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Excessive social media use has many of the same effects as substance abuse, says expert

Excessive social media use has many of the same effects as substance abuse, says expert

The average American spends nearly 2½ hours per day on social media, and that number more than doubles for teens, studies have shown.

For many people, the reliance on social media can feel much like an addiction — and many experts believe that’s exactly what it is.

“Social media addiction is not yet recognized in our diagnostic manual — however, we have seen a growth in social media use, and research has begun to show some similarities with addiction, just not enough to define a diagnosis formally,” Lindsay Oberleitner, a clinical psychologist and education director at SimplePractice in Detroit, Michigan, told Fox News Digital. 


SimplePractice is an electronic health records solution that serves more than 178,000 solo and small-group practitioners.

Another commonly used term, “problematic social media use,” does not quite capture the depth of difficulties that individuals are experiencing with social media, Oberleitner said. 

“‘Problematic’ can imply risky behaviors, such as illegal behavior on social media, rather than the personal pattern of detrimental use to which social media addiction refers.”

Lindsay Oberleitner is a clinical psychologist and education director at SimplePractice in Michigan. “Social media addiction is not yet recognized in our diagnostic manual — however, we have seen a growth in social media use, and research has begun to show some similarities with addiction,” she told Fox News Digital.  (Lindsey Oberleitner/SimplePractice)

One Reddit user, l3moncardboard, recently shared an experience with social media dependency.

“I am insanely addicted to my phone. My screen time is disgusting and I’m ashamed — it’s upward of five hours per day … It creates the worst case of anxiety in my brain and makes me overthink,” the person also wrote.


“My days are quite literally dictated by if certain people respond to the snap I’ve sent them or not. How can I manage this? It’s absolute insanity and I can’t stand it.”Warning signs of social media addiction

Some of the telltale signs of problematic social media use can mimic the symptoms of behavioral addictions and substance use disorders, but on a smaller scale, said Oberleitner.

One of the biggest red flags is when the excessive use of social media platforms interferes with other daily activities. 

The average American spends nearly 2½ hours per day on social media, and that number more than doubles for teens, studies have shown. (iStock)

“The individual might begin to withdraw from in-person events, disengage while at social events or quit participating in activities they used to enjoy,” the doctor said. 

“We might also see concerning levels of distress when they can’t use social media.”


Someone who is addicted to social media will likely continue to use it despite the harmful effects, Oberleitner said.

“For example, the individual is aware that the time spent on social media interferes with school or work performance, but they do not decrease their time spent,” she said. 

“I am insanely addicted to my phone. My screen time is disgusting and I’m ashamed.”

The person might attempt to reduce the time spent on social media — but is likely unsuccessful.

“We may also see that family and friends are upset by the individual’s use of social media, to the point that it causes strain on their relationships,” Oberleitner noted.

Excessive social media use can mimic substance addiction, one clinical psychologist told Fox News Digital.  (iStock)

Excessive social media use can also cause impaired school and work performance, feelings of isolation and loneliness, negative self-image, sleep difficulties, disordered eating and increased symptoms of depression and anxiety, the doctor warned.

“Broadly, in addictive disorders, we see a pattern of a loss of control, compulsivity of use, negative consequences on personal and interpersonal functioning, and intense desires for use,” she added.The risk factors 

While anyone can develop an unhealthy reliance on social media, it tends to be more prevalent among young people, Oberleitner said.

“Negative impacts from overuse are particularly problematic for youth,” she said. “Brain development continues into our 20s, and the frontal cortex, responsible for planning behavior, is the last area to develop fully.”

Someone who is addicted to social media will likely continue to use it despite the harmful effects, Oberleitner said. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Young people are also less likely to consider the risks of their harmful behaviors — making it harder to stop them, the doctor pointed out.

“Coping strategies, social skills and emotion regulation are all skills we learn and develop in childhood, adolescence and beyond,” she went on. 

“Excessive social media use can interfere with the development of each of these areas.”

“Individuals who experience anxiety and loneliness are more prone to problematic social media use.”

As one teen user wrote on Reddit, “I’m quite young and want to enjoy my teenage years. My phone has caused me so much unnecessary negative emotions already, and I’ve just reached a point where it’s completely draining and dictates the way I go about daily life.”


Individuals with high impulsivity are also more likely to display addictive social media behavior, said Oberleitner, as it is harder for them to stop engaging in unhealthy behaviors. 

