[ExI] addiction

rex rex at nosyntax.net
Fri Apr 3 19:11:25 UTC 2015

William Flynn Wallace <foozler83 at gmail.com> [2015-04-03 08:06]:
>   As a libertarian I find no favor with trying to ban certain drugs through
>   legislation.  Hasn't worked well at all and is extremely expensive.  We
>   can try to marginalize them, as we have done with tobacco, punish overuse
>   of, say, alcohol, with fines and such.  We can try to educate people to
>   the very real and sometimes lethal effects of certain drugs.  Hard to say
>   how effective those are.
>   Not that I have any great and wonderful ideas myself, but as a
>   psychologist and just a casual observer, punishment is just about the
>   worst form of behavior control there is.

If so, why hasn't evolution found a more effective solution
(hopelessly outmatched prey animals nevertheless employ defensive
threats, and eventually punishment, when pressed)?

>   The side effects of punishment,
>   such as resentment, finding ways of avoiding it, and a lot more, are often
>   worse than the behavior itself.  And if it doesn't work all that well at
>   first, people are tempted to increase it.  Too much room for abuse.

All true, but if punishment (AKA violent defensive behavior) did not
have a Darwinian selective advantage it would not be ubiquitous in
nature, and it is. Non-human animal experiments with positive
punishment show its effectiveness decays rapidly (and non-linearly)
with delay between behavior and punishment. That's sufficient reason
for "justice" systems that impose long delays between prohibited
behavior and punishment being largely ineffective. That doesn't imply
that sufficiently harsh punishment applied immediately after the act
is ineffective (see tagline).

>   What you create is an approach-avoidance problem.  Want to use the
>   substance versus possible punishment if caught.  Obviously if the drug is
>   highly desirable it wins every time.

>   We tell kids about the bad aspects, but we don't tell them how great some
>   drugs make us feel.

sed 's/us/some of us/'

Drugs that are highly rewarding to some are aversive to others, even rats.


>    Here is my personal philosophy:
>   I turned down LSD and cocaine, done by my best friends.  I might like
>   them.  I might love them, and I could not afford to love them, either
>   professionally or financially, so I chose not to try them. 
>   Nicotine, we learned, is instantly addictive - one inhalation and your
>   brain is changed forever.  Worst drug we know of by far.  Worse than
>   heroin.   (Harder to quite than alcohol, for me.)

Evidence for the permanent change?

>   Here is a story I would tell all kids:
>   A very straight and moral guy got all the way through med school and
>   internship without trying any drug of any kind.  But he got curious, and
>   so he sampled some of the opioids available to him.  He said "This is the
>   way people should feel all the time."  One of the scariest sentences I
>   have read.  He lost his license asap - ruined his career. 
>   Until you find way to make people not want to feel normal, we will have a
>   drug problem.

It's plausible that some people have broken endorphin systems and cannot feel
normal without exogenous substitutes for the natural endorphins that most
people have. For example, a counterpoint to your physician example is the
career of William Halsted, the surgeon of Johns Hopkins fame, who was
apparently dependent upon (not necessarily addicted to) morphine for most
of his career.


BTW, _The Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs_ is an excellent
overview of the drug situation that is still relevant today, 43 years after
its publication. Highly recommended.

"The careful application of terror is also a form of communication."

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