RE: Addiction

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Sat 18 Jan 2003 - 03:40:48 GMT

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    >Addiction clearly has cultural aspects as well as physical ones because the
    >genetics of the population does not change as fast as we see epidemic use
    >rise and fall.

    >The extreme social reaction to drugs (itself a meme) is a bit of a mystery.
    > I speculate that the strong reaction to drugs may be due to drugs taking
    >the place of social approval rewards.

    >Keith Henson

    From my own experience, drugs as a social outlet are the prime reason for getting involved with them. A bar is not just a place to go and drink. It is a place where people go to socialize and those people feel that alchohol looses the inhibitions and greases the wheels of social intercourse. Pot is used in much the same way, and it makes people feel closer in that you soon find the only people you feel comfortable with are people you smoke with.

    This is a dead end, however, in that pretty soon all of your friends are pot heads and by definition not a group heavy on signs of success. The same trend applies to coke and opiates in that people who use them find themselve cut off from the rest of society. Among nonusers, the user is constantly in fear of being caught and either getting fired or going to jail. This makes working and socializing a source of paranoia and fear.

    So the social incentives and disincentives are strong memetic pressures on the drug user. I found the easiest way to kick all of my bad habits was to stop associating with users at all. This meant a complete change of social activities and the types of people I hung around with, but in the end it was a pretty painless transition from user to nonuser. Without the social pressures of strung-out friends trying to push the stuff on me I didn't have much trouble quitting completely. It was the military that made me an alcoholic with endless reasons for getting together to drink. The officers were even required to throw a party periodically in which they got each other totally soused. Not throwing a party could affect their chances for advancement.

    One of the most dangerous memes in our society is the "fun" meme. The things people do for "fun" are among the most destructive in the world and cause untold suffering and misery to millions every year. People drink for fun, take drugs for fun, drive too fast for fun, and so on. Movies glorify the danger as something worth looking up to. The guy who can come closest to getting killed without actually dying is looked upon as a hero. The bull fighter is admired and rewarded for how close he can lean into the horns of a bull without getting impaled. People are admired for the amount of punishment they can take and still get up and take more.

    All of this seems to me to be counterintuitive to survival of one's genes, but it does become addictive. Fear and anger, it seems to me, can become just as addictive as opiates or cocain. But the social element seems to drive such people to flock together and share their exploits and reinforce the thrill of activities that gave them the rush. For this reason, I would say the social forces -- the memetic aspect -- are just as much a part of addiction as drugs , whether they're emotional, imbibed or injected.

    If you listen to the man who feeds on anger, all you'll hear him talk about is what makes him angry. It gives him a reason to communicate. It gives him something to talk about. And the rush is neverending because he manufactures it within himself. And as the TV show, Becker, demonstrates, it also makes for good comedy.


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