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Researchers Are Using Instagram to Monitor Underage Drinking?

Researchers Are Using Instagram to Monitor Underage Drinking?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

In the past few years, Instagram has soared in popularity. Now researchers are finding ways to utilize the popular app to monitor the drinking habits of teenagers.  Using photos and text from Instagram, researchers are able to expose patterns of underage drinking more cheaply and faster than conventional surveys. They also are able to gain information on new patterns of drinking such as what alcohol brands are favored among different demographic groups.

Researchers believe exposing these patterns can help promote effective underage drinking intervention. As we know, Instagram is extremely popular among teens. Large amount of information is readily available about this target population on Instagram. As Jiebo Luo, professor of computer science at the University of Rochester, and his colleagues describe in a new paper, underage drinkers “are willing to share their alcohol consumption experience” in social media.

Compared to standard surveys, researchers believe Instagram will be a more accurate method to monitor alcohol consumption. Often, teenagers are not honest when they respond to an administered survey about alcohol use. One example is the “Monitoring the Future” survey by the federal government. The accuracy of results is skewed because of the small size of the representative sample. Also, the answers may not be answered honestly by teens who are worried about divulging the truth.

How Instagram is Being Used

Although Instagram does not offer a way of searching users by age, the research team was able to target users that fit their profile by applying computer vision techniques.  Luo and his team have been pioneering techniques that teach computers how to extract information from the internet. They are able to use computers to analyze the profile faces of Instagram users and get sufficiently accurate guesses for their age, gender and race.

After the computer gathered a group of underage users to study, the researchers monitored drinking related activities via their Instagram photos by analyzing social media tags and monitoring the alcohol brands the users follow.

The study revealed that underage alcohol consumption, like with adults, happens on weekends and holidays and at the end of the day. The drinking is not limited to one specific gender. Both female and male teenagers were engaging in drinking at similar ratios.

However, when it came to alcohol brands, the results varied. Different genders followed different brands. Also, teenagers tend to drink certain brands of alcohol more commonly than adults. Researchers found that certain brands attracted younger audiences in social media. This information could be useful for people working to prevent underage drinking.

“There are several ways we can go about doing that,” said Luo. “We can keep government agencies or schools better informed and help them design interventions. We could also use social media to incorporate targeted intervention and to measure the effect of any intervention. And perhaps other things we haven’t thought about.”

The researchers hope that information like this is used in a positive way to address the problem of underage drinking. They are worried though that the information could be used by brands to target these underage drinkers. The next important step is to collaborate with people who are working to reduce underage drinking and collaborate with professions who are working on addressing other youth problems such as tobacco use, drugs, teen pregnancy, stress or depression.

Elizabeth Handley, clinical psychologist and research associate at the University’s Mount Hope Family Center had this to say about the study,

“This new method could be a useful complement to more traditional methods of measuring youth drinking. It could provide important new insights into the contexts of youth drinking and be a valuable tool for evaluating the effectiveness of school or community-based preventive interventions.”

Utilizing social media to prevent and tackle underage drinking could be an effective intervention tactic. How do you feel about it being used?

Underage drinking has been known to cause a variety of health implications in the long run. Let someone know if you are having a problem with abusing substances. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-561-221-1125

Crazy News Stories: Halloween 2015

Crazy News Stories: Halloween 2015

Author: Justin Mckibben

It’s been a little while since I had a chance to write about the crazy news going on. With Halloween knocking at our door and no shortage of wildly odd individuals in this world to keep things interesting, I figured this was a great time to check out and talk about some pretty weird or just plain goofy Halloween headlines that have come across the web lately.

With that hint of the spooky spirit, we celebrate this haunting time of year with some pretty freaky crazy news stories.

Face Piercing Addict Holds Record for Flesh Tunnels

This guy definitely doesn’t need to buy a Halloween mask to freak out a few people this year.

