The Dangers of Taking Kratom

The popular herb may act like a prescription opioid, and could be addictive

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A new report from the Food and Drug Administration says that the popular herbal substance kratom acts like a prescription-strength opioid. What’s more, the FDA says, kratom has been responsible for at least one death and is suspected of contributing to many others.  

People across the country have been flocking to kratom (sold as supplements and in beverages) to treat a host of conditions, including chronic pain, mood disorders (like anxiety, depression, and PTSD), and opioid withdrawal.

According to the American Kratom Association (AKA), a nonprofit that advocates for the regulation and safe use of kratom products, 3 million to 5 million Americans have tried the substance in just the past few years. “Its popularity is growing,” says Pete Candland, executive director of the AKA. “People see it as a way to avoid prescription medications that feel increasingly dangerous to them.”

But federal regulators say that kratom itself can be dangerous. For several years, the Drug Enforcement Agency has listed it as a “substance of concern,” and the FDA has warned of its addictive potential.


To better assess this risk, FDA scientists analyzed 25 of the most prevalent compounds in kratom. They found that, on average, those compounds are alarmingly similar to scheduled opioid drugs (meaning drugs that have been deemed strong enough to warrant restricted access by the DEA).

“This is not ‘just a plant’ [as some have contended],” FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., says. “Based on the data we now have, we feel confident in calling these compounds opioids.”

Based on its analysis of adverse-event and poison-control data, the agency also says the number of kratom-associated deaths has increased from 36 to 44.

Kratom users have argued that such incidents may not be due to kratom itself but rather may be caused by adulterants that kratom products can contain or by other substances that kratom users may be taking in tandem. But today’s report indicates that at least one death was tied exclusively to kratom, as the victim had not been taking any other drugs.

What Is Kratom?

Kratom is a tree native to Southeast Asia, where people have used its leaves for centuries to treat aches, pains, and other maladies. The leaves  contain several compounds that produce a caffeine-like stimulant effect when consumed in low doses, and act like a sedative in higher doses.

Kratom leaves are typically crushed into a powder, then smoked; brewed in teas; or consumed in gel capsules. These products are available through online vendors, at head shops, and, in some states, through vending machines and at bars that sell kratom beverages. Because it has not been banned by the DEA, and is often regarded as a dietary supplement, kratom currently doesn’t require a prescription.

According to a 2017 survey published in the medical journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, most U.S. consumers who take kratom regularly say they use it to manage chronic pain and/or a mood disorder. The same study found that the use of kratom to treat opioid addiction is far less common.

Can Kratom Stop Pain and Depression?

It’s too soon to say, because actual research on the plant’s effects is still scarce. Anecdotal reports suggest the drug can help ease anxiety and can curb the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. But the FDA says there is no reliable scientific evidence to support such claims and, at the moment, there are no FDA-approved medical uses for the substance.

The agency says it’s willing to consider kratom-derived products for approval as either dietary supplements or pharmaceutical drugs, but that such evaluations need to proceed through proper channels and should involve hard data. “The FDA stands ready to evaluate evidence that could demonstrate a medicinal purpose for kratom,” Gottlieb says. “However, to date, we have received no such submissions.” 

Some medical experts say that, even though it carries risks, kratom’s most prominent ingredient—a chemical known as mitragynine—does show some promise. “It seems to mitigate pain without suppressing breathing the way other opioids do,” says Oliver Grundmann, Ph.D., a medicinal chemist at the University of Florida who has studied kratom use in the U.S. “So there is at least a chance that it could prove a milder alternative to these other prescription painkillers.”

But the only thing everyone agrees on is that much more research is needed.

What Are the Dangers of Using Kratom?

Like any unregulated substance, kratom comes with a number of potentially serious risks.

It may make you sick. In addition to the FDA-reported deaths associated with kratom, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that poison-control centers across the country logged a ten-fold increase in kratom-related calls (from 26 cases in 2010 to 263 in 2015). Those calls included reports of nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, and irritation.

It may be adulterated with other chemicals. According to the DEA, kratom powders have been found to be laced with other opioids, like hydrocodone and tramadol. “There’s a lot of mixing that goes on with these products,” says Danica Lee, director of public health inspections in Denver. “Businesses will try to boost the potency of their product by adding other chemicals.” 

