Managing Addiction

Written By: - Date published: 2:16 pm, November 6th, 2010 - 29 comments
Categories: capitalism, class war, Deep stuff - Tags: , ,

Remember the War on Drugs?

Turns out the solution may well lie neither with legalisation nor in underpinning prohibition with gruntier laws and more police powers.  Those solutions are based on the assumption that drugs are the problem and that addiction is a disease the individual catches by ingesting drugs.

But if that is true, then what about shopaholics or the people suffering from any number of other addictions? Do shops or shelves of goods create a disease in the shopaholic? It doesn’t make sense, does it? It would seem more sensible to suggest an underlying cause responsible for the addiction to shopping or hand washing or drugs.

Rat Park was an experiment conducted in the late 70’s on drug addiction that concluded that addiction was a situation, not a disease. (The link leads to other relevant materials.)

In other words, what the experimenters concluded was that stressed environments promoted addiction. That’s a no-brainer, right? If you live in an unrewarding or/and stressful environment you will seek relief and some of those relief’s will be, or will become addictive. But take away the stressful environment and the urge or need to seek relief from the situation diminishes.Funny that the funding for further study was pulled.  Here’s a link to a pdf  on the experiment and it’s results entitled Effect of Early and Later Colony Housing on Oral Ingestion of Morphine on Rats .

Meanwhile, we have had 30 odd years of  neo-liberal economic policies making life tougher for the majority of us. That’s a large part of the actual problem. And anecdotal evidence suggests ever higher numbers of people on drugs. But that’s not a problem. Not really. And neither is the crime rate. Nor is any increase in mental illness across the population.

We’re in a crap situation that the neo-liberal economic prescriptions of the past decades have contributed to.  More people are poorer now than was once the case. And the poorer we are the more likely our situation is to be more crap than the next person’s. ..less rewarding work environments plus less desirable neighbourhoods plus less decent services or access to them and so on,  all add up to more in the way of a desire to escape; more addiction.

The cynic in me might argue that if the powers that be were honest about it, they would admit that addiction is seen as a problem only insofar as addictive impulses cannot be controlled, managed and directed to the degree they once were. After WW2 it was possible to channel addictive impulses to achieving the ‘post war dream’. ‘Everyone’ was included in society’s drive to achieve a broad shared vision. That’s not the case any more, with more and more people being deliberately excluded from a disintegrating society that touts consumerism, predicated on a tawdry concept of individualism, as the only means to achieve happiness or fulfilment.

29 comments on “Managing Addiction”

  1. M 1

    ‘After WW2 it was possible to channel addictive impulses to achieving the ‘post war dream’. ‘Everyone’ was included in society’s drive to achieve a broad shared vision. That’s not the case any more, with more and more people being deliberately excluded from a disintegrating society that touts consumerism, predicated on a tawdry concept of individualism, as the only means to achieve happiness or fulfilment.’

    An excellent summation of the mire we’re in.

  2. It’s interesting to observe drug addicts who are confined to prison (assuming they want to use it as a chance to get clean… drugs are more readily available inside than out if you know who to ask and are prepared to pay the consequences – solitary confinement, parole denial – when you get caught with traces in your urine).

    Almost inevitably, the addiction shifts. Non-smokers become tobacco addicts. Some become gluttons even though the food is invariably awful. I’ve seen people more than double their body weight over the course of a sentence.

    Because of course prison imposes a different set of stresses (and some of the same) as life outside. There’s no doubt that stress is linked to addiction (though there’s still a lot of work to be done on whether it causes it or just triggers it in those predisposed to it).

    But in the “rat race” it’s not just the acquisition of things that is a stressor. People need work for a plethora of reasons beyond its links to income and thus to purchasing power. All those jobs on the railways and in the Ministry of Works we got rid of didn’t allow for the amassing of outward displays of wealth; but they did allow the people doing them to feel they were contributing to something, that they were needed, that what they had to offer had value.

    Work is an end in and of itself, and removing the ability to do it causes stress well beyond simply the inability to keep acquiring. Undoubtedly there are some who find a life with little purpose tolerable – the smal number of deliberately unemployed, for instance – but it’s not in most of our natures. Yet thousands are denied the self-worth, sense of community and social networks that come with a job.

    If we could wind back the acquisitiveness of those people who’re willing to work long hours for more money to get more stuff about which to boast to their friends during their decreasing time off, and then shared that undone work around, there’s no doubt society as a whole would benefit. But try telling that to the addicts of greed.

