Letting the Shadows Fall Behind in Addiction Recovery

Addiction recovery means reaching the light at the end of a long dark tunnel

Living in a world where illusion is sought after with passion, it is so easy to let the boundaries blur. CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg said, “We are making a long-term bet that virtual and augmented reality will become a part of people’s daily lives.”

With a myriad opportunities in this age of technology to escape the nitty gritty of daily living, people are tempted to take the easy way out and allow their fantasies full play. American cartoonist Lynda Barry said, “We don’t create a fantasy world to escape reality, we create it to be able to stay.”

There are things people start doing just because they like them – for recreation. Thus, recreational use of substances or gambling do not get categorized as addiction, until the person is unable to give it up even when the pleasure of the activity has disappeared. What started out as a fun activity then becomes a cruel habit which takes over the person, compelling indulgence even though it brings no pleasure, but entails terrible consequences. The activity becomes a habit and then a deeply ingrained uncontrollable addiction, without which the person is unable to function.

Substance addiction is easily understood. The compulsion for cigarettes, alcohol, prescription medications and illicit drugs and the unspeakable ramifications of their uncontrolled consumption are shown time and again in movies and on TV. Harder to grasp are behavioral addictions, also known as process addictions. Even as people become addicted to sense-enslaving, isolating substances, they can also be lured by sense-enslaving, isolating behaviors.

However, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) only recognizes gambling addiction as behavioral addiction. APA lists internet gaming addiction as a condition to be studied further, but does not recognize it as an addiction. Nevertheless, the top behavioral addictions are known as food addiction, gambling addiction, sex addiction, love addiction, porn addiction, shopping addiction, Internet addiction, video game addiction and social media addiction.

Numbers lend strength to the total concept of addiction. For instance, 68% of the American population twenty years and older, is either overweight or obese. Director of Research for the National Institute on Media and the Family and development psychologist at the Iowa State University, Dr. Douglas Gentile, discovered through a recent research project  that 8.5% of young Americans between 8 and 18 years – amounting to around 3 million people – are addicted to video games. A University of New York study reveals that over 80% of American adults are lured into gambling annually, and that from 3 to 5 of every 100 gamblers struggle with addiction. Furthermore, about 750,000 young adults from 14 to 21 years are addicted to gambling. About 18 million Americans suffer from shopping addiction, and many have a tendency to engage in criminal conduct like shoplifting to satisfy their addiction. Researchers at the University of Hong Kong assess that 6% of the world’s population – that is about 420 million people – are addicted to the Internet. Statistics reveal that 40 million Americans are regular visitors to porn sites and the global porn industry is valued at $4.9 billion. However, Internet porn addiction and online sex addiction have not been officially diagnosed as mental disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Thus, addiction is a real problem the world faces, and especially so in affluent and materialistic societies where availability and accessibility add fuel to the fire of mental instability. However, even as a prisoner can only break out of prison when he realizes he is locked up, an addict needs to understand the existing mental disorder in order to go down the road of recovery.

Societies concerned about the wellbeing of their people, try to help curtail and eradicate addiction from their midst. China, for instance, is at the forefront of trying to eradicate internet addiction, and was one of the first countries to call it a clinical disorder. The Chinese government has created 250 boot camps with the aim of helping its teenage population overcome Internet addiction. Porn addiction is widespread and extensive the world over, even though most societies prefer to ignore the problem. Pretending, unfortunately, does not make the problem go away, only aggravates it and its overarching consequences for individuals, their families and society as a whole. Thankfully, there are organizations brave enough to take the issue head on and who have identified ways to help porn addiction recovery.

Recovery from addiction will inevitably be an arduous and slow process, with tumultuous highs and lows and relapses. Ultimately, it is the will of the individual, the family and the collective commitment of entire societies that will help to reduce and eradicate different kinds of addiction. Vibrant societies need to have responsible citizens who are in control of themselves and are able to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. No country wants to be burdened with “behavioral addicts” who continually need the support of rehab or therapy to be able to distinguish right from wrong.

