Last week we explored our innate desire to experience new states of consciousness; that is, when we’re dissatisfied with our present state of mind, we change it by ingesting various drugs. So, we drink coffee because we want to be more alert. We use alcohol to relax and be more sociable. The intensity of our need to seek and experience new consciousness varies greatly from one individual to the next but, in any case, the desire for change, be it large or small, is always there because it’s in our genes.
This week I want to examine how easily we get hooked on any particular drug which, as you may suspect, also varies greatly from one individual to the next. Again, our propensity for addiction is determined mostly by our DNA. Of course, our genetic inheritance is weakened or strengthened by our social situation and conditioning but, in this particular case, I believe our genes are far more important than the way we’re raised.
At any rate, some people are easily addicted to any damned thing and others are not. Therefore, it isn’t true that people can’t be hooked on pot. You see, it’s not the drug that determines addiction, it’s the individual. At one extreme end of the continuum, some people can smoke a couple of joints and they’re suddenly hooked on three joints a day for the rest of their lives. Take away pot and they suffer withdrawal pains and symptoms that are just as severe as those felt by meth addicts. On the other hand, some people simply can’t be addicted to anything, not even heroin. They can smoke three packs of cigarettes a day for 30 years and then abruptly quit – cold turkey – and not suffer so much as a single tremor.
Of course, most of us fall somewhere in between these extremes.
Now, if you’re still with me, you’ll see we have two things working here: First, how easily we get hooked, and, second, how intense our desire is to seek new types of consciousness. These two phenomena can unite in four different combinations. (Or permutations, if you recall Math 101.) First, you can have a person who has little desire to experiment with new states of consciousness and, in general, can’t be addicted to anything. Obviously, there’s no problem here. This fella simply goes on about his merry, carefree life. Second, you can have someone who has little need to test new states of mind, but is highly prone to addiction. Here again, one can predict this individual probably won’t have any problems because he’s not especially interested in fooling around with any drugs, but if he happens to try alcohol at a frat party, owing perhaps to social pressure, this might be a sorry mistake. Third, there’s the person who’s interested in trying all kinds of drugs, but simply can’t be addicted to any of them. This situation can be a bit problematic if he used a large amount of meth or crack or booze or cigarettes for a number of years because, addicted or not, these drugs can take a serious physical and mental toll.
But it’s the last category that raises hell with the user, his family and our communities in general. This individual longs to experiment with all kinds of drugs – seeking that profound, existential break-through to the “other side” – and is easily addicted to everything. Woe be the plight of this poor fellow.
There are still a few more things I want to say about this subject, but they’ll have to wait until next week.