It can be dangerous when taken with other drugs. The FDA says fatality reports indicate that some consumers are mixing kratom with other drugs, both legal and illicit. There is no research yet to say what the risks of such combinations might be.

It can be addictive. According to the DEA, kratom was banned decades ago in its native Thailand because of its high propensity for abuse. And some U.S. users have reported that after turning to kratom to help kick an existing opioid addiction, they eventually became hooked on the plant itself.

Is Kratom Legal?

For now, it depends on where you live. Several cities (including Denver, where even cannabis is legal) and six states (Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wisconsin) have either seriously restricted the use of kratom or banned it outright. Anyone caught selling or using the substance in those states could face arrest or fines and other penalties. Florida and New York are considering legislation that would do the same.

In the remaining states and at the federal level, kratom is in legal limbo. In 2016, the DEA announced plans to list the plant as a Schedule I substance, a designation that would ban it for consumers, and would severely restrict access for scientists who want to study its potential risks and benefits. (Other Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, cannabis, and ecstasy.)

The agency made the unprecedented move of reversing its decision following a public outcry from both consumers and medical experts who argue that the plant should be regulated and studied, not banned. But that reversal was not permanent. The DEA is currently reviewing data submitted by the FDA (including today’s report), along with thousands of public comments on the issue.

A DEA spokeswoman says that it could be several months to a couple of years before a final decision is made about if or how kratom should be classified. But she declined to say what specific impact the current study would have on those deliberations.

In the meantime, the drug’s defenders say that banning kratom could potentially drive millions of kratom users to prescription opioids (or worse) to treat their pain or manage their addictions. What’s more, they say, criminalization would make it very difficult for scientists to study the plant (when cannabis was classified as an illegal substance, research on its therapeutic properties all but ground to a halt).

“If you’re concerned about safety, regulate it,” says Candland of the American Kratom Association. “Keep it behind the counter, make it illegal for minors, establish strict labeling requirements. Don’t criminalize it.”

But regulators have insisted that precautionary measures are the best way to protect consumers. The FDA began banning kratom imports in 2012 (long before today’s findings were known) and has since seized several shipments of the substance from international-mail facilities across the country.

“We’ve learned a tragic lesson from the opioid crisis,” Gottlieb says. “We must pay early attention to the potential for new products to cause addiction and we must take strong decisive measures to intervene.”

What to Try Instead of Kratom

Consumer Reports’ medical experts say to avoid kratom. “Anyone foolish enough to believe the hype is taking a potentially life-threatening risk,” says Consumer Reports’ chief medical adviser, Marvin Lipman, M.D. “Little is known about its toxicity. Its use has been linked to fatalities. And what’s on the label is not necessarily what’s in the product.”

If you are battling chronic pain and hoping to avoid prescription opiates, see our previous coverage for a list of safer options, and talk to your doctor about which ones make the most sense for you.

If you are struggling with opioid addiction or a mood disorder like anxiety or depression, it’s important that you see a licensed physician and have them help you determine the best course of treatment. “Withdrawal from opioids is no easy matter,” Lipman says. “It has to be done slowly under the guidance of a professional in order to minimize symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, severe aches pains and seizures.”

Parent Confessions: I Didn’t Understand the Seriousness of my Son’s Steroid Use

As published in Little League Baseball’s newsletter:

We are a baseball family. I played Little League Baseball® and so did both of my boys. Our oldest son went on the play collegiate baseball and was scouted by several Major League teams, and was Taylor’s idol. Like his older brother, Taylor played Little League and then played on his high school team.  He was a very talented player, and had dreams of pitching in college and one day playing in the pros.

Taylor was very competitive at everything he did – in school and in his social life. During high school, he was never satisfied with just being in the starting lineup, he wanted to be the number one pitcher on his squad. One of his coaches told him that he needed to “get bigger” to improve his chances of becoming the ace. Taylor was already over six feet tall and weighed 175 pounds at 16 years old, he really didn’t need to “get bigger”. With those instructions, he began using dietary supplements and working out to help him put on more weight.

What we didn’t know was that half of the boys on Taylor’s high school team were actively using anabolic steroids to help them get bigger. When Taylor stepped into his high school dugout, he found another “tool” that he could use to help him achieve his objective. He was introduced to a dealer while working out at our local gym and began injecting two different types of anabolic steroids. Over the next 90 days, he put on 30 pounds of lean muscle. With the changes in his body, he began to throw much harder. He moved into a new, fast-paced social group.  He couldn’t walk in front of a mirror without flexing his guns.

