• Is Pro Football More Dangerous Than Substance Use?

    Posted on February 9, 2024
    By Tom Horvath, PhD Stanton Peele suggested this idea in one of his recent blogs. As we await Super Bowl Sunday (2/11/24) the question seems worth re-visiting. It would require a careful analysis of outcomes from pro football and substance use to provide an accurate comparison. The data about substance problems is easy to find. Pro football’s data is harder to find, but generally we know that playing football can result in concussions, broken bones, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and other injuries. For further details search for the NFL concussion settlement. However, it seems unlikely than an accurate comparison between pro football and substance use will occur because professional football is popular, and substance use seems to be unpopular. We often condemn substance ...
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  • Coping with Boredom

    Posted on December 7, 2023
    By Tom Horvath, PhD Boredom is the perception of being under-stimulated. We all have optimal levels of stimulation (some generally want more, some generally less). Whatever your level, when you are not getting enough, you are bored (and when over-stimulated, you may be stressed). Boredom is often considered an undesirable state. However, let’s start with its advantages. If not much is going on in your immediate world, you have time to consider the larger context of your life. It is easy to lose track of what is more important than day-to-day and moment-to-moment issues. If bored you have a moment to consider what is important, rather than just immediate or urgent. When feeling bored you might say, “I’m glad nothing is pressing on me at the moment; I can think about the bigger p...
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  • What is "Recovery?"

    Posted on November 2, 2023
    By Tom Horvath, PhD A recent scientific paper analyzed the responses from nearly 10K individuals who identify themselves as “in recovery” from substance problems. In recent years the addiction recovery field has been considering how to define “recovery.” Five major organizations have offered definitions or attempts at definitions. However, there is not much data on this issue. Two previous studies have looked at how individuals in recovery define it. The present study is an advance because it identified 30 sub-groups, based on socio-demographics, substance use problems, and help-seeking history. Each sub-group was analyzed for which components of a recovery definition might be common for that sub-group. The second study had averaged all subjects together, thus losing some of the diff...
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  • Nixon, Reagan, and the War on Drugs

    Posted on September 28, 2023
    By Kenneth Anderson All too often I hear people erroneously lay the blame for the current war on drugs on Nixon; however, this is historically inaccurate. The focus of Nixon's war on drugs was treatment, and under Nixon, the harsh drug laws of the 1950s were eased. Ronald Reagan was the true architect of the evil known as today's war on drugs. Let's start by looking at some historical background. The US Rise of Substance Use There was an explosive growth in the use of marijuana from 1967 to 1979, with LSD bringing up the rear. Although marijuana and LSD were promoted in the early 1960s by both Timothy Leary at Harvard and Ken Kesey at his ranch in rural La Honda, California, about 42 miles from San Francisco, their influence was quite local and had little impact on the US as a whol...
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  • Practicing Psychological Skills: What is Effective Practice?

    Posted on September 7, 2023
    By Tom Horvath, PhD This blog will focus less on physical skills (like playing the piano or hitting a baseball) and more on “psychological skills” like being assertive. Physical and psychological skills are not entirely distinct. Your body will need to play its part in a psychological skill. For instance, you would need to say “no thanks, I’m not interested in that” with your mouth. The physical skills needed to accomplish a psychological skill are typically already well known to you. You just need to use them! Without further ado, let's take a look at practicing psychological skills. Practicing Psychological Skills #1: Interpersonal Skills Nevertheless, the physical aspect of a psychological skill can be a good place to start. To stay with our example, you could practice sayin...
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  • Analysis Paralysis

    Posted on August 10, 2023
    By Tom Horvath “Analysis paralysis” is another term for “overthinking” a decision. We face many decisions in life. Some we make too quickly (like acting on addictive impulses), and some too slowly. This blog focuses on making decisions too slowly. (We also leave out the sequence of smaller decisions we might make over years, that lead to an occupation, a partner, or a hometown we may or may not be satisfied with) How can we match the amount of time and energy we devote to a decision with the importance of the decision? Let’s focus on decisions like what movie to see, what birthday card or present to purchase, what meal to order, what color to paint a room, or how to state something (such as when writing an email or blog!). If you start “going down a rabbit hole” in your decision-m...
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  • A Closer Look at the Rat Park Experiment, Part 2

    Posted on July 27, 2023
    A Closer Look at the Rat Park Experiment, Part 2 By Kenneth Anderson, MA Part 1 reviewed some of the historical background which led up to the rat park studies. Part 2 reviews the rat park studies themselves. Part 3 will take a look at where we have gone since. Bruce K. Alexander's first rat park study was published in 1978. The subjects were 32 albino Wistar rats (18 males and 14 females). After weaning, 10 of the rats (six males and four females) were placed in solitary confinement in standard laboratory cages. Twenty-two of the rats (12 males and 10 females) were placed in rat park. Rat park was an open-topped plywood box with 95 square feet of floor space covered in sawdust where rats could play, fight, and have sex with each other just like they did in their natural enviro...
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  • Coping with Regret

    Posted on July 20, 2023
    By Tom Horvath, PhD Regret is the feeling or sense that we did not behave or choose as well as we could have or should have. How many times might we ask ourselves, “why did I ….?” Or, “why didn’t I…?” Not only is it impossible to live life without regrets (who does not make mistakes?), regret appears to be quite common. One study suggested that we might regret nearly 1/3 of our decisions. It makes sense, then, instead of trying to avoid regret, to turn our attention toward coping with regret. Two Types of Regret There seem to be two main types of regret. You might regret falling short on responsibilities to others. When you realize the problem, it may be easy enough to correct your behavior or make amends. On the other hand, do you make a similar effort when you fall short on actin...
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  • Mindful Breathing for Reduced Stress

    Posted on June 21, 2023
    By Tom Horvath, PhD, ABPP One of the simplest but most powerful ways to reduce stress is to focus on breathing. Although books have been written on this subject, the following ideas may be a sufficient guide for you. Because we breathe continuously, you will have lots of opportunity to practice! Less is More Perhaps the most important single step to reduce stress is to breathe less, while breathing regularly, through your nose. A deep breath or two can get you started on “breath work,” but after those initial breaths, focus on breathing regularly but more slowly, and with lower volume of air. You are not going to reduce your rate of breathing instantly. However, over the course of many breaths your rate will (probably not entirely smoothly) reduce. With practice you might breathe a...
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  • Preaddiction - A Helpful Term?

    Posted on June 15, 2023
    by Tom Horvath, Ph.D. Would the term “preaddiction” be helpful? The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) jointly issued a Request for Information on this term. The details of the Request are at the very bottom. Below is what I sent them (slightly edited): ** What would a better term be? Addiction (and thereby, preaddiction) is an undesirable term because it is used by many in an all-or-none fashion, or to denote a state of disease (leaving out those who view these disorders as primarily behavioral). Consequently, preaddiction is also undesirable. I believe that eliminating the terms addiction and preaddiction will greatly reduce stigma, because these terms are used to divide people into two groups (addicted, n...
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