In addition to binge eating, compulsive overeaters can also engage in grazing behavior, during which they return to pick at food throughout the day. These things result in a large overall number of calories consumed even if the quantities eaten at any one time may be small. When a compulsive eater overeats primarily through binging, he or she can be said to have binge eating disorder.

    Like other addictions, when an individual consumes food or drink, dopamine is released, resulting in pleasure and satisfaction.  Overeating can dull dopamine receptors, as found by one study, that found obese people actually have less dopamine receptors than those of a normal body weight and BMI.

    Dr. Sanjay Gupta did a special entitled “America’s Killer Diet” that included these main points:

    • The more you see, the more you’ll eat
    • Nutritionists: Liquid calories are No. 1 enemy
    • Junk food making immigrant children fat
    • Kid describes how he lost 20 pounds
    • Quiz: Do you know how you eat?
    • Audio Slide Show: Kids get hands-on nutrition lessons
    • Quiz: How many calories are in these drinks
    • CNN poll: Views mixed on food limits (pdf)
    • Quiz: Fruit or no fruit?
    • Video Gallery: Food ads aimed at kids
    • Special Report: Fit Nation
    • All About: Diet and Fitness

    In response to this special, one man tells of how his life was affected and what changes he made.

    Mindless Eating: The Science of Overeating

    I watched a CNN special hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta.  It was extremely telling.  I was interested in this special because I have always been curious about the fact that as a country we are getting fatter and unhealthier.  Despite the fact that there is a plethora of information about diet and nutrition in this country.   As I suspected, it has as much to do with our environment, our culture and myriad of other influences, such as inherited eating habits from our family.

    The article talked about many things, but there were some points made in this show that I think are worth mentioning.  These are just a few:

    • Eating at buffets will cause you to eat more.
    • The bigger the plate, the more you will eat.
    • Eating in front of the TV, in the car or with friends will cause you to eat more

    The show revolved around the work of Professor Brian Wansink of Cornell Univeristy’s Food and Brand Lab.  Professor Wansink wrote a book called Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, which focuses on why we overeat.  The two key components into why we overeat are visibility and convenience.  In other words, if you have easy access to food and can see it, you will eat it.  I can personally attest to this myself.  When we have food in the house that is there for me to see I will tend to eat more than I would otherwise.  Now I never like to provide information like this without solutions or ideas that can help you be healthy.  Here are some things suggested by Professor Wansink:

    • Use smaller plates and drinking glasses.
    • Avoid eating at buffets
    • Eat at a table and do not place food on table in serving containers
    • Do not supersize when you eat at fast food establishments
    • Place healthy food choices in your sight view

    My Two Cents: I can personally attest to the ideas posited by Professor Wansink and I have gotten rid of all of our big plates and glasses, except for our fine china (I would need a lawyer and surgeon after my wife got through with me, if I did that).  Also I realize that not using large serving utensils also causes people not to each as much as they would normally.  Finally, as Americans we tend to buy food in bulk.   I believe this also contributes to our overeating.  Conversely, Europeans tend not to buy in bulk as a habit.  They tend to buy their food daily.  I believe this is why Europeans tend not to struggle with obesity as much as we do in America.  So try not buying two weeks worth of groceries.  At the most buy weekly. Here is my challenge.

    Try some of the ideas proposed here and send me comments and suggestions you think would be beneficial with respect to addressing overeating.  Remember!! Get Healthy!!  Your life depends on it!!

    Food addiction is not a crime and it typically does not adversely affect those close to the individual.  However, there are numerous complications that result from overeating.  In the
    American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,  Dr. Theodore B. Van Witallie lists the explains the adverse effects of obesity.  He states that

    The disabilities caused by obesity are generally considered in relation to: 1) physical health problems, including: a) longevity; b) mechanical (e.g., physical handicap); c) physiological (e.g., impaired glucose tolerance, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, etc.); d) clinical illness (e.g., diabetes mellitus, symptomatic cholelithiasis, etc.); and 2) psychosocial problems, including: a) inability to cope with the cultural environment (e.g., difficulty in fitting into chairs designed for nonobese persons); b) becoming subject to social, economic or other types of discrimination; c) impairment of self-image (self-disparagement); d) deviation from the prevailing aesthetic view of attractive appearance.

    Binge eating is actually more common than anorexia or bulemia, affecting 3.5% of women and 2% of men.  In comparison to other addictions, a food addiction is more subtle and more socially acceptable.  Bob Greene and Oprah speak about this on Emotional Issues and Overeating.




    Dr. David Kessler, former head of the Food and Drug Administration, wrote and published a book titled, “The End to Overeating”.  He speaks to the Wall Street Journal’s Jeff Trachtenburg in an interview about the science of overeating, along with stating that he, too, has gained and lost his body weight several times.


