Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bibliography for "Primed for Addiction"



Works Cited
Aaron, K. "Is Porn Bummig You Out?" Is Porn Bumming You Out? 2011.Web. <http://blogs.menshealth.com/health-headlines/is-porn-bumming-you-out/2011/04/01>.
Ak, S., N. Koruklu, and Y. Yilmaz. "A Study on Turkish Adolescent's Internet use: Possible Predictors of Internet Addiction." Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 16.3 (2013): 205. Print.
Cooper, A. "Sexuality and the Internet: Surfing into the New Millenium." CyberPsychology and Behavior 1.2 (2009): 187. Print.
Edwards, Catharine. The Politics of Immorality in Ancient Rome.Cambridge University Press, 1993. p. 65. Print.
Fiorino, Dennis F., Ariane Coury, and Anthony G. Phillips. "Dynamic Changes in Nucleus Accumbens Dopamine Efflux during the Coolidge Effect in Male Rats." The Journal of Neuroscience (1997)Print.
"Is Porn Harmful?" October 16 2012 2012.Web. <http://www.menshealth.com/sex-women/porn-debate?fullpage=true>.
Karaiskos, D., et al. "Social Network Addiction: A New Clinical Disorder?" European Psychiatry 25 (2010): 855. Print.
Krach, S., et al. "The Rewarding Nature of Social Interactions." Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 4.22 (2010)Print.
"Statistics on Cocaine Addiction." Cocaine Addiction.Web. <http://www.cocaineaddiction.ws/Cocaine_Statistics.htm>.
Steiger, S., et al. "The Coolidge Effect, Individual Recognition and Selection for Distinctive Cuticular Signatures in a Burying Beetle." Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences 22 (2008): 1831. Print.
Sun, Chyng, et al. "Comparison of Male & Female Directors in Pornography: What Happens when Women are at the Helm?" Psychology of Women Quarterly 32.3 (2008): 312-25. Print.
Volkow, N. D., et al. "Relationship between Subjective Effects of Cocaine and Dopamine Transporter Occupancy." Nature.836 (1997): 827-30. Print.

Primed for Addiction?