“It has also been observed that individuals who experience anxiety and loneliness are more prone to problematic social media use,” she added.Doctor’s tips for detoxing

When it comes to approaches to stopping the overuse of social media, one size does not fit all, said Oberleitner.

Many people use a combined approach, starting with a “full-stop period” when they don’t use social media at all — and then gradually restarting with moderation.

Some of the telltale signs of problematic social media use can mimic the symptoms of behavioral addictions and substance use disorders, but on a smaller scale, said Oberleitner. (iStock)

“The full-stop approach mimics abstinence-only approaches in substance use,” said Oberleitner. “It is unlikely to be feasible to never return to social media use, so the key is setting the time you want to step away.”

This might be a day, weekend, week or even a month, which gives the person a chance to “break the reinforcing cycle of social media use,” she said.

“A full stop can be as simple as hiding away computers and tablets, and removing phone apps that make social media access easy,” Oberleitner said.


After the full-stop period, the person could resume use with “moderation or harm reduction approaches” in place, she said.

“Some examples could be setting a 30-minute time after dinner each day that you look at social media, or only engaging with it on the weekend for a limited time,” said Oberleitner. 

“It might also include making plans to reengage with activities you have been missing out on because of social media use.”

One of the biggest red flags is when excessive use of social media platforms interferes with other daily activities, Oberleitner said. (iStock)

This approach is most likely to work when an individual has a network of individuals who will support attempts to cut back, the doctor said.

For some, it may be helpful to make accessing social media harder than usual. 

This might mean removing phone apps, not saving passwords on browsers so extra steps are needed to sign in, and putting away tablets and computers. 


“Reducing access can involve an active choice to set a time each day devoted to social media while simultaneously committing to not accessing social media at any time outside of that explicit time window,” Oberleitner said. 

When treating people with addictions, she often helps them identify triggers for their behavior.

Even those who don’t consider themselves addicted to social media can benefit from reducing their usage and adopting healthier relationships with the technology, noted Oberleitner. (iStock)

“The closer the approximation of the trigger to the behavior we want to change, the harder it is to resist,” she said. 

“So regarding social media use, it will be tough to change our behavior if we are sitting on the couch with our tablet next to us.”Real people share detox tips and tricks

One Reddit user, urcrain, offered this tip: “Determine what you are spending most of your time doing on social media. If it’s meme hunting and sharing, try eliminating that. Find alternative ways to get important areas of social media in a less addictive way.”

“Try to find things to do that can keep you entertained and busy during the times that you usually want to pick up your phone.”

ZenithArmageddon offered more tips: “Try to find things to do that can keep you entertained and busy during the times that you usually want to pick up your phone. Busy hands are great to keep the phone away.”

This person also suggested, ,”If you find yourself returning too much, then try to reduce the amount of stimulation you get from your social media. Avoid ‘for you’ recommendations such as the explore tab on Instagram, and mute the stories and posts on friends who you don’t really keep up with. It’s OK to still look at what your friends are doing, but try to catch yourself before you go down the ‘explore’ rabbit hole.”

“Reducing access can involve an active choice to set a time each day devoted to social media while simultaneously committing to not accessing social media at any time outside of that time window,” Oberleitner said.  (iStock)

Another user, NavyRedRose, suggested more approaches: “Some phones can have you set screen time reminders and downtime. For example, I’ve added a 45-minute limitation per day to certain social media apps. Once I hit the limit, it’s no more of that app for the rest of the day.”


This person also wrote, “I noticed that using my local library’s app and borrowing audiobooks has helped me put my phone down more as well. I can listen to an audio book or podcast as a distraction, but I can also do something else while I’m listening that keeps me present in my day-to-day life.”

Other suggestions included adopting a “digital Sabbath” one day per week, only using social media on alternating days, practicing mindfulness exercises, and focusing only on quality content instead of “mindlessly scrolling.”


Even those who don’t consider themselves addicted to social media can benefit from reducing their usage and adopting healthier relationships with the technology, noted Oberleitner.

The doctor also emphasized the “urgent need” for continued research and development in this area, as well as a greater integration of addiction-related assessment and treatment across health care. Weighing benefits and risks

Despite its risks, social media use is not all bad, Oberleitner said — after all, there was a reason for its rapid growth. 