    • Vicky32 2.1

      “Work is an end in and of itself, and removing the ability to do it causes stress well beyond simply the inability to keep acquiring. Undoubtedly there are some who find a life with little purpose tolerable – the smal number of deliberately unemployed, for instance – but it’s not in most of our natures. Yet thousands are denied the self-worth, sense of community and social networks that come with a job.”
      Quoto al 100%! Excellent Rex.. 🙂

  3. Treetop 3

    Not all stressed out people display anxiety, when a person is unable to feed their addicition anxiety is displayed. All addicition does is to create an additional problem, often much greater than the initial problem a person had. Addicition is a form of self soothing, in the initial phase a person may get some relief, in the long term they are at the mercy of that which they become addicted to.

  4. ianmac 4

    Whether it is addiction to religion, or staying young, or acquiring wealth, or getting drunk, it seems to me that the less purpose we have in our life the more addicted we become.
    I have in mind the wife of a very wealthy man. Apart from providing sex, cooking meals and getting the kids off to school, (until they leave home), what is her purpose? It certainly isn’t important to find the specials or assist her husband to succeed. My guess that in the long run her view of her life would be rather empty and thus be a candidate for some form of addiction, unless she was very satisfied with her self.
    I know of a woman who went to a hypnotherapist to help her give up heavy smoking and it worked! But then she turned to being addicted to sex much to the dismay of her ordinary husband. Help!

    • Bill 4.1

      If it is true that our situations foster addiction or makes it more likely, then beyond the commonly recognised addictions associated with drugs and certain behaviours, there is a far greater and pressing problem.

      It is probably fair to say that we are addicted to production and consumption. The situations giving rise to addiction; situations that embody such factors as inequality and fear of deprivation, are merely ‘multiplied’ by neo-liberal management techniques. But our basic problem is that industrial production and consumption is killing the ecological balance that our very ability to live is based on.

      If there is no management system that can mitigate or reverse the deadly effects of our industrial societies (and I can’t see how there possibly can be), then we are done. Finished. Kaput.

      I just wonder what it was in our condition or situation that led us to embrace and become addicted to this thing (industrialisation) that will, if the scientific evidence is believed, result in the death of us as a species.

      I can understand the initial attraction. The technical benefits of industrialisation are obvious (the social benefits contestable). And whereas I can understand how political ambitions led to powerful interests hooking onto a growth model predicated on ever greater productive capacity, I can’t fathom why now, when we are painfully aware of the consequences, we continue on this path and pretend that a different light bulb will make a world of difference.

      Nobody is walking away from this. It seems that ‘everybody’ is bowing before a fear of personal situations becoming markedly worse or even unbearable if the job was quit tomorrow and the rat race entirely abandoned.

      Is that a classic mark of addiction? To continue with detrimental behaviour because the short term is additively bearable and offers illusions of well being…offers a sense of uninterrupted continuity… to the extent that we will knowingly kill ourselves in order that our life’s maintain degrees of calm and comfort that stem from being located within the commonplace?

      In other words, is it possible that we will fight to maintain or defend the very situation that is the root of dynamics that are killing us?

      edit. thanks to whoever fixed up the summary with a graphic…

  5. There is a bigger agenda with drugs – that is financing US imperialism, CIA style beginning Indo China 1950. http://japanfocus.org/-Peter_Dale-Scott/3436
    And then bringing the stuff back home
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Drug_War:_The_Last_White_Hope

    • KJT 5.1

      Have a look at the Boxer “rebellion”.
      UK, France, USA and Russia paying for tea with opium.

      SOP for capitalists. Does not matter how much misery they cause.

  6. r0b 6

    Bill – that cartoon is bloody brilliant. Where is it from?

  7. RedLogix 7

    Been out all day so I’m late to this thread. An excellent post Bill and a theme I whole-heartedly concur with. I don’t have a whole lot to add, except perhaps one point.

    While I agree addiction arises for situational reasons; awareness of thos reasons is one of the most powerful tools an individual has in their battle overcoming that addiction. When you ask most people ‘why do you use this drug?’ the answer invariably says something like, ‘it makes me feel better’. The next question to ask is always, ‘why do you feel so bad in the first place’.

    Get the answer to that, and you have the tool to defeat the addiction. Everytime.