In addition to the physical changes, his moods began to swing dramatically. We experienced his “roid rage” first hand. He began to curse at his mom and me when we crossed him in even minor ways. We knew that something was wrong, so we took him to our family physician who didn’t recognize the problem. We visited with a dermatologist to treat the severe acne that had developed on Taylor’s back (a textbook side effect of steroids), and later to a psychiatrist who got him to admit what he’d been doing and instructed Taylor to quit “cold turkey.” We didn’t know any better.

About six weeks later, Taylor committed suicide, and our lives fell apart. We lost our son – a young man with a passion for baseball and a zest for life.

Of course, we knew of the widespread use of steroids by professional athletes. But, we had no idea how to help our son and we were blindsided when we learned how many young people are using these and other appearance and performance enhancing substances. Nationally, about one out of sixteen high school students admit to using anabolic steroids. We also didn’t know that about 25 percent of dietary supplements are spiked with anabolic steroids. And that, tragically, suicide is one of the devastating results of steroid withdrawal.

Like most parents reading this story, we didn’t want to even let the thought cross our minds that our son might be participating in this behavior – “Taylor would never do that, we thought”.

In our grief, we poured ourselves into learning more about steroid and appearance and performance enhancing substances. If only we had educated ourselves about how to recognize the signs of steroid use, we could have recognized the fact that Taylor was using and just might have been able to take steps to prevent the tragedy that unfolded in our family.

The next year, 2004, we founded the Taylor Hooton Foundation to provide parents, coaches, and other adult influencers with the knowledge and tools to become educated about the dangers of these powerful drugs.  For more information, please visit

By Don Hooton, President and Founder of the Taylor Hooton Foundation


Elvis Andrus (Rangers) promotes healthy lifestyle to youth

ARLINGTON — The 50 or so prep baseball players who showed up at Globe Life Park on Saturday morning got a crash course in doing things the right way as part of the National PLAY Campaign to promote the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.

The main message they got from the likes of Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, head trainer Kevin Harmon and Don Hooton, whose son Taylor committed suicide after using anabolic steroids, was there are no shortcuts to success in baseball.

It’s a message they believe got through to the players and coaches who came from all over North Texas.

“It’s really important,” Andrus said. “They’re at an age right now where they need good advice. They need a good way to do it. They’re at a critical age for them as athletes. When I was that age, if I had good advice — which I did — it makes the whole thing different.”

The boys heard from Andrus, Harmon, Hooton and others from the visiting bullpen at Globe Life Park before heading to different stations. They ran drills in the outfield, visited the weight room and heard about nutrition. The highlight for them was getting to hit in the batting cages, where Andrus worked with the players as they hit off a tee and offered tips.

It was an eye-opening day for many players, who had never been to Globe Life Park or met a Major Leaguer.

“I like seeing how [the Rangers] treat their players, how the trainers take care of them, how we take care of our players and seeing the differences,” said Sam Hughes, a junior catcher from Quinlan High School. “I like seeing how the professionals do it, so I can start working my way up to it. It’s scary to hear about PEDs. Kids my age are doing it, and there’s no way you’re supposed to be doing that.”

Hughes is just the kind of player the program, which is in its 15th year, is trying to reach. Hooton said the average age for boys to start experimenting with PEDs is 15. Being able to talk to the players, along with some of their coaches and parents, was a huge opportunity.

It also helps to have someone like Andrus on board. Andrus is on the All Me League advisory board for the Taylor Hooton Foundation. Andrus talked to the athletes about how, when he was 16, he saw other players taking shortcuts to try to get ahead. That just made him work harder.

Andrus promotes healthy lifestyle to youth

The impact of Saturday’s event will hopefully be felt for years to come.

“[Having role models like] Elvis and the other players across the league is extremely important,” Hooton said. “Combined with getting to be in a Major League ballpark and [having] MLB and the management staff … behind it, hopefully every one of these boys is going to remember their day on the field and remember the message they heard today. I think it all works together. We’ll never know, but you hope that with these guys at their age, we can get them to think twice. For many of these kids, this will be the only time they get a message about the importance of proper diet, proper exercise and to not take shortcuts.”

