Stress—that overwhelming force that seems to drive America—is a mixed bag. Stress has been found to increase our risk of cancer and other diseases, yet it can also "boost our focus, energy and even our powers of intuition," according to Time. Addictions are known to both relieve, and cause, stress—and now scientists have discovered that stress itself may actually be addictive. “By activating our arousal and attention systems,” says Jim Pfaus, a neuroscientist and addiction specialist, “stressors can also wake up the neural circuitry underlying wanting and craving—just like drugs do.” Stress management specialist Debbie Mandel says Type A and Type D personalities—competitive, anxious and depressive types—are most prone to getting high off stress. “[Stress] addicts may also be using endless to-do lists to avoid less-easy-to-itemize problems—feelings of inadequacy, family conflicts, or other unresolved personal issues,” says Mandel. And because they tend to be preoccupied with tomorrow's problems, “stress junkies” can have a hard time listening to others, concentrating and even sleeping. If you test positive for stress addiction, Time has a nice bullet list of suggestions to help you keep your cool:
• Seek professional help if you’re verging on burnout. (Not only can hashing it out with a therapist take a load off your mind—some studies suggest it also boosts physical fitness.)
• Do something creative. Mandel recommends carving out a once-weekly time not to think about tomorrow’s agenda by painting, cooking, writing, dancing, or anything else that’ll take you off the clock temporarily.
• Take it outside. Numerous studies show spending time in nature improves general well-being, lowers anxiety, stress and depression, and even boosts self-confidence. Especially for women. (As it turns out, most addiction recovery centers offer outdoor-immersion programs.)
• Calm down quickly. If you really don’t have time for any of the above, these 40 tricks to chill take five minutes or less.
Celebrities: They're (sober) just like us! Bradley Cooper and Jamie Lee Curtis are the latest celebs to open up about their long-term sobriety, joining ranks with a long line of stars who have spoken about giving up booze and drugs, including Elton John, Demi "Sober is Sexy" Lovato and Samuel L. Jackson. Do these stories of celebrity sobriety help us average Joes and Janes get—and stay—sober, too? Are our struggles as addicts universal, or is it difficult—or easier—to battle addiction when you're famous?
We'd love to know what you think! Please join our Twitter chat NEXT week on September 12, from 3–4 pm EST—co-hosted by our friends at Phoenix House. Taking part is easy: Just log on to Twitter at that time and search for our new chat-specific hashtag—#popchat. Tweet your answers to the questions posed by @_TheFix and @PhoenixHouse—if you don't follow them yet, do it now!—and make sure to include #popchat in every tweet you send.
Our guests will include psychiatrist and author Dr. John Sharp (click on any of these names to follow them on Twitter), former White House drug policy advisor Kevin Sabet, Fox entertainment reporter Courtney Friel and sober coach Patty Powers of Relapse—as well as Phoenix House CEO Howard Meitiner and Fix contributors like Nic Sheff, Amy Dresner, Jeff Deeney and Jennifer Matesa. They'll be joined by many other experts, journalists and representatives of organizations like the Partnership at DrugFree.org and VisionsTeen. And your ever-faithful Fix staff—including Mike Guy, Anna David, Will Godfrey, Hunter Slaton, May Wilkerson and Joe Schrank—will be chipping in, too. We hope to see you there!
Kids are still picking up smoking out of a desire to be "cool" and popular, a new study shows. Researchers asked 1,950 10th and 11th grade students at seven California high schools about their smoking patterns, and the habits of their immediate friends. They found that students who thought their close friends smoked were more likely to be smokers, too, and those who smoked tended to form friendships with other smokers. The study confirmed that smoking habits are still closely tied with popularity—and a drive to become more popular and accepted by your peers. "Popularity is a strong predictor of smoking," said study author Thomas Valente, a professor at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine. "We haven't done enough to make it cool not to smoke." Valente said that one way to reducing smoking's "cool" factor could be letting kids know that the tobacco industry is trying to manipulate them in to smoking, "since teenagers don't like to be manipulated." He adds that recruiting popular kids to talk about how smoking is not "cool" has also been an effective tactic. According to the American Lung Association, 68% of adult smokers started at age 18 or younger, and every day almost 3,900 children under 18 smoke their first cigarette. People who start smoking in adolescence are more likely to develop a severe addiction to nicotine than are those who start later.