    • Bill 7.1

      “awareness of those reasons is one of the most powerful tools an individual has in their battle overcoming that addiction”

      If awareness of the situational reasons for addiction is a necessary or sufficient tool to overcoming addiction (ie habitual or regular, patterned behaviours), then that would be one possible explanation as to why the funding was pulled from the ‘Rat Park’ experiments. The conclusions from the experiment inform class conciousness and basically demand or encourage a direct challenge to the status quo; the dynamics and institutions that produce, defend and reinforce social situations that give rise to addictive behaviour.

      Far better then to discourage such perspectives and continue blaming the individual or the object of the addiction (drugs, consumer goods) for behaviour…even turn a healthy profit on providing solutions that never quite live up to expectations.

  8. ZeeBop 8

    LOL. Its a situation! Change yourself, stop putting yourself in that place!

    Who, what, why, when, and how. The people, debt, the left complicity,
    forever it seems, and how the left doing the same thing over and over
    again, trying to change the right.

    When the left stop preaching love and start teaching themselves how to
    be better capitalists, social capitalists! People left the unions because the
    right stacked them with communists, paid by the USSR or just from the
    bank rolls of bankers, it did matter. The effect was that the left clueless
    gave up the need to work hard, defend their own situation, sure it was
    easy, oil glut, cheap finance, they didn’t need to secure savings, or
    worry about social insurance provided by extended families, they gave
    up their kids to schools who taught only the rightwing basics, and took
    jobs to run around for longer and longer.

    The left need to stop fighting the old way, the union march, they need
    to go for the corner stone of our economy, money. If you buy your
    mortgage do it from YOURSELF, your own community can provide
    the capital and pass down the ownership to their next generation.

    The internet obligates us to go around the centralizers of the left and right,
    and reassert both the right and left, the rights need for liberty and the left’s
    need for solidarity.

    The social individualist – a capitalist who builds locally. Don’t borrow from
    foreigners overseas, don’t buy your mortgage from a global bank, get your
    insurance from you community, for your car, home, and your health.

    • The Voice of Reason 8.1

      Boy, that’s quite an stream of consciousness there, ZeeBop. You make a few weird assumptions (the right stacked unions with communists stands out!), but I think you’ll find your central premise, which I think is that the left needs to adopt a localist or community based capitalism, is already here. That was pretty much the Blairite manifesto. Blair preached the co-opting of capitalism to provide social gains. Things like low interest loans on an ever rising housing market, PPP’s where a social partnership actually means the public pay twice for infrastructure.

      Rubbish, of course, because, like cancer, capitalism is entirely destructive of its host body.

      • ZeeBop 8.1.1

        Strawman me why don’t you. You pay insurance, all you need to do is find more people paying insurance, start a co-op and you’ve remove the financal asset from the speculator classes, they won’t be able to hedge, or charge themselves fees for churning the money over, you’ll own the capital, you’ll have the money to invester, you’ll have the power. Nothing to do with big government hot smelly blair air.

    • Bill 8.2

      Zeebop.
      Do you understand the concept of situation as location? A diminished human condition resulting from social constraints that offer less in the way of substantive stimulation playing a major role in addiction?

      The rats were put in two physical environments that impacted on their ability to exhibit natural rat behaviours. The ones in the deprived environment were more subject to addiction. When they were then moved to a more interactive environment many underwent voluntarily withdrawal.

      In terms of human addiction then, the experiment challenges the idea that addiction is a disease located within the individual.

      For society, the experiment would suggest that under the more onerous conditions of neo-liberalism one would expect instances of addiction to increase when compared to more equitable economic models because of the increase in denuded human environments that it produces and promotes.

      On a larger scale, bearing in mind that addiction refers to our relationship with objects and behaviours as well as our relationship to drugs, the experiment suggests that some social systems have a deleterious effect on us and can lead us to be addicted to the very factors that promote the systems that promote ‘bad’ environments (situations).

      Put another way, it becomes possible to suggest, based on empirical evidence, that our relationship with Capitalism might be one of co-dependency (addiction) ie, We continue as individuals and collectively to embrace behaviours that aid in the production and distribution of goods and services that produce ‘bad’ social or human environments (situations). That would be ironic. But the fact is that those same behaviours and actions are a direct contribution to the source of climate change. And that’s a different order of ‘situation’; one we should be doing everything we can to not create.

      Meanwhile, all we hear is that it’s up to the consumer as an individual to do something about it as though there were no systemic inputs occurring. The Rat Park experiment on the other hand, demands an emphasis be placed firmly on the systemic inputs.

      Geddit?