“Negative impacts from overuse are particularly problematic for youth,” said Oberleitner. (iStock)

“Social media can reduce stigma and isolation for individuals by finding networks of individuals with similar experiences and interests — connections that might not be possible within someone’s immediate community,” she told Fox News Digital. 

It can also allow connection during isolation, such as illness, and enable connections through distance and time, she said.


“Suppose we can continue to support efforts to help people decipher helpful from non-helpful, and informed from misinformation, when viewing social media,” Oberleitner said. 

“In that case, it can also be an excellent source of access to information.”

Melissa Rudy is health editor and a member of the lifestyle team at Fox News Digital. 


Psychological Benefits of Exercise

Are there psychological benefits of exercise? Read the latest in this collection of recent MEDLINE abstracts.Effects of Physical Exercise on Anxiety, Depression, and Sensitivity to Stress: A Unifying Theory

Salmon PClin Psychol Rev 2001 Feb;21(1):33-61

Until recently, claims for the psychological benefits of physical exercise have tended to precede supportive evidence. Acutely, emotional effects of exercise remain confusing, both positive and negative effects being reported. Results of cross-sectional and longitudinal studies are more consistent in indicating that aerobic exercise training has antidepressant and anxiolytic effects and protects against harmful consequences of stress. Details of each of these effects remain unclear. Antidepressant and anxiolytic effects have been demonstrated most clearly in subclinical disorder, and clinical applications remain to be exploited. Cross-sectional studies link exercise habits to protection from harmful effects of stress on physical and mental health, but causality is not clear. Nevertheless, the pattern of evidence suggests the theory that exercise training recruits a process which confers enduring resilience to stress. This view allows the effects of exercise to be understood in terms of existing psychobiological knowledge, and it can thereby provide the theoretical base that is needed to guide future research in this area. Clinically, exercise training continues to offer clinical psychologists a vehicle for nonspecific therapeutic social and psychological processes. It also offers a specific psychological treatment that may be particularly effective for patients for whom more conventional psychological interventions are less acceptable.Exercise Duration and Mood State: How Much is Enough to Feel Better?

Hansen CJ, Stevens LC, Coast JRHealth Psychol 2001 Jul;20(4):267-75

The effects of exercise duration on mood state were examined. In a repeated-measures design, the Profile of Mood States inventory (D. M. McNair, M. Lorr, & L. F. Droppleman, 1971) was administered before and after 1 quiet resting trial and 3 exercise trials of 10, 20, and 30 min on a bicycle ergometer. Heart rate levels were controlled at 60% of the participant’s estimated VO2max level. An overall analysis of variance found improved levels of vigor with reduced levels of confusion, fatigue, and total negative mood. Planned analyses revealed that the improvements in vigor, fatigue, and total mood occurred after 10 min of exercise, with progressive improvements in confusion over 20 min and with no additional improvement over longer periods. These results complement current recommendations, which suggest that to experience positive fitness and health benefits, healthy adults should participate in a total of 30 min of moderate physical exercise daily, accumulated in short bouts throughout the day.Physical Exercise and Psychological Well-Being: A Population Study in Finland

Hassmen P, Koivula N, Uutela APrev Med 2000 Jan;30(1):17-25

Background: Regular physical exercise has been characterized as a positive health behavior having physiological benefits. It may also yield psychological benefits. The purpose of the present study was therefore to explore the association between physical exercise frequency and a number of measures of psychological well-being in a large population-based sample.Methods: A total of 3403 participants (1856 women and 1547 men) of the Finnish cardiovascular risk factor survey, ranging in age between 25 and 64, completed questionnaires. Besides answering questions concerning their exercise habits and perceived health and fitness, the participants also completed the Beck Depression Inventory, the State-Trait Anger Scale, the Cynical Distrust Scale, and the Sense of Coherence inventory.Results: The results of this cross-sectional study suggest that individuals who exercised at least two to three times a week experienced significantly less depression, anger, cynical distrust, and stress than those exercising less frequently or not at all. Furthermore, regular exercisers perceived their health and fitness to be better than less frequent exercisers did. Finally, those who exercised at least twice a week reported higher levels of sense of coherence and a stronger feeling of social integration than their less frequently exercising counterparts.Conclusions: The results indicate a consistent association between enhanced psychological well-being, as measured using a variety of psychological inventories, and regular physical exercise.How are Mood and Exercise Related? Results From the Finnmark Study

