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The Great Internet Addiction Debate

The Great Internet Addiction Debate

Author: Justin Mckibben

America doesn’t have a internet addiction problem, right? Is that even a thing?

Obviously, I’m being facetious… or am I?

You would think this is a ridiculous question with a resounding answer of DUH! Internet addiction is undoubtedly a real thing, and America certainly has a pretty bad cased of it, right?

Everywhere you go you see digital devices of all shapes and sizes. People everywhere seemed sucked into their screens working, checking social media, or aimlessly surfing the web for cat pictures or awesome blogs like mine. It causes a clutter in the hallway at the office, and even more dangerous it causes accidents in traffic when people can pry themselves away from their tweets long enough to DRIVE THEIR CAR!

Of course everyone loves the convenience of smartphones and our independent access to the internet, but when does it cross the line into becoming a full-fledged addiction, and can we classify Internet Addiction as a stand-alone diagnosis?

Internet Getting Out of Hand?

According to some experts, our Internet addiction is becoming a real problem and psychologists say they’re seeing more patients suffering from internet addiction or digital addiction, which in turn can actually create some very real adverse effects. Karin Kassab, a psychologist at Clarity Counseling Center in Wilmington, described some people experiencing the more severe side of internet addiction recently:

“These are the Facebook moms who forget to put their kids to bed or forget to pick their kids up from school. The online gamers who are spending so much time gaming that they lose their job and move back home. When we are talking Internet addiction, it is important to note, this is excessive Internet use at its extreme. The tokens are excessive Internet use and big problems at work, school or socially.”

Kassab is not the first expert to note the gravity of the growing internet addiction, but other experts don’t see internet addiction as an issue that is as serious as we’re making it out to be.

What’s the Big Deal?

Dr. Mark Griffiths is a professor of gambling studies at the Nottingham Trent University and director of the International Gaming Research Unit. According to Griffith there’s nothing inherently wrong with excessively being on a smartphone or connected to the internet as long as it doesn’t interfere with our lives.

So of course these people who are letting their responsibilities tumble around them are not too concerning, and for those who are truly addicted, Dr. Griffith and other experts insist it usually indicates something more severe is going on with that individual. Dr. Griffiths said,

“Often, the excessive use is symptomatic of other underlying problems in that person’s life. Therapeutically, if you find out what that problem is, then the excessive use can disappear.”

Well, yea! That is typically the case with a lot of substance abuse issues. Usually some underlying pattern or mental health disorder creates self-destructive patterns that lead to excessive abuse of a substance, or in this case a device, which becomes a habitual hindrance.

The Great Debate

Kassab agrees with this mindset, adding that for many experts the debate is about whether or not internet addiction can stand on its own as a diagnosis, or if it is simply a new extension or symptom of another condition such as anxiety disorder or depression. Kassab explained,

“There’s great debate over whether Internet addiction is actually its own stand-alone disorder or if it is a consequence of a co-occurring disorder. So, am I depressed therefore that manifests into me staying in, being isolated on the Internet?”

Though the debate continues, recent information shows the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders currently does NOT classify Internet addiction or smartphone addiction as a diagnosis for addiction or treatment on its own… yet?

What do you think? So far Kassab stands by her own verdict to treat internet addiction as a true addiction, and with the prevalence of the symptoms she sees in her clients, she shows no sign of changing her mind on this side of the spectrum.

So what should we view this as? Should we consider internet addiction to be a completely separate and specific addiction with its own symptoms, or should we treat obsessive and excessive internet and social media use as merely aspects of a more understood and accepted mental health disorder?

While internet addiction may not be an official thing, in a society that thrives on technology and social media it is an issue that is growing as quickly and widely as the social media does. With any powerful addiction, there is always help out there. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Crazy News Stories of the Week

Crazy News Stories of the Week

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

Author: Shernide Delva

There’s been a few crazy news stories circling the web so I decided to bring back Crazy New Stories!  I can not think of a better way to end a long week than gawking at some ridiculousness. Here are a couple funny, disturbing, and crazy news stories that made headlines just this past week:

  1. Surprising News: Drunken Vegetarians Secretly Eat Meat
    If you have any vegetarian friends, you might not want to tell them that you’re in on their secret. A recent article in the Huffington Posts revealed that more than a third of vegetarians admit to eating meat after drinking alcohol.  The study was of close to 2000 vegetarians in the UK. Of the third who admitted to giving in, 26% said they indulged “often” while drunk and 22% said “rarely?” The most popular foods to cheat on were kebabs and burgers with kebabs coming in at 39% and burgers coming in at 34%. Still, post hangover regret is real.  Almost 70 percent of vegetarians say they do not admit to anyone after they’ve eaten meat. How sneaky!
  2. Ohio Man Gets Too Stoned on Weed, Calls Police
    This 22-year-old man in Austintown, Ohio was so high that he had to call police to complain about it. Police responded at about 5:20 p.m. and found him groaning on floor in fetal position. It gets better. Police report that the man was “surrounded by a plethora of Doritos, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish and Chips Ahoy cookies,” and he complained about not being able to feel his own hands.From his home, police recovered a glass pipe with marijuana residue along with two pacts of rolling paper, two roaches and a jar of marijuana. The man declined medical treatment and has not be charged for a crime as of yet.
  3. Man Calls Police after His Girlfriend Refuses to Have Sex with Him
    Okay, so this one is a bit ridiculous and if the police got a call every time this happened, I’m pretty sure their phone systems would crash. Continuing on, a Carolina man called 911 to report that his girlfriend was refusing to have sex with him. To make matters worse, this was right when flooding from Hurricane Joaquin was going on. Patrick Dogett, 53, apparently had been drinking all day and called the police stating his woman “would not give him any a**” Later police found him feeling blue outside his home in the early morning hours Tuesday cursing loud and profusely. Dogett was arrested for public drunkenness but has since been released.
  4. ‘Drunk’ UConn Student Gets Arrested After Demanding ‘F–king Mac And Cheese’ 
    There’s a viral video going around the internet of a university student getting completely irate over being denied the privilege of eating macaroni and cheese. Luke Gatti, 19, of Bayville, New York was charged for a breach of peace and criminal trespass. In the video, Gatti can be seen in the video titled “”Drunk Kid Wants Mac And Cheese,” demanding the managers at the Union Street Market to give him some mac and cheese.
    “Just give me some f–king bacon, jalapeno mac and cheese,” Gatti stated. Gatti was denied entry due to underage drinking and carrying an open container of alcohol.
  5. Broward’s First Flakka Baby Dies after Just One Hour
    This story is more sad than crazy. Unfortunately the implications of using flakka are starting to reveal themselves in newborns in an insane way.  Most people know about Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome when it comes to drugs like heroin and alcohol however the effects of flakka use during pregnancy was unknown. However, now in Florida, Broward County was first to witness the youngest, most innocent victim of the street drug flakka. The baby was born premature, only weighed 3 pounds and lived only one hour. The death was ruled a, “result of prematurity and alpha-PVP (flakka) toxicity.”Reports show the mother refused prenatal care or medication during her pregnancy and was previously discharged from Broward Health Medical Center June 20 after spending a month under psychological evaluation. When will the flakka craziness stop?

So overall we have burger-eating vegetarian and a Doritos galore to wrap up our week.  If your name is not on the list, that’s awesome. Let’s keep it that way!  Crazy can be funny to read about but often being the one involved in the craziness is not as cracked up as you think it to be. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-561-221-1125

Drug Policy Barely Discussed During Republican Debate

republicans

Author: Shernide Delva

The opioid epidemic is discussed in the media every day now. Every week, money is being proposed to help end the prescription pill and heroin addiction crisis. In addition, marijuana reform has continues to be a controversial topic in legislation.

Drug policy has never been a hotter topic but you wouldn’t have guessed that from watching last week’s republican debate.  Only a handful of candidates mentioned anything about drugs and drug policies, and when the topic was brought up, the specifics were lacking.

Republicans on Drug Policy

Here is a brief overview of the under ten-minute discussion on drug policy.

