Entries in Addiction (25)


New York City Woman Addicted to Eating Deodorant

Courtesy TLC(NEW YORK) -- For Nicole, a 19-year-old from New York City, life revolves around her addiction -- she eats deodorant, about a half a stick a day.

"When I wake up in the morning, I want deodorant; after each meal, I eat deodorant; when I get stressed out, I eat deodorant; in the middle of the night when I wake up out of a sleep, I want deodorant," Nicole said on a TLC show that aired recently, My Strange Addiction.

Nicole said that she first started eating deodorant when she was 4 years old, but the habit escalated two years ago into a full-blown addiction.

She takes the cap, scoops a solid, waxy taste from the deodorant stick, and swallows it.  She said she prefers certain "rich-tasting" brands over others.

Nicole did not want to speak to press about her craving for deodorant, but there have clearly been health consequences, including stomach cramps, and her doctor has expressed concerns.

"It gets really sore and my mouth gets really dry," she says on the show.  "But at the same time my mouth is watering because I am craving it.  I take deodorant everywhere I go."

Deodorant contains aluminum, which her doctor tells her can cause dementia, seizures or even death.  But the physical worries are only part of the problem.

"Nicole has a process addiction," according to Mike Dow, author of Diet Rehab and TLC's psychologist consultant.

"Many of them fall under the umbrella of impulse control disorders, and some may have elements of OCD, depression and anxiety," he said.  "There's no diagnostic billing code for many of these strange addictions."

They can be as powerful as compulsive addictions to shopping and to gambling, Dow said.

"My brain tells me, 'You have to eat it,'" says Nicole.  "I tried giving it up for a week but got really sick and I bad headaches. ... When I realize I'm out of deodorant I panic.  My anxiety goes crazy and I get really aggravated.  Without it, I'd be a totally different person."

Dow said eating deodorant isn't going to kill Nicole "as fast as heroin."

"But ingesting chemicals and preservatives over the long-term may lead to increased risk of cancer or other digestive disorders," he said.  "These addicts often need a wake up call to be confronted with the consequences of their behavior which often helps them to create change."

When people turn to non-food materials, the condition is known as pica.  Those eating drywall or toilet paper may have the craving based on a mineral deficiency.  But sometimes the behavior then evolves into a way to "self-soothe and manage anxiety," said Dow.

Pica is seen more frequently in young children, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  An estimated 10 to 32 percent of children aged 1 to 6 have these behaviors.  The name pica means "magpie" -- Latin for the bird who will eat anything.

Animal feces, clay, ice, paint, sand and hairballs have also been reported, according to NIH.  To fit the diagnosis of pica, the patient must have ingested it for at least a month.

Pregnant women can sometimes have odd cravings for non-food objects, such as ashes, laundry starch, hair, coffee grounds, even cigarette butts.

In adulthood, these unusual cravings can be triggered by lack of certain nutrients, such as iron or zinc.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Adderall Use on the Rise for Mothers

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- All over America, moms are turning to the prescription drug Adderall for relief. Adderall is a drug for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but these women don't have ADHD; they say they need Adderall to be better mothers.

Between 2002 and 2010, there's been a 750 percent increase in Adderall prescriptions for women between 26 and 39.  Critics say clearly not all of these women need the drug for ADHD.

ABC News spoke with Betsy Degree from suburban Minneapolis, who started taking the prescription drug to keep up with the demands of being a mother of four.

"I grew up in a house where my mom was very neat," she said.  "Everything was really clean, beautiful dinners every night and that didn't come naturally for me."

Several years ago, one of Degree's children was prescribed Adderall, a central nervous system stimulant, for ADHD.  In a moment of desperation she stole a pill from her own child and the addiction was almost immediate.

"I was able to get all the stuff done around the house," Degree said.  "I was able to cook the dinner and have everything perfect."

Degree tells ABC News she felt like supermom and would stay up until 3 a.m. doing loads of laundry.  She says she thought she'd only take it once.

"I couldn't stop," she said.  "I could not stop taking them.  I'd say I'm just going to take them one more time."

When she ran out she resorted to tricking the family doctor into writing more prescriptions.

"I would call and say we lost them.  I would call and say that dose isn't right so can we try a different dose," said Degree.  "[I was trying] every trick in the book."

Addiction doctors say the situation is getting out of control.

"This is a significant problem," said Dr. Marvin Seppala, chief medical officer at Hazelden, an addiction treatment facility.  "We've got an increase in women using drugs like Adderall ending up in our treatment programs. ... We know from a medical perspective it's dangerous and can cause seizures, strokes, heart attacks, even death."

Adderall sent Degree, who admits she struggled with addiction issues all of her life, down a dangerous path.  When she decided she could no longer fool her doctor she switched from Adderall to meth.  She lost her business and she says she nearly lost her kids.