Sexton H, Sogaard AJ, Olstad RSoc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 2001 Jul;36(7):348-53

Background: Recreational exercise and mood have frequently been correlated in population studies. Although it is often assumed that recreational exercise improves mood, this has not been consistently demonstrated in population studies.Method: The relationship between mood and exercise was studied prospectively in a community sample. A series of synchronous panel models was constructed in two samples (2798 paired observations; sample I = 1219, sample II = 1498) to examine this relationship in the entire population, for women and men separately, for those with sedentary occupations, for those performing physical labour, and for those who initially showed a more dysphoric mood.Results: Although mood and exercise were correlated, the only directional relationship that could be demonstrated was that recreational exercise had an inconsistently positive effect upon mood in those with sedentary occupations. There was no such relationship between doing physical work and mood. Analyses of those who initially showed higher levels of dysphoria did not uncover any directional relationship between mood and exercise. None of the other subgroups showed any directional effects between mood and recreational exercise, nor did the population as a whole.Conclusion: The relationship between exercise and mood in this population sample appears to be largely correlational in nature. This result suggests the need to take a cautious view of the role played by exercise in promoting mood in the general population.Men Gain Additional Psychological Benefits by Adding Exercise to a Weight-Loss Program

Kiernan M, King AC, Stefanick ML, Killen JDObes Res 2001 Dec;9(12):770-7

Objective: Adding exercise to a comprehensive weight-loss program might not only attenuate any psychological distress associated with weight-loss attempts but also may provide psychological benefits. This study examined whether a diet-plus-exercise weight-loss program improved psychological outcomes more than a diet-only weight-loss program or an assessment-only control group.Research Methods And Procedures: This study was part of a larger 1-year randomized weight-loss trial examining the effects of diet and exercise on cardiovascular disease risk factors in 264 overweight adults. Psychological measures specific to weight control (e.g., cognitive restraint, disinhibition, hunger, and body dissatisfaction) as well as traditional measures of psychological distress (e.g., symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress) were obtained at baseline and 1 year.Results: Men and women in either weight-loss program reported greater restraint, less disinhibition, and less hunger at 1 year than those in no program. Men in the diet-plus-exercise program experienced additional increases in restraint and decreases in hunger than did men in the diet-only program. Women in the diet-plus-exercise program did not experience additional psychological benefits specific to weight control than those in the diet-only program, despite increases in aerobic capacity.Discussion: The pattern seen for overweight men in the diet-plus-exercise program at 1 year-greater restraint, less disinhibition, and less hunger-is similar to the pattern seen in successful weight maintainers. These results underscore the need for innovative strategies that will enhance and sustain the pattern of psychological benefits specific to weight control associated with successful weight loss, especially for overweight women.Mood Change Through Physical Exercise in Nine- to Ten-Year-Old Children

Williamson D, Dewey A, Steinberg HPercept Mot Skills 2001 Aug;93(1):311-6

The present study assessed the effect of two types of physical exercise on the self reported mood of 64 9 and 10-yr.-old children who responded to a self-report mood meassure after two different types of aerobic exercise of 15 min., and after a 15-min. video. Significant increases in positive mood and significant decreases in negative mood were found after each exercise treatment; however, positive mood decreased and negative mood increased following the video treatment. Interestingly, no significant difference in mean mood scores was found between the two exercise treatments. These data suggest that short bouts of physical exercise have psychological benefits for children.The Benefits of Exercise in Geriatric Women

George BJ, Goldberg NAm J Geriatr Cardiol 2001 Sep-Oct;10(5):260-3

Women 65 years of age and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. As women age, physical inactivity is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality due to coronary heart disease, diabetes mellitus, and hypertension. There is also a loss of both physiologic and psychological capabilities that contributes to an overall reduction in function and independent living. Regular physical activity in geriatric women has been shown to reduce cardiovascular morbidity and all-cause mortality. Further research needs to be done to evaluate the role of regular physical activity in the management of diabetes and hyperlipidemia.Alterations in Selected Measures of Mood With a Single Bout of Dynamic Taekwondo Exercise in College-Age Students

