A world of addiction

Lyon Keating:

Good to hear from you.  Thanks for the note.  Yeah I think you’re right about the web addiction and people not really being ever able to unplug.  However, I think the core problem is addiction and people just not knowing how to unplug from anything whether it be the computer or alcohol or gambling or an excessivean competitive nature, etc.  Every culture has a problem with addiction to anything.  Any society constantly fights off the tree limb problems of addiction (making the gambler stop gambling, alchy stop drinking, etc, etc, etc) when in fact we should be attacking the addictive mind itself!  Seems like common sense but a whole lot of people would think common sense being making the gambler stop gambling.  They don’t realize he is just going to become obsessive about something else.  The internet is pretty much the easiest, most accessible thing and I can see why it is home to probably the most addiction because it simply caters to everything.

 

Jonah Hall:

That’s an interesting discussion to have: How does addiction in general play a role in our lives?  And, How is addiction related to OCD?  How is addiction related to our sports-fanaticism?  How important is moderation?

I’d say I have a tendency to be Obsessive Compulsive, and there are times when OCD is debilitating in my life.  There are other times when it is very useful.

Some people are more prone to addiction than others, and some people are more OCD than others.  I don’t think they are the same thing, though.

In my life, I’ve seen OCD can make us organized, responsible, aware, articulate, specific, have great attention to detail, etc, but it can also lead to frustration and anxiety (checking phone or email incessantly, needing to have things go a certain way when you make plans, needing to have everything planned, rigid-thinking).

In relation to alcohol, (I can speak to it more directly from family stuff, and my own experience) it seems people become dependent on the buzz in order to feel pleasure, or to relax, or to feel socially capable, or self-confident.  The alcoholics who cannot function become dependent on the need to escape from their realities (job / lack of job, money / lack of money, family / lack of family).

In relation to pot, I can’t really say, though it seems like most anxieties (maybe not all social) can be escaped from when stoned.  People stop worrying about their problems, but they may get paranoid socially.

In relation to gambling (I can speak to this more directly), I know there is an excitement, or a heightened interest, when you put money on a sporting event.  It also makes you feel smart when you predict an outcome, based on actual evidence, or some kind of factor which isn’t just a guess. Of course, there is the problem that you over-estimate

the evidence (this team is better at home, or this team has a psychological edge, or this team will play well in this particular match-up).  The money is almost secondary to the feeling of omniscience (which is usually bullshit, though, if you examine things enough, and you know what to look for, you can unusually find an edge).  Another problem is that the odds are always increased on most gambling sites (this is the extra cut they make).

In my life, as I have been betting more over the last few years, I try to become very conscious of how much I’m risking, and rarely depositing money.  (I’d rather make 20 bets of $5 and enjoy the small wins and losses than wager $100 on one bet, as I’m sure that would lead me down a dangerous path…at the same time making more bets on a daily/weekly basis is more addicting in a way—so I take 2-3 months off at a time if I recognize that I’m spending too much time involved in the small bets).  In addition, sometimes I realize just how much time I’m obsessing about sports, and how unhealthy it can be.

On the flip-side, obsessing about sports and predicting led me to sending out an email to a bunch of people on Saturday, asking everyone to predict the scores of the Sunday football games.  No money involved.  Some family and friends.  It was neat to get so many responses from people.  And I felt good when my score for the Patriots-Ravens game was the closest!

In general, fantasy baseball is fun because its competitive and analytical (especially when you’re looking at stats many people don’t know about, and considering factors many people don’t ever consider).   It makes you feel good when you know about a guy who goes from a prospect to a star in 3 months (Matt Moore), but it can also lead to constantly checking for information about prospects.  And in one of the two leagues I’m involved in, there is a financial reward for that OCD-type interest.

So, the question becomes, is fantasy baseball then gambling when there is money involved?  I would say it is very different, because you are not constantly making a choice on how much to wager, which makes the risk obvious and makes you numb to losing money the more often you bet.

