More money more problems? Rich teens and drugs

Teens raised in affluent homes display the highest rates of depression, anxiety, and drug abuse according to a recent article in Monitor on Psychology, the APA‘s monthly magazine.

One of our recent posts dealt with some of the issues unique to teens and drugs. In addition to the issues we’d already mentioned, the article named a number of reasons for the high prevalence of mental-health issues among affluent teens. Among them were an increasingly narcissistic society, overbearing parents, and an common attitude of perfectionism.

Each of these reasons are likely contributors to the prevalence of mental health and drug abuse issues among upper-middle-class (and above) teens. Still, as far as I’m concerned, the main take home message of the article is this:

Money truly doesn’t buy happiness – Rich teens and drug use.

While drug abuse research often focuses on the lower socioeconomic strata these recent findings indicate that being financially stable offers little in the way of protection from some of the most common psychological difficulties.

Thankfully, the researchers cited in the article gave some simple advice to parents:

  • Give children clear responsibilities to help around the house.
  • Take part in community service (to unite the family and reduce narcissism).
  • Reduce TV watching (especially of reality TV shows that glorify celebrity and excess).
  • Monitor internet use.
  • Stop obsessing about perfect grades and focus instead on the joy of learning for its own sake.

I couldn’t agree more with these recommendations. Having taught a number of classes myself, I have witnessed the ridiculous inflation in students’ expectations of top grades. I think it’s time we turned attention back to the family and reintroduce some of the basic skills that many addicts find themselves learning much too late… Often in recovery.

Amy Winehouse dead at 27 – Drug/alcohol overdose?

Amy Winehouse, the soulful singer with the amazing voice and the troubled drug and alcohol use history is dead at 27, according to London Police. Sadly, Amy Winehouse’s celebrity has for the past few years been tied more to her drug and alcohol use than to her music.

No one has reported on whether her death is directly related to drug or alcohol overdose but given Amy’s history with heroin, alcohol, crack, and other drugs, it would not be surprising. This is especially true given her recent cancellation of a European tour due to what seemed like serious drug and alcohol use issues that just didn’t allow her to perform.

This is a sad, sad, reminder that addiction and drug abuse can lead to tragic endings and hopefully will serve as a wake-up call to other addicts who may be close to a similar end but can find the courage and motivation to change in light of Amy’s death.

Body image and medicalization: Socially relevant behavioral “addictions” beyond drug use

We know that addiction can go beyond drug use, but are we becoming addicted to making our bodies perfect?

I put “addiction” in parentheses here because I think it’s important to distinguish substance-related addictions from behavioral ones. There’s no doubt that people’s behavior can become compulsive in the same way addicts become compulsive about using, but I’ve seen no evidence that behavioral addictions interfere with brain function in the way that cocaine, methamphetamine, and opiates alter actual brain mechanisms.

Still, this recent trend of obsessive plastic surgery is a dual-headed “addiction”, one that is both physical and social.  In many ways, people are now able to change aspects of their being that were once thought unalterable including their own physical appearances. To gain social acceptance, if you have money, you now have new tools!

This may also play a big role for those who are love addicted, at least if they have money… Continue reading “Body image and medicalization: Socially relevant behavioral “addictions” beyond drug use”

Anonymous No More: Jennie Ketcham and her sex addiction story

As part of our Anonymous No More series, we bring addiction stories of addicts who are in different stages of recovery and are willing to share their take with you without the veil of anonymity. The point is to once and for all humanize addiction, and addicts, and reduce the stigma of addiction as a condition that leaves people hopeless forever. Jennie Ketcham has already publicly shared some of her story with the world, and if her recovery from sex addiction isn’t an example of humanizing and de-stigmatizing the addict, I don’t know what is. From her humble beginnings, through her porn career, to her role on Dr. Drew’s show “Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew,” Jennie has been leaving her mark on this world for years. I know her story will leave a mark on you.