She is now clean and has this simple advice for any mom considering taking Adderall, "don't."

"It's pretty addictive," said Degree.  "It can happen to anybody."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Weight-Loss Surgery Increases Risk of Alcohol Addiction

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(PITTSBURGH) -- Having Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery, where the size of the stomach is reduced and the intestine is shortened, thus limiting how much a person can eat, can increase the risk of alcohol-use disorders, new research suggests.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, adds to mounting evidence of a link between having the popular gastric bypass surgery and the symptoms of alcohol-use disorders.

Before the surgery, the nearly 2,000 study participants completed a survey developed by the World Health Organization that is used to identify symptoms of alcohol abuse.

The patients then completed the survey one and two years after their weight-loss surgery.  The study found that 7 percent of patients who had gastric bypass reported symptoms of alcohol use disorders prior to surgery.  The second year after surgery, 10.7 percent of patients were reporting symptoms.

The findings were published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"There have been previous studies that show there is a change in alcohol sensitivity in gastric bypass," said Wendy King, a research assistant professor in the department of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and the study's lead author.

King's study is the first to show that with this increased sensitivity there is also an increased risk of alcohol use disorders (AUD), the term used to describe alcohol abuse and dependence.

Dr. Mitchell Roslin, a bariatric surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said the link between gastric bypass surgery and increased alcohol use has been attributed before to the shifting addiction theory and that this is false. The shifting addiction theory is that if a person has an impulsive drive to eat and the ability to eat large amounts of food is taken away, then he will shift his addiction to another addictive substance, like drugs or alcohol.

"A gastric bypass patient has a small pouch [for a stomach] so alcohol goes straight into the intestine and is absorbed rapidly," said Roslin. "When it is absorbed rapidly, there is a high peak and rapid fall." The higher absorption rate makes alcohol more addictive, he added.

The study also found that the increase in alcohol-use disorders was not seen until the second post-operative year as opposed to the first year after surgery.

"This emphasizes that continuing education about alcohol use is needed until the second year after surgery.  With follow up [patients] need to hear about consumption and what is appropriate," said King.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Alzheimer's Drug Curbs Compulsive Buying in Shopaholics

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(MINNEAPOLIS) -- A drug used to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease may curb compulsive buying in shopaholics, a new study found.

The drug, called memantine, helps people with Alzheimer's disease think more clearly by reducing overactivity in the brain.  But it also eases impulsivity, a trait tied to rash decisions and impractical purchases.

"In a way, compulsive buying is similar to other addictions in that people are thinking about the immediacy of the reward without considering the consequences," said study author Dr. Jon Grant, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.  "We asked: Could we use a medication to essentially enhance decision-making as a way to help them with their behavior?"

Grant and colleagues recruited eight compulsive buyers, all women, to take memantine for 10 weeks, and used cognitive tests and surveys to track impulsive thoughts and spending.  In the end, they found significant reductions in both.

"People with compulsive spending don't think through the full range of consequences of their behavior, and that improved with this medication," said Grant.

The study, published in the May issue of Annals of Clinical Psychiatry, gives hope to an estimated six percent of Americans who struggle with the euphoric highs and guilt-ridden lows of compulsive buying.

"It can interfere with people's jobs, their marriages," said Grant, describing how compulsive buyers squander their savings and invent lies to explain their actions.  "All of this leads to incredible personal distress.  A person might feel depressed and even suicidal because they don't know how to control their behavior and feel bad about being dishonest."

Despite being widely recognized as a disorder on par with alcoholism or gambling addiction, compulsive buying is not listed in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and there is no standard treatment.

"There is some evidence that cognitive behavioral therapy can benefit people with this problem," said Grant, describing the psychotherapeutic technique that aims to replace dysfunctional behaviors with healthier habits.  "Antidepressants have also been tried but were largely unsuccessful.  But this study represents at least a possible pharmacological approach."

Before memantine can be approved for the treatment of compulsive shopping, it has to be tested against a placebo in clinical trials, said Grant, adding that the drug is also being tested in other impulse disorders, including alcoholism and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Is the Internet Driving Porn Addiction Among School-Aged Kids?

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Nathan Haug is an upstanding high school student, on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout.  He has a high GPA, serves on the student council and swims competitively.  But Haug had a secret he kept hidden from his family and friends during his early teen years -- he suffered from an addiction to online pornography.

This 17-year-old from Alpine, Utah, is one of eight children, and one of the oldest still living at home.  He said his habit of looking at pornography on the Internet started when he was around 12 or 13 years old.

"It was kind of there, uninterrupted," he said.  "I became almost numb to it.  It became such a part of, pretty much my daily routine.  It was automatic."

