Archive for the commentary Category

Pathological grooming, the latest in OCD, to be added to DSM

Posted in commentary with tags , , , , , on October 7, 2012 by Tim Elhajj

NPR is running a story about how psychology is changing the way it looks at compulsive nail biters by listing it as a disorder—pathological grooming—in the next DSM.

If you read Junk faithfully, you may have already considered this type of obsession, because Jeffery Brown was kind enough to bless our humble little journal with his own tribute to compulsive grooming in Yaaaay, Bite Your Nails.

Check out Jeffery Brown’s latest work, Darth Vader and Son, an adorable picture book for Star Wars fans of all ages. 

Craig Ferguson on Bedlam

Posted in commentary with tags , , , , , , on March 4, 2011 by Tim Elhajj

Craig Ferguson is one of my favorite late night hosts. He has been vocal about his struggles with substances. But he’s a late night host and has to weigh in on all the current pop trends, especially the tawdry stuff that’s on the tip of everyone’s tongue, like Charlie Sheen’s latest antics. What’s a TV personality to do? Watch how easily Ferguson flips the game, keeping his integrity intact.

I rarely stay up late to watch these guys anymore, but when I was a boy I loved Carson, the king of late night. Ferguson is just as classy as Carson ever was.

Plus Ferguson has that lovely brogue.

Junk Food Production: You Put the Crack in the Coconut, Shake It All Up

Posted in commentary with tags , , , on March 30, 2010 by Editors

It will surprise no one that a new study reveals junk food is as addictive to laboratory rats as heroin or coke. What is interesting, however, is the analogy that the manufacture of junk food is similar to the refinement of cocaine into crack.

“We make our food very similar to cocaine now,” [the chair of the medical department at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, Dr. Gene-Jack Wang, M.D.] says.

Coca leaves have been used since ancient times, he points out, but people learned to purify or alter cocaine to deliver it more efficiently to their brains (by injecting or smoking it, for instance). This made the drug more addictive.

According to Wang, food has evolved in a similar way. “We purify our food,” he says. “Our ancestors ate whole grains, but we’re eating white bread. American Indians ate corn; we eat corn syrup.”

The Upside of Stigma

Posted in commentary with tags , , on March 18, 2010 by Editors

Lest you believe that nothing good can come from the stigma of addiction, a new study shows that the United States is making ground in the war on cancer. The reasons? Mostly related to how unpopular smoking has become.

The biggest factor in the change, according to [staff at the American Cancer Society], is prevention: people are smoking less, and we should see continued improvements in this regard due to the decreased rates of smoking in adolescents.

Anti-Drinking Campaign Leads to More Drinking

Posted in commentary with tags , , , , , on March 10, 2010 by Editors

So says this Advertising Age study.

It has long been assumed, of course, that guilt and shame were ideal ways of warning of the dangers associated with binge drinking and other harmful behaviors, because they are helpful in spotlighting the associated personal consequences. But this study found the opposite to be true: Viewers already feeling some level of guilt or shame instinctively resist messages that rely on those emotions, and in some cases are more likely to participate in the behavior they’re being warned about.

Why does this surprise anyone? Has anyone ever been shamed into anything productive? One of the reasons we launched Junk is to address just this sort of attitude.

On the Stigma of Alcoholism and Government Plots: Yesterday and Today

Posted in commentary with tags , , , , , on March 6, 2010 by Editors

Today most people accept the idea that alcoholism is some sort of disease, or malady of the mind. But Deborah Blum’s Slate article—about a government plot to poison alcohol during prohibition—reminds us that public opinion hasn’t always been so easy-going.

You hear stories all the time about alcoholics drinking all sorts of crazy nonsense to get a buzz, but rarely do you hear stories about the government capitalizing on this sort of phenomena for the purposes of law enforcement.

Although mostly forgotten today, the “chemist’s war of Prohibition” remains one of the strangest and most deadly decisions in American law-enforcement history. As one of its most outspoken opponents, Charles Norris, the chief medical examiner of New York City during the 1920s, liked to say, it was “our national experiment in extermination.”

Even in the early twentieth century, some people were aghast. Editorial debates raged back and forth in the newspapers. Here is a quote you (hopefully) won’t find in any twenty-first century newspaper:

“Must Uncle Sam guarantee safety first for souses?” asked Nebraska’s Omaha Bee.

Lest we start feeling all good about our modern-day government, it’s sobering to remember that a similar plan to poison Mexican marijuana fields with the herbicide Paraquat was attempted as recently as the 1970’s. As the Slate article mentions, amid public outcry, the plan was scrapped.

Yay, public outcry!

As a teen, I remember my pot connection—a man in his forties with a prosthetic leg—who liked to joke that the Paraquat in his stash gave you a little extra buzz. I remember feeling some mild concern over this joke, but not enough to hold onto my money. And, of course, in my twenties, knowing that someone had overdosed on a particular brand of heroin was a sure-fire way to guarantee a surge of interest, sellout crowds.

I haven’t used heroin in over twenty years, but I rarely talk about my experience with regular people. That kind of self-revelation can be too difficult to pull off, too much to deal with.

This past Christmas I watched Miracle on 34th Street with my adolescent daughter, who still believes in Santa. I had seen the movie many times before, but not recently. Early in the movie, Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn), the real Santa Claus, finds a drunken man playing man the part of Santa for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Kringle becomes indignant, expressing his displeasure by striking the drunken Santa repeatedly about his head and shoulders with a cane.

My daughter grew panicky. “Daddy,” she cried, “what’s he doing to that man?”

I should have joked with her that it was an old-timer intervention, but I didn’t. I comforted her. She is a few generations removed from the people who thought an alcoholic best served by an ass kicking or lethal dose of posion—she is part of the next generation.

Yay, next generation!

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