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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Addiction

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How choice justification distorts our view of reality

Photo: Markus Gann/EyeEm/Getty Images

It’s 3 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. You’ve had a hard day and still have a long list of “to-dos” to tackle before it ends and need something to help you relax and get through. A glass of wine or a beer should do the trick. You’re working from home, so no big deal. In fact, you deserve this, right?


Not enough alcoholics are educated about this

Image: VSRao/Pixabay

My father died of alcoholic liver cirrhosis four years ago. It came as a surprise to all of us, even though it was clear he had a severe drinking problem for decades. It was especially surprising to me, as a former nurse and a recovering alcoholic. You would think I’d know more about liver problems and alcohol use than the average person. But the truth is, in the months before his death, I had no idea my father’s liver was struggling at all. …


Experts say widespread self-isolation and an unaffected supply of drugs and alcohol put many in recovery at risk of using again

Illustration: Sophi Gullbrants

Bob, from Long Island, is 34 and has spent more than a decade in a tug of war with addiction and mental illness. Periods of detox and treatment, he said, alternate with downward spirals into alcohol, cocaine, opiate, codeine, and hallucinogenic drug use and, more than once, attempted suicide.


‘Although I probably wasn’t fully aware at the time, I was embedded into my mother’s recovery as much as she was’

Photo: Thomas Tolstrup/Getty Images

Growing up, my relationship with my mother was not a seamless one-shot take, but a montage of different clips. Certain scenes were in Memphis, Tennessee, jumping from house to house for reasons I was unaware of at the time. Small flashbacks of finding airplane bottles of whiskey, vodka, and gin hiding amongst my stored baby clothes stick out to me. A number of clips take place in Southern California, visiting her at the Betty Ford Clinic and staying with her in a cluttered rental apartment.


In managed alcohol programs, booze is doled out in doses, saving lives in the process

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On the morning of October 1, 1998, Vernon Crow’s body, surrounded by empty bottles of cheap cooking alcohol, was found frozen to death on a street in Toronto, Ontario. While it’s not uncommon for people to freeze on the streets today, throughout the 1990s, so many folks succumbed to the cold that a street nurse described it at the time as being “like a slaughter.”


Illustration: Matija Medved

Optimize Me

Avoiding pleasurable activities to reset the brain’s ‘reward chemical’ sounds great. Too bad that’s not how dopamine works.

Welcome to Optimize Me, a new Elemental column exploring (and fact-checking) the weirdest self-improvement trends.


Love is an addiction, as far as your brain is concerned. Here are ways to make the withdrawal less painful.

Photo: Obradovic/E+/Getty Images

In the throes of heartache, finding your way back to joy can seem impossible. However, the secret to getting there faster may be in taking control of your neurotransmitters — the brain chemicals that allow your brain cells to send signals and communicate with one another.


The addictive drug can boost your cognition and won’t give you cancer, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe for casual use

Illustration: George Wylesol

Everyone is talking about the potential harms of vaping, and for good reason. One in four high schoolers report having used an e-cigarette in the past month, a 135% increase from just two years ago. Even more concerning, at least 42 people have died and thousands more have fallen ill from using faulty vape pens, although in most of those cases people were consuming THC.


Taking care of a child and treating a substance use disorder puts parents in recovery on double duty

Karli (left), a character introduced by Sesame Street in 2019, has a parent in recovery. Photo credit: Zach Hyman/Sesame Workshop

At six months pregnant, I sat on the terrazzo floor of my Miami apartment, packing up the last of my books and trinkets. My parents begged me to leave my boyfriend and drive alone to Boston. He was struggling in his recovery from a substance use disorder and the fallout was intense.


Shaking off its reputation as a nasty club drug, K is being shown to have instant success treating depression

Photo by Thư Anh on Unsplash

I was first introduced to ketamine’s exploding popularity at the incomparable Glastonbury Music Festival in June 2003. This was my first summer in the U.K. (I grew up in Toronto—painfully wholesome by comparison.) On the hectic festival party scene, K was the new kid on the block — exotic, potent, and more than a little odd. Ecstasy had been the drug of choice in the ’90s, LSD felt like a relic from the ’60s, and mushrooms were as old as the hills. …

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