Yet, for addicts who achieve complete recovery, they have seen the light at the end of the tunnel, and are out in the sunshine again. As former US President Richard Nixon once said, “Only if you’ve been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.”

Is It Feasible to Regulate the Marijuana Industry?

As more and more states around Canada and the US move to legalize both medicinal and recreational cannabis, the cannabis industry continues to grow. But this influx of growth is not without complications. The lesson we’ve learned from the states to legalise marijuana so far, is that very little has changed. None of the catastrophic predictions, surges in crime and traffic deaths, a rise in use amongst the youth, have come to pass. Likewise, none of the claims of booming economies or reduction in criminal activity have proven true either. While public support for legalization grows, and investors are showing interest, selling and supplying marijuana products is still something of a fuzzy area for business.

As part of a fledgling industry finding its feet, cannabis enterprises are faced with a host of unconventional problems, causing many experts to ask the question, is it possible to regulate the marijuana industry?

A major challenge facing the cannabis industry is the lack of consistent support from the banking sector. Especially in areas with legal marijuana, banks are increasingly coming under pressure to come up with more rigorous compliance and risk management controls. This has caused some banks to either raise costs to cover their own expenses, or drop cannabis companies entirely. Until the potential for profit begins to exceed the costs of meeting government compliance, the banking situation isn’t likely to change.

In some circles, bitcoin and crypto currency has been heralded as the solution to this problem. Using a digital currency for business transactions means marijuana businesses can accept payments from suppliers and businesses, while eliminating the need for a bank until the currency needs to be converted into dollars. With the prevalence of bit-coin based payment processing services, customers can purchase an amount of digital currency using their credit card or bank account, and then simply purchase a marijuana product with their acquired bitcoin. The idea of a specific new digital token, an appcoin or altcoin specifically for the marijuana industry has also been floated by some within the community. The goal here is to integrate blockchain technology into the needs and compliance of cannabis businesses.

Recently the government of British Colombia in Canada asked for submissions about managing the legal marijuana market within the province. IBM responded with a unique proposal, tracking cannabis with blockchain technology. In their filing, IBM made the argument that blockchain was the ideal mechanism the government could use to ‘transparently capture the history of cannabis through the entire supply chain…’

In IBM’s vision, every party within the network; growers, processors, distributors and vendors will produce their own ledger of transactions which regulators can then use to conduct spot checks. Retailers will be able to ensure compliance and customer safety by identifying the farms growing their supply, and records of the safety inspections conducted on their premises. Of course, this requires blockchain software operating within every marijuana based business in BC.

It isn’t just banking and regulatory requirements causing hiccups for the budding industry though. Real estate can prove to be another logistical headache.

The lack of federal legislation regarding legal marijuana in America means different laws exist regarding the issuing of permits to cannabis businesses from state to state, and even from city to city. Creating a nightmare for companies operating in multiple locations.

In Ohio, where the process of legalization is just beginning. Businesses are statutorily required to be 500 feet away from facilities like parks, churches schools, libraries, and day care centres. This presents more of an issue for retail operations like dispensaries than it does for cultivators and processors like seed banks. As a result, there has been a fight raging amongst businesses as they race to secure a spot in the Northeast Ohio market which is expected to make up 30% of the state’s businesses.

Californian businesses face unique challenges too. There are considerations for a full dispensary ban within LA’s Chinatown district, and rules such as a thousand-foot buffer between every retail outlet and the nearest school or child-care centre. There are also calls by some to impose a mandatory 600 feet between dispensaries. Restrictive zoning laws such as these dramatically reduce the areas where dispensaries can operate within cities. Leading to a concern about the rights of patients to easily access medical marijuana, as well as an issue of equity as small-businesses in low-income areas are effectively priced out by those operations who can afford to secure property in the north and south-eastern areas of LA.

It seems the biggest hurdle faced by the legal cannabis industry now is trying to establish feasible regulatory frameworks. The cost, time and complications currently faced by businesses in producing enough product, getting their facilities up to standardand meeting demand means that without some clear direction, the business of weed might never fully get off the ground.