Jennie Ketcham – Sex Addiction is a slippery disease

Like in alcoholism or drug addiction, the sex addict must hit rock bottom before any change can be made. The biggest problem with this particular addiction is the intrinsically shame-based nature of the disease, with core issues making that first step into recovery the biggest and most difficult step one could ever take. To say, “I am a sex addict,” is to admit total and utter defeat in an arena that is most private and sacred.

My name is Jennie Ketcham, and I am a sex addict. My bottom line behavior, behavior I absolutely cannot participate in if I wish to lead a healthy and happy life, is compulsive masturbation, porn, sex with strangers, sex outside my committed relationship, selling sex for money, and sexualizing people, places and things when I feel uncomfortable. For most people, these behaviors are already unacceptable. For a sex addict however, it’s regular Tuesday night. I am 27 years old, my sexual sobriety date is April 6th, 2009, and I ended up in the program of recovery by mistake, but it was the best mistake I ever made. And believe me, I’ve made plenty.

Up to April 6th, 2009, I was a Porn Star. I’d been in the adult business since 2001, and had worked my way to the upper echelons of porn. By the time I quit, I was managing a webcam studio, directing and producing my own content, and working whenever I wanted. I had heard about Dr. Drew and his new rehab show, “Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew,” and thought it would be the perfect publicity stunt for my webcam studio. I figured if I could get national press, the studio would take off and I’d be able to retire a happy woman. This is the superficial line of thinking that led me to rehab. These are the reasons I actually needed to be there.

Jennie the sexually addicted porn star

When I lost my virginity at thirteen, I realized I have something boys want, and decided to use my sexuality as a means of getting what I want. From my first sexual experience to my last pre-recovery, I was detached, emotionless, and cruel: it was a power struggle and I wanted to win. However, it never appeared as such, always the actress, and I played my sexual exploits off as curiosity and apathy. I’d have sex because I was curious. I wouldn’t call them (him/her) again because I didn’t care. When I joined the porn business it felt like the perfect career. I could have sex with as many people as I wanted, and didn’t have to care about any of them. And they wouldn’t care about me. I’ve never been able to accept love, and this is one of my biggest problems.

I’ve been a compulsive cheater since my first boyfriend, have never been able to maintain a monogamous relationship, and never felt any guilt about my extra-curricular activities. The problem isn’t that I lacked a conscience, it’s that I never felt significant enough to make an impact on any one person’s life. When I joined the porn industry I was no longer required to be monogamous, as it was my job to have sex. It became harder and harder to care about anybody I had sex with, and if feelings of love did start, I’d shut the relationship down before I could destroy it with my behavior.

I’ve been a compulsive masturbator since I started performing in hardcore boy/girl scenes. I decided to train myself to orgasm to non-sexual things, and nearing the end of the behavior, found myself masturbating upwards of 6 hours every day I wasn’t working. At the time I thought I was bored. In recovery, I am able to see the underlying issues, and have found a solution that works for me.

Sex Rehab with Jennie Ketcham

In rehab with Dr. Drew, I was prohibited from masturbating, sexualizing, having sex, drinking, drugging, every numbing device I’d become accustomed to using. When the effects of these behaviors wore off, when my oxytocin levels started to even out, when the alcohol and marijuana drained from my system, I was left with uncomfortable feelings I couldn’t identify or process. With the help of trained specialists, I started to understand what was going on behind my compulsive, dangerous behavior, and with the program of recovery I’ve learned how to deal with life. I am powerless over compulsive sexual behavior, and my life had become unmanageable. I came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. I made a decision to turn my will and my life over to that power, and every day since has been better than before.

I was celibate for over nine months, trying to get back in touch with the Jennie pre-sex. I attend bi-weekly therapy sessions, and follow every direction given by either therapist or sponsor. I trust in the program of recovery, and have learned how to treat myself like the precious young woman I am. I have become a woman of grace and integrity, I have dreams that aren’t pornographic, and my first healthy committed relationship with a man I love. I have a relationship with my family, something that had fallen off in addiction, and am someone who does what she says she will do. There isn’t a single moment that goes by that I don’t worry about falling back into my destructive cycle, but now I have the tools necessary to live a healthy and productive life.