  • Rand Paul (R-KY) in the past has spoken in favor of drug policy reform. In the debate, he said there was a need for more rehabilitation and less incarceration. He delve in a bit deeper than the other candidates by making note of the intersection between race and drug policy. He stated, “I think that the war on drugs has had a racial outcome and it’s something that’s really damaged our inner cities.” In terms of marijuana reform, Rand Paul stated he did not believe the federal government should override state policies citing the Tenth Amendment for limitation on federal powers.
  • Jab at Jeb: Jeb Bush was scrutinized for his former pot smoking days by Rand Paul when he stated, ““There is at least one prominent example on the stage of someone who says they smoked pot in high school, and yet the people going to jail for this are poor people, often African-Americans and often Hispanics, and yet the rich kids who use drugs aren’t.”
    Jeb Bush responded that Rand Paul was talking about him. “He’s talking about me,” he admitted.
  • Jeb Bush- Speaking of Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor mentioned the heroin problem in New Hampshire. He went on to endorse drug treatment through drug court bragging on how his state Florida has the highest amount of them than any other state.
  • Chris Christie– New Jersey Governor Chris Christie touched on drug policy reform stating it was a “pro-life issue” saying the life of a 16-year-old drug addict incarcerated is important. He also went on to exampling how New Jersey’s approach on drug policy is working.
  • Carly Fiorina- Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina put in her opinion on the dangers of marijuana abuse:

“We are misleading young people,” she said, “when we tell them that marijuana is just like having a beer. It’s not. And the marijuana that kids are smoking today is not the same as the marijuana that Jeb Bush smoked 40 years ago.”

She took the matter to a personal level when she mentioned how she and her husband “buried a child to drug addiction.”

All in all, drug policies took up at most 10 minutes of the three-hour debate. Not a very eye-opening conversation on a disease that is killing lives day after day. Hopefully clear policies and funding will be proposed to combat this serious epidemic.

Some—like Paul—have made drug policy a regular talking point however clear policy proposals have yet to be announced by most of the candidates like they have by some of the democratic candidates. Hillary Clinton just announced a 10 billion dollar plan to combat addiction a short while ago.

Close to 8% of Americans ages 12 and older use illegal drugs and around 20% are using prescription drugs for non-medical uses. Of the adult population, 10% say they used to have a substance abuse problem and do not anymore.

This is an issue that affects everyone. Whether you struggle with addiction or know someone who does, drug addiction is taking lives without discrimination.

Substance abuse should be getting the attention is deserves. Hopefully the discussion on drug policies will gain priority in the upcoming months. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Silk Road Creator Sentenced to Life: Says Site Was Harm Reduction

Silk Road Creator Sentenced to Life: Says Site Was Harm Reduction

Author: Justin Mckibben

Ross Ulbricht, AKA “Dead Pirate Roberts” (DPR) is a name I’ve written about several times before. He is the founder of the original Silk Road, and for those of you who have no idea what the means, it is the massively successful online drug marketplace referred to as the ‘Amazon.com of Drugs’ that was taken down a while back and has since been mimicked and replaced with other online markets, that have also been shut down and replaced in a seemingly endless cycle of greed measured in bitcoin and gigbytes.

This past Friday, May 29th 2015 the cycle may have ended permanently for Ulbricht, as he was in a New York courtroom claiming he was a changed man, looking for some semblance of redemption, or at least a little leeway, but this time there was no fire-wall or spy-ware to protect him. Not too many people are buying what the defense team for Ulbricht was trying to sell, as their newest attempt to lessen his prison time was on the grounds of “harm reduction.”

Reducing Harm?

Ulbricht’s legal team asked the judge to consider Silk Road as a place that significantly reduced the danger of drug use to the user on the grounds that it created a format where several factors associated with the drug trade were replaced with a system which let customers have control over their deals in safety.

Ulbricht’s lawyer Joshua Dratel stated in the filing:

“..Transactions on the Silk Road web site were significantly safer than traditional illegal drug purchases, and included quality control and accountability features that made purchasers substantially safer than they were when purchasing drugs in a conventional manner.”

Dratel described Silk Road as if it was a unique application of harm reduction, which is typically associated with needle exchange programs and anti-overdose kits being distributed as a method of reducing the problems associated with drug use on the street.

It isn’t entirely untrue, but even the top 4 factors that could be considered to be relatable to harm reduction, when you take a closer look, could be considered a little contrived.

  1. Less Danger?

For anyone who has ever bought drugs, there is obviously some element of danger commonly associated with these transactions. Of course it depends of what you buy and where, from who. Buying heroin off the corner could easily get you robbed, even assaulted or injured. So you are reducing some harm by purchasing it via the web and having it shipped to your house.