The Internet and the Rise of Student Plagiarism

Thirty years ago, libraries were full of students trying to get the right book for their assignments. Now, libraries are not nearly as full as they used to be. Why? The Internet. Students now have the easy option of searching for exactly the information they need by using the Internet. All can be done from a click of a button, in the comfort of their homes. In a 2015 study conducted by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, the Family Online Safety Institute, and myCollegeOptions, 9.65% of students in the US say they need the Internet to complete home assignments.

The internet has revolutionized the way students complete their homework. In this modern era, students are demanded to be digitally savvy, with teachers all over the world assigning tasks that require internet access. With this, comes a change in student behavior in handling school assignments. With a growing number of 40% of the world having Internet access, there is no denying that this is the way forward in education.

The internet provides almost any information you need, from tutorials, news, biographies to academic essays. Students can easily search the information they need for their assignments. Previously, they had to get through the lengthy process of going to the library, manually look for the right book (out of thousands of books), and then scan that book to find information they needed. The benefits of the Internet for students are undeniable.

However, the ease of access to information has often led to the misuse of information. Because of the almost endless amount of information from various sources, students can sometimes fall into the mistake of using information from unreliable sources. Another issue that frequently occurs due to internet use in assignments, is plagiarism.

Plagiarism is the act of taking a person’s work and presenting it as your own without giving credit to the original author. With easy access to academic journals and papers, students can practically get their assignments online; thus, committing plagiarism. According to a survey conducted by the Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics, one in three students admit to using the internet and plagiarizing for an assignment. However, the number of plagiarism committed by students is still difficult to gauge, since most plagiarized works go undetected.

The rise of essay writing services has arguably opened the door to more acts of plagiarism.

Students from ESL (English as a Second Language) schools to prestigious universities have engaged in the practice of buying essays, but many are quite oblivious to how their purchased works were produced. While there are some review sites like Omnipaper which helps differentiate the quality of such services, many still fall victim to lazy commercial essay writers who succumb to the easy acts of plagiarism.

This problem has been a sore spot for dozens of years, and the concern has only grown tenfolds since the introduction of the internet into the realm of education. It is possible that these frequent acts of plagiarism happen due to a lack of understanding of plagiarism itself and how to avoid it.

So how do we prevent students from plagiarizing? First of all, students need to understand how serious a violation plagiarism is, especially in the academic world. Students need to realize that in the latter stages of their life, plagiarism can seriously damage their reputation and career. A sense of caution needs to be established early on in their education.

Secondly, students need to be made aware of how the Internet is used for educational purposes. With the understanding of which sources are eligible and how to properly use these sources, students will be able to quickly distinguish credible information from irresponsible opinions.

Finally, the best and most important step to prevent plagiarism is to educate students on how to write a proper research paper. Though it may seem rather simple, there are several details that must be understood. One of which is how to properly cite your sources. This can play a huge factor to whether your work will be considered an act of plagiarism or not. Another good tip to help prevent plagiarism is learning how to paraphrase. Paraphrasing is an act of expressing the idea of the author using different words. This will help students to be freer in citing their sources and sticking with the flow of their paper.

An additional step to prevent plagiarism is to instill into the minds of students that using more sources, referring to them and crediting them accordingly can help you design a better and more credible paper. Students tend to think that relying too much on sources can seem like they are hiding their ideas, when, in reality, strong and reliable sources can strengthen arguments and make for a better essay.

From all the talk around plagiarism, it is clear that it is an issue impossible to tackle without the support of the whole educational system. A strong stance and movement is needed to prevent plagiarism. Otherwise, it will continue to grow and be taken lightly by students, especially in this digital age.

 

Rethinking the 8-hour Workday

Lately, Japan has been under fire for its overtime culture, which is blamed for hundreds of cases of karoshi — death by overwork — each year. Karoshi deaths can be caused by heart attacks, strokes, and also suicides. In response to his, Japan’s government has been trying to encourage firms to let employees leave early and take more vacations. This phenomenon can be seen as an extreme case owing to Japan’s decades-old work culture. For most city dwellers who are forced to get used to powering through the mandated “9 to 5” in an office, the 8-hour workday is accepted as a gold standard.