Finally, technology addiction (internet, video games, phones, gadgets) is completely socially acceptable, which makes it the most dangerous in many ways.  You could argue all of these things have become socially acceptable, but the internet is still the most available of all these things.

I am connected to OCD-ing on fantasy baseball and gambling because that is the medium through which I have allowed myself to become addicted.  I refuse to buy a smart phone which has a monthly contract, because I know it’d be the end of any consciousness I may have left, in regard to addiction and technology.

Laptop in hand, or people checking their phones endlessly for scores.  The constant facebook and twitter and checking-in at concerts and restaurants seems insane to me, but I choose fantasy baseball and small bets instead, which aren’t totally different.

 

Lyon Keating:

I’ve been meaning to respond back to this email.  It’s a good discussion and especially one that every community should think about and think of solutions for.  Addiction is all over the place and we only treat certain types of obsessive addiction.

I would agree with your comments about OCD.  It is both a good and a bad thing.  Good in that it really allows you to get things done right and be a good worker and lover and person, etc.  Bad in that it can really stress you out if things don’t pane out how you want them too.  I always say that when I can literally feel the anxiety in the air that’s when I have to just chill out.  People can often have a hard time gauging this for themselves but this kind of thing should be constantly reflected over in ones inner self.  If it isn’t, then this is when OCD can lead to horrible stress related consequences and nobody wants to deal with that.

OCD plays another role too, though.  I am pretty prone to OCD when I don’t have balance in my life.  Whether it be with work and play, having friends or not, spending time with girlfriend or being alone, being allowed to be creative, active, etc.  When those things get out of line I usually spur forth and am easily more OCD with one or two things.  I need a certain number of things and a certain balance to keep me healthily OCD with those things.  This is where ADD also comes in.  By not having as many outlets and things that I want and to keep my mind on I feel all out of whack, have excessive energy, and the rain can come pouring down in regards to feeling bored, worthless, meaningless, under-stimulated, like I’m wasting time, unhealthily OCD, etc about one or two things.  Funny how these things can seem to be connected.  So yeah I agree that addiction is not mostly related to OCD but I do think it can have a connection in that OCD behavior can sort of look a lot like addictive behavior just in the obsession over something factor (you can be OCD over exercising but being addictive to exercise doesn’t really make sense.  Just in the same way you can be addictive to alcohol but being OCD about alcohol doesn’t make sense).

Chemical addiction vs. Psychological addiction is something to also be noted here as well.  You mentioned a lot of things below pertaining to alcoholics and their psychological addiction to alcohol.  In this sense, everything in our society can be psychologically addicting, whether it be eating, exercise, dressing right, drugs, computers, internet, porn, talking on the phone, sleep, you name it.  Alcohol can be chemically addicting where your body needs the alcohol to function properly and if you don’t get it you’ll get headaches and sweat and feel very physically uncomfortable.  Caffeine and Tobacco obviously come to mind.  Something like pot hasn’t proven to be chemically addicting but definitely something we associate more with psychologically addicting.

Personally, this is where I come from in defense of pot when I look at how it is demonized when it doesn’t even chemically addict you vs. caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, sugars and horrible fatty foods that are all legal and extremely chemically addicting and not to mention how it found it’s spot in all the other super duper awful drugs like cocaine, heroine, etc. that are incredibly chemically addicting as well.

So what is worse psychological addiction or chemical addiction?  Well obviously it depends on who you are but I would have to say far and wide chemical addiction.  And this is where I would say our society has a problem with addressing addiction vs. that of being bad OCD and everything wrapped up in the middle.  Addiction has two levels.  Chemical addiction seems to be way worse than the other most of the time.  Being overly OCD about “anything” can be just as crippling as being psychologically addictive to something but definitely not over chemically addicted to something.  You should be able to shake easier the OCD and the psychological addictions and change for the better where the chemical addiction takes much more effort.

