RE: Addiction

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Tue 26 Nov 2002 - 19:55:01 GMT

  • Next message: Jon Gilbert: "Re: Joe"

    >--- "Lawrence DeBivort" <> wrote:
    > >Well said!
    > >
    > >L
    > >
    > >> -----Original Message-----
    > >> From: []On Behalf
    > >> Of Grant Callaghan
    > >
    > >
    > >> Lawry,
    > >>
    > >> I think only the habits we want to get rid of and find hard to break
    > >> called addictions. The ones we want to keep are called virtues. ;)
    > >>
    > >> Cheers,
    > >>
    > >> Grant
    >This may be true in a first-glance poetic way, but is this true also in a
    >more scientific way. Therefore, let's zoom in on this issue in a more
    >functional/evolutionary way.
    >Suppose, for starters, that addictions are unconditionally disadvantageous,
    >that is: addicts have a lower chance of survival than non-addicts.
    >Consequently, according to this strong hypothesis, an evolutionary pressure
    >would build up favoring the non-addict, while addicts would become extinct
    >after a sufficient number of generations.
    >Now, since there obviously are still junkies around, the above premise
    >seems to be implausible (or we haven't seen enough generations passing
    >by...). The negative of the above hypothesis seems to me more plausible:
    >addictive behavior is sometimes advantageous and sometimes disadvantageous.
    >How can addiction be advantageous I hear you ask?
    >Well, suppose you are addicted to achieving success in business or making
    >money (two examples which should not ring unfamiliar to many in the US of A
    >:-) ). Although the mental state of such an addict may not differ much from
    >a drug-addict (craving, insatiable feelings etc.), there may be a huge
    >difference in survival prospect. The former may, through great
    >drive/compulsion, become a successful business-man, entrepreneur or
    >professional jock, while the latter kind of addict usually ends up in a
    >gutter with a needle stuck in his arm (or a bottle in his hand).
    >Constitutionally (i.e. genetically) there is no difference between the
    >`healthy' junkie and the 'unhealthy' junkie. The healthy junkie reproduces
    >(with a possibly more-than-average number of offspring) and it remains to
    >be seen if the kids become as good as dad's or turn sour (druggie) instead.
    >This way, the former `good' kind keeps preventing the latter `bad' kind
    >from getting extinct due to regular evolutionary pressures.
    >ps. Don't expect a load of messages yet, I returned to Holland and do not
    >have access to proper facilities to go ape and reply like a madman. These
    >messages on addiction just caught my extra attention. But, like Arnold,
    >`I'll be back' (eventually)...

    The fact is that most people are not junkies or addicts. And contrary to popular belief, unless you are unusual, it takes more than a passing acquaintance with an addicting drug to become addicted.

    I speak from personal experience on this. From the time I went into the military at age 17, I was a heavy drinker because that was what everyone did in those days -- from my commanders on down. The local enlisted men's club sold strong drinks for 10 cents each at "happy hour" and when we went off base we met at clubs down town and drank some more. Just before I retired, they gave me a complete physical and the doctor told me that if I kept drinking my liver would soon be so damaged that it would very likely kill me. By that time I was drinking a quart of rum a day and thinking nothing of it.

    When I left the military for civilian life, I immediately stopped drinking and haven't had more than an occasional drink since. I have never been drunk since. I didn't find it difficult at all, because I no longer hung around with people who drank. There was no social pressure to do so.

    On the other hand, I did start hanging around with people who smoked pot. I soon had a pot habit that was as big as the alcohol habit I had previously. When I made up my mind to quit this one, I went to Taiwan (not to be confused with Thailand) and lived with people who lacked that habit. Again, I quit immediately. The pot smokers also used a lot of coke. I tried it but got no benefit from it and so I never acquired the habit. My best buddy at the time, however, was hooked on both booze and coke and it took him some bad experiences with the law (and a couple of DUI tickets) to realize he had to quit. He, too, quit cold turkey. Last year, my wife decided to quit smoking after doing it for more than 20 years. She also quit on day and never went back.

    On the other hand, she owned a bar where I helped her out occasionally and interacted with a large number of drunks and addicts of other kinds. The most constant refrain I heard was "I'm trying to quit." "That," I told them, "is the trouble. As long as you're trying you're never going to do it. You're either doing it or you're not. Trying is a cop out. It's another way of saying I'm going to quit some day and some day never gets here."

    I know there are some people who get physically sick when they try to quit. But these people are relatively few. I think most addictive drugs do confer some benefit that balances the destructive nature of the habit. Alcohol, in a cold climate, makes one feel warmer and able to survive the cold. Heroin eases pain. Pot relaxes a person without unduly getting in the way of working. Opium used to be used to stop stomach convulsions that accompanied some forms of diarrhea. In addition, each of these substances gives the user a temporary feeling of euphoria.

    So the pain of addiction is balanced with other virtues that offset the shortcomings. There are also indications that people with strong resistance to quitting have a genetic factor that makes it harder. But they are relatively few and the vast majority of us do not become addicted to the point where we can't quit. On top of that, the addiction usually doesn't interfere with procreation, and therefore is not affected by the problem of stopping a person from reproducing.



    _________________________________________________________________ The new MSN 8: smart spam protection and 2 months FREE*

    =============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Tue 26 Nov 2002 - 19:57:56 GMT