In many other countries, working overtime on ordinary work days is common and often done without any extra wages. And although taking frequent breaks is good for your productivity, focus and creativity, Human Resource Departments often do not encourage it. With extra time spent commuting to and from work, one hardly gets enough time to exercise, prepare healthy meals, or spend time with loved ones.

How the 8-hour workday came to be

The 8-hour workday wasn’t achieved simply through negotiation and peaceful protests. Workers’ unions and labor rights activists have struggled despite violent suppression – one famous example is the 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago, in which police opened fire on a crowd of 80,000 demonstrators after a bomb exploded in the crowd.

The 8-hour day movement or 40-hour movement had its origins during the Industrial Revolution, where mass production in large factories transformed working life. The average workweek for full-time manufacturing employees in those days was around 80-100 hours. Although New Zealand and Australia succeeded in achieving an 8-hour day for skilled workers in the 1840s and 1850s, most employees had to wait to the early and mid twentieth century for the standard to be widely achieved through the industrialized world through legislative action.

Managing energy, not time

However, how many hours we work every day isn’t as relevant to our productivity as managing our energy – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Tony Schwartz, founder of The Energy Project, which helps companies fuel sustainable high performance by better meeting the needs of their employees, says, “Manage your energy, not your time.” It’s time to rethink how we work and how much time we should spend in the office.

In an experiment to see what habits set their most productive employees apart, social networking company Draugiem Group used time-tracking productivity app DeskTime and found that employees with the highest productivity surprisingly didn’t put in longer hours. They published their findings in the DeskTime blog: “The most productive people work for 52 minutes, then break for 17 minutes. The employees with the highest productivity ratings in fact for the most part don’t even work 8 hour days. Turns out the secret to retaining the highest level of productivity over the span of a work day is not working longer, but working smarter with frequent breaks.”

On breaks, completely take yourself out of the working zone and dedicate yourself to not working. The human body isn’t built to sit in front of the computer for 8 hours straight, so take a nap or a walk, do some exercises, read a book, grab some healthy snacks, play an online casino game on the phone, or talk to colleagues. Another strategy to manage energy is to schedule meetings strategically. Meetings, which often take up a chunk of our working day, can actually serve as a mental break from mentally-intensive tasks.

The 6-hour workday movement

Research done by technology startups Filimundus and Brath in Sweden has also shown that employees are happier, have higher energy levels and are more productive with a 6-hour workday. Both companies say that the benefits of a 6-hour working week also extend to their profits and growth.

When Maria Brath, CEO of a Swedish company that specializes in SEO for Scandinavia, instituted the 6-hour workday, many were skeptical and commented that it cannot possibly be profitable. The company’s revenue continued to double each year. The changes are also happening in the Swedish public sector, with nurses at a government-run retirement home switching to a six-hour day for the same pay.

“I think the eight-hour workday is not as effective as one would think. To stay focused on a specific work task for eight hours is a huge challenge. In order to cope, we mix in things and pauses to make the workday more endurable. At the same time we are finding it hard to manage our private life outside of work. We want to spend more time with our families, we want to learn new things or exercise more. My impression now is that it is easier to focus more intensely on the work that needs to be done and you have the stamina to do it and still have energy left when leaving the office,” Linus Feldt, CEO of Stockholm-based app developer Filimindus told Fast Company.

“The biggest response that I couldn’t foresee was the energy level I felt with my colleagues. They were happy leaving the office and happy coming back the next day. They didn’t feel drained or fatigued. That has also helped the work groups to work better together now, when we see less conflicts and arguments. People are happier.”

Author and researcher Alex Pang goes as far as to say, “four hours is actually the optimal amount of time to spend per day if your work is creative in nature, or requires a notable degree of thinking and concentration… if your job requires imagination, ingenuity, and above-average mental focus, you may be better off limiting that work to four hours per day, as opposed to eight or more.”