I had no idea you loved to bet so much.  This could be an example of an OCD behavior that produces a chemical reaction in your body that you may be addicted to.  You can be obsessive about betting because of finding the edge and winning.  When you win you feel the adrenaline rushing through your veins that you’re so smart and how easy it was.  I wouldn’t say you are addicted to betting, though.  You can bet on games and such not for money and it won’t feel quite the same, except for the few examples as you said below with predicting scores with your friends, but it’s still not quite the same.  You are addicted to the feeling you get when you win money and win when risk is involved and that can happen with all sorts of things.  (by the way, I think it’s good you stick to the small bets:)

I would still say fantasy baseball is a form of gambling.  You have more to do with it then just putting money on games and that’s why it’s different.  It’s also different because it’s over 6 months or so and it’s really never more than like 100 bucks or so for the season that you’d have to throw down.  There is hardly no risk involved because $100 bucks is not going to make or break you.  It would be like making two $8 bets a month and that really wouldn’t affect you.  But those bets are still gambling and fantasy baseball is still those bets.  I think gambling should be more linked to the condition of betting more resources than you have.  Or betting to the point of it hurting you or others around you if you lost.

 

Jonah Hall:

I wish people reflected more often over their own anxiety.  Only because my mom is an extremely nervous person, whose anxiety spills out onto others very easily, do I try to make myself aware of my own obsessive tendencies, but I think because both of my parents are pretty OCD, it’s in my genes.  And I used to be very self-conscious until I was about 17.  There were a few years where I was easily social and happy, but the way I felt around many kids in high school was often annoyed and self-conscious.

I agree balance is really important.  Work and play.  creativity and logic.  Laughing and deep sorrow or deep emotions. Social and solitude.  Computer time and time in nature.  Some people are addicted to the chemical release of Serotonin that occurs while they exercise.  My mom is dependent on that release.  If she doesn’t get it, her anxiety can overcome her, and her incessant worry takes over.  This is where exercise can be dangerous.  If people can’t deal with their anxiety or self-consciousness, than exercise can be a healthy outlet, but if it is their only coping mechanism, people can become overly reliant on it, and basically addicted to the release of Serotonin.

Alcohol can be both psychological and chemical, as you said.  I disagree though that “everything in our society can be psychologically addicting” in the way that alcohol can be.  Of the things you mention in that list, I think eating is the thing people do most to comfort themselves from low self-esteem or isolation.  Exercise is more chemically addictive (adrenaline, serotonin, endorphins), but I agree, that people feel good about themselves after working physically hard, sweating, pushing themselves (Nadal!), which is a kind of psychological addiction.  I would say the psychological part in regard to exercise is mostly healthy (set goal, achieve goal, mind feels proud of body, survival mechanism) but can become ridiculous, unhealthy and more of an ego-boosting thing (ultra-marathoners, or people who bicycle 300 miles in a week).

People who are happy and have higher self-esteem don’t feel the same urgency to prove anything to themselves.

I agree that pot is more natural than most modern foods, alcohols and cigarettes, but I disagree that it doesn’t have a chemically addicting component.

THC is addicting.  It doesn’t automatically become chemical, the way that heroin or cocaine does, but it acts chemically in our brains, and in some people, it becomes necessary to feel calm, to function socially, or even to immerse themselves in an event or a moment, or let go of there frustrations or worries.

Both psychological and chemical addiction are awful.  But psychological addictions are more often due to real psychological problems that underlie the addictive behavior, while chemical addictions can have more to do with our neurons and the ways we are genetically wired.  I know that caffeine makes me lively and often happier in a somewhat manic way.  I also know from the occasional headache that I need to drink less caffeine.  Usually, it happens when I’m really tired and drink caffeine. Sometimes it’s because I’m dehydrated.  In general, I don’t have coffee after about 2pm.  I basically have two cups in the morning.  One as I wake up, and one in the thermos on the way to work.