      • ZeeBop 8.2.1

        Economies cycle, between excessive of debt and frugality stagnation. We at the turning point again, never be a debtor be! An old slogan from a past generation. It means that nothing changes yet everything changes. We as humans control the situations, the bad environments, the underlying captialism is not the enemy its how we approach it, if we allow ourselves to be convinced by neo-liberals that we can have it all, that its not a vanila energy in out crisis. If the carbon atomes arrange themselves one way they make the hardest material in nature, diamonds, but realign and they creat graphite! rearrange again and they create fullerines. Addicts create their location, their situation, the fact that they choose crony capitalism rather than alternative capitalism forms is the problem. Capitalism is nothing more than the free trade of value, it doesn’t need money, or markets, its barter, its swapping, its doing favors to create social debt, its what we always have done, capitalism is a process, reprocess it.
        The ideal of the far left nuts was that by hiding the capitalism that we could get some ideal society, but they don’t understand crony capitalism, it invades every atom of our society and imposes a monetry value on exchanges that can then be speculated on by the few, even black markets. All people need to do is value themselves properly, that a credit card costs too much, that store cards, for example, seek primrarily to gather value information so that speculators can start betting, hedging, etc. If you are a responsible citizen who believes then you’d throw your credit cards away and realize the full withdrawal of your addiction to crony capitalism. If you want to end crony capitalism its simple, remove the ability of speculators to distort and under pay you for you conscious valuation of your activities. Go on strike, change your situation, come off crony capital addiction.

        • Bill 8.2.1.1

          “Capitalism is nothing more than the free trade of value, it doesn’t need money, or markets, its barter, its swapping, its doing favors to create social debt, its what we always have done…”

          What colours’re your pills?

          • ZeeBop 8.2.1.1.1

            Wikipedia… Capitalism
            There is no consensus on the precise definition of capitalism

            Capitalism derived from the idea of cattle, chattel, possession and trade, once created
            the idea of an abstracted notion of value will not disappear.

            Your loutish attack on the messanger either shows you are a clueless communist
            or a low troll. Find your moral brain, you lost the intellectual argument.

  9. Carol 9

    It seems to me that the rise in concern with “addictions” is strongly related to the intensification of the consumer society – ie addiction seems to be a problem of over-consumption. I’m not sure what that connection means in practical terms. But the cause for the increase in addictions may be an over-emphasis on consumption, so surely a move away from consumer society would result in a dcrease in the amount of problems of addiction?

    • ZeeBop 9.1

      Governments have failed to govern, they ignored results and so of course crony capitalism took over and choose the result of our collective economic activity, Mars out, disney land in, poverty out, massive super liners for the rich in. The reason we over consume, why we pig out rather than seize the potential of the opportunity of life. That its not just giving religion the finger, and choosing to believe whatever, but also making an impact on the future that justifies why religion was crap
      to begin with. The game was interesting, now all the game is trash in trash out crony capitalism. Stop trusting, really, you trust too many faceless corporates.

  10. Puddleglum 10

    Excellent post Bill. There’s now a good deal of research to back up your sense of what’s going on here.

    In a related area, my wife recently told me about research by Stephen Suomi with rhesus monkeys. In one study, he found something that supported the Dunedin study finding that so-called ‘bad’ genes only express themselves if trauma has occurred. In another study, he (and others) directly looked at the link between early stressful rearing environments (and increased plasma cortisol levels) and alcohol consumption in ‘near-human primates’.

    Another very interesting study from his group was in 1997. It shows the environmental influences on the expression of high or low reactivity rhesus monkeys. Basically, by changing to a more nurturing mother low reactives (who are ‘risk-takers’ with less nurturing mothers) become less impulsive. Similarly, high reactives (who are typically shy with less nurturing mothers) become more confident and competent than ‘normals’.

    In that light, it’s important to remember something I’ve linked to previously, that anxiety levels in (US) youth have increased significantly over the past several decades.

    There’s plenty more where that came from (google scholar ‘Stephen Suomi’) – your thesis is well supported. It should go without saying that that is unsurprising. Sadly, it doesn’t go without saying.

