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What Video Game Addiction and Opioids Have in Common

What Video Game Addiction and Opioids Have in Common

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

Right away, there are going to be some people reading this who (like me) love to spend more than a few hours staring at a screen, smashing buttons on a controller. Before you assume we are saying video games and opioids are the same- we are not. But what we are doing is looking at what they do have in common.

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced it would be classifying gaming disorder as an official mental health diagnosis. For years, mental health professionals have recognized behaviors they thought proved video game addiction as a serious problem. With this new stance on video game addiction, there comes plenty of controversy and contention. Some people argue that this is an unfair characterization of avid gamers, while others are truly convinced there is enough evidence to support the need for gaming disorder intervention.

So, without taking a side, let us look at the new concept of video game addiction and gaming disorder while comparing it to another well-known addiction- opioids.

WHO Decides When Gaming Is Too Much?

As of 2016, WHO has 191 member states and other countries that have been granted observance status. Despite the various differences in language, culture and medical traditions they all seem to agree on common definitions of diseases. These outlines are included in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). WHO is an agency of the United Nations, and specializes in international public health.

According to the most recent edition of the ICD, the criteria for people who may suffer from a video game addiction include those who allow gaming to negatively impact:

  • Occupation
  • Education
  • Family
  • Social lives

The WHO definition of gaming disorder is pretty broad. This kind of ambiguity could lead to anyone who just spends a little too much time playing Xbox on the weekend to being labeled with a video game addiction. Thankfully, the American Psychiatric Association has proposed a set of slightly more detailed diagnostic criteria. These criteria will probably be akin to those put forth in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) for Internet gambling disorder. For one to qualify for that diagnosis, their gambling/gaming would create “significant issues with functioning.” Also, it would call for five of the following signs:

  • Preoccupation or obsession with Internet games
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not playing games
  • Tolerance for gaming; need to spend more time playing to be satisfied
  • At least one failed attempt to stop or cut back on playing games
  • A loss of interest in other activities
  • Overuse of digital games despite realizing the impairment they have caused
  • Lying to others about game usage
  • Using gaming to escape or relieve anxiety or guilt
  • Impaired or lost relationships due to excessive gaming

According to the general consensus, video game addiction can develop at any age. However, many national studies primarily focus on kids under the age of 18.

Video Game Addiction VS Opioid Addiction

If we start by just looking at those signs of video game addiction, we can already see some parallels starting to shape up. For people who struggle with opioid abuse, signs of addiction can also include negative impacts on family, occupation, social life and education. Looking more at the break down of video game addiction symptoms, we can draw even more similarities.

Reward Response

One reason people use drugs is very closely connected to why they play video games- how the brain rewards them. For those with video game addiction, there are functional and structural alterations in the neural reward system. This is a group of structures in the brain commonly associated with feeling pleasure, learning, and motivation.

The same characterization can be made of opioid use. When someone addicted to opioids uses these drugs, they also experience activity in the brain’s reward system. While it may not stimulate learning and motivation in the same way, those pleasure sensors will light up with activity.

Image studies have shown that the urge to play video games activates the same brain regions that light up when illicit drug users even think about using.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Surely, we aren’t going to say that people who struggle with a gaming disorder experience the same intense and harmful withdrawal symptoms as those who abuse opioids, but we can see that withdrawal is still a common thread. According to Computer Gaming Addicts Anonymous, some of the common video game withdrawal symptoms that we often see with opioid addiction include:

  • Feeling of emptiness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability or restlessness
  • Sleep problems
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Obsessive thoughts

Of course, those who struggle with opioid abuse deal with a very different level of severity when it comes to withdrawal. The symptoms associated with opioid addiction are more likely to create a serious health risk than those currently attributed to video games.

Co-occurring Issues

For a lot of people who struggle with an addiction of any kind, there are often co-occurring issues or disorders. When you look at some of the research we find video game addiction is no different. Professor Douglas Gentile from Iowa State University has researched game addiction for several years. In one three year study of over 3,000 kids, he found that people who do develop compulsive gaming habits see an increase in:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Social phobia symptoms

Also, rates of ADHD are very high among the population of people who struggle with what might qualify as a gaming disorder. When it comes to opioids, co-occurring issues are also very common, including depression and anxiety disorders.

Tolerance and Obsession

It is true that just like with drug use, you can develop a tolerance to video games. When once you would be content with an hour or two of playing a game to take you out of yourself for a while, over time you will be drawn more and more into spending time playing the game.

Have you ever decided to go on an all-nighter with a RPG or FPS? Some people are looking at those letters and wondering what language of nerd I’m speaking. That is ok. But for my fellow gamers, many of you probably know the feeling that there is never enough time to rack up those upgrades or find the perfect save point. Every time you say “I’ll stop after this boss fight,” only to find yourself an hour later customizing your avatar- that is the obsession.

Now while we can’t say that this obsession is always the same for everyone, it is still something to consider. Surely we should not label everyone who dedicates time to beating their high score with video game addiction. Still, when someone needs to play more and more to feel satisfied, that is the tolerance building. With opioids, this is the body needing more of the drug to get the same euphoric effect over time; or just needing it to feel “normal”.