And Haug is far from alone.  There is still little research on how many U.S. kids are addicted to online pornography, but a University of New Hampshire study reports exposure begins young -- for some, as young as 8 years old.

Of course, pornography isn't new.  But it's a quantum leap from a world where pornography came in magazines and on tape, to where it's available on our smartphones and tablets -- or at the click of a mouse.

The warning signs for those who become addicted may include depression, poor school performance, self-isolation and lying.

While the American Psychological Association has not yet classified pornography as a listed addiction, some professionals working in the field are treating it as such.  Psychotherapist Matt Bulkley in Saint George, Utah, treats teenagers exclusively, some of whom have committed sexual offenses and some who are just hooked.

"A lot of times the pornography becomes a coping style," Bulkley said.  "It becomes a way that they deal with negative emotions in their life, pornography provides a euphoria.  It provides a high, of sorts."

Bulkley estimated that in the next five to 10 years, as the next generation moves into adolescence, online pornography addiction will become an epidemic.

Some studies show that seven out of 10 teens have been accidentally exposed to pornography online.  Boys are more likely to view it, but more girls are getting hooked too.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Internet Addiction Linked to Drug Abuse, Study Finds

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(THESSALONIKI, Greece) -- Parents already panicky about the amount of time their teenage children spend online may now have something new to worry about: all those hours spent Web surfing, chatting, gaming, texting and posting to Facebook could be a warning sign of substance abuse, according to a new study in the March issue of the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

Greek researchers found that teenagers with “pathologic” Internet use were more likely to admit to drug abuse, and as excessive Internet use increased, so did the likelihood of substance abuse.  The study also linked substance abuse and excessive Internet use to such personality traits as nonconformity, aggressiveness, recklessness and impulsiveness.

“Not only did we find that specific personality attributes were important in both substance abuse and Internet addiction, but that Internet addiction remained an important predictor of substance abuse,” study co-author Georgios Floros, at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, said in an email to ABC News.

Floros and colleagues surveyed 1,271 students between the ages of 14 and 19 on the Aegean island of Kos about their Internet use, substance use and personality.  To determine who was “Internet addicted,” the researchers administered a 20-question “Internet addiction test” that asked how often the students stayed online longer than they’d intended, how often their grades or studies slipped because of the amount of time spent online, and how often they’d “yell, snap or act annoyed” if someone bothered them while they were online.

When they compared the mean values of “illicit substance abuse” among the teenage participants, the researchers found that those who reported substance abuse had “significantly” higher mean scores on the Internet addiction test, and that those scores were important predictors for substance use, either past or present.

“The predictive element showed an interesting new finding,” said Floros.

“It’s not a shocking result to me,” David Greenfield, a Connecticut psychologist and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, told ABC News.  “The study offers another set of variables to look at when doing a workup.”

Dr. Megan Moreno, a pediatric and adolescent medicine specialist at UW Health in Madison, Wis., said, “I’ve definitely seen kids who showed signs of problematic Internet use.  Some of them do go on to have other problem behaviors.  Sometimes that’s substance abuse, sometimes it’s other addictive behaviors, like excess exercise or excess shopping.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Cravings for Ice Cream Similar to Those of Drug Addicts, Study Finds

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(EUGENE, Ore.) -- Cravings for ice cream can be just as strong to those urges experienced by drug addicts, according to a new study.

Research published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those who regularly eat ice cream needed more and more of the cold stuff to get the same "high."  This effect is similar to those who use cocaine and other class-A drugs.

More than 150 teenagers between the ages of 14 and 16 took part in the study, which required them to scarf down chocolate milkshakes before being interviewed about eating habits and cravings.  Teens also had their brains scanned while looking at ice cream.

This new research supports the previous claim that junk food can become addictive.  According to Oregon Research Institute's Dr. Kyle Burger, a co-author of the study, the brain responds in a certain pattern to high fat and sugar.

"This down-regulation pattern is seen with frequent drug use, where the more an individual uses the drug, the less reward they receive for using it.  This tolerance is thought to increase use, or eating, because the individual [is] trying to achieve the previous level of satisfaction," Dr. Burger told The Telegraph.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


We All Scream for Ice Cream, But Can We Become Addicted?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(EUGENE, Wash.) -- There are people who say that for them, food is like a drug, and a new study suggests that high-calorie foods like ice cream can affect the brain in some of the ways drugs do.

Researchers Kyle Burger and Eric Stice of the Oregon Research Institute in Eugene tested whether eating ice cream very often would lead the brain to require more and more of it before sending signals that it's an enjoyable treat.

They surveyed 151 adolescents who were a healthy weight about their food cravings, and then scanned their brains while showing them images of a chocolate milkshake to determine how strong their cravings were. The researchers also measured brain activity when the subjects drank a tasteless liquid as a comparison. The teenagers were then fed actual milkshakes.