    • ZeeBop 10.1

      Addictive behavior is good. Trauma is a survival strategy. All mammels select their behavior based on environmental cues to increase their survival chances. Alcohol is a good disinfectant. Modern disinfectants are said to cause allegies because the immune system fails to learn, nut allegies can be reduce by very small doses of nut being intorduced and then raise slowly (see a doctor). There is nothing wrong with a bubble, or a lot of people losing their shirts, this is just a natural consequence of producing a environment where the best adaptation for the niche are wiped out, to keep the whole population healthy. The winners who are still in their shirts are those that don’t borrow money EVER, or pay it back fast when they have to, the losers are those herded by the market over the cliff of easy credit. Anxiety is a warning for animals that they need to change their behavior and so their situation. If someone makes you anxious you remove yourself! and if you can’t then you start engaging in addictive behavior, why? Well look at a rat when its trapped, when it cannot remove itself, it starts addictive testing the boundaries for weakness. The solution is simple,
      first change your behavior, with crony capitalism its easy, stop frequenting the financial roots of the crony capitalists,
      create your own financial entities and trust networks. Remove yourself from the cause of the anxiety, the reason we have so much addictive behavior is the failer of the left to embrace capitalism, and provide the trusted co-op building society, the trusted co-op insurance group, the owned by the members financial and health services. You’ll remember that they were forced open to sell shares and become ‘public’ under the Thatcherite revolution! Exposing them to the ownership of the few. And that’s the point, when you stop them owning your economic activity, burrowing into every facet of your life and taking a profit from it, then you also make them less powerful. And immediately they get the sniff that their profit streams may be lost because they want all the money and power and dictate to us the solutions, they will back the way off. Because they are essentially business people first and dictators only because we let them because we choose behaviors, and we choose to the left that is gormless and wants the communist revolution already.
      All the left need to do is start co-ops, help people out of their debt misery and be trusted again and we will rebalance parliament back away from rightwing cronies.

  11. Jeremy Harris 11

    Or could it be that people just like getting bombed and always have…

    So accept prohibition makes the problem worse, legalise and move on…

    • Puddleglum 11.1

      “Or could it be that people just like getting bombed and always have …”

      No, it couldn’t be just that. Rates of ‘getting bombed’ change with social, economic, etc. environments. That means it’s more than some notion that people ‘are just like that’. People are many things depending upon the environment and its affect on developmental processes.

      Trying to reduce addiction to (universal) individual propensity is too simplistic.

      Prohibition isn’t what Bill is recommending, so far as I can see. The point is that by making life less stressful overall, we will see fewer addictive behaviours expressed. It’s a perfectly reasonable position and supported by the relevant literature.

      It also sounds humane in two ways: It would reduce the harm from experienced stress; it would reduce the likelihood of addictions overtaking people’s lives.

      • ZeeBop 11.1.1

        Stress is up because citizens has been convinced they can’t change anything, by the rightwing media, and the left being stacked with communists. There was news item on the TV about a town in the US with one shop, the pawnbroker! They have forgotten their basic constitution, that they can change their lot, that is the promise of the US constitition.
        You have all these people buying our of town junk, buying food from out of state, and not enough coming in! All they need to do is start trading with each other, and they would breath life back into their community. No need to wait on the communist revolution, or the government to get in gear, all they need to so is creating trust and co-ops. Run the religious out of town that make it hard for a co-op to get started because they give free food out. Run the franchises out of town, create a system of barter and exchange. Freedom doesn’t mean easy living, Easy living is however only possible with freedom, but everyone has to work together, be on the same page.

        The neo-liberals saw cheap oil and created cheap finance, and herded a whole lot of suckers into a debt trap,
        stress, anxiety, depression, addiction are all up, because citizens need to reassert themselves and change their
        behavior and stop trust big faceless crony capitalism. i.e. turn Fox off, chuck your Sky out the window.

    • Bill 11.2

      Addiction comes into play in our relationships with drugs and behaviours, ideas and objects. (There’s probably more, but that will do for now).

      And the more unrewarding, ‘unnatural’, stressful, contrived or whatever an environment is, the more addiction will come into play.

      Getting bombed and being addicted are two different things. Just like shopping is different for me than for a shopoholic. Or eating is different for me and you than it is for somebody addicted to food. And so on.

      So I agree. Prohibition is not the answer, because prohibition isn’t looking at the problem that needs addressing. And the same can be said for legalisation. Both are assiduously a-political insofar as they focus only on the individual and the object of their addiction. Neither approach takes into account any catalyst for addiction; which in our case (if we extrapolate from the Rat Park experiment) is the market capitalism that demarcates our social environments and the impact those environments have on our behaviour vis a vis addiction.

  12. randal 12

    all societies have a percentage who are addicts.
    like 100%.
    it all depends on the addiction.
    and the ones they like best are the ones that are illegal and the therapists can beat up on people legally instead of getting to the nub.
    and thats nz the way you like it.

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