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Bill Nye the Science Guy Tries to Debunk Myth of Addiction as a Choice

Bill Nye the Science Guy Tries to Debunk Myth of Addiction as a Choice

That quirky Science Guy with those theoretically-funky and quantifiably-fresh bow ties from your childhood is back to work making science fun with the help of celebrities and strange experiments. Since 1993, Bill Nye has been trying to teach kids, and the world, about the importance of exploring science. Now, with two seasons of his Netflix series Bill Nye Saves the World already in the bag, our boy Bill has made his way to a hard-hitting topic that has a huge impact on America today- addiction. And according to the science guy himself, one of the biggest myths he is out to debunk is that addiction is a choice. In fact, this kind of stigma may be one of the single greatest hurdles for those who need treatment.

Now we can admit that Bill Nye is not necessarily an authority on mental health or behavioral science. However, the American science communicator began his career as a mechanical engineer for Boeing Corporation, inventing a hydraulic resonance suppressor tube used on 747 airplanes. He eventually left the company to pursue a career in entertainment, and following the success of his show, Nye continued to advocate for science. He became the CEO of the Planetary Society and helped develop sundials for the Mars Exploration Rover missions. So while he may not be an expert himself, it is safe to say he is a smart man who knows how to do his research.

In a recent interview with The Fix, Bill Nye shared some of his thoughts on some of the most crucial questions we have to examine when looking at addiction and its effects. Beyond that, we look at some of the topics covered in the Netflix piece.

Bill Nye Acknowledges the Prevalence of Addiction

One of the first things Nye does is to point out how widespread the issue of addiction truly is. When asking his studio audience if they know someone living with addiction, whether in recovery or not, almost everyone in the room raised their hands. Nye tells The Fix,

“Addiction is a huge problem for our society. It’s very expensive. You have addicts getting addicted to all sorts of things and they become unproductive, they destroy their families, and they, for better or for worse, have very low qualities of life,”

Bill Nye emphasizes that addiction is not limited to a specific economic or social class, sharing a story about the wife of a close friend. This was a person who became addicted to the powerful opioid Oxycontin after breaking her ankle. This family quickly fell apart due to the addiction, despite being successful and affluent.

“It was horrible. It went on for years and years…she got into harder and harder drugs. She was an accessory to murder with a drug dealer, and this was a family that was very well off because of their success and careers. It was really heartbreaking.”

Throughout the segments, Bill Nye continues to expand on the brain’s involvement in addiction. He even bring in people to discuss treatments, and talks about behavioral addictions.

Addressing Choice and Changes in the Brain

Early on in “The Addiction Episode” of Bill Nye Saves the World, the science guy makes a point to distinguish from “really liking chocolate or re-watching episodes of Game of Thrones” and “real conditions that do real harm.”

He immediately points out that our society often believes addiction is an obvious choice, an avoidable weakness, or a moral failure. If you have been awake for the past few decades, you have probably seen this opinion expressed at some point. From lengthy articles like this one (but with better writers) to viral videos on social media featuring some guy yelling at a camera phone because it makes him an expert, people have argued that if people were strong enough they would fix themselves. Bill Nye says,

“I’m here to tell you that just ain’t so.”

Now, while Bill Nye may not be an addiction expert himself, he has surely done his homework over the years by interviewing various experts in the field of addiction medicine and recovery. This isn’t even the first time he’s tried to debunk the myth of addiction being a choice. Years ago he did a similar episode addressing addiction on the show The Eyes of Nye, which featured addictionologist, Dr. Drew. In this past interview, Dr. Drew makes a very strong argument stating:

“The definition of a disease, to me, would be an abnormal physiological process brought on by a relationship between the genetics of the individual and the environment that creates a set of signs and symptoms that progress in a predictable way which we call ‘natural history,’ and by effecting the natural history we can create a predictable response to treatment. That is a disease, and addiction does fit that.”

On Bill Nye Saves the World, he uses his trademark fun and goofy way to explain how dopamine released in the brain’s reward center by particular behaviors over time actually changes the brain, with the help of orange trees and a light-up LED brain. Nye states,

“When and if this happens depends on both the hand you are dealt- your genes- and what’s going on around you- your environment- it’s akin to the old question of nature versus nurture. Except with addiction, it’s both. It’s nature… and nurture!”