    Filed under Behavioral Addiction

    Quitters actually are awesome

    Tobacco use is a controversial topic and battle that has been fought medical practitioners, communities and individuals for years, as well as the tobacco industry and advocates.  As early as 1617, we can see two sides on the subject of tobacco:

    Hail thou inspiring plant! Thou balm of life,
    Well might thy worth engage two nations’ strife;
    Exhaustless fountain of Britannia’s wealth;
    Thou friend of wisdom and thou source of health.
    -from an early tobacco label

    Tobacco, that outlandish weed
    It spends the brain, and spoiles the seede
    It dulls the spirite, it dims the sight
    It robs a woman of her right.

    -Dr. William Vaughn, 1617

    The view of tobacco from the early label portrays tobacco as blessed, inspired, life-giving, a friend os widom and source of health.  However, Dr. William Vaughn very bluntly frames tobacco as an outlandish week, wasting the brain, and dulling the spirit and sight.  Similar views exist today.  According to the Centers for Disease Control:

  • The adverse health effects from cigarette smoking account for an estimated 443,000 deaths, or nearly one of every five deaths, each year in the United States.
  • More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.
  • Smoking causes 90% of all lung cancer deaths in men and 80% of all lung cancer deaths in women.
  • An estimated 90% of all deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease are caused by smoking.
  • However in 1994, under oath, CEO’s of America’s 7 largest tobacco countries stated their belief that nicotine is not addictive:

    despite stark evidence showing addictive and dependent factors.  After claiming and trying to muddy the waters that tobacco is, in fact, not bad for you, now according to a Stanford Professor, the tobacco companies are now trying to “rewrite history”, saying that everyone knew or should have known that it was bad for them, and when individuals experience adverse health effects, he or she has only him or herself to blame.

    According to the Partnership at, it is now well documented that smoking can cause chronic lung disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke, as well as cancer of the lungs, larynx, esophagus, mouth, and bladder. In addition, smoking is known to contribute to cancer of the cervix, pancreas, and kidneys. Researchers have identified more than 40 chemicals in tobacco smoke that cause cancer in humans and animals. Smokeless tobacco and cigars also have deadly consequences, including lung, larynx, esophageal, and oral cancer. The harmful effects of smoking do not end with the smoker. Women who use tobacco during pregnancy are more likely to have adverse birth outcomes, including babies with low birth weight, which is linked with an increased risk of infant death and with a variety of infant health disorders. The health of nonsmokers is adversely affected by environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). Each year, exposure to ETS causes an estimated 3,000 non-smoking Americans to die of lung cancer and causes up to 300,000 children to suffer from lower respiratory-tract infections. Evidence also indicates that exposure to ETS increases the risk of coronary heart disease.

    In addition, recently, tobacco industries have been producing more types of smokeless tobacco.  Despite their denials, these products are marketed toward children.  Below is a picture comparing tictacs with tobacco orbs or pellets.

    From an article in Time Healthland, smokeless tobacco pellets manufactured by Camel look and taste so much like candy that their appeal to small children could put them at risk for poisoning. In a study released today by the journal Pediatrics, researchers analyzed more than 13,000 cases of tobacco ingestion among children under age 6 reported to poison control centers, finding that more than 70% of incidents were among children younger than 1 year.  Additionally, other forms of smokeless contain up to 3 times tobacco than a cigarette.
    Tobacco is a drug that does not only affect an individual who chooses to use, but all those around the individual.  Secondhand smoke is also a major issue.  According to the American Cancer Society, secondhand smoke can cause harm in many ways. In the United States alone, each year it is responsible for:
    • An estimated 46,000 deaths from heart disease in non-smokers who live with smokers
    • About 3,400 lung cancer deaths in non-smoking adults
    • Other breathing problems in non-smokers, including coughing, mucus, chest discomfort, and reduced lung function
    • 50,000 to 300,000 lung infections (such as pneumonia and bronchitis) in children younger than 18 months of age, which result in 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations annually
    • Increases in the number and severity of asthma attacks in about 200,000 to 1 million children who have asthma
    • More than 750,000 middle ear infections in children
    • Pregnant women exposed to secondhand smoke are also at increased risk of having low birth- weight babies.

    The 2006 US Surgeon General’s report reached some important conclusions:

    • Secondhand smoke causes premature death and disease in children and in adults who do not smoke.
    • Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and more severe asthma. Smoking by parents causes breathing (respiratory) symptoms and slows lung growth in their children.
    • Secondhand smoke immediately affects the heart and blood circulation in a harmful way. Over a longer time it also causes heart disease and lung cancer.
    • The scientific evidence shows that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
    • Many millions of Americans, both children and adults, are still exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes and workplaces despite a great deal of progress in tobacco control.
    • The only way to fully protect non-smokers from exposure to secondhand smoke indoors is to prevent all smoking in that indoor space or building. Separating smokers from non-smokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot keep non-smokers from being exposed to secondhand smoke.

    Smoking is not an individual choice that has individual consequences.  Take a stand and help others choose not to smoke.  Resources to quit smoking can be accessed online, as well as quit hotlines, and information is always available from health departments, health facilities, and physician’s offices.