22 year old Joey Miggler has now broken the world record for “the most number of flesh tunnels” in the upcoming book of Guinness World Records, and he says his “addiction” has him looking forward to the future, saying he wants to “stretch my face even more- to be the most unique person.”

Mr. Miggler has eleven… yea, eleven… ‘expanders’ in total spread across his face, including his nose and lips, and 34mm holes in his cheeks, which he plans to stretch out to 40mm soon enough.

While he is definitely a unique individual, he says most people in person are pretty respectful. Still, I bet he has the cheapest costume on the block when it’s time to terrorize the neighborhood kids.

Man Caught with Zombie Baby on Board

Just in time for trick or treat this Halloween, one driver from the state of Washington tried to his way through the carpool lane with a pretty spooky passenger. Unfortunately for him and his undead ride-along, the police caught him, and what a treat this tweet was.

Washington State Patrol stated the man had actually buckled a zombie baby doll into the passenger seat of his vehicle before crossing into the high-occupancy vehicle lane on Interstate 5 near Tacoma during the Tuesday morning commute. The terrifying toy toddler was complete with a bright pink onesie, blood stained ghastly grin and ski-hat.

But hey, at least the guy was practicing safety first, right?

Washington state Trooper Guy Gill said the violator was pulled over and given a scare of his own for the goodie bag, only it wasn’t exactly as sweet as he might have hoped. His treat came in the form of a $136 ticket.

But the man was let off the hook when the agency “gave him a break for not having a car seat,” Gill joked. Maybe the guy should have got a ‘zombie baby on board’ bumper sticker. Gill managed to snap a photo with the disturbing dummy riding shot-gun and tweeted:

“At least he’s in the (Halloween) spirit,” with the hashtag #TrickOrTicket

Zombie Killer Arrested for Murder

A story that is a little more ridiculous, and in the same token tragic, a man from New Mexico was binge-watching “The Walking Dead” a few days ago and apparently got WAY too into the spooky spirit.

Now 23 year old Damon Perry, is facing a real life murder charge.

Grants Police were in the process of responding to a call 9-11 call on October 22, 2015. Once Officer Lt. Jason Frank arrived on scene he discovered two maintenance men restraining the suspect. When he approached the suspect, the officer saw the body of 23 year old Christopher Paquin with obvious trauma. Paquin was pronounced dead soon after the officer arrived.

Now Perry is being charged with allegedly beating his acquaintance to death, but Perry claimed his friend began “to change into a zombie.”

According to police, Perry cited the hit TV series on survivors in a zombie apocalypse for the impulse behind his actions. Allegedly Perry told officers he and Paquin had been drinking “large amounts of alcohol” and that Paquin tried to bite him.

Perry has allegedly beat Paquin with his hands and feet, in addition to using an electric guitar and a microwave oven to assault the young man, before allegedly rushing out of the apartment and threatened others.

Thankfully, this zombie killer is in police custody.

While there are still plenty of other crazy stories that we could surely cover, given the time of year and the full moon and all, there will probably be plenty more after this wicked weekend is over. Until then, we want to wish everyone a safe and exciting holiday, and remind you that it’s crazy out there, but hey… at least there’s candy.

Some stories seem crazier than others and some get worse before they get better, but that doesn’t mean a crazy story can’t ever have a happy ending. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 

‘Farmacy’ Healing with Food Instead of Drugs

'Farmacy' Healing with Food Instead of Drugs

Author: Justin Mckibben

Have mentioned enough the healing power of a solid and balanced diet? It seems as though we too often underestimate the ability to have a profound impact on our bodies and our minds just by eating better.

Modern medicine seems to take precedence over making better choices these days and for a long time many people have turned to a doctor for a prescription when they get ill instead of breaking down the other elements they are putting into their bodies.

Dr. Robert Weiss is one man who firmly believes that a revolution is mounting in the way we as a society approach health and medicine, or rather a re-connection with knowledge that was shunned with the onset of Big Pharma and the powers that be pushing chemicals instead of feeding our prosperity with the right food.