The Micro-Sized Answer to Hong Kong’s Housing Problem

 

Hong Kong’s housing prices are already the highest in the world, with second and third places taken out by Sydney and Vancouver respectively. On a basis of median house price to household income ratio though, Hong Kong is the least affordable by far, with an average resident having to save for 18.1 years (without spending on anything else) to buy a small home. And that’s using the median, not mean, income being $50 000. In comparison, Sydney’s is 12 years and London’s is 8.5. That amount of money doesn’t buy you a big home either. With the average living space per person at just 4.6 square metres, the disparity in living conditions between Hong Kong’s rich and poor is painfully visible. But how did this come to be in a city – known for its thriving economy – and sitting on the doorstep of China (the second largest economy in the world)? In short, too much demand and too little demand.

With a government possessing more than £100 billion in fiscal reserves, you’d expect Hong Kong’s housing state to be more stable and sustainable than its current predicament. Indeed, it was a key concern of previous Chief Executive CY Leung since he began office, but he was unable to derive a solution other than to allow the construction of more apartments by the same oligarchy of Hong Kong Property developers, with Sun Hung Kai Properties leading the pack in typical fashion. The new Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, has a different solution. Whereas CY Leung’s policies focussed on curbing demand to cool the city’s property market, Lam’s more familiar relationship with both Hong Kong developers and government officials has prompted expectations for more supply to be introduced. Where more public and private cooperation is needed for mutual benefit, namely in the New Territories farmlands, conversion rates are expected to be higher – with half a million apartments feasibly converted from the farmland owned by just three developers. Henderson Land Development Co., for example, owns 45 million square feet of land in the territory, currently for agricultural use. They are in negotiation with the government to convert the land for residential use.

Hong Kong’s skew toward demand overwhelming supply is explicable by its status as the world’s fourth most densely populated city, with more than seven million residents living across 1106 square kilometres. To give that scope, Sydney (in Australia’s) population density is million in 12367 square kilometres. But this area is not equally distributed, with huge living spaces curated for the upper middle to wealthy class across the area of Hong Kong Island compared to the much smaller in the Kowloon Peninsula. Financially, the incentives to live in Hong Kong are presented by its low tax rates and attractive commercial environment – being a de-facto access point to the most populous country in the world, China. Indeed, many who can afford to live in larger sized apartments are wealthy expats who are sponsored by their companies or leverage the lower tax margins to optimise their purchasing power. These can be seen primarily around Central’s bohemian district Mid-Levels, Stanley and Clear Water Bay.

Adding fuel to the effect of sky high housing prices has been enthusiasm of Chinese mainland developers, who are offered the scarcely available developable land by the Hong Kong government behind the scenes. Visible in online casino domains and offline gambling havens such as Macao, the Chinese are spend-thrifty. This land, as illustrated by the record sale of $2.17 billion for a residential plot exceeded market valuations by nearly 50%. In turn these exorbitant costs are passed on as high prices for buyers for the subsequent apartments built. Sadly, this is widely representative of a trend, driving housing prices up in all other districts. The market for super-luxury apartments costing more than HK $50 million each is dominated by mainland Chinese. In a somewhat relieving way, restrictions of capital outflow from the Chinese government has abated Chinese mainland investing interest, at least for now.

Recent government initiatives have aimed to cool the market. In November 2016, a 15 percent stamp duty was enforced on non first-home buyers to dampen the prevalence of speculation in the property market. This, in conjunction with the increased cost of the US dollar (to which the HK dollar is pegged) was predicted to curb property prices by up to 30 percent in 2017. Logically, this should, as the increasing USD value would lead to rising mortgage rates. However, (in the absence of sufficient regulation by the government) property development companies have been happy to hand out loans, which along with bank loans, have further increased pricing trajectory.