    Below is a story from a woman who was able to quit smoking and what helped her to finally make the change she knew was necessary for so long:

    Just Thought You Should Know Why I Quit Smoking

    November, 1994: My father was diagnosed with lung cancer. I was very close to my father, he was my friend and Dad for 34 years. My stepmother broke the news, and we cried. I felt hopeless and devastated. My father was the only parent I had, he handled the news better than I did.

    My father immediately quit smoking. I wanted to also, I was disgusted with myself for not quitting. Every day my father would ask “When are you going to quit smoking?” or, “Are you going to keep smoking until you get cancer?” I wish now I had quit smoking with my father.

    I took them to the doctor’s appointments. At the hospital, I heard him yell when the technician stabbed him in the back 3 times with a long needle to get a lung sample, and missed. I took him again when they operated to retrieve a lung sample. The chances for survival after 5 years, with treatment, was 30 percent. I tried so hard to keep positive.

    My stepmother kept working to keep the insurance. I continued taking my father to the doctor, then to chemo, and finally radiation. The chemo was not effective, the radiation caused the dreaded ‘radiation flu’.

    Things became very difficult for my stepmother and I, he refused to cooperate. We could not understand his stubborness. He would not answer his door, I brought his best friend along so he would let us in and to help me get him out of bed. Sometimes, halfway to the treatments, he would demand I take him home, “I don’t feel like going!” I still kept smoking.

    Life became even more difficult. My family were given 30-day notice to move out of our home of 7 years. The search for another rental house proved nearly impossible, nothing was open. We looked for rentals in the neighboring counties. I continued taking my father to his appointments. I became angry one day when he decided he did not feel like going. I yelled, “There won’t be a next time!” I was uptight about finding a home, I had nothing to look at and we were now in eviction proceedings. My stepmother fell ill and could not work, her doctor’s written excuse did not prevent her boss from firing her.

    This all seemed too much to handle. I was drained spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. Hospice was called in to take care of father. We were forcefully evicted. FOr 4 1/2 weeks we stayed with friends, relatives, and motels. We found an old house in the next county, we joked about the excellent ventilation and the stylish turn-of-the-century interior.

    Within the month, we sadly began my father’s ‘death watch’. On the morning of September 16, 1995, my stepmother called me, “If you want a chance to see him before he dies, you better come over today.” I called my friend for a ride, our car would surely have broke down. Three hours after I arrived, my father died. I’m glad I was there to say goodbye. I kept smoking.

    My father did not want an expensive funeral. “Cheap is fine, just dump me in a vacant lot. What do I care? I won’t need it anymore.” I acted as the ‘funeral director’. With lots of help from the wonderful people at Hospice, I completed, certified, and submitted all the required forms to government.

    The next morning my stepmother and I picked up the cardboard coffin from the mortuary. It was so long that stuck out the back of my car’s hatchback! We had to tie the lid down with only thing available, a set of jumper cables. We burst out laughing, having calling him “Sparky” in life.

    The friends and family gathered together, listened to the music he wanted played, sat around the living room for several hours, reminiscing, sharing stories, laughing. We colored and wrote our goodbye on the cardboard box. The next day, we gathered again and took his body to cremation. I kept smoking.

    November 9, 1996 My husband, 39 years old, had a heart attack. He was in intensive care for 10 days. This compelled him to quit smoking, the hospital stay and morphine relieved his desire for cigarettes. After he came home he never smoked again. Within a month he was scheduled for quadruple by-pass surgery.

    I still smoked, but not in the house or around my husband. He did not notice the cigarette stench around me anyways, years of smoking had killed his sense of smell. I finally had clear thoughts and hopes about quitting smoking, but not right now, not under this much stress. I planned to quit while my husband was in the hospital for the by-pass.

    I asked my doctor for help, he gave me some free samples of the patch, a two week supply. I had not yet quit when my husband came home from the hospital. This would be only my second attempt to quit, I quit once for two weeks years ago. But this time I was determined to quit, I just had to stop smoking, look at what it had done to my loved ones.

    Most importantly, I did not want to be a smoker any more. That first week on the patch, I smoked about 12 cigarettes. One day I was carefully removing the patch from my skin while I puffed a cigarette in my mouth, I thought “Duh, is this stupid or what?” I would not quit smoking unless I stopped lighting up, period. That second week was extremely difficult, but I was resolved to quit. I was so close! I needed to wake up and do something each time I got the urge to have just one smoke. The triggers were difficult to get through, mine were the first cup of coffee and after eating.

    When I ran out of patches, I called my doctor for more. While I was talking to him, I decided to go for the lowest dosage patches. After hanging up, I felt excited about my decision, I was really moving forward with this thing. The new patches gave me cramps in my stomach, neck, and shoulders. The patches were stale, 4 months past expiration! I figured those old patches were delivering the nicotine all at once. I threw them away, and have been a non-smoker since.

    I smoked for 20 years, I knew it was bad for me. But little do people know how strong the addiction is. Especially kids, most kids that smoke become addicted. How many people do you know started smoking at 18? If I can quit, so can you. Just thought you should know.

    Love, Carla

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    Filed under Behavioral Addiction