Another Young Man Dies Too Young After Using Anabolic Steroids

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Brandon Emmett Emanuel Char-Lee

Grieving mother brings message to Central Valley bodybuilders

Men and Women were showing off the results of their hard work and discipline at the Fresno classic bodybuilding competition Saturday April 28th.

23-year-old Brandon Char-Lee had been training for the competition as well.

But, he didn’t have the chance to compete he passed away on April 24th

His mother, Carolyn Char Lunger, says his autopsy cited a history of steroid abuse. she traveled from the bay area to see the competitors and share his story, and hopes it will help save lives.

“You only have one body, one life, this means a lot for that split second on stage. I was waiting for a phone call saying I’m getting married, I’m having children. we’re not gonna get that phone call ever. He’s gone. for what? to have these big muscles to show. there’s other ways to do this.”

Carolyn hopes that by sharing her story, there can be increased scrutiny on steroid use, there will be a bigger effort to track those who are getting others hooked.

THF Board Member, Mark Thompson, on Home Security and Pest Control

Providing peace of mind is a full-time job. Mark Thompson, the founder of Smith Thompson Security, gladly accepts this responsibility. In a time when tragedies seem to take place on a daily basis, Thompson emphasizes the value of safety and security.

Mark Thompson started Smith Thompson Security in 1978. Smith Thompson Security is often regarded as a company born out of tragedy.

“My father was killed by a drunk driver,” Thompson says. “Our hometown’s newspaper did a story on our family and said we’d be out of town for the funeral. When we got back from the funeral, we discovered that our house had been robbed.”

The look on his mother’s face upon discovery of the horrific incident was enough to motivate Thompson to take action.

“I will never forget how much this broke my mother’s heart,” Thompson says. “Our family completely understands how violating such an act can be.”

Since that day, Thompson has been committed to providing security to families at a reasonable price.

“Back then, home security systems were expensive,” Thompson says. “Only the wealthy could afford them. We tried to find ways to make them affordable for everyone.”

Smith Thompson Security customers can create personalized packages to match the needs of their families.

“Everyone’s needs are different,” Thompson says. “You have to make the system adapt to the customer’s to live with them, not make the customer live with the system.”

Like his home security business, his pest control business, Smith Thompson Pest Control, has also proven lucrative. However, Thompson is a firm believer in working for one’s earnings. At the moment, his children are learning the ropes of the family business.

Smith Thompson’s official Pest Control truck (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

“Everybody in my family starts off like I did,” Thompson says. “I was crawling around in attics running wiring. My son, Jordan, is in the pest control business, and he’s learning it from the ground up.”

Thompson’s years of hard work and dedication have proven to be fruitful. Smith Thompson Security is currently the official home security system of the Dallas Mavericks.

“On our 30th anniversary, my wife and I came up with this crazy idea to visit all 30 NBA arenas,” Thompson says. “It started off as a joke, then it became a dare, then we actually did it. And then, the following year, we became sponsors after receiving a lot of media attention. We’ve been sponsors ever since.”

Having been heavily involved with the Dallas Mavericks for nearly eight years, Thompson won MFFL award at the final Mavs game of the 2017-2018 season.

Rick Carlisle, Lynda Thompson, and Mark Thompson at recent Mavs luncheon. (Photo credit: Tammany Stern)

Despite his staple status in the DFW community, Thompson has remained humble, hardworking, and dedicated to providing quality service to families and homeowners. Since Smith Thompson’s early beginnings, Thompson has never increased his home monitoring rate from $16.95 per month.

Smith Thompson Security currently serves families and homeowners in over 150 cities and towns in Texas. To get set up with affordable home security, call 1-888-888-1695, or visit

Vikings WR Cayleb Jones suspended 4 games for violating NFL PED policy

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The NFL has suspended Vikings wide receiver Cayleb Jones the first four games of the 2018 season for a violation of the league’s performance-enhancing substances policy.

Jones will be able to practice during the offseason and play in all preseason games, but will serve the four-game suspension without pay.

 The 25-year-old wide receiver is the older brother of Bills receiver Zay Jones and son of longtime NFL linebacker Robert Jones. He has been on the Vikings practice squad the past two seasons. He has yet to appear in a regular-season NFL game and is listed as seventh or eighth on the Vikings’ WR depth chart.