Toskovic NNPercept Mot Skills 2001 Jun;92(3 Pt 2):1031-8

This study was designed to investigate and to compare the acute alterations in selected measures of mood profile in novice Taekwondo practitioners while evaluating whether dynamic Taekwondo practice was an appropriate exercise modality for enhancing six psychological state dimensions: Vigor, Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Fatigue, and Confusion. 20 male and female college-age students enrolled in Taekwondo activity class and an additional 20 students enrolled in the lecture-con trol class (ages 18 to 21 years) completed the Profile of Mood States (POMS) inven tory prior to and immediately following one 75-min. session of dynamic Taekwondo or lecture. To examine the exercise effect, a series of 2 x 2 analysis of covariance were performed on mean posttest scores, using pretest scores as the covariate. Analysis indicated that Taekwondo participants reported a significant improvement (p<.007) with respect to the control group in scores on Tension, Depression, Anger, Fatigue, Confusion, and Vigor. Also, Total Mood Disturbance significantly improved after the dynamic Taekwondo session. The selected affective benefits of an acute Taekwondo exercise in this study were independent of sex. Unlike the exercising subjects. the control subjects reported no such benefits and, indeed, increased their scores for negative mood states. These results suggest that a dynamic version of Taekwondo achieves the necessary activity parameters that begin to induce positive mood state changes and that extensive Taekwondo skill is not necessary to elicit some beneficial change in affect. This study also supports the findings of several earlier studies indicating that acute exercise may elicit positive changes in affective states and that prolonged exercise is not necessary to produce immediate beneficial alterations of mood.A Prospective Analysis of the Relationship Between Walking and Mood in Sedentary Ethnic Minority Women

Lee RE, Goldberg JH, Sallis JF, Hickmann SA, Castro CM, Chen AHWomen Health 2001;32(4):1-15

Walking for exercise is becoming widely recognized for bestowing health benefits. This study examined the association of walking for exercise and mood in sedentary, ethnic minority women over a five-month period. Ethnic minority women (N = 102) participated in a randomized, controlled trial of a 7-week behaviorally based telephone and mail intervention that promoted the adoption of walking for exercise compared to a non-behavioral minimal intervention. At 2-month post-test and 5-month follow-up, participants reported significant decreases in depressive mood and increases in vigor. Increase in walking over the course of the study was associated with change in vigor. Limited evidence was found to support a relationship between walking for exercise and mood improvement in ethnic-minority women.Benefits From Aerobic Exercise in Patients With Major Depression: A Pilot Study

Dimeo F, Bauer M, Varahram I, Proest G, Halter UBr J Sports Med 2001 Apr;35(2):114-7

Background: Several reports indicate that physical activity can reduce the severity of symptoms in depressed patients. Some data suggest that even a single exercise bout may result in a substantial mood improvement.Objective: To evaluate the short term effects of a training programme on patients with moderate to severe major depression.Methods: Twelve patients (mean (SD) age 49 (10) years; five men, seven women) with a major depressive episode according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Society of Psychiatry (DSM IV) criteria participated. The mean (SD) duration of the depressive episode was 35 (21) weeks (range 12–96). Training consisted of walking on a treadmill following an interval training pattern and was carried out for 30 minutes a day for 10 days.Results: At the end of the training programme, there was a clinically relevant and statistically significant reduction in depression scores (Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression: before, 19.5 (3.3); after, 13 (5.5); p = 0.002. Self assessed intensity of symptoms: before, 23.2 (7); after, 17.7 (8.1); p = 0.006. Values are mean (SD)). Subjective and objective changes in depression scores correlated strongly (r = 0.66, p = 0.01).Conclusions: Aerobic exercise can produce substantial improvement in mood in patients with major depressive disorders in a short time.Effect of Yogic Exercises on Physical and Mental Health of Young Fellowship Course Trainees

Ray US, Mukhopadhyaya S, Purkayastha SS, Asnani V, Tomer OS, Prashad R, et al.Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 2001 Jan;45(1):37-53

A study was undertaken to observe any beneficial effect of yogic practices during training period on the young trainees. 54 trainees of 20-25 years age group were divided randomly in two groups i.e. yoga and control group. Yoga group (23 males and 5 females) was administered yogic practices for the first five months of the course while control group (21 males and 5 females) did not perform yogic exercises during this period. From the 6th to 10th month of training both the groups performed the yogic practices. Physiological parameters like heart rate, blood pressure, oral temperature, skin temperature in resting condition, responses to maximal and submaximal exercise, body flexibility were recorded. Psychological parameters like personality, learning, arithmetic and psychomotor ability, mental well being were also recorded. Various parameters were taken before and during the 5th and 10th month of training period. Initially there was relatively higher sympathetic activity in both the groups due to the new work/training environment but gradually it subsided. Later on at the 5th and 10th month, yoga group had relatively lower sympathetic activity than the control group. There was improvement in performance at submaximal level of exercise and in anaerobic threshold in the yoga group. Shoulder, hip, trunk and neck flexibility improved in the yoga group. There was improvement in various psychological parameters like reduction in anxiety and depression and a better mental function after yogic practices.


