This website and blog focuses primarily on drug and alcohol addiction and rehab as a means to recover from these addictions. I would like to take a short break from this focus to point out that there are other kinds of addictions worth noting. Yes, I’m sure you’ve heard about eating disorders and gambling addictions which can have severe consequences.
But, there are a couple of news items this week regarding other addictions that I think that we as a society need to take note of and take action to resolve. The first news article that caught my eye this week was how frequent tanning bed users may be addicted since the UV rays stimulate the same “reward” parts of the brain as other addictions.
The New York Times did a good job in laying out how a recent study tracked results. According to the Times, “The frequent tanners agreed to be injected with a radioisotope that allowed researchers to monitor how tanning affected their brain activity … Brain images later showed that during regular tanning sessions, when the study subjects were exposed to UV rays, several key areas of the brain lighted up. Among those areas were the dorsal striatum, the left anterior insula and part of the orbitofrontal cortex – all areas that have been implicated in addiction. But when the UV light was filtered out, those areas of the brain showed far less activity.”
Now, on the West Coast, the Los Angeles Times has come out with a story about the sign of the times that states that some people are so addicted to technology, they would rather give up caffeine, chocolate or even alcohol rather than their cell phones.
I find this alarming since in 2009, around 448,000 people in the U. S. were injured because of distracted driving (talking or texting) using cell phones. In the same year, two times as many people were killed on the road because of alcohol impairment than distracted driving. But, just 5 years before this alcohol-related deaths beat cell phone deaths 10 to 1.
So, yes, drugs and alcohol can create significant addictions with dire consequences. We also need to be mindful of other addictions that can also cause great harm to self and others, especially if we decide as a society to take no action.