Bill Nye explains later on how the human ability to adapt is intimately connected to addiction, adding that while we can get used to just about anything when our brains and bodies adapt to a drug it makes quitting incredibly difficult to accomplish, especially when you factor in withdrawal symptoms.

Putting Addiction into Perspective

But good old Bill doesn’t expect you to just take his word for it, either. Throughout the episode he speaks with various people concerning the truth about addiction and different kinds of treatment for addiction. The conversations include people with various points of reference, including:

  • Maria Bamford, comedian/actress

Bamford sits with Bill to discuss her own experience with what she calls an “addictive process”: an eating disorder. She talks about finding a 12-Step program at 21 years old, and the value she has found in connecting with others.

  • Cara Santa Maria, science communicator and journalist

Cara Santa Maria talks about the importance of having individualized treatment options that go above and beyond the traditional 12 step programs. She also believes that people should also consider connecting addiction to deeper psychological issues, such as trauma.

  • Neuroscientist Carl Hart

Dr. Carl Hart advocates that there is a real need for more comprehensive assessments concerning addiction. Dr. Hart believes the vast majority of people who use drugs, including heroin, do not become addicted. Dr. Hart believes also putting too much focus on the drugs and not enough focus on the behaviors makes treatment less effective.

  • Lieutenant Robert Chromik Jr. of a Sherriff’s Office in Ohio

The officer from Ohio states that his precinct has been working to help people get clean instead of arresting them. He says that out of 2,400 “clients” involved in the program, 81% are now living clean. Lt. Chromik also agrees with his fellow panelists that specialized treatment is essential because there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

In the end, the episode is pretty interesting. This writers only critque would be that the ending itself seems almost incomplete. It includes an unrelated, but pretty cool segment about aquaculture with a guest scientist. Still, without a definitive signing-off moment to summarize the concepts Bill covers, the impact of a scientific understanding of addiction almost feels lost. However, between the piece from The Eyes of Nye and this new episode, there is a lot of interesting information that is essential to our society learning to treat addiction, and those who are suffering, better. Overall, one of the most important parts of the conversation is the emphasis on compassion and supporting effective and individualized treatment options. Bill Nye and the many individuals throughout the episode present various perspectives on the issue of addiction. Surely, not all these people agree on everything. Still, the episode works hard to offer a simple explanation of the scientific evidence in the brain and the body as to how addiction really works. Hopefully, more people can appreciate the science behind it.

Thanks Bill. Science still rules.

Another important take away from this episode is that personalized treatment is a unique and life-changing tool to helping get people off of drugs or alcohol. If you or someone you love is struggling, there is professional and innovative help for you today. Please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

Wormwood on Netflix is New Series to Explore MK-ULTRA, CIA and LSD

Wormwood on Netflix is New Series to Explore MK-ULTRA, CIA and LSD

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

For anyone out there who (like me) loves the allure and intrigue of conspiracy theories, the new upcoming mini-series Wormwood on Netflix should absolutely be a Roswell-sized-blip on your radar. The show is described as part documentary, part drama (and in my early predictions- all awesomeness). Set to the backdrop of the 1950s and 1960s, the show is going to delve into the notorious Project MK-ULTRA.

Should we be excited about an intense take on CIA spooks, mind control experiments and a murder mystery?! Uh… YEA! Well, at least I am, obviously. The trailer released shows off cinematography that looks dark, edgy and eerie, with a tone that fits the content. For a little backstory about the twisted conspiracy behind the show Wormwood on Netflix, let’s take a face plant down the rabbit hole of Project MK-ULTRA.

Project MK-ULTRA

The operation began in the early 1950s and was officially sanctioned in 1953. It was designed and undertaken by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during the Cold War era when- as the trailer says- “the most dangerous weapon is information.” MK-ULTRA was kept hidden for about two decades due to the fact that the experiments were done on human subjects, which were at times illegal and most notably because the subjects did not consent and had no idea what was being done to them. The organized efforts of the project included entities such as:

  • The Scientific Intelligence Division of the CIA
  • Special Operations Division of the U.S. Army’s Chemical Corps

These invasive and supposedly damaging experiments were intended to identify and develop drugs and procedures to be used in interrogations and torture. The idea was to learn how to weaken the individual to force confessions through mind control, but the implications of these methods may also suggest far more sinister ways to utilize these tactics.