The participants who reported eating more ice cream over the previous two weeks enjoyed the shakes less -- at least according to the brain scans. The scans showed less stimulation in the area of the brain associated with reward.

The experiment, the authors wrote, show that frequently eating ice cream "is related to a reduction in reward-region responsivity in humans, paralleling the tolerance observed in drug addiction."

The notion that food can be physically addicting is a controversial one. Researchers are divided.

"I think ice cream use is like a drug in that it can become a strong reward for some people," said Dr. John Hughes, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont in Burlington, who was not involved in the Oregon study. But, he added, "not all strong rewards are addictive."

True addiction, he said, is characterized by tolerance, withdrawal and loss of control over use. Ice cream does not have these effects on people.

Dr. Bob Gwyther, a professor of family medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, disagreed.

"Addicts exhibit behaviors that are harmful to themselves (and they know it), yet they continue to engage in the behavior," he said in an email to ABC News. "Picture someone standing in front of the refrigerator with a pint of ice cream, eating the entire carton, despite the fact that they are obese, diabetic or whatever."

Gwyther said many of his patients have tearfully described times when they gulped ice cream, knowing it was unhealthy but unable to stop their behavior.

While Burger and Stice's study does not go so far as to say that ice cream is addictive, they said they hope their findings can contribute to the understanding of how the brain's reward centers function, and how they are linked to obesity.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Baseball MVP Admits to Addiction Relapse

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images(DALLAS) -- Texas Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton, the 2010 American League MVP who has battled alcohol and drug addictions for over a decade, admitted Friday he relapsed and had several drinks on Monday night.

In a press conference, Hamilton, 30, said while dealing with personal issues, he went to a Dallas restaurant and in a “weak moment,” had about three or four drinks.

Teammate Ian Kinsler joined him later and the two left and eventually went to another restaurant across the street. Kinsler drove Hamilton home and asked Hamilton if he was planning to go back out. Hamilton said he wasn’t planning to go anywhere.

But, the All-Star confessed, he ended up back at the same restaurant he and Kinsler visited earlier.

“It was just wrong. That’s what it comes down to,” Hamilton said.  “I needed to be responsible at that moment.”

He later reported the incident to the team and to Major League Baseball and underwent two drug tests.

Hamilton said he plans to meet with the league’s doctors in New York in the next few days, and stressed he is serious about staying clean and sober.

“I cannot take a break from my recovery. My recovery is an everyday process.”

The relapse is not Hamilton’s first. In August 2009, Hamilton was photographed drinking in a bar in Tempe, Ariz., which he said was the first drink he had since he vowed to stay sober in October 2005.

Dr. David Sack, chief executive officer of Promises Treatment Centers in Los Angeles and Malibu, said stumbles like Hamilton’s are pretty common on an addict’s road to recovery.

“Most people who achieve long-term sobriety have failed multiple times before they’ve succeeded,” Sack told ABC News. “But an athlete has strong motivation to keep pursuing treatment because their livelihood and career depend on it. In our experience, they do remarkably well with treatment.”

Hamilton has gotten significant support from baseball management and his teammates in his efforts to stay alcohol-free. His teammates stopped drinking in front of him, even shielding him from the smell of alcohol. The 2011 American League champion team’s postseason celebrations eschewed the traditional champagne showers for ginger ale and water.

ESPN reported that the Texas Rangers are working to get Hamilton recovery-related support, which Sack said may include a combination of addiction medications like Naltrexone and individual therapy to explore what factors triggered his alcohol relapse.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Addiction to Salt Starts at an Early Age, Study Finds

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- If you were exposed to treats rich in sodium during your infancy, chances are that's where your lifelong addiction to salty foods came from.

A new study from the Monell Center found that kids who started nibbling on starchy table foods at the age of six months seem to enjoy these salty treats more than babies who were steered away from them. Results of a preference test showed that children who had been exposed to starchy foods ate 55 percent more salt than infants who hadn't been exposed to them yet.

The strong role of early dietary experience was also evident in preschool, according to the researchers, as the kids who were turned on to salty foods were also more inclined to use plain salt than their contemporaries who didn't eat starchy treats.

Lead author Leslie J. Stein, Ph.D., a physiological psychologist at Monell, concluded, "More and more evidence is showing us that the first months of life constitute a sensitive period for shaping flavor preferences.  In light of the health consequences of excess sodium intake, we asked if the effect of early experience extended to salt."

Health experts have been trying to wean Americans off of salt for years, arguing that reducting intake would save 100,000 lives annually, not to mention billions in medical costs, since sodium is linked to hypertension, a major cause of heart attack and stroke.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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