Jones, who played collegiately at Texas and Arizona, signed with Philadelphia as an undrafted free agent in 2016 before joining the Vikings.

What’s the harm in taking SARMs?

“SARMs” have emerged as a new class of appearance- and performance-enhancing substances. Before you consider using one, learn the facts here.

What are SARMs?

SARMs—short for “selective androgen receptor modulators”—are synthetic drugs designed to have effects similar to those of testosterone. SARMs are still in the research and testing stages for various medical conditions but have not been approved yet for any other use. Despite that, SARMs are readily available online and often marketed to bodybuilders as “legal steroids” or “steroid alternatives” or for “research only.”

Are SARMs safe or legal?

Although SARMs sometimes are sold in products marketed as dietary supplements, FDA has stated they are not dietary supplements and are unapproved by FDA for human use. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) prohibit SARMS for use in sport.

USU/CHAMP logo. Operation Supplement Safety logo. SARMs (Selective androgen receptor modulators) are unapproved drugs. They're also: illegally marketed and sold as dietary supplements, banned in all professional and college sports, unapproved by FDA for human use, known to adversely affect the liver and cholesterol levels. Is it worth the risk to your performance and readiness?

If you have purchased or considered using a dietary supplement product labeled as containing a SARM  (that is, with one or more SARMs on its Supplement Facts panel) or marketed for bodybuilding, think again! We strongly advise not using such products, as they pose significant health and readiness risks. Ostarine and similar SARMs also might cause positive results if you are tested for steroids. Importantly, use of SARMs might interfere with the natural release of your own testosterone.

What ingredients should you look out for?

Some of the ingredient names to watch out for on dietary supplement product labels and websites include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Andarine (S4)
  • Enobosarm (Ostarine, MK-2866)
  • Ligandrol (LGD-4033)
  • RAD140 (Testolone)
  • S-22

Watch out too for other experimental drugs—such as Cardarine/GW-501516, Ibutamoren/MK-677, and YK11—that sometimes are marketed as SARMs; they aren’t, but they also are illegal for any use other than research.

For a more complete list of names, please see “Dietary Supplements and Other Commercial Products Containing SARMs.”

SARMs Control Act Would Strengthen DEA’s Power to Enforce Against SARMs in Dietary Supplements

New legislation introduced yesterday in the U.S. Senate would give the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) increased power to enforce against selective androgen receptor modulators, or SARMs. SARMs are synthetic drugs designed to mimic the effects of testosterone and are unapproved for use in dietary supplements but are sometimes found in products such as sports supplements targeting bodybuilders. The SARMs Control Act of 2018 introduced yesterday by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) would add SARMs to the DEA’s list of Schedule III drugs and ensure that SARMs are regulated similarly to anabolic steroids.

 FDA has not approved SARMs for use by humans and recently ramped up efforts to enforce against products marketed as dietary supplements illegally containing SARMs. Last October, the agency announced it had sent warning letters to three companies marketing dietary supplements containing SARMs. In a press statement, Donald D. Ashley, JD, director of the Office of Compliance in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said, “Bodybuilding products that contain selective androgen receptor modulators, or SARMs, have not been approved by the FDA and are associated with serious safety concerns, including potential to increase the risk of heart attack or stroke and life-threatening reactions like liver damage. We will continue to take action against companies marketing these products to protect the public health.”

The bipartisan SARMs Control Act of 2018 extends the power the DEA has under the 2014 Designer Anabolic Steroids Control Act, to include authority over SARMs. In addition to adding SARMs to the list of Schedule III drugs, the bill prohibits the illegal import, export, manufacture, and distribution of SARMs.

“SARMs are synthetic drugs that have negative effects similar to those of anabolic steroids,” said Senator Hatch in a press statement. “Even though SARMS are not approved by the FDA for human use and pose the same safety risks as anabolic steroids, they have proliferated under a regime in which they are not subject to the same controls. The SARMs Control Act closes this loophole to ensure that the DEA has the authority it needs to prevent abuse and diversion of these dangerous substances.”