And when you spend all day at the office thinking about what you’re going to spend all that XP on when you finally get home, the obsession might be starting to impair the rest of your life. With opioids and other drugs, this looks like spending all day planning to use or thinking about how to get more.

Innovative Addiction Treatment

At this point, gaming disorder is still a new diagnosis, so most facilities are still working on effective treatment plans. As more research becomes available, there will probably be a variety of approaches to video game addiction treatment. Still, the need for innovative addiction treatment is pretty obvious when considering an addiction that is based on technology.

For most addiction recovery programs, the idea of abstinence is a common cornerstone. Not using drugs is kind of the whole point of getting clean and sober. However, when it comes to things like internet gaming disorder, it is hard to be completely abstinent from the internet in 2018. Taking into account that fact that most people use the internet for their work, or for staying connected socially, you find it is pretty much impossible to remain offline for long. Therefore, any new ideas around cognitive behavioral therapy and psychiatry can make a big difference.

While most people know that video game addiction is nowhere near as severe as opioid addiction, we still think making these kinds of connections may help people better understand the idea of gaming disorder. Many healthcare professionals believe that one problem facing effective video game addiction treatment is the idea that it is not harmful.

When it comes to opioids and other drugs, innovative addiction treatment can be the difference between life and death. Safe medical detox is a vital part of building a stable foundation for long-term sobriety. People who struggle with addiction also need more than just a reliance on abstinence. This is why holistic addiction treatment is so important with addressing the opioid crisis in America today.

Palm Partners Recovery Center believes that personalized and holistic addiction treatment is essential to helping people struggling with drugs or alcohol to not only overcome their addictions, but to transform their lives. No matter what your addiction, you should have access to compassionate care and options for effective care. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

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Can “Smart Needles” Stop Spread of Disease?

Can "Smart Needles" Stop Spread of Disease?

Author: Justin Mckibben

While treating a condition such as Hepatitis B can prolong the life of an individual, and that be a worthy cause, it is essential to prevent the spread of the infections. Today for the first time the World Health Organization (WHO) issued some advice on how to address the spread of Hepatitis B (Hep B). In this statement WHO made several recommendations, and one of the primary focuses of this was to point of the importance of using “smart” needles to prevent the spread of the infection.

According to one of the WHO spokeswomen who reported on this,

“Safety engineered syringes also called ‘smart syringes’ have a feature that prevent from reuse of the devices. There are different mechanisms.”

Some of the mechanisms in the “smart” syringes are actually very clever in terms of function and how they are used to treat individuals without the option to reuse. Some of the features include:

  • One mechanism is a metal clip which blocks the plunger after the injection is given which prevents one from being able to pull back the piston.
  • Presence of a weak point at the end of the plunger which breaks after the injection is given.
  • Other “smart” syringes have a needle stick protection feature, which consists of a plastic cover that can be pushed over the needle after it is used.

The WHO had previous touched on the importance of this kind of harm reduction, warning that the reuse of needles is one of the major causes of spreading disease, citing a recent study that indicated that according to the data collected:

  • 7 million people with Hep B virus were infected by dirty needles
  • 315,000 people with HIV were infected by dirty needles

The Money in this Modification

At the moment there are about 70 firms for deliver technology that are currently working to develop the so called “smart” needles according to the WHO organization. With that in mind its safe to safe that national healthcare programs should be taking every opportunity to utilize this innovation to further prevent exposure to contagious diseases.

One reason this has not yet become the way of the medicine world universally may be the price-tag on this technology. The “smart” needle costs between $0.03 and $0.04, almost double what the more standard needles typically sell for.

Given the fact that this technology could make a vast and drastic impact on the healthcare situation, especially given the rise in heroin abuse in America and the prominence of HIV and other contractible illnesses being spread through needle sharing, the WHO also suggested that smart needle manufacturers donate the newer technologies to healthcare programs with the idea that donations will increase the demand for these products, and the manufacturers will be able to cut down the cost of production, which will in turn lower the price for “smart” needles in the future.

The spokeswoman for the WHO was sure to emphasize how imperative it is that a genuine effort be made for preventing further Hep B infections. She even went as far as to predict that in preventing infections it generates savings. The WHO apparently determined through a cost effectiveness analysis that each dollar invested in safe injection programs creates a saving in the long run of $14.00.

Final Thoughts

In short, “safe” needles are one advancement in the field of medicine and treatment that can be taken advantage of in order to drastically limit the spread of infectious diseases.

As far as the effects on harm reduction, it seems like this would be the next step beyond needle exchange programs and other clean needle dispensaries, because it takes an extra measure to ensure that once the syringe has been used, someone using it to inject illicit substances cant reuse of share contaminated needles.

When it comes to harm reduction, how much better can it get than having access to a needle that self-destructs after each use? How much of an impact could this really have on the heroin epidemic?