When I walked into rehab wanting publicity for my company, the joke was on me. I had accidentally walked into the first day of the rest of my life, and one minute in recovery is worth a thousand days in addiction. I am blessed through and through, and I take it one day at a time.

A final word on sex addiction recovery from Adi

You’ll notice that Jennie’s bottom-line behaviors are very far from the often stigmatized view of the sex-addict as a rapist, or pedophile. While there’s little doubt that there are sex addicts that fall into those categories, the vast majority of addict engage in activity that might, for others, be relatively benign but that has become compulsive in their own lives. My issues with sex addiction revolved around seeking sexual partners outside my marriage and migrated from my bedroom to online chat sites after I got caught cheating. What’s also very clear when reading about the recovery experienced by Jennie is that with the proper guidance, treatment, and time, addicts can go on to become fully functional in ways that many out there believe are nearly impossible. As Jennie mentioned in her reference to Oxytocin levels, a huge aspect of addiction recovery is letting the body reset, or at least attempt to re-establish, its  functioning to pre-addictive-behavior levels in the brain and elsewhere.

Jennie Ketcham used to live a life that left her unattached and cold, though for her, it didn’t seem like much was wrong until she saw the other side thanks to her stint on “Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew.” Most other addict’s aren’t very likely to end up on a reality show that specifically addresses their problem (though A&E’s intervention may help some of them), but the knowledge that others with similar problems have recovered and are living full productive lives that would have been unthinkable should give hope to every struggling addict. It’s what works in group therapy everywhere and what gets some people into treatment in the first place. By living her recovery without anonymity, Jennie is showing endless other addicts that life with addiction is possible. That’s what addiction stories do – they give hope.

Lindsay Lohan not drinking – cleared of false SCRAM bracelet alert

Here’s a little follow-up to last month’s post about Lindsay Lohan:

Lindsay Lohan’s SCRAM bracelet went off at an after party for the MTV Movie Awards on June 6, leading authorities to believe she had violated her probation and consumed alcohol.

Lindsay was ordered to come in at 10AM the next morning for a urine test. The results came back clean. She is still in full compliance with her probation and she continues to take court-ordered alcohol education classes. Linday’s next court hearing is scheduled for July 6th. Hopefully she can stay out of trouble until then. Violating her probation could land her up to 6 months in jail.

Addiction and the media – a stigma made in heaven

The sad truth is media outlets jump at the chance to make celebrities look bad. Celebrity addiction is usually brought up when someone gets arrested, checks into rehab, or overdoses. As a result, many people find it hard to believe that celebrities can stay sober. In the case of Lindsay Lohan, all sorts of rumors are flying around that she tampered with her SCRAM bracelet or that she paid off the testing lab.

Celebrities don’t always mess up. We just don’t get to see it when they succeed. To paint a more balanced picture of celebrity addiction, we will be featuring posts about famous individuals who have been able to overcome their addiction to drugs. Look for these in the weeks to come!

Contributing co-author: Andrew Chen

Is anonymity the final shame frontier in addiction?

I’m a drug addict and a sex addict, and as far as I’m concerned, staying anonymous let’s me remain buried in shame, and a double life, that keeps me always one step ahead of those close to me. Did I say too much? Did I give away my secrets? None of those  questions matter when everyone knows everything there is to know about you. For a disease couched in anxiety, obsessions, and compulsive behavior, there’s very little that can be more triggering.

The difficulty of confessing addiction

Obviously I’m not naive to the consequences of confessing to others, and I’ve had a few very uncomfortable conversations that ended in people losing my number or superiors telling me they didn’t need to know. When it comes to the former, it’s their choice, and it might be a wise one, but having those who stay close to me know my truths keeps me safe by making me accountable and protects others from being hurt. And I can hurt with the best of them. Maybe that’s why when it comes to physician treated addicted physicians, there are no secrets, no anonymity, the family and employers are made part of the process. Some notable addiction providers (like Journey Healing Centers and others) have programs that explicitly involve the family in the treatment process as well. Getting the secrets out works to break away from the shame.