Norm McDonald had a great insight about gambling on Marc Maron’s podcast.  Great podcast to listen to, by the way.  Norm was a big-time gambler and he describes the feeling of release he gets when he loses it all.  Basically, that he is freed from the grip that it has on him when he loses it all.  And it’s happened a few times to him.  He wins big, then eventually loses big, and keeps going until its all gone.  I don’t know that I love betting, but I know that there is a tiny bit of fear when you make a slightly bigger wager.  I also love the underdog aspect of it.  I like to pick upsets.  I pick too many of them, in fact.  I want the guy or the team that nobody gives any credit to, I want them to surprise.  This is where I’m not a smart better, even though I’d say I don’t pick underdogs just for the sake of it (I search for a reason and then believe in it) but it’s also where I get more compulsive.  You want to make a $5 that wins you $80 (I picked the Pats to play the Giants when the odds of them both making it were a 16 to 1).  This was before the Giants beat the Packers.  I thought the Packers were overrated because of their record, and I saw the Giants play great against the Patriots in Week 13 or so.  Once in a while I will pick right, but that $5 win makes you bet the $5 loss way more often than you normally would, and you rationalize it because it’s only $5.   It’s a relief in that it takes a lot of time if you actually research a bet, and if you check out certain sites which give probable outcomes of games, etc.

As a fantasy baseball addict, I can attest to the addictive nature of fantasy competition, especially baseball. Because it’s a daily thing that goes on for 180 or so days, it is certainly a routine / addiction.  I’ve never played in high-stakes leagues (never more than $100 or $130 to join a league.  It can turn into gambling if you join daily prize money leagues, where you’re essentially picking a team for one night, and wagering money that you’ll beat out a group of competitors with your picks.  Here’s one way to define a gambling problem: if you are losing or winning more than 1/10 of your monthly rent / mortgage, you are addicted to gambling.   Here’s another: if you’re spending more time researching gambling picks than spending quality time with the people you love, you are addicted to gambling.   Here’s another: if you can’t enjoy a sporting event without having money on the game or match, you are addicted to gambling.

 

Lyon Keating:

With your example of your mom and exercise and being addicted to something like Serotonin I think this just shows that whatever we do, there is likely to be something released in our brains that makes us like something over others and keep doing it.  What is released in our brains when we eat, what is released in our brains when we watch too much TV, what is released in our brains or bodies for anything we do and how can we control that and control our addiction to something, no matter what it is?  This is where I’ll again say there is an extreme difference to having a psychological addiction to something vs. a chemical addiction.  Chemical addiction meaning putting a chemical into your body that is addicting and psychological addiction meaning your brain or body creating the chemical or hormone or whatever from doing something that you keeps you doing it over and over.  I’ll keep on disagreeing with you in my defense of pot.  Something like THC hasn’t been proved to be physically addicting to your body.  No matter what people chose to believe when you stop smoking pot you don’t go into cold sweats and have an outrageous body response to it like you would say to nicotine/tabacco, caffeine, alcohol, and obviously hard core drugs (even sugar can be put in this category).  People would like to put pot into this category for some reason but any chemical drug addiction test will never show THC to be addicting like this and behave in this manner…(I have to reference the movie ‘half baked’ here.  Don’t you remember when Dave Chappel goes into the Addiction meeting and says he’s addicted to pot and he gets booed off the stage and that one guy who used to do American’s funniest videos screams his most famous line of all time, “have you ever sucked dick for pot?”…haha).

That’s crazy that Norm McDonald actually likes to lose.  Interesting to think about the mentality of big time gamblers.  Maybe that is why gambling is thought of as inherently bad because it’s using people and taking money from them to makes bets that they ultimately want to lose.  I would agree with all your definitions of gambling problems.  Hence if you keep it as a hobby you spend a little bit of money and time on.  We all like to do whatever it is we like to do.  It just turns into an addiction or obsession when we waste so much money on it and get outrageously self involved.

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