The Other “Opioid” Crisis … Electronic Soma

Over the past few years, there’s been a continual concern about the growing pharmaceutical “opioid crisis,” and there’s no doubt that it is a severe and continuing problem. But a significant part of the problem lies in the fact that there are essentially no non-addictive pharmaceutical products to deal with severe pain. Given this basic fact, which seems to be willfully ignored by crusaders who seem intent on condemning sufferers to live with a life of severe pain, and which results in increasing suicide rates, as I’ve noted earlier, I don’t see much progress in resolving the pharmaceutical opioid crisis until better non-addictive methods to alleviate severe pain are developed because, at present, either prescribing or not-prescribing opioids for severe and continuing pain causes “excess deaths.”

But there is another “opioid” crisis which is continuing to develop, particularly among younger people. That’s the electronic opioid/drug of social media among teenagers and young adults. Teenagers now spend an average of 7.4 hours a day looking at screens, and one in four check their social media at least hourly. Some try to check social media every few minutes, according to my wife the professor, now that the university has banned confiscation of cell phones [just for the class period] from problem users.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), teens who spend over three hours daily on social media are at high risk of mental issues. A number of other studies have established that social media is addictive in the same way as gambling or other recognized addictions. Facebook’s own internal documents acknowledge that 8 to 12 percent of its customers are ‘problem users.’

A recent study conducted by the University of Southern California and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that students without previous attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who then engaged in high levels of social media use were 53% more likely to experience ADHD symptoms for the first time.

Anxiety, depression, self-harm, and teen suicide risen significantly since 2009, the same year social media platforms became widely available on mobile devices, and suicide is the second leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 10 and 24. The suicide rate for those aged 10 to 24 increased nearly 60% since 2008, and the increase has been 151% among girls aged 10-14, which is hardly surprising since cyberbullying is among the prime reasons for suicide attempts.

So… we have an addictive electronic social media network/system, which, with all its components, reduces the ability of users to concentrate on anything at length, enables cyberbullying, worsens existing mental problems, and appears to be the primary cause of a rising suicide rate among young Americans. Yet this crisis isn’t getting anywhere near the emphasis of the pharmaceutical opioid crisis.

6 thoughts on “The Other “Opioid” Crisis … Electronic Soma”

  1. Postagoras says:

    Hmmm. The study showed that “teens who spend over three hours daily on social media are at high risk of mental issues”, but is this correlation, or causation? Is the social media use generating mental issues, or is that teens with underlying mental issues can end up using social media for hours and hours?

    The lead author of the study, Kira Riehm, said We cannot conclude that social media causes mental health problems, but we do think that less time on social media may be better for teens’ health.

    This reminds me of when Rescalyn said to Quaeryt, “You’re being careful in a scholarly way.” Riehm’s statement takes the study from being a scary warning, to just some nebulous good advice.

    For both opioids and social media, we certainly need to be aware of the danger of addiction. Doctors now have better guidance about the dangers of opioids, and will not be writing prescriptions for pharmacists to hand out a month’s worth of an opioid.

    Kara Riehm’s statement about her own study says to me that your association of social media and the host of bad outcomes is more correlation than causation. It seems to me that these bad outcomes are the result of more than one factor.

    I’m not saying that cyberbullying doesn’t exist. It does. But it’s only part of the mosaic. As the parent of a teen, I can report that kids nowadays don’t go out like they used to. They don’t go to the mall, because why would you? Plus, they’re always connected in a way that wasn’t possible a generation ago. Is this all good, or all bad? Nope. It’s some of both.

  2. Tom says:

    … outcomes are the result of more than one factor.

    Very true. Bring any two or more humans together and one automatically has achieved diversity. More than one individual facing the same problem, even in the same environment, would likely arrive at a different outcome.

    Rheim was being scientifically correct but then the study should have been set to attempt to answer the question of cause or association. ADHD is difficult to diagnosis: the electronic soma whether in the form of TV or Smart Phone would have associated attention stressors and accentuation of a trait should bring out a disease or disorder.

    Similarly, doctors already knew about addiction and specifically addiction with exposure of patients to opioids. Thus, if they were writing out uncontrolled prescriptions for opioids there was more than one factor involved in those decisions. Although we humans have not changed much, factors due to changes in culture may be changing the prescribing habits of doctors and our addictions as patients.

  3. Frank Kennedy says:

    The problem I see is that these platforms were designed to be addictive. To hold your attention. To keep you focused on their platform.

    That’s the problem.

    1. Tom says:

      I have no problem with a chemical being addictive but I do have a problem with a blog, internet site, or other platform being addictive (OK so I have read all the LEM books and hunted his short stories but I have not started shaking in anticipation of Councilor … yet)

      Is there a reference where digital platforms have produced addiction-like symptoms?

      1. Tim says:

        From memory I believe that gaming machine addiction amongst young Japanese was raised in a documentary. The gaming apps allow multilayer interaction in real time which is arguably more addictive than de-coupled social media posts.

        It was reported here in 2019 ..

        1. Tom says:

          Some memory Tim! Very impressive addiction outcomes.

          If I were younger the games I would like to compete on are the virtual drone races. The competition would be the key to my addiction. The article does not get down to the causation but there is no question about the results.

          Apart from Competition for the on line real time games and the Keeping up with the Joneses for the social media, do you know of any other hooks for people from the electronic platforms? Are they built in somehow?

          Results appear to be the same as for drugs in the way of suicides and crime for money to continue playing plus the loss of attention spans which affects all aspects of our lives.

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