The bill received wide support from leaders of the dietary supplement industry, who have vocally advocated the need to ban SARMs from supplements. Last fall, industry associations joined the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to warn consumers about SARMs in supplements. Following the introduction of the new SARMs Control Act, supplement industry associations, plus Travis Tygart, president and CEO, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, released a joint statement showing support. Supplement industry leaders included Michael McGuffin, president, American Herbal Products Association (AHPA; Silver Spring MD); Scott Melville, president and CEO, Consumer Healthcare Products Association (Washington, DC); Steve Mister, president and CEO, Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, DC); and Loren Israelsen, president, United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA; Washington, DC). The statement reads: “Each of our organizations has consistently supported efforts to enact and enforce laws to protect consumers, eliminate bad actors marketing illegal substances masquerading as legal products, and prosecute criminals who manufacture and sell them. Your bill will help move toward this goal. The SARMs Control Act is a bold step, adding teeth to prevention and enforcement efforts in the battle against illegal substances being marketed as legitimate products. The dietary supplement industry and USADA stands ready to work with you and all of Congress to deliver a strong bill to the President.”



As social media continues to play a central role in the lives of adolescent girls and young women, its influence on body image and the perception of beauty continues to grow. Social media not only exposes young girls to certain beauty standards and cultural ideals of womanhood, but emerging research shows it may contribute to the development of eating disorders and body dysmorphia, in females as well as males.

As many as 20 million American women and 10 million American men will experience an eating disorder at some point in their lifetime, and a large proportion of those affected are adolescents and teens. More than half of teenage girls and approximately 1/3 of teenage boys engage in eating disorder behaviors such as crash dieting, taking diet pills or laxatives, and self-induced vomiting.1

Social media may be a significant contributor to such behaviors. An eating disorder treatment center in Chicago revealed that 30–50% of its teen patients used social media as a means of supporting their eating disorders.2 A 2011 study conducted by the University of Haifa revealed that the more time teenage girls spent on social media websites like Facebook, the greater their risk was of developing eating disorders and negative body images. Another study conducted by Florida State University in 2014 also reported a correlation between Facebook use and disordered eating behaviors.3


Girl crying in front of scale


Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are both characterized by a distorted body image and abnormal eating behaviors, but they are different disorders. Read More

Media images have long played a role in the development of eating disorders. Research studies conducted as far back as the 1980s and 1990s demonstrated that the decreasing weight of fashion models, actresses, and Miss America contestants between the 1950s and 1990s contributed to an increased discrepancy between the ideal female weight and the size and proportions of the average American woman at the time.1,4

During these decades, both the beauty and diet industries flooded women’s magazines, advertisements, and other forms of media with glorified thinness ideals and dramatically emphasized their importance, making many women feel a sense of dissatisfaction with their bodies. Surveys conducted in the early 1990s revealed that the number-one wish of young girls ages 11 to 17 was that they could lose weight and keep it off. Similarly, when middle-aged women were asked what they would most like to change about their lives, more than 50% responded with “their weight” as the answer.4

Despite growing knowledge and awareness of this phenomenon, the role of media in body dissatisfaction, body dysmorphia, and eating disorders has not changed over the years. On the contrary, social media may have a more negative impact than other forms of media as it plays a larger role in the daily lives of youth. Young girls not only have to deal with the objectification of famous women’s bodies in the media, but their own bodies, as well as those of their peers, are often subject to objectification through the posting of what’s come to be known as “selfies,” a photograph taken of oneself and posted on social media.

Not only has the nature of media consumption changed, but the audience has as well. Where youth were once just exposed to their surrounding peers, they can now readily access the opinions, behaviors, and ideals of thousands of people instantly. There are many online pages, groups, and hashtags that promote disordered eating.

As part of the so-called pro-anorexia (or pro-ana) or pro-bulimia (pro-mia) movement, these websites support those with eating disorders and encourage people to post photos of what they call progress. The thinspirationthinspo, and thinspogram hashtags are used often by pro-ana and pro-mia communities to post photos of thin celebrities idolized as an inspiration for such eating disorders. These groups provide tips on becoming thin, hiding eating disorder behaviors, suppressing hunger, and keeping stomach acid from harming the teeth. In past years, many thinspiration websites were taken down as a means of prevention, but social media has made this information increasingly difficult to monitor and control.2,3