On the flip side- just because it is a ‘safer’ drug deal because the environment is less likely to get you robbed or ripped off doesn’t mean it is harm reduction, right? It’s still a drug deal. Spreading it out over the servers doesn’t justify it. The judge shot this logic down, saying:

“Silk Road was about fulfilling demand….about creating demand.”

In other words there would be no harm to reduce without Silk Road creating the dark web drug den and supplying drugs.

Harm reduction is typically about giving people safer means by which to do the drugs they are already buying, not providing them easier access to the substance itself.

Then there is the fact that even though the last stop in the chain of transactions was a little safer, it doesn’t mean that the cartels trafficking drugs, the conditions where they are grown or made, or the enterprises being funded by drug money (such as ISIS or other terrorist groups) are any ‘safer’ in the process. There is still plenty of risk to go around.

  1. Quality Control?

Then there is the idea that Silk Road was harm reduction because it created its own level of quality control, introducing several components that seemed to make dealers accountable. The digital drug expo featured Ebay style ratings and review boards where crowd-sourced information about drugs and dealers allowed customers to feel safer from the danger of buying tampered with products.

Thus the community trusted the dealers being logged and recorded as quality business men.

But again, all this does is feed into the demand. It doesn’t really reduce anything but a drug users doubts that they will get what they want for the right Bitcoin (hacker money).

  1. Safety Tips?

This one actually makes some sense. Silk Road featured crowd-funded advice about drug use, including:

  • How to ‘fix’ drugs properly (how to use certain drugs certain ways)
  • What to expect on your first time using
  • What to do in case of overdose

There is no doubt that this could be potentially lifesaving information for people committed to illegal drug use.

Some forums included medical advice from physicians themselves. Ulbricht even tried to keep Silk Road ‘safe’ by paying $500 a week to the infamous Dr. X, who was himself a self-identified drug user who regularly answered questions from users about the harms or merits of taking both legal and illegal drugs.

Dr. X’s real name is Dr. Fernando Caudevilla and he described this aspect as harm reduction.

Considering that this element of the site was designed to keep users safe by providing medical information and allowing for open communication about drug use, it can run parallel to the strategies other legitimate harm reduction campaigns use to keep users informed and medically supported.

And yet… not everyone felt it was effective enough. Emotional statements at the hearing came from the parents of drug users who had overdosed and died from drugs purchased from the Silk Road, many called for the longest sentence the law would allow.

  1. Ethics

The aims of Silk Road were initially governed by a strict code of ethics. Early visitors of the site lobbied DPR to allow complete freedom for any transaction, but Ulbricht was adamant about his principal… at least at first. He stated:

“Our basic rules are to treat others as you would wish to be treated and don’t do anything to hurt or scam someone else.”

This meant no sales of a more sinister nature, such as:

  • Weapons
  • Child pornography
  • Stolen goods
  • Fraudulent degrees or IDs

Though this was a firm founding ideal, it appears most of these items were for sale when the site was finally shut down.

The Judgment

At the end of the day Ulbricht was found guilty last month of 7 offenses he was charged with, including a “kingpin” charge that puts the 31-year-old hacker from Texas up there with mafia dons and drug cartel leaders.

Judge Katherine Forrest gave Ulbricht the most severe sentence possible, beyond what even the prosecution had explicitly requested. The minimum Ulbricht could have served was 20 years, but the judge sentenced him to life in prison… without the possibility of parole.

In addition to his prison sentence, Ulbricht was also ordered to pay restitution of more than $183 million, what the prosecution had estimated to be the total sales of illegal drugs and counterfeit IDs through the dark web hot spot. As the judge passed down the sentence she said:

“You are no better a person than any other drug dealer.”

Of course his defense team is already preparing for their appeal, and this is surely one story we will be hearing about for a while.

In my own opinion: The very idea that they are trying to call this harm reduction is just a little (or a lot) absurd. Creating a dark web market of drug dealers to push raw opium, various illicit plants and pills for massive amounts of money, while claiming to be beyond the laws of the nation, and even trying to pay tens of thousands for the murder of half a dozen people is not exactly the ideal model of harm reduction.

