Friday, March 2, 2007

Which Substances are The Most Addictive?

None. No substances are addictive; "addiction" is a behavioral trait that is a function of how badly someone wants something else, and is therefore related to the person -- and not the object that they crave.

Some people like cigarettes, some like heroin, and some like alcohol. Others like coffee and others like chocolate. Some like skiing and some like golf. And they have the choice of indulging their preferences or not. They have a choice. They can be self-disciplined and indulge in a sensible amount of their craving, or they can be reckless and overindulge.

But rather than assigning responsibility to those who suffer the negative consequences of overindulgence, we often excuse their behavior by blaming the substance instead. We say that they "can't help it" because the substance is "addictive" -- transforming their personality weaknesses into badges of victimhood, and thereby absolving them from responsibility for their behavior.

And what happens if the addictive substance or activity is not available? Deprived heroin users have mild flu-like symptoms, and deprived cigarette smokers feel agitated. And yet, somehow, cigarette "addicts" fly for twelve hours without a smoke. For that matter, people routinely suffer the consequences of non-indulgence when the payoff is sufficient; e.g., sleep-deprived people disturb their rest by getting up early to go to work, athletes play while in physical pain, and pregnant women reject all pharmaceuticals.

And what exactly does the alcoholic have to endure when being deprived of his next drink?

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