            With the number of smartphone users increasing by leaps and bounds every year it is evident that the fastest growing market is in our very own pockets. The basis of this new gadgetry relies heavily on what we have come to call “apps.” These are downloaded onto smartphones and benefit the user in a myriad of ways from finding the best Thai restaurant nearby to translating the menu at said restaurant. From statista.com, a website that compiles and collects statistics, we find that in just two years from 2010 to 2012 the number of smartphone users has doubled to nearly 120 million in the United States (eMarkter). As of January 2013 Apple iTunes offers approximately 775,000 apps to an iPhone user which has grown from approximately 800 in July 2008, just one year after the release of the original iPhone (Costello). Out of these apps appexplorer.com estimates that 24.9% are for entertainment, 16.7% are for lifestyle, and 3.5% are for social networking. It takes little observation to note the difference in daily life since the advent of the smartphone. With this tidal wave of technological change we are seeing consequences. The good we have become keenly familiar with, but what about the negative effects? Radical yet subtle changes are happening in our society as social media becomes more readily accessible to the masses. As we explore other technological advances within the last thirty years we will begin to see what kinds of negative effects are happening.
            One such advance in technology that has brought with it a negative consequence is the pervasive relationship between the Internet and pornography. As long as humans have existed there has been pornography. Rome’s history was inundated with pornography in various forms ranging from the simple artwork depicted in buildings to the lavish whorehouses (Edwards 65). The difference between then and today is the Internet, or in other words with the advent of the Internet came increased anonymity, affordability, and availability which caused a flood of voyeurism. It is estimated by many that the adult entertainment industry skyrocketed from $75 million in 1985 to nearly $12 billion in 2005 (Sun et al.) What that figure is today remains uncertain as a majority of this industry operates underground. Internet statistics report that every second there are about 28,000 users who are viewing pornography (Sun et al.) A writer for Men’s Health commented on a study in Norway on couples and pornography use saying, “…Porn is fine—and can even be good for your relationship—as long as you’re not replacing real intimacy with virtual sex” (Aaron.) But is there harm? Another writer for Men’s Health wrote in an article exploring the harm of pornography the following:
The distinction between casual and problematic use may have less to do with frequency and more with masturbation. “The big kicker that people leave out of the equation is the ejaculatory response,” says Struthers. “This is what really stores the memory. When you have an orgasm, there’s a release of oxytocin, the bonding hormone, presumably to bind you to your partner. If you’re viewing pornography, your partner is the screen in front of you.”
There are obviously some choices made on the perspective taken when asked the question of whether or not pornography is detrimental. With the development of brain scan technology many scientists have eagerly peeked into the processes of the brain in hopes of better understanding why we do what we do and answer some of these questions.
As highly addictive drugs became detrimental to society health officials anxiously used brain scans to reveal the chemical processes behind addiction in hopes of finding new ways to treat it. One of these highly addictive substances is cocaine and since its rise in popularity state and federal government in the United States had made it illegal because of its harmful consequences. Brain scans on those addicted show impairment in specific areas of the brain, particularly those which deal in dopamine. But what is dopamine? William Struthers in his book How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain writes this about dopamine:
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter involved in the mesolimbic system that coordinates all natural reinforcing behaviors (eating, drinking, sex). It is also the primary neurotransmitter that most addictive drugs are known to release. Dopamine plays an important role in reinforcement and is part of the reason why craving occurs. Sometimes referred to as a pleasure chemical, dopamine focuses our attention on things that have significance to us (Struthers 100-101).
Cocaine blocks the reuptake of this neurotransmitter and causes a sustained high. Consistent flooding by dopamine causes the brain to adjust and become desensitized to more than normal levels. More stimulation is needed to further achieving this high and addiction ensues.  Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse and Addiction said in an interview with The New York Times that addictions all boil down to dopamine (Volkow). When we anticipate satiation of hunger or thirst the chemical dopamine is released and encourages us to keep moving towards the goal. Where this connects to pornography is through the idea of the Coolidge effect.
            The Coolidge effect is the progressive decline in a male's propensity to mate with the same female combined with a heightened sexual interest in new females. During mating season the alpha male of a pack will mate with every female until they’ve all been fertilized because of this phenomenon. Dopamine is the driving force within the brain of the male, causing him to mate even until exhaustion. Each time a new and potentially ready female is present there comes a spike in dopamine causing the male to seize the opportunity. This effect has been observed in a study on the burying beetle in the Proceedings of the Royal Biological Society (Steiger et al.) and in The Journal of Neuroscience in a study on male rats (Fiorino et al.). Though essential for survival it can be said that the old adage, “Too much of a good thing can be bad” rings true, especially here.  The popularity of Internet pornography thrives under this principle of dopamine spikes within the brains neural pathways. Online pornography functions as the medium by which a man is presented with endless potential mates. The novelty of a new mate kicks the dopamine levels in his brain telling him to seize the opportunity while it’s here. If what Volkow said about addiction is true then prolonged use of online pornography will desensitize the brain just as cocaine did through a constant flood of dopamine. A neural pathway is forged in the brain causing a behavioral addiction, much like a stream that cuts into a river and eventually a canyon. For those who experience addiction there is a sense that control is lost, they are subject to the addiction and have no choice but to satisfy the craving. At this moment there are 28,000 Internet users viewing pornography (Sun et al.). Cocaine addiction help websites cite a statistic saying there are 5000 people trying cocaine for the first time every day, presumably in the United States. It seems apparent that pornography has addicted the masses and science explains that it is through the same process that cocaine addicts the brain. Why is pornography use vastly more prevalent? It is anonymity, affordability, and availability. It is practically free and can be accessed from a smartphone anywhere there is connection to the Internet. Are there other potentially addictive aspects of the Internet so readily available to the masses? If it deals in dopamine then chances are it will be addictive. Let us look at the example of social relationships.
            Dr. Sue Johnson, a leading voice for attachment theory and the application thereof, has commented on a natural necessity many have overlooked. While searching for the cause of death amongst otherwise healthy orphans in post-WWII she came to the conclusion that many were dying out of emotional starvation. In her book Hold Me Tight, a course for application of these findings, she further establishes that we make emotional connections with each other out of necessity, without which we suffer. An obvious detriment appears when there is a lack of this connection, as shown by Johnson. A necessity to life such as this must be driven by a dopamine process in our brain because the physiological rewards are obvious. On the opposite end of the spectrum it is apparent that we don’t make close emotional connections with everyone we meet, signs that this dopamine signal stops at a point when we’ve had enough. There are those who are outgoing and tend to befriend everyone, but as for the emotional connections mentioned in Hold Me Tight, we keep a select few. Can too many connections be a bad thing?
Social networking sites have thrived under this basic human need to connect. Given license to connect with potentially thousands of friends, Facebook is a hotspot for dopamine kicks. A study done on Turkish adolescents attempting to discover predictors of Internet addiction found that when it was used for entertainment and social communications then there was high probability of addiction (Ak et al.). The validation of constant instant communication can become addicting, as suspected by European psychiatrist Karaiskos who treated a woman that showed many symptoms similar to that of a drug addict. Karaiskos found that the woman remained home most of the day spending approximately 5 hours/day checking her Facebook webpage. After 8 months of Facebooking she had over 400 friends and ceased many of her usual activities. She lost her job as a waitress because she repeatedly checked her Facebook on her phone. Karaiskos noted that:
According to the prevailing view regarding addiction, Facebook addiction can be considered as an “urge-driven disorder” with a strong compulsive component. Although our patient had been using Internet for the past 7 years she had never been previously addicted to Internet use. We suggest that Facebook addiction may be another subcategory of the Internet spectrum addiction disorders. (Karaiskos)
This woman’s problem came not when she first got the Internet, but when she first subscribed to Facebook. But wait, can we become addicted to almost anything? Anything that deals with dopamine, as Volkow, director of the NIDA, said. What other new social media are we readily consuming that have potentially negative consequences? Let us examine a relatively new app for the iPhone and determine if there are any trends.
            Tinder is a relatively new social media app available to the iPhone. Introduced in October of 2012 it advertises anonymity and efficiency in connecting the young and single. Using photos from one’s Facebook account, their interests, and age, it connects users to potential partners in a set area around their location. Much like Grindr or the old website HotorNot it is visually based. Because it is a dating app users will be showing attractive pictures of themselves in hopes of finding a relationship. In this way it is similar to pornography and in some users’ cases it could be considered “soft porn” depending on their choice of pictures. The dopamine receptors within the brain of those using the app are likely following the same patterns as were shown previous. When opened, the app shows a picture of someone their age, first name and a short “about me” section. The user is given the option of liking or disliking the person and a new profile is shown. When two users have a mutual “like” then connection is made and they’re given the option to chat within the app. Much like in Facebook, the user is experiencing a social validation when a mutual “like” occurs. In a highlight review titled The Rewarding Nature of Social Interactions, Soren Krach explains that the same dopamine process associated with non-social stimuli such as food or psychostimulant drugs are involved in those social stimuli, such as interacting with friends (Krach et al.). The fact that Tinder is free, practically anonymous, and easily accessible gives is the same premise under which potential addiction ensues, just as with Internet pornography. Tinder estimates that within the first two months of release more than 35 million ratings were shared and over 1 million matches made (Empson). With that many users we are seeing nearly a third of all smartphone users trying out a relatively new dating app, and just within the first two months. Seven months later we can expect that number to have increased and continue to increase. The initial target customer for Tinder has been college students as its test run was on a California college campus, but what are the implications as that customer base extends to high school and even middle school? Understanding what these and many other new apps are doing to our brains is important if we are to be prepared for the changes happening in our society.
            The rise in app technology will continue as technology simplifies the process of creating new apps. Smartphones are becoming more widespread and will continue just as the apps made for them. The explosive expansion of Facebook and Internet pornography are just two examples of how new media is tapping into the potentially addictive dopamine processes in our brains. Without understanding how we are affected by the media we consume there remains the possible future in which we become more and more addicted to entertainment in its various forms, whether its pornography or social networking. As noted earlier there are those currently searching for answers to these questions and seeking to understand the impact social networking sites such as Facebook are having on the public, but only in response to problems they see in clients who come to them for help. In anticipation of continued consumption of apps like Tinder and many of the other 775,000 apps available to just iPhone users, one out of many smartphone operating systems, we can expect consequences through overconsumption. It is imperative that we understand the consequence of being inundated by this flood of technology that surrounds the rising generations.
             