With government initiatives to increase supply whilst making housing prices more affordable, this gave way to the unintended consequence of driving demand for smaller apartments, as developers needed to meet government requirements of achieving supply targets whilst lowering prices for the average buyer. The result? Tiny shoe-box sized ‘micro’ apartments which are affordable, but few would say habitable. These truly humble abodes, accounting for 5% of the city’s newly developed housing in 2010, leaped to 27% in 2016, and are forecasted to rise to 43% in 2018. In an effort to increase home ownership prospects, Carrie Lam has promised to provide government help for people too wealthy for public housing but still without means to afford their own apartment. Whether or not these micro-apartments, sized at 15 square metres, are a sustainable way of living remains to be seen.

Is success definable?

The dream: to be rich and successful while one is still able-bodied and youthful. There must be a formula for success, especially since there are so many stories of teenagers cashing in as millionaires. How then, is it possible for others to achieve the same dream?

The first tip is usually not to earn more, but to spend less. Allocating an allowance for oneself and saving every other penny. This does not just mean ‘no lavish lifestyles’, but to live a frugal life. There are many things which constitute as a waste of money such as watching a movie at the cinemas, eating out, gambling away in a casino, down to spending change in an arcade.

Once being thrifty becomes second nature, it serves to recognize: salary alone is not enough. In 2014, Forbes released the statistics of how people make their richest list. A mere 8.6% of their income comes from wages, and the highest percentage goes to capital gains, sitting at 45.8%. However, merely starting a business is hardly enough to assure a healthy cash flow. One must be good at what they do.

However, it is now 2017, and technology has caused an upheaval in regards to how we interact with the world and therefore, generating countless possibilities when it comes to money making. Limited only by imagination and skill. Hence, it is beneficial to invest in oneself. Do not spend on anything that does not serve a higher purpose. Rather, choose instead to indulge in picking up a skill in which ones’ interest lies and then learn to be of service.

It is crucial in this digital era to know how to market oneself as a brand. Many young entrepreneurs use their skill and knowledge in wielding the latest technology to their advantage. Instead of long term investments or dabbling in real estate, they plunge into app or website building, utilizing the needs of a new market.

For those who are less inclined in technology, might find their niche in photography or blogging. There are numerous bloggers that focus on their area of expertise, such as fitness, makeup, travel or tutorials ranging from dieting to image editing. There is a whole slew topics one might specialise in. Believe it or not, there is even a youtube channel dedicated to unboxing toys with 4 million subscribers to date. Their daily revenue can be anywhere from a little more over $1,000USD to more than ten thousand.

One thing that these established entrepreneurs share is genuine interest and passion in what they do. Instead of mimicking successful businesses and hope their imitation will be as well received. It is as futile as a marketing a knockoff with expectations that exceeds the one set for the original.

Another tip is quite cliché, but as the saying goes: winners are people who do not give up. It pays to be resilient, and finishing what one has started. Regardless whether it is a new idea which has taken form, or a dying business, pushing against the current to accomplish what one set out to do is not only satisfying but might result in a good payoff.

Of course, one must also be intelligent and well informed regarding their determination. Many businesses have failed due to its extreme innovation. Back when the internet was new, there were a few pioneers whose companies never made any returns purely due being far to advanced for the market at that time. However, one might conclude that if only they had persevered, they would reap what they sowed. Much like the websites which survived during what is known as Web 1.0. Back in 1998, before the internet was truly utilized, one man had the foresight to start up a website regarding daily deals and coupons. Today, it is worth an estimated $1 billion USD. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, holding on to something which did not seem promising at that time does not support its credibility as a logical decision.

To create a startup today requires more than luck and innovation, one needs to study trends and allow creativity to take the helm. We are in an age of convergence, where celebrities are no longer elusive and a complaint could be publicized to the CEO of a company rather than the regional manager who has less power. It is not enough to be contactable, one has to be present at all times. That is one of the many tactics Huffington Post employed to gain such traction. By generating hundreds of pieces of content daily, several of them were bound to go viral.

It serves to be two steps ahead of the crowd but anything beyond that is too advanced to be welcomed. Whether riches is waiting around the corner, what makes a person successful is drive, passion and the contentment to match.