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ZetaTalk: Addictions
Note: written on Aug 15, 1995

The issue of addiction is one of perception. One views having a drink at the end of the day in the same light as eating a sweet. Tastes good, helps one relax and let go of the day's concerns, and what's the harm. Another views this as an addiction, equating addiction with anticipation or expectation or longing. At the other extreme is one who must consume half a bottle, and not just in the evening. They know they feel crippled with anxieties without this, but feel the drinking is under their control. Ask them if they are an addict and they will say no, even when suffering DT's. Are they addicted? Yes, as their need has moved from longing or anticipation to chemical dependency, and they are taking their daily dose in order to avoid withdrawal. Then there is the matter of psychological dependency, as one who never drinks at all can find they must be drunk to engage in sexual activity, and this is as surely an addiction as the chronic drunk.

What causes this, and do human counterparts on other worlds develop addictions? The tendency to develop addictions is inherent to all life, and is most definitely present on other worlds, particularly in intelligent species. Take the simplest amoebae, given the option of a food bath rich with nutrients or one thin in this regard. The amoebae will choose the rich and adjust to it, changing the thickness and composition of its cell structure so as not to become inundated with nutrients. What would happen then if the amoebae were placed in a thin nutrient bath. Distress.

Humans develop addictions for the same reasons simpler creatures do, when given the opportunity. It tastes good, feels good, and who is thinking about tomorrow. Most human addictions begin in situations where there is no concern about tomorrow, not because one is carefree but because one is in such dire circumstances that the likelihood of a tomorrow seems dim. Beyond feeling good or tasting good, one wishes to escape. The front lines during war, the slums, a brutal spouse, an abusive parent, chronic pain, all lead one to look for an escape, any escape, if only for a moment. Dealing with addiction here first requires that the cause, and not the symptom, be addressed. Not everyone can harden themselves and bear up endlessly in distressing circumstances, and it does little good to berate the addict while they are, in a sense, in pain.

Once begun, however, an escape mechanism can be continued even after circumstances have changed. Humans, as intelligent creatures, are clever at manipulating circumstances. The young college student, using cocaine on occasion to overcome the fatigue caused by all night study and to be vibrant at a party, is found later in life to be maneuvering circumstances so he can continue to use cocaine. He works late at the office, telling his wife this is required for his career, so he can excuse his use of cocaine in the parking lot after dark. Is he addicted? Physically, no, but psychologically he is, as he has changed his life for the drug. It rules him, not he it. If one desires chocolate ice cream and seeks it, that's one thing, but if one must have it and arranging to get chocolate ice cream takes priority over all else, then that's an addiction. Addiction tendencies must be placed in perspective with everything else in one's life. If the addict is a parent, with small children dependent on one, then the urge to escape or ease one's burden should be taken in context with what impact this may have on the children. If one is dying of a chronically painful disease, and one's comatose condition due to a drug dose will harm no one, then that is another matter entirely.

As with most things in life, addiction is neither inherently good or bad, but must be taken in context.

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