Rantz: UW study dismisses drug concerns to protect transit, harm reduction advocates

Transit agencies under fire for homeless addicts smoking meth and fentanyl in front of customers asked the University of Washington (UW) to study the matter. Transit’s goals were results that remove their financial liability from lawsuits, help them avoid renegotiations with unions representing bus drivers and light rail operators, and normalize drug use. The UW delivered, spinning questionable observations into a narrative that there’s hardly a risk to drug smoke exposure. 

The “limited-scope” study measured drugs in the air and on the surfaces of transit in Washington and Oregon using just 11 buses and 19 train cars during evening routes. Reviewing just 78 air samples and 102 surface samples, researchers found meth in 98% of the surface samples and 100% of the air samples, and fentanyl in 46% of the surface and 25% of the air samples. Yet, the researchers said all is well in a press release that seemed intent on setting a narrative permissive of drug use and protective of transit agencies.

“In general, levels of methamphetamine and fentanyl found on transit vehicles in this exposure assessment are unlikely to cause acute, short-term physical health effects for the riding public who spend less time on transit than the operators,” researchers wrote. “At the levels seen in this study, there is no evidence of acute medical conditions resulting from passive exposure to fentanyl or methamphetamine (such as from touching contaminated surfaces or inhaling secondhand smoke).”

But the UW study didn’t test for acute medical conditions related to “passive” exposure to drug smoke. The main objective of the study was to provide an “exposure assessment.” They reviewed data on surface and air exposure; not whether or not people became or could become sick (see page 26 of the study). So why are we told that pregnant women, children, asthmatics, elderly, cancer patients, and everyone else is at virtually no risk of negative health outcomes? You don’t really believe this UW drug study, right?

The UW press release accompanying its findings appears exceptionally biased. It reads like they were paid to offer certain results and, in some ways, downplays the observations in the finding itself.

For example, the study was conducted after transit drivers complained that they felt sick from the constant exposure to secondhand meth or fentanyl smoke. UW downplayed how often it was occurring, writing it off as just “Some operators reported instances of people smoking drugs on their vehicles.” But operators leveled a record-high number of complaints for smoking on their buses and train cars.

And even though meth was detected in 100% of the air samples and 98% on surfaces, UW said it was “nuanced” whether or not “transit operators [were] being exposed to drug smoke or residue in their workplace.” It’s not nuanced. Transit operators and the public were and continue to be unquestionably exposed. The research team, led by UW assistant professor of environmental and occupational health sciences Marissa Baker, calls it nuanced because they say it’s just a small amount. Except they have no clue whether or not a small amount impacts transit riders or customers — they’re guessing. It’s why their report says acute illness is “unlikely.”

Though not widely reported, the researchers admitted in their final report that they did not establish the “[l]ong-term health effects related to daily secondhand exposure to these substances,” which was one of the main complaints spurring the research in the first place. It also didn’t review how either transit operators or the general public felt after exposure to the drugs in the air. This important detail made it to the final report, but curiously not the press release about the report: “This assessment did not characterize short- or long-term health outcomes associated with secondhand exposure to fentanyl or methamphetamine.” 

This wouldn’t be the first time a UW press release was tailored made for a specific agenda in conflict with some of what’s in the study. The UW previously claimed gender-affirming care via puberty blockers leads to positive mental health outcomes for transgender teen patients. That characterization, however, was false (so false, in fact, the UW had to delete materials being used to promote the research). But despite knowingly releasing false information to the press, the UW did not seek to proactively correct the record in any meaningful way because they were content with the coverage.