Social media can be incredibly dangerous for young people with low self-esteem and distorted body image, since they often find a sense of community and acceptance among pro-ana and pro-mia online groups that support and encourage their disordered eating. Where others may be expressing concern about their behaviors and weight loss, online pro-ana and pro-mia communities offer support and validation. The likes, thumbs-ups, and comments on their photos can provide reinforcement to continue losing weight despite health problems or concerns. Some users will even use their likes as inspiration for their behavior. For example, 1 like may equal 2 hours of fasting.2,3

Mental Health America points out that while social media does not directly cause body dysmorphic disorder, it can serve as a trigger for those with certain genetic or psychological predispositions, and may worsen symptoms in those already suffering from the disorder.5 Social media can increase a person’s exposure to body shaming as well as promote body obsessions, comparisons, and competition, all of which can contribute to disordered eating.3,4


Body positive campaigns showing diversity in woman sizeJust as social media can fuel eating disorders for many people, it can also help others find strength to seek and follow up with treatment. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) works with various social media platforms to ban certain hashtags, remove unhealthy and dangerous feeds, and provide a link to their website along with an advisory warning when certain hashtags or links are clicked.

NEDA has also made significant efforts to increase its social media presence, in 2011 launching Proud2BMe, a website that encourages adolescents and teens to have a healthy body image and relationship with food. There are also many pro-recovery hashtags that people in recovery from eating disorders can use to share with the recovery community, including:3

  • #prorecovery
  • #foodisfuel
  • #edrecovery
  • #edsoldier

Many people are beginning to use Instagram as a way to document their recovery and build a community of support and inspiration. Users in recovery post pictures of their weight gain progress and healthy-proportioned meals, along with lengthy descriptions of the various emotions, fears, challenges, and accomplishments of recovery. Those who use Instagram for recovery find comfort in sharing their story with a community, while still maintaining some degree of anonymity, often neglecting to include their last names or contact details. Others use the publicity of Instagram as a means of overcoming the immense shame and secrecy that often accompanies eating disorders.6

Just as there are individual accounts of recovery on Instagram and other social media platforms, there are social media groups and pages that promote eating disorder awareness, advocacy, recovery, and prevention. For example, one community, Beating Eating Disorders, has more than 28,000 likes on its Facebook page, and another, Eating Disorder Hope, has more than 16,000 followers on Twitter.

Social Media and Body Image

Energy drinks the cause of many sudden cardiac deaths in young people


To many adolescents and young adults, energy drinks have become essential for getting through the day. But they carry a serious risk of sudden death, a new study finds.

An international research team, led by Dr. Fabian Sanchis-Gomar of Madrid, Spain, has concluded that energy drinks are the cause of many sudden cardiac deaths in young, healthy individuals.

The main concern is that these beverages can easily aggravate underlying heart issues. Because of their high amounts of caffeine and sugar, dangerous arrhythmias can easily develop in the hearts of young people who drink them.

Many people already balk at the high amounts of labeled caffeine on these drinks. The problem is that there are many additional sources of caffeine that are “masked” by the labeling.

 “Masked” caffeine

Ingredients such as guarana, ginseng, and taurine have caffeine concentrations that are equal to, or higher than, caffeine found in coffee. Ingesting high doses of any of these substances can be very dangerous.

Roughly 31% of adolescents from ages 12 to 19 consume energy drinks on a regular basis. An even higher number of people use alternatives to these beverages, such as gums or inhalers. The high amounts of caffeine in all of these products is causing serious harm, the study found. Of the 5,448 caffeine overdoses reported in the United States in 2007, 46% of them occurred in people under the age of 19. The question is, how can we halt this trend of overconsumption by young people?

Dr. Sanchis-Gomar and his team came up with several guidelines to keep young people from over-indulging. They caution that:

  • One can (250 mL) of an energy drink per day is safe for most healthy adolescents.
  • Energy drink consumption before or during sports practice should be avoided.
  • Adolescents with clinically relevant underlying medical conditions should consult cardiologists before drinking energy drinks.
  • Excessive energy drink consumption together with alcohol or other drugs, or both, may lead to adverse effects, including death.

In the study published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, Dr. Sanchis-Gomar goes on to say alerting physicians to the dangers of energy drinks is extremely important.

“It is important for physicians to understand the lack of regulation in caffeine content and other ingredients of these high-energy beverages,” he said. Knowledge and awareness are key to providing safety for young people.