We can all breathe again: texting is a compulsion, not an addiction, new research indicates. Many of us spend ever-larger chunks of the day sending texts, and this is particularly true of college students: “They’re digital natives, meaning they’re really used to using technology first and foremost for communication—not as a second option,” says Paul Atchley, professor of psychology at the University of Kansas. Atchley's study, published in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, investigated whether cell phone habits interfere with making rational decisions. “We used a technique from behavioral economics called ‘delayed discounting,’” he explains. “We essentially assessed if somebody is willing to wait to engage in that behavior for a reward.” His team tested KU students who'd been using cell phones for at least eight years. Various experiments—like offering students money to delay their texting—indicated that texting is more a compulsion than an addiction. “If they really were addicted to the idea of sending a text immediately, the monetary situation wouldn’t be that critical to them,” says Atchley. “You’d predict a sharp decrease if someone was truly addicted to texting. They’d say, ‘I need to text now and if you’re making me wait too long, there’s no point. So I’m going to give you all of your money back and just text right now.’” Researchers found that students' main concern while not texting was the possibility of missing a window of information. But it all depends on the status of the textee.“If you’re talking about texting an acquaintance back, people are willing to wait almost indefinitely to get that monetary reward,” says Atchley. “But if it’s someone closer to them, that changes. People were willing to give us $25 back, to have the opportunity to text their girlfriend or boyfriend back within 20 minutes.”
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The unfolding story of John McAfee—the founder of McAfee anti-virus software—is becoming ever more surreal, as allegations of drug-fueled insanity give way to allegations of murder. Reports surfaced yesterday that the 67-year-old American computer programmer had retreated to Belize, after losing his software millions and becoming heavily involved with MDPV—a psychoactive drug once marketed as "bath salts" that is now banned in the US. Today came news that McAfee is wanted by authorities for murdering his neighbor, and has buried himself in the sand "with a cardboard box over his head" for fear of being interrogated, according to an interview with Wired. Belize authorities confirm that they're looking for him "in connection with the murder" of Gregory Faull, who was found dead from a gunshot wound, a few days after he filed a complaint against McAfee for "roguish behavior." The programmer, credited with saving millions of American PCs from viruses in the '90s, says he's innocent, but won't give himself up: "You can say I'm paranoid about it but they will kill me, there is no question," he said today. "I will not turn myself in."
In recent years, McAfee had "become increasingly estranged from his fellow expatriates," according to yesterday's report. "His behavior has become increasingly erratic, and by his own admission he had begun associating with some of the most notorious gangsters in Belize." McAfee has admitted to a fascination with psychoactive stimulants. "I'm a huge fan of MDPV," he wrote on a Russian drug message board. "I think it's the finest drug ever conceived, not just for the indescribable hypersexuality, but also for the smooth euphoria and mild comedown." That euphoria may have waned. Today McAfee revealed his story, under the title "Darkness Falls," on a private message board. "This is a tale of intrigue and deception, involving great risks and dangers," he wrote. "Or, perhaps, it is a tale of paranoia in which innocuous events are misinterpreted by an unstable mind. My mind."
Teenage girls are now slightly more likely to binge drink than teenage boys, according to a new study from New Zealand. Researchers from Massey University’s Social and Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation public health unit (SHORE) surveyed 2,000 people in all age groups and found that 28% of 16 and 17-year-old girls consumed at least eight drinks in one sitting last year, compared to 25% of boys in the same age range—nearly double the results from a 2004 study of the same age range. Meanwhile, the consumption of alcoholic drinks by boys in the same age range has decreased since the 2004 survey. However, experts suggest that the actual findings may be more complex, since the girls' drinking may be impacted by associations with older boys. Another factor that could skew the results is ready-to-drink (RTD) alcopops, which are often targeted towards young women. In fact, a new report found that RTD's make up 70% of the alcohol intake of girls between 14 and 17, and that people who drink RTDs usually drink more in one session than those drinking other types of booze. Also, research shows that men are actually more likely to binge drink than women once they are over 18. Says SHORE director Professor Sally Casswell: "Overall, women are still drinking only about one-third of the alcohol available in New Zealand so men are still drinking by far and away the majority of alcohol.”
Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari was the keynote speaker at the Regional Ministerial Conference on Counter-Narcotics in Islamabad, which featured leaders from 12 countries including Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, and explored ways to tackle the region's drug trade. Zardari said that Pakistan is no longer a drug-producer, after going poppy-free in 2011, and is also one of the world's top countries for opium and heroin seizures. But he admitted that his nation remains a primary transit point for drugs. "Transit is bad enough as far as I am concerned… and I am sure you feel the same way,” he said. While acknowledging that ending the drug trade completely isn't a realistic goal in the region, he pledged to keep trying to reduce it. Zadari added that money from the heroin trade is being used to finance terror operations. But rather than blaming 9/11 and its aftermath, he said drugs in the region have been an issue for nearly 40 years. "It goes back to choices we made during the decades of '70s and '80s," he said. "That was the time when heroin was created as a war weapon by the world community to fight the rival ideology in the region. After the [Soviet war in Afghanistan], the international community left the region in a hurry. Many things of that era have now come back to haunt us. One of these is the heroin trade.” Pakistan's status as a transit country rather than a producer does nothing to protect its citizens from harm; there are now an estimated 8.1 million drug users there, compared with just 50,000 in 1980.
About 70% of the 46.6 million smokers in the US want to quit, and thousands will be attempting to do just that on November 15, which marks the American Cancer Society’s annual Great American Smokeout. The aim is to encourage people to put away the cigarettes—even just for one day—as a first step towards a healthier life. “The Great American Smokeout does more than urge smokers to quit for a single day or a few months—it encourages people to help create a world with less cancer and more birthdays by committing to making a long-term plan to quit for good,” says Michael Seserman, Director of Strategic Health Initiatives for the American Cancer Society in New York and New Jersey.
While the Great American Smokeout is actually on Thursday, when it comes time to quit for good, smokers may be more successful if they kick the habit on a Monday, experts suggest. "Research shows that Monday is the day people are open to starting healthy behaviors, so it's a good day to quit, celebrate success, and recover from relapses," says Joanna Cohen, director of the Institute for Global Tobacco Control at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Smokers can use Monday, the start of the week, to think ahead and keep moving in the right direction," says Sid Lerner, founder of non-profit health initiative The Monday Campaigns. "Our surveys show that people see Monday as a fresh start; it's when people are 'ready to buy' into health, and they're looking for help." In fact, research has shown that Google searches for information on quitting smoking consistently increase at the beginning of the week, and a survey of state smoking quit-lines found that more people call in on Mondays than any other day. Sticking to the Monday plan may help smokers stick with their goal, as the average person attempting to quit lasts just eight days before a relapse.