New technology like “smart” needles can be a huge step in the right direction toward battling the epidemic of opiate addiction, and how we are able to address diseases like HIV and Hepatitis in the future. So many people fall victim to the disease like addiction, and worse is they don’t get the treatment they need, either because they don’t know that is available, or they never take the action to get help. If you of someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Is Drug Industry Keeping Secrets?

Is Drug Industry Keeping Secrets?

Author: Justin Mckibben

When it comes to medications and prescriptions knowing the extent of the effects a drug can have on someone is paramount. Being aware of negative results is not just useful; it is essential to good science as well as personal health, and it is said that randomized clinical trials are considered the best way to test a drug.

When you get two groups of patients with the same problem, give one group an experimental treatment and see if it works better than no treatment you can find out all the ways it can affect someone’s health. When you accumulate the results of multiples of similar clinical trials, level the differences and draw even more precise conclusions from a larger amount of data, it’s called a systematic review.

Publication Bias

The big problem is a systematic review only works if the reviewers have all the information. Good, bad and inconclusive results should always been included so that companies and governments can decide whether drugs should be legal, and so that an individual can decide for themselves if the risk is worth it. Unfortunately, there has been plenty of history that shows that pharmaceutical companies have had a habit of keeping some of these symptoms a secret.

The revelation of hidden data reinforced a growing movement against “publication bias,” which is when scientists stash away mostly negative or inconclusive findings and broadcast only their positive results in order to fulfill their agenda. Concealing trial data has basically become routine in the pharmaceutical industry. PLOS Medicine reported last year that as many as half of all clinical trials are never published.

Publication bias in clinical trials was something only scientists cared about for the longest time. But lately the issue has raised a crop of lobbyists and gone mainstream. In 2005, John P.A. Ioannidis, a researcher at the Stanford School of Medicine, published a paper under the heading “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False” and mentioned publication bias. Meanwhile British doctor Ben Goldacre leads a movement called AllTrials, and his appearance on TED talks on publication bias has been seen 1.8 million times, so the word is slowly but surely making its way to the public as to the lies this industry has hidden behind.

The Tamiflu Fumble

Cochrane Collaboration, a London-based nonprofit has released evidence earlier this year that shows a significant amount of negative data from the drug Tamiflu. Clinical trials were conducted, but many reports were hidden from the public. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) knew about it, but the medical community did not. Tamiflu has been implicated in several suicide deaths, and some circumstances of these incidents seemed too surreal to be coincidence.

Because of the withheld information the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which doesn’t have the same access to unpublished data as regulators, had recommended the drug without being able to see the full picture. When results from those unpublished trials finally emerged, they cast serious doubt over whether Tamiflu is as effective as the manufacturer says.

It is true that millions of people have taken Tamiflu without incident, and you are far more likely to die from the flu than you are to have a dangerous reaction to the drug. But if Tamiflu does nothing, and there’s even a slight chance of life-threatening side effects, why was it approved? And why do we continue to use it when there have been some reported cases of negative responses to the drug?

Accidents Can be Avoided

Sometimes the results of not sharing information are a lot easier to notice, and more obviously avoidable. Back in 2001 a 24-year-old technician at Johns Hopkins University named Ellen Roche volunteered for a study to find out how healthy people’s bodies avoid asthma attacks. She would receive a dose of the drug hexamethonium to induce a mild attack, and the idea behind the study was that her healthy body would overcome that attack, and then doctors would observe how her body accomplished this.

But despite the previous expectations, Roche would cough, her lung tissue broke down, and her kidneys failed. She was dead within a month. There was already data from 1978 in a study that had discovered this kind of reaction to hexamethonium, but because the paper that was published didn’t mention it, the information was not available to the doctors and researchers, and this death could have easily been avoided with the right information being published and accessible on a public level.

Putting More to the Public

Cochrane Collaboration has a respected reputation as one of the most rigorous reviewers of health science data. It takes results of multiple trials, looks for faults and draws conclusions. Very admirable is the fact that Cochrane does not even accept funding from businesses with a stake in its findings, thus actively working to avoid the conflict of interest.

National health agencies along with other organizations are working on solutions to the issue with publication bias. There are now innovations such as the online registries where researchers announce that they’re starting a trial and then post the results when they’re done. But so far neither resource has been utilized frequently enough to notice a definitive change.

So now, the World Health Organization (WHO) is preparing an official statement saying that “there is an ethical imperative” to use these registries. WHO’s “imperative” may or may not carry more force than the current laws that are in place, but without more serious personal consequences for violations, many suspect it’s not likely that too many of the big pharmaceutical companies will change.

With prescription medications causing more death than ever, and issues with substance abuse and addiction related to pharmaceuticals, there should be more of an outcry than ever to hold these massive medicine manufacturers to higher standards in testing. Publishing any and all data should be required and strictly enforced so that the government can be aware of the reality of the substances they allow to be available to the public, and so the people can know exactly what they are getting into. No one should die because a company sweeps things under the rug to get past the red tape.

Pharmaceutical companies must be held accountable for their products and the way they conduct business, especially with that business being one that endangers the lives of the customers. Too many people suffer because they did not know that something that was meant to heal them could hurt them so much. 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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