Story of a Doctor Farmer

Dr. Ronald Weiss is a graduate of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) who says he had always dreamed of being a farmer, having grown up in a town with four farms in Fair Lawn. However but traditional medicine became his occupation.

Not long after Weiss completed formal medical training, his family was devastated by illness when Weiss’s father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1991 that had spread to other organs, including his liver.

The director of the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center explained that chemotherapy only had a 15% chance of shrinking his father’s tumors, and that without the therapy he would only live one month.

Weiss had experience with patients affected by pancreatic cancer during his medical training, and given his father’s affliction Weiss began searching for alternative treatments when he came across a practice instituted by Japanese doctors called a macrobiotic diet. Weiss sought out Michio Kushi, a doctor advocating the diet as a cure for cancer who was actively practicing in the northeast.

After meeting with Kushi, Weiss began the diet treatment with his father immediately. Weiss’s father experienced a gradual relief of pain and his body began to recover, he even went back to work full-time as an attorney. Weiss’s father did eventually succumb to the disease, but not until 18 months after being diagnosed! Over a year longer than the initial expert had predicted.

It was then that Weiss said he knew something was missing from the medicine he was practicing.

Farmacy of the Future

Eventually Weiss sold off his practice in New York and built the first farm-based medical practice. 25 years into the practice he purchased a 348-acre farm in Long Valley, New Jersey and began his endeavor to change the way we heal. It has been cleverly called a “farmacy” by some, described as a place that explores and utilizes plant-based nutrients as medicine.

Weiss has stated:

“Plant-based whole foods are the most powerful disease-modifying tools available to practitioners — more powerful than any drugs or surgeries,”

In our country a seemingly limitless stream of revenue has fed into the production of synthetic chemicals to treat the symptoms of disease, while more comprehensive research of plant-based medicine has gone largely overlooked.

The priority in plant-based diets being used for medical treatment is prevention through proper diet, including:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Grains
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Seeds

It’s “paleo” plus the best parts of human agriculture before they were turned into processed foods. However, this strict diet regimen can also be used to treat those already afflicted with ailments. Weiss admits a plant won’t solve everything, like a broken foot, but has said,

“I am talking about treating and preventing chronic disease — the heart attacks, the strokes, the cardiovascular disease, the cancers … the illnesses that are taking our economy and our nation down.”

Weiss and others like him believe the nutrients in fruits and vegetables prevent inflammation, which is believed to be the cause of many chronic diseases. Ultimately the hope driving this whole ‘Farmacy’ idea is to reduce the reliance on dangerous pharmaceuticals that can be more devastating than the diseases in some cases, causing problems such as:

Also, he strives to avoid unnecessary surgeries which can also be very dangerous depending on the circumstances.

Healing His Community

So far Weiss’ ‘Farmacy’ already has 90 families involved in this exciting new treatment. These families pay a membership fee and volunteer time picking weeds and harvesting vegetables. This plays into another important part of the undertaking by getting people more interested in their diet through getting them involved in the production of the foods the consume.

Weiss knows his stuff in more areas than just modern medicine, he also earned an undergraduate degree in botany at Rutgers College of Arts in Science in Newark.

“Human health is directly related to the health of the environment, the production of food and how it is grown. I see this farm as an opportunity for me to take everything I’ve done all my life, all the biology and chemistry of plants I have studied, and link them to the human biological system.”

According to some scientific research the theory of being involved in producing your food is vastly beneficial. Working in the garden and making contact with soil bacteria is said to actually make you smarter and happier by triggering the release of serotonin in the brains!

We have noted before the power of a healthy diet on mental health as well, and it seems that with thinking like this our capacity to heal ourselves and our fellows can be found simply in the way we take care of our bodies and our environment.

What if as a society we were able to rid ourselves of a vast portion of our drug problems just by committing to a healthier practice of food production? What if instead of promoting potent painkillers, sedatives and stimulants we rolled up our sleeves, planted some crops and treated our ailments with the fruits of our labors?

