This analogy is beyond great…

Young Gun posted this comment under my post of Are Opiates Really Addicting

And I think that it is so good that I would bring it forward as a post hopefully that  more people to read… IMO.. it is a great analogy on how our society slices and dices addictions… damning some and praising/rewarding others…

Any substance or activity that has a short term feeling of euphoria/fullfilment by the user can have a tendency towards causing full fledged addiction.  There are the common ones we are taught to identify such as nicotine, alcohol, opiates, benzodiazepines (particularly short acting ones, ie Xanax), other sedatives, methamphetamine, cocaine , etc. As easily as a person can be addicted to a substance, they can also be addicted to an activity that brings them pleasure.  There are shopaholics, workaholics, chronic masturbators, sex addicts, greed addicts, power addicts, internet addicts, food addicts, etc.  The difference is not in the underlying causal mechanism, which I liken to being primarily in a state of unhappiness or dissatisfaction with your current state of being and wanting to escape; but instead it is defined as addiction based on society’s belief structure. To illustrate this point lets loosely define addiction as an act/substance which the addict compulsively engages in to the exclusion of other normal activities even though the addict is aware that their relationship with the act/substance is causing physical/emotional/mental harm to himself or others and they have an unwillingness or inability to stop.  So lets say Steve is addicted to methamphetamine.  Steve will eventually get caught using by the authorities and get sent to treatment (or god forbid prison), or overdose and die. On the other hand Tom is addicted to work and power, he works day and night for the corporation to the exclusion of everything else in his life. Tom eventually becomes CEO of the corporation and impresses his addiction upon his employees expecting total obiediance of his underlings to maximize profits even though his actions and expectations are destroying personal relationships, harming the environment, destroying mental/physical health of his employees, etc.  the difference between Steve and Tom is that society acknowledges Steve’s addiction while denying that Tom has any problem at all.  In fact it is likely that Tom will be given several rewards, huge compensation, and praise from most people even as he systematically destroys his life and his workers lives through his addiction.  Addiction is a MENTAL state of being compounded by a physical craving for a substance.  Modern medicine focuses almost exclusively on the physical aspects of addiction while focusing solely on abstinence as the only form of mental treatment.  Well it’s no wonder why almost all addicts “use” again! The causal mechanism of unhappiness, unfulfillment, dissatisfaction and disequalibrium have not been addressed! What I believe we need to address is either:
1) Acknowledging the blocked/negative emotions, feelings, and diet of the addict that have lead to the disequalibrium and tendency toward addiction.


2) Provide/teach another healthy activity (like yoga, meditation, etc.) that causes more long lasting fulfillment or joy than the destructive relationship with the act or substance so the addict chooses the less destructive activity by default.

In conclusion, no substance or activity in itself is “addictive” to everybody. It depends upon how your brain is wired and the state of your mental/emotional well being. Also we need to broaden our scope of what we call addiction. I would think that most people have an addictive relationship with at least 1 activity or substance.  Treatment should not focus solely on abstinence but should include psychotherapy to identify and come to terms with the negative thoughts/emotions that promote addiction. Also addicts should be given the tools to find a new pursuit that brings them even greater pleasure/joy!
Thanks for reading
Young Gun

2 Responses

  1. I was an exercise addict until I had surgery in 2001 & got nerves screwed up, sorta crps but in the lower rib area. Somebody shoulda staged an intervention before I even hit puberty. Oh wait –it’s an approved addiction. Can’t even dismiss it as a “positive” addiction, because there are a lot of people for whom pain meds are positive (chronic pain patients for whom pain meds only allow work, social life, positive quality of life, etc). Oh wait –the new paradigms are that everyone with tolerance is really addicted, & they’re so screwed up that they only THINK it’s positive but it’s actually negative.

  2. That is a brilliant piece of writing by YoungGun, and I fully agree with him. I had posted some comments on another thread here that pretty much said the same thing about drugs not being addictive. The addiction is in the individual. The drug is only the object of that addiction. As pharmacists, we have seen this many times. A person appears addicted to a drug…drug is taken off market…the person moves on to another drug.

    YoungGun’s analogy of the workaholic is very good. He is right! There are people that will spend and sacrifice everything trying to move up in a company. They may lose their wife and alienate their kids. Once they reach the top, they have nothing left of a personal life, with it being in shreds.

    Western society will likely have to confront its over emphasis on work, jobs, and material possessions. This planet cannot sustain a world where everyone is exploiting the environment. The idea that we can consume more and more resources will come to an end. It may be that we are all ‘addicted’ to the mantra of Western civilizations capitalism. Look at all the people working 2 jobs and still having trouble making ends meet. Maybe the problem is not with government, not with an economic depression, but the problem lies at the heart of our psyche…we are addicted to ‘things’ and the acquisition of ‘things’.

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