Monday, April 1, 2013

Today

More than a practical joke, it's a day that should be raining. Even so, the sun came out this afternoon. My chemistry teacher rocks. She put on a magic show for us since we had our last test last Friday.
I walked in the rain for almost an hour carrying flowers. Took a hot shower.
I decided a year ago to spend my life with another. Within six months after, I went back on my decision. Six months later I'm here.
I want a best friend. Those feet that dance my way. The smile that brightens my day.
An unusual occurrence, almost unfortunate in the consequential events that tumbled down the calendar.
Day after day of sitting, waiting, wishing and hoping to never be alone. Ever.
Not alone as you feel when left in the mountains, away from everyone. The alone you feel after having not been. Only felt when your soul embraces another and you expect they'd stick around.
Except I didn't.
This day hasn't been a debilitating train wreck. I've got my legs, my feet. My hands and arms still have strength. There's a thump thump in my chest that tells me I'm alive. Oh, and my hair looks great this afternoon, after that nice shower.
I'm terribly unsuccessful with respect to my personal spirituality and religious observance, at least as of this school year (which can feel like a long time spiritually). But I still believe that God is merciful, and gives to His children what they ask for, whether it's heaven or not.
I want to meet her again.
That spirit which loved me so well. The hands that sought constant care for myself. Lips speaking kindness and optimism during the darkest of days. Eyes that appreciated all that I am.






It's Spring and life is budding, growing, renewing.
Where am I?