What if substance abuse and addiction were issues thousands of people could easily avoid just by stepping away from Big Pharma and standing by big farmers?

Addiction treatment centers like Palm Partners that recognize the important nutrition plays health living, and in addition to addiction treatment we use this knowledge to help clients not only to sustain a healthy recovery but also a healthy mind and body. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Travis Barker Talks About Sobriety, Fear And Sanity

Travis Barker Talks About Sobriety, Fear And Sanity

Author: Shernide Delva

Travis Barker recently talked to Billboard about his path to recovery and the several bottoms that he had to overcome in his life as the drummer in the popular pop-punk band Blink 182.

In the late 90s and early 2000s, Barker was at the top of his career and Blink 182 was riding on the coattails of fame with top hits like “What’s My Age Again?” and “All the Small Things.” However, Barker’s difficult childhood marked by his mother’s death and the relentless schedule of recording and touring spiraled Barker into an addiction to painkillers that made it impossible for him to function, much less perform for an audience.

“I was addicted to oxycodone, and I had security that would sleep during the day and then stay up at night to make sure I was still breathing. That was pretty pathetic,” he told Billboard.

Fortunately, Barker is now sober and has kicked his regular marijuana habit after finding pre-cancerous cells in his esophagus. He has emerged with remarkable clarity about his past and is most grateful for his two children from his marriage to Shanna Moakler. Most of all, he still has passion and joy for playing music.

“Once I was clear-headed, and I hadn’t been clear-headed in so long, I was like, I can never go back. And I’m still thankful,” he said.

During Blink 182’s Australian tour, the band went through a rough path and fighting sent the band into a self-described “indefinite hiatus” in 2005. In the meantime, Barker busied himself with an array of projects such as performing with Rancid’s Tim Armstrong in the Transplants and providing beats and production for hip-hop artists and his own solo project, TRV$DJAM, which paired him with his best friend, turntablist DJ AM.

Barker also made the decision to star in the reality series, Meet the Barkers, with his wife until their divorce in 2006. To cope with the stress and depression from the breakup, Barker indulged in painkillers and alcohol.

Then something even more traumatic happened. Most of us remember seeing the tragedy all over the news.  In 2008, Barker was involved in a private plane crash that left him with second and third degree burns that required numerous surgeries and skin grafts.

The path to recovery was so rocky that Barker became near-suicidal from the combination of constant surgeries and morphine. The post-traumatic stress left him addicted to Xanax. Eventually he overcame his medical issues and drug dependency and in 2009, he reunited with Blink-182 only to face devastation when DJ AM died later that year.

Adam Goldstein (DJ AM) was Barker’s closest friend and had survived the plane crash along with Barker. They were there for each other as survivors dealing with the emotions and the survivor’s guilt. Barker states there was a six month period after the crash where he focused solely on getting his “mind right.”  Losing his friend was a tragedy that he still struggles to let go of today.

“He was my best friend. It was beyond friendship. It was like there was only one other person in the world. And then losing him and just wondering, “F—k, is there something I could have done?” It was like the one thing that will never stop resurfacing in my head.”

The barrage of life-changing events transformed Barker and gave him a clearer perspective on his own mortality and worth:

“I see what’s important and what’s not important,” he said. “I’d see people walking through their day and they don’t realize they’d never looked death in the face. They don’t realize how quickly some unfortunate shit could happen, and usually, there’s no warning. But every day since the plane crash is another day I walked away from death. I’m very fortunate.”

Travis Barker has been sober from hard drugs for eight years and stopped smoking marijuana four years ago. He says his clarity of life has allowed him to be a better parent and person to others.

The hardships of life can affect the chances of us falling into addiction. Instead of negatively coping with trauma, find healthier ways to work through them. Don’t let addiction take you away from those you love. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-561-221-1125


Should Kids Be Trained to Use Naloxone?