The Conspiracy 

For years people thought it was truly a paranoid dream, and considering the massive scope of the project, once finally revealed, there is no wonder why. According to a 1984 broadcast of 60 Minutes, MK-ULTRA involved more than 130 research programs within various known institutions, including:

  • 44 of them being colleges and universities
  • 15 research foundations, chemical or pharmaceutical companies
  • 12 hospitals or clinics
  • 3 prisons

Project MK-ULTRA conducted many illegal activities. One incredibly controversial method was the use of unsuspecting U.S. and Canadian citizens as test subjects. But the most notorious of all is probably the use of LSD and other chemicals to manipulate people’s mental states and alter brain functions.So essentially anyone from inmates and hospital patients to college students and Big Pharma customers could have been exposed to some of the most mind-bending, drug-induced illusions without their knowledge at the will of the United States government.

The world remembers well learning that government agencies were forcing hallucinogenic drugs onto citizens, but this is just one method of psychological torture via drug abuse in Project MK-ULTRA.

Forced Drug Experiments

While LSD is the drug most commonly associated with MK-ULTRA, the program is said to have utilized several other drugs in their illegal testing, including:

  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Psilocybin (magic mushrooms)
  • Methamphetamine
  • Barbiturates
  • MDMA
  • Temazepam
  • Mescaline
  • Scopolamine
  • Marijuana
  • Alcohol
  • Sodium
  • Pentothal

The CIA Cover Up

To touch on the timeline of Project MK-Ultra being exposed:

1973- CIA Director Richard Helms ordered all MK-ULTRA files destroyed

1975- The Church Committee of the U.S. Congress first brought MK-ULTRA to the attention to the public.

A Gerald Ford commission was tasked to investigate CIA activities within the United States. Investigative efforts were hampered by the fact the destruction of the documents in 1973.

1977- Senate hearings began following a request from the Freedom of Information Act that uncovered a cache of 20,000 documents connected to MK-ULTRA.

2001- Even more information regarding MK-ULTRA became declassified

Now the world is well aware that the CIA, in cahoots with other entities, was behind hundreds of mind-control experiments. These horrific tortures and inhumane experiments are said to have left some people mentally and emotionally crippled for life. Hopefully, the new series Wormwood on Netflix will also give us a closer look at home some of these victims were able to recover, if at all.

Wormwood on Netflix makes it Personal

Academy Award-winning director Errol Morris gives this illustrious conspiracy story new texture and connection using dramatic reenactments with real-life interviews. Beyond that, the series Wormwood on Netflix also stands to humanize the drama, making it a much more personal and relatable scenario.

Enter the incarnation portrayed by Peter Sarsgaard of Dr. Olson. The real-life CIA biochemist Dr. Frank Olson died after falling 10 stories from a New York City hotel room in 1953. Dr. Olson’s death at the time was ruled a suicide. However, his family and others believe that he was actually assassinated by the CIA. Dr. Olson’s son, Eric Olson, is also part of the series.

Eric Olson and his brother Nils have made it their life’s mission to uncover the truth about their father’s death. Eric Olson has spent over 60 years investigating.

As if an indirect admission of fault, the Olson family actually received a settlement of $750,000 and a personal apology from then-President Gerald Ford and CIA Director William Colby. This came 20 years after Olson’s death in 1976, after all the documents pertaining to MK-ULTRA began to surface. Then in 1994, a second autopsy was conducted on the body of Frank Olson, which is said to have revealed injuries that had “likely occurred before the fall” leading many to believe that Frank Olson was killed by the CIA.

One way or another, Wormwood on Netflix is sure to be a very interesting ride. With the ominous overtone of impending espionage, chemical warfare, spy games and murder this show is set to take something that is so real it’s scary and packages it in a way that is sure to pull us in.

At risk of tempting a Netflix binge, there are some very good documentaries and other films related to substance abuse, drug policy and addiction. There are all kinds of resources out there to stay informed about the history of drug use and the risks associated with it. Find a way to learn more and if you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

 CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

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