More from Jason Rantz: Despite ‘concerning’ transgender study, UW kept quiet because of positive coverageUW warns of cigarette smoke and COVID, but not fentanyl and meth smoke

As a daily King County Metro rider, I often see homeless addicts either smoking at a bus stop or on the bus (almost always in the morning, a time UW did not study). I’ve seen it a few times on Sound Transit light-rail (they usually smoke in the entrances/exits at Westlake Center, rendering them unusable; and, again, in the AM when the UW study did not study). UW researchers are telling me that my exposure is perfectly reasonable with a broad-stroke guess, even though they do not know my medical history (which includes severe asthma). They’re not even erring on the side of caution.

“The detection of fentanyl or methamphetamine by the lab does not necessarily mean it poses a health risk to operators or the riding public, Baker said,” according to the press release. Baker could have said the opposite, too: exposure does not necessarily mean it poses no health risk. Suddenly, researchers (and the public health officials using this to pretend there’s nothing wrong with addicts using transit to get high) are framing a health issue around the likelihood that we’re safe from negative outcomes. Consider this framing versus the three years of COVID exposure narrative where we were warned to err on the side of caution, even after months of data concluded children are barely impacted by COVID, you can’t catch the virus outside, and neither washing hands nor the vaccine stops the spread of COVID. They still err on the side of caution. Yet with a “first-of-its-kind” study they’re erring away from the side of caution.

Laughably, we’re also supposed to fear second-hand cigarette smoke more than smoke from meth and fentanyl. All three UW campuses are smoke- and vape-free, citing health risks to people exposed to the smoke and vapor water. “Due to the population density of UW campuses, any smoking outside of designated smoking areas increases the risk of secondhand smoke exposure,” the UW warns.

Based on this UW study, you wouldn’t expect the campus to hold any health concerns with exposure to meth and fentanyl smoking on campus, right? Study is about protecting transit and pushing ‘harm reduction’

The public health agencies in the areas these transit providers operate have adopted a “harm reduction” approach to drug addiction. 

There is little to no interest in providing drug treatment; it’s why so few dollars are spent on it. Instead, they want to promote “safer” ways to smoke fentanyl or shoot up heroin. They tell you to have drug parties where you can watch people get high, hand out clean needles to shoot up or booty bumping kits for a more intense high, and seldom call out the inherent dangers of drug addiction because they don’t want to “stigmatize” the user.

UW researchers unrelated to this study also embrace “harm reduction.” The farther to the Left one is politically, the more likely they are to adopt this approach. UW is known for group-think and creating an echo chamber, aiming to push out anyone who thinks differently. 

Their “harm reduction” strategy is informed by ideology, not science. I explore this deadly strategy at great length in my book What’s Killing America (releasing on September 26). Indeed, since public health departments embraced “harm reduction,” we’ve seen record-high fatal overdoses. They’re not reducing harm; quite the opposite.

Still, left-wing transit leadership subscribes to the same beliefs, giving them little meaningful interest in stopping public drug use, which is precisely why the crisis has grown. They neither want to face lawsuits nor renegotiate safety protocols with union drivers and now they have a study (that they paid for) that gives them an out. 

More from Jason Rantz: Seattle media gives Inslee a pass on egregious lieMedia (mostly) doesn’t question the study or motives

Much of the media dutifully reported these findings uncritically. We’re all going to pay a price as a result, including those who live outside of the Pacific Northwest since this study will be used by others in Democrat-run cities to combat any legal or union complaints.

While there were some exceptions, local media just reprinted the press release with transactional stories. No dots are connected between the motives for the study findings or the obvious benefit to transit agencies to get the result they essentially paid for. No one seemed to note the conflict between the study downplaying health risks with actions by some transit agencies to install better air filtration systems. Why make this change if there’s no meaningful health risk? Even the UW study recommends the transit agencies develop “enhanced” cleaning protocols. Though operators and the public are safe to be around the drug smoke in the air and on surfaces, UW researchers tell the agencies to, “Consider the occupational health and safety needs of the cleaning personnel to safely perform these enhanced cleaning tasks.”

Much like cigarette companies touting studies that their products are safe, this transit/UW partnership seems like a sham. And we’d all be better off not just rejecting these claims about safety, but continuing to demand something be done around the drug crisis. Customers, operators, and the addicts deserve better. And the worst that can come of us ignoring the findings is that we’re exposed to less meth and fentanyl. 

Listen to The Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). He is the author of the book “What’s Killing America: Inside the Radical Left’s Tragic Destruction of Our Cities.” Subscribe to the podcast. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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