We’re only as sick as our secrets, even together

On an organizational level, I understand the need for anonymity to avoid having any specific member represent the group. But that logic only holds when everyone is told to remain anonymous. Otherwise, the entire group represents itself, which is, if nothing else, truthful. If one person slips, relapses, or goes into a homicidal rampage, it only makes the rest of us look bad if no one knows that millions others are “the rest of us.”

Over and over I hear people talk about the secret of their addiction and the lies they have to tell to cover up their shameful acts. Unfortunately, that only contributes to the stigma of addicts and makes it all the more difficult  to get some perspective on the actual problem: We do things we don’t want to over and over regardless of how much they hurt us or those around us

If you’ve read anything on this site, you know that I believe in many factors that contribute to addiction, including biology, environment, experience, and their interactions. Still, when it comes down to it, the misunderstanding of addiction is often our number one problem. And anonymity does nothing to reduce that misunderstanding.

How we can make a difference

Media portrayals only exacerbate the problem as they show us stories of addicted celebrities who are struggling but then leave the story behind before any recovery occurs. That way we only get to see the carnage but have to look pretty hard to see anything more.

But we can change all this with a small, courageous, action. We can let those around us know that we’re addicts, that we’re doing our best to stop our compulsive behavior and that we want them to hold us accountable. If we slip, we can get back up because we don’t compound the shame of a relapse with lies we tell, and those around us know that even a relapse can be overcome because they’ve seen those examples over and over in all the other “confessed” addicts around.

It’s time to leave the addiction “closet” and start living. We may not be able to change who we are easily, but we can change the way we go about living and make it easier on ourselves and on others. By breaking our anonymity, we can help assuage our own shame and let everyone know that addiction is everywhere and that it can be successfully overcome.

Just a thought…

They do it in the movies!!! Smoking, teens, and being cool

Contributing co-author: Jamie Felzer

Celebrities get their fair share of flack for inappropriate behavior on screen. Only recently, research regarding the effects of onscreen violence, even in cartoons, making youngsters act more aggressively made some serious noise.

So what about smoking? If kids see their favorite stars smoking cigarettes in films, would they be more inclined to light up as well?

Smoking, movies, and research

A recent study revealed that adolescents in 4th to 9th grade of all backgrounds and ethnicities are in fact more likely to smoke after watching such movies. However, it wasn’t simply watching the movies that increased the likelihood of smoking. The researchers found that if a teen viewed movies where any type of smoking was present their expectancies about smoking became more positive and they were more likely to try it themselves.

teen-smokingTeens see their idolized movie stars looking relaxed and satisfied after smoking so they believe the same effects (physically and emotionally) will happen to them as well. Many movies portray smoking in a social setting, so they assume that with smoking comes the positive social setting. Parents also may not realize that their own smoking effectively promotes the behavior (I’d mentioned this sort of effect with drinking in this post).

Targeting movies for teens

The type of movies that contain many smoking scenes may appeal to youngsters who are already predisposed to smoking; such as those who were older, male, more rebellious, sensation seeking or who had low self-esteem. There were also gender-based differences: females were more likely to begin smoking if their peers did whereas parental smoking status mattered less to females.

The participants were asked to answer the same questions 8 months after the initial interview date. Over time, smoking expectancies became more positive. Whether this had to do with participants aging, peer influence or the viewing of more movies involving smoking scenes is unclear.

One result was cleara higher number of movies with smoking scenes increased the likelihood of teens lighting up because it planted the seed in these young minds that smoking was pleasurable and the it has physical, as well as social benefits. Though the research didn’t look into other behaviors, it wouldn’t surprise me if the same process also affects teens’ likelihood of starting to do other drugs and engage in other negative, and positive, acts.

Maybe it’s time to show the other side of smoking: morning coughing, yellowing teeth, and long, often cold trips to the street.

Citation:

Wills, Sargent, Stoolmiller, Gibbons, and Gerrard (2008). Movie smoking exposure and smoking onset: A longitudinal study of mediation processes in a representative sample of U.S. adolescents. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 22, 269-277.