Should Kids Be Trained to Use Naloxone?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

I remember a while back I had written about how some schools were venturing to start training their nursing staff how to administer naloxone, the life-saving opiate overdose antidote. There was some controversy over the concept, and many people were just not sure if this was a wise plan, and would it be sending the wrong message?

Some were actually concerned that providing this kinds of training might actually have an adverse effect on the students in these schools and that it might actually encourage opiate use.

Right now with more people becoming aware of the life-saving benefits of opiate overdose antidote drug naloxone, as well as its easy to use administration. Some communities are now going beyond the training of school staff and skipping ahead instead to teaching the kids themselves how to administer naloxone.

Empowering the Youth

Naloxone (Narcan) is a drug that helps to reverse the effects of opiate based drugs such as heroin. Naloxone has been proven to save lives, and many states have begun actively finding ways to increase access to this amazing resource in the face of a horrific opiate epidemic.

Up until recently only medical professionals could administer the drug inside the confines of a hospital, but more and more communities are doing everything they can to empower the people in their area to help on the front lines against addiction and overdose.

Jennifer Stepp is a resident of Bullitt County, Kentucky and acts as the leader of her community Opioid Addiction Team. Stepp has a 25 year old son who has struggled with addiction for most of his life, and she herself has already taught her eight-year-old daughter Audrey how to use naloxone, but she hasn’t stopped there. Stepp has announced plans to host a local workshop on November 21, 2015 to teach other children in the area how to administer naloxone. One company Evizo, which manufactures naloxone-administering devices, has already donated free kits to support this effort.

This plan has its share of strong supports, including Dr. Mina “Mike” Kalfas, a certified addiction expert in Northern Kentucky. Dr. Kalfas stated:

“This is telling them, if you do find a brother, sister, mother, uncle, not breathing, here’s something that you can do about it. These kids are realizing that drugs can kill them. This is part of an environment where they might find someone dead.”

Also in Kentucky is the action being put forth by a nonprofit organization entitled Mentoring Plus of Northern Kentucky, which rallied together for a naloxone-administering workshop last May for a group of children between the ages of 13 up to 17. The Mentoring Plus workshop was part of a 10-week drug abuse prevention program for kids.

Why So Important?

Now some people may read this and think it’s a bit extreme, but these kinds of programs are particularly crucial for states like Kentucky, which has found itself caught in the uproar of the opiate addiction epidemic. While some would say teaching children to use an overdose antidote is far too excessive, a Kentucky Health Issues Poll in 2014 revealed in Northern Kentucky nearly 26% of those surveyed knew someone with a heroin problem.

And that is just the people willing to admit it or talk about it. Not to mention countless others who are dealing with their own addictions.

So many families are plagued by the disease of addiction, and far too many children in these communities and many others are being left orphaned in the wake of this outbreak. As death rates from overdose skyrocket we can easily look around in any community and see the toll it has taken. How many children could lose a brother or sister, mother or father right in front of their eyes because of opiate addiction?

So is it wrong that some officials think we should put some knowledge or resource in the hands of children at a certain age so that given the circumstances they can intervene in a way that could save the life of their loved one if necessary?

Surely some people will not feel this is the right thing. Surely some people will worry that this sets a bad precedence, or that it is too dangerously close to condoning drug abuse… is it truly better to be safe than sorry?

I think in this case it is. Personally I think it also shows young people the gravity of the situation. Death is a very real, very common outcome from this kind of drug abuse. Maybe the best way to implement harm reduction while simultaneously providing a level of prevention means teaching young people about how quickly these drugs kill, and how they can try to help someone before it is too late.

The reality is people everywhere fight for their own lives against the disease of addiction, and life-saving drugs like naloxone could mean the difference for some to have a second chance or not. Maybe giving kids the knowledge as early as we can will help. You don’t have to suffer an overdose to choose to get help, you just have to make the choice. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

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