Internet addiction can be especially harmful for those who make a living through intense focus—such as novelists. A number of esteemed writers including Nick Hornby, Dave Eggers and Zadie Smith have come forward to admit they are powerless over the endless distractions of the Internet, and to name a new solution: two software programs called Freedom and Self Control. These are computer applications that can be downloaded and configured to increase productivity by completely blocking Internet access at specific times. Smith, whose new novel NW features a character addicted to online message boards, thanks these programs in the book's acknowledgements “for creating the time." Novelist Ned Beauman says he finds the web is "good in egalitarian terms that all that information is [available] for free, but the Internet is definitely pandering to our worst instincts.” To protect himself from its siren song, he utilizes an intricate method of restriction to block “virtually all newspaper and magazine websites as well as blogs and Twitter.”
The Internet is not only distracting—it is actually altering our brains, says Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember (2010). In his book, Carr says that whereas in the past humans had a more focused “linear mind,” the advent of the World Wide Web has caused our minds to demand information in “short, disjointed, often overlapping bursts—the faster, the better." The Internet can also be especially distracting for writers who work in isolation, says Oxford University Professor Baroness Susan Greenfield, who argues that internet provides an addictive feeling of comfort and validation based on contact with other people. “The worst thing for human beings is not getting attention," she says. For some novelists, even computer programs like Freedom and Self Control don't provide a strong enough barrier. Will Self has been writing the first drafts of his novels on a typewriter since 2003 and calls himself a former web addict. “It fulfils the criteria of addiction, which is obsessive mental content connected to compulsive action,” he says. “The machine itself seems like a paradigm of the addictive state. I can see it as something that needs to be put down the way an alcoholic puts down drink.”
When prisoners get busted for smuggling contraband items like illegal drugs in to prison through the visiting room, correctional officials will often put the offenders in a "dry cell". If a prisoner is suspected of ingesting a balloon filled with drugs, they will be held in a dry cell while officials attempt to retrieve the drugs—or wait for them to be "expelled"—before letting the prisoner enter the institution. "At FCI Fairton in New Jersey I was pulling little licks," one prisoner tells The Fix. "Just getting some marijuana in through the dance floor. Swallowing balloons my girl would bring. Nothing major. Just trying to get my smoke on and make a little commissary. But someone dropped a note on me and they threw me in the dry cell." A dry cell generally has no toilet or running water. Before entering, a prisoner is stripped down to his underwear and put in the cell with no mattress and only a sheet to spread on the metal bed frame—in order to prevent them from discarding or hiding the drugs. A guard is posted outside the cell and a video camera is set up to monitor the prisoner 24/7. Prisoners can remain in these conditions for 3 to 5 days or until they defecate numerous times and the balloons are either discovered or the suspected offender is cleared of wrongdoing.
"Luckily when they threw me in the dry cell I wasn't dirty. My girl brought some balloons but she left them in the car. Told me something didn't feel right. I was mad at the time but glad later when they took me out of the visiting room," the prisoner says. "Still I was stripped down to my underwear, videotaped and in the dry cell, shitting like a motherfucker, for three days so I could get out. When I had to shit they would bring a little bedpan with a small clear garbage liner in it. I had to squat down in front of the Lieutenant, the C/O and the video camera and shit. Than tie off the bag and hand it to them threw the metal slot in the door so they could examine it to make sure there were no balloons in it."
The Iowa doctor who may have contributed to the death of Slipknot bassist Paul Gray and seven others by overprescribing painkillers has pleaded not guilty to eight charges of involuntary manslaughter. Daniel Baldi, a now-suspended 50-year-old pain specialist, is facing 16 years in prison if convicted. He has previously faced four medical malpractice claims and three wrongful death suits. According to court documents, Baldi "did unintentionally cause the death of Paul Gray by the commission of an act likely to cause death or serious injury, to-wit, continually wrote high-dose prescription narcotics to a known drug addict from 12/27/2005 until his death.” The 38-year-old masked musician was found dead of an overdose in a hotel room in 2010. Gray helped found Slipknot in 1995 and was involved in taking the band into international renown with their strange masks and aggressive sound all the way until his death. Slipknot has yet to comment on the charges against the pain doctor.