February 25, 2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Psychologist, Aric Sigman suggests that the use of social networking sites as opposed to face-to-face interaction could lead to major health problems. Dr. Sigman claimed in the British Journal, The Biologist, that spending too much time online could lead to social isolation, loneliness and a negative outlook. These types of psychological symptoms could eventually lead to more serious health concerns, such as heart disease, cancer and dementia.

Time that was previously spent interacting socially has increasingly been displaced by the virtual variety,” Sigman said in his article. “While the precise mechanisms underlying the association between social connection, morbidity and morality continue to be investigated, it is clear that this is a growing public health issue for all industrialized countries.

Internet psychology expert, Andrew Dillon, clearly believes that this is yet another new tool that is being used to create panic and predict the burden it may have on society; much like the criticism television has received over the years. Dillon attacks Sigman’s credibility and scientific methods, claiming that too much weight has been placed on evidence supporting his views, while purposely excluding information that might not support his claims. Of course, conclusions should always be drawn based on all evidence, for and against, however, if more evidence exists for a claim would one not be inclined to believe it?

I’m not sure where to stand in this debate, but I do know that I haven’t much faith in what Andrew Dillon has to offer after watching this video. He seems quick to criticize and incapable of supporting his own claims.

Sure, it seems plausible that in this day and age, people are spending more time online than in person and this could negatively impact our physical and mental health, but I would certainly need more convincing research to buy into the fact that it could lead to dementia or cancer.

Many studies exist that link internet use to mental health issues.
“After 1 to 2 years, increased use of the Internet was associated with decreased family communication and reduced size of local social circle. In addition, the participants experienced increased loneliness and depression. Increases in loneliness and decreases in social support were particularly pronounced for the youth.”

Conversely, there’s evidence suggesting that social networking online may have no effect and may even benefit individuals:
“The results show that the Internet was adopted sooner by individuals with high financial, human and social capital. Furthermore, the results suggest that Internet use is not associated with a reduction in respondents' networks or with the time they spent socializing with friends. Instead the findings suggest that the time users devote to the Internet is taken away from the time they spend on watching television.”

Despite the controversy, there is obviously a clear distinction between virtual and reality, but there is no conclusive evidence that suggests Facebook is neither harmful nor beneficial to one’s mental health at this point in time. I suppose, my humble opinion would be like anything else; all things in moderation.

An overview of Dr. Sigman’s findings can be read here.

Psychologist alleges that too much time online causes major health risks
Social Capital and the Internet: Evidence from Swiss Panel Data
The Relationship Of Internet Use To Depression And Social Isolation Among Adolescents

© www.mentalhealthblog.com

February 20, 2009

Friday, February 20, 2009
The current issue of The Journal of Pain has published a guideline to assist clinicians in prescribing opioid pain medications for patients experiencing chronic non-cancer pain.

“To create this guideline, researchers in the Oregon Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC) at Oregon Health & Science University collaborated with the APS and AAPM for two years, reviewing more than 8,000 published abstracts and nonpublished studies to assess clinical evidence on which the new recommendations are based”.

An extensive literature review revealed that much research is needed in this area; however conclusive evidence suggests that opioids are safe and effective for certain patients, if carefully monitored.

The guideline consists of 25 recommendations, some of which consider the growing concerns for opioid abuse and addiction. Opioids, such as oxycontin and morphine, have gradually become more commonly prescribed and accepted for treating various sorts of pain, including chronic low-back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia etc., whereas previously opioids were mainly used for treating pain related to post-op, cancer and death.

This new guideline insists that clinicians rule out other possible medications as treatment options before prescribing opioids. However, if it is determined that opioid medication is the ideal choice, clinicians are expected to “conduct a thorough medical history and examination and assess potential risk for substance abuse, misuse or addiction”.

It is shocking to learn that this hasn’t already been considered common practice and that a guideline had to be introduced in order to put this in place! It’s no wonder there has been such an increase in opioid abuse and misuse. Seriously, is this not a typical task for a medical doctor? It seems like a fairly important step in any type of treatment.

Subsequently, with this guideline it will ensure that clinicians “continuously assess patients on chronic opioid therapy by monitoring pain intensity, level of functioning and adherence to prescribed treatments. Periodic drug screens should be ordered for patients at risk for aberrant drug behavior”.

The American Pain Society and the American Academy of Pain Medicine have ensured that patients will be well monitored. To read more about other recommendations in this guideline regarding such topics as methadone use, high dosages, abusers, pregnancy, driving safety, and more, please view the following article: New Guideline For Prescribing Opioid Pain Drugs.

© www.mentalhealthblog.com

February 10, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009
The University of Georgia has published a study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology explaining that supportive parenting can actually counteract the effects of a genetic risk factor that increases the likelihood of substance use among youth. This long-term study examined how nature and nurture can influence the behaviour of youth with a genetic predisposition for substance abuse. “We found that involved and supportive parenting can completely override the effects of a genetic risk for substance abuse,” claims Professor Gene Brody.

The research focused on the 5HTT gene that transports serotonin in the brain. According to many studies, most people possess two copies of a long version of this gene, but the select few that possess one or two copies of a short version tend to be more likely to consume alcohol or other substances and partake in impulsive and risky behaviour.

Results were compiled over 4 years from interviews of 253 rural African-American families. Those with the long version of the 5HTT gene comprised of 60% of these youth. Obviously, the remaining 40% were plagued with the short version and a genetic risk factor for substance abuse. Evidently, substance use increased with age. Youth with the short version of the gene that received only minimal supportive parenting used at rate three times more than youth who had high levels of parental support. “In families that were characterized by strong relationships between children and their parents, the effect of the genetic risk was essentially zero” said UGA Institute for Behavioral Research director Steven Beach.

Regardless of the fact that parenting should already be supportive, knowing which version of the 5HTT gene your child possesses could be very helpful in preventing substance abuse. Spending more time with a child, providing emotional support or encouraging better communication seems like very minimal effort to ensure that possible substance abuse is avoided.

Genetic Risk For Substance Use Can Be Neutralized By Good Parenting

© www.mentalhealthblog.com

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