Real harm reduction can help a lot of people. Drug addiction is a perilous and powerful disease, but harm reduction is one way that thousands of people are trying to help those suffering, while treatment facilities develop innovative and life-saving recovery strategies. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

 

 

 

Dread Pirate Roberts of Silk Road Gets Full Conviction

Dread Pirate Roberts of Silk Road Gets Full Conviction

Author: Justin Mckibben

I have written a lot in the past about the controversy surrounding the infamous Silk Road and tracked the activities of Silk Road related arrests. The well-known Dark Web site has slowly but surely earned itself a reputation as a ‘name brand’ for black market online transactions, specifically for the sale and trafficking of illicit substances.

Since late 2013, there have been some key arrests made and some combative actions taken in attempts to dissolve the Silk Road, including:

  • In November 2013, the Silk Roadmarketplace was seized by the FBI, and Ross William Ulbricht, also known as “Dread Pirate Roberts” was arrested on allegations of being the owner of the market.
  • Silk Road 2.0started up just months after the end of its predecessor under the control of Ulbricht’s second in command, who took up the “Dread Pirate Roberts” mantel.
  • Last December,federal agents arrested 3 of Silk Road 2.0′s administrators, and the second “Dread Pirate Roberts”, leaving Silk Road 2.0 in the care of his second in command, “Defcon”.

Most of the active vendors abandoned Silk Road 2.0 after a huge hack that lost a lot of money for the site, in favor of other large markets such as Evolution and Agora that provide better security. Now another major development in the Dark Web war on drugs has hopefully set the tone for the future of fighting online drug trafficking.

The Silk Road Story

At one point Silk Road was known as the “Amazon.com of drug dealing” and became such a pioneer in pushing poison via the digital underground by using secure technology and an advanced buyer/user feedback system.

  • According to evidence presented at the trial, under his alias Ulbricht first hatched Silk Road back in 2009.
  • The original Silk Road was launched in 2011
  • The site became a massive international online marketplace, where members hawked everything from heroin and cocaine to drug paraphernalia and other illicit items, like computer hacking programs.
  • Goods were sold anonymously and paid for with electronic currency bitcoins.

Prosecutors stated during the course of the trial that through charging a commission on all the transactions that took place through their forum with a percentage of the sale, the site was able to put together an estimated $18 million in net worth by the time of Ulbricht’s arrest.

The End of ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’

Ross Ulbricht, AKA the original ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’ and the cyber mastermind behind the Silk Road’s online drugs marketplace, was officially found guilty on all charges this week after a trial lasting 3 weeks. Ulbricht was convicted of various charges, including but not limited to:

  • Drugs conspiracy
  • Money laundering
  • Trafficking

Today Ross ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’ Ulbricht faces 20 years to life in prison for his involvement in the illicit internet empire that earned him a lot of bitcoin and a lot of attention.

Ross Ulbricht’s defense itself seemed a little weak. Ulbricht did admit in court that he had created Silk Road, but he then insisted that he had sold it and cut ties before being captured in 2013 by the FBI. His defense attorney claimed that the site was created as a harmless “economic experiment”, and that Ulbricht’s invention was later taken over by actual drug lords. Honestly it seems a little far-fetched, and apparently the jury wasn’t buying it either.

The verdict came down swift on Ulbricht, ultimately finding the ‘Dread Pirate’ of the cyber seas guilty on all of the charges brought against him.

Commenting on Ulbricht’s conviction, Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said,

“should send a clear message” that “the supposed anonymity of the dark web is not a protective shield from arrest and prosecution.”

This is an important point to make, especially since the major selling point for the Silk Roads clientel was the illusion of immunity from arrest based on the idea that there was ‘secured internet anonymity’ on the site. After Silk Road was shut down, the digital drug game didn’t skip a beat, as the forum was taken down, it was soon replaced by Silk Road 2.0 whose alleged operator Blake Benthall was arrested last year and faces up to 10 years in prison.

Oh but the buck doesn’t stop there, because Silk Road 3.0 was quick to replace it, just not with nearly as much support. These online cartels seem to be not going down without a fight, but despite their resistance it seems all ‘Dread Pirates’ must go down with their ship.

While some people are doing everything in their power to spread the scope of the illicit drug trade, others simply want to keep it contained to protect those whose lives are devastated by drugs and alcohol. As the reach of the War on Drugs reaches into the Dark Web, those who suffer deserve a way out. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. We want to help. You are not alone.

 

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