Sunday, 15 September 2013 19:31

Why Are People Prone To Using Drugs?

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This essay posits that one of the reasons why human beings take drugs that alter their mood is because they live in psychological pain and need those drugs to reduce their pained existence. It says that whereas there are many reasons why people live in psychological pain that the pain from living inauthentic life is salient in causing drug addiction.  It explores the cultural practices that dispose people to deny their truth and pretend to be false selves so as to obtain social approval. It stresses this one factor in the causation of addiction to drugs while acknowledging the role played by other factors, such as existential pain and desire to escape from that pain and return to the alleged blissful place human beings came from. 

Why Are People Prone To Using Drugs? 

Ozodi Osuji 

People do not know why they are living in body and on earth; perhaps if they knew they probably would not undertake to live in body. Because they do not understand why they are living on earth, people are living a meaningless, purposeless existence. However, they try to forget that meaninglessness by filling their lives with ceaseless activities that amount to nothing since they will die and their bodies eaten by worms and their existence forgotten by future human beings.

They hear stories from religions of a supposed spiritual heaven waiting for them but they do not believe it for no one is in a hurry to get to that heaven; folks want to live in body for as long as they could for they suspect that life in body is the only life there is.

Other animals, such as dogs, cats and cockroaches also want to live in body for as long as they could, until they are snuffed out by predators or diseases or natural events.

All said people are those animals who live and do not know why they live and that adds to their confusion and they need drugs to make them feel a little fine.

The USA is probably the drug taking mecca of the world. Of course other countries also have consumers of drugs but for some reasons the USA and certain parts of Europe are full of those who want to take such drugs as marijuana, cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, LSD, amphetamines, anxiolytics such as Valium, Xanax, Ativan and  so-called legal psychotropic drugs such as the various anti-psychotic, anti-depression and anti-mania medications.

Why are people, especially Americans prone to seeking and taking drugs that alter their mood, drugs that make them feel high or low (uppers and downers)?  I do not know the answer to my question.

Not knowing makes me want to know. In the absence of real knowledge I am disposed to speculate. This essay is a speculative effort to answer a question whose real answer I do not understand. If you understand why human beings take drugs please help me out with the answer(s).

We know for certain that wherever human beings are found they somehow try to alter their everyday mood. Even in the most primitive societies, such as the pigmies living in the Ituru forest of the Congo or the Indians living in the Amazon forest of Brazil people try to escape from their usual consciousness, change it and feel differently.

Evidence from ancient civilizations, such as Suma, Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome and so on show that the people also tried to alter their consciousness by ingesting drugs deemed able to do so.

Drugs are not the only means for altering human consciousness. Praying, meditation, chanting, dancing, singing etc. are known to put people in a trance like mood. An argument can be made that people who meditate largely do so to alter their consciousness and experience alternative consciousness that they deem better.

Mystics claim to escape from our world and experience the world of union with all things; in that mood they claim to experience peace and joy, bliss, as opposed to the conflicts, anxieties and stress of our earthly, separated existence.

Perhaps, the reason people take drugs is to escape from our painful state of mind and experience the peaceful and joyful state of mind that allegedly exists in spirit?

This view presumes that we came from the spiritual world where we were peaceful and happy and left that world to manifest in the world of space, time and matter where we experience conflict. It assumes that occasionally we attempt to negate our extant experience and return to our real home and its harmony and peace.

Is it true that there is such a thing as spirit and that we came from spirit land? Focusing on the possibility that we came from spirit will take us into mysticism that can neither be proved nor disproved; therefore, I am not going to pursue that subject. Let me just observe that I have an open mind; I entertain the possibility that spirit exists but I am agnostic about it.

I do not accept anything as true unless I have experienced it. Gnosticism or belief that there is spirit that we can only know through secret schools does not appeal to me. If something is true there ought to be a method for verifying it that all of us can follow and verify it, sort of like the scientific method that even school boys follow and verify the claims of science.

I will leave mysticism to mystics, theism to believers and atheism to non-believers and dwell in the world that I am comfortable in, the world of verifiable knowledge.

I see human beings who internalize their culture’s parameters; that culture is propagated by their religious and social leaders. In my judgment, most human culture is phony.

Most human cultures give children “make belief, made up” view of reality. For example, America teaches its children that there are differences between the members of the races, that black people are different from white people. In truth, there is not even a smidgeon of difference between the races and white America knows it yet it feels compelled to tell lies so as to maintain the ideology of white superiority it thinks serves its interest in dominating black folk.

America mostly teaches its people nonsense about God.  Protestant and Catholic American Christianity do not even teach what is in the New Testament part of the Bible, never mind if that bible is teaching the truth.

You can read the New Testament one million times and try to make it what it is not; the plain fact is that the message it teaches is very simple; it teaches that there is one God; that people are the children of that God; that as members of God’s one family people should love their God and love each other; that since people do do wrongs to each other they should forgive each other their wrongs.

This is just about all that the carpenter from Nazareth, Emanuel Ben Joseph, or Joshua whom the Greeks called Jesus Christ taught his followers. The man taught the primacy of love for God,  love for one’s self and love for other people; he defined love is including forgiveness for  those who wronged one.

If you add any other thing to this simple message you are teaching your own theology, not the theology taught by Jesus the Christ. But is this what American Christianity teaches?

Would love teach slavery and discrimination against some children of God, as Americans practice?  No. American Christians do not even know what Christianity is all about; or rather they deliberately distorted the good news, the gospel of love so as to use the distortion to serve their diabolic goal of having some human beings dominate others.

One must do violence to one’s mind to accept the racist propaganda taught by American Christianity.

Muslims even do more damage to their minds by embracing the religion of violence that Mohammed founded.  If you believe in Islam you must be mentally disordered for that religion teaches hatred of those human beings who are not Muslim (non-Muslims are said to be the house of war where Muslims must fight to conquer and convert the people or kill those who refuse to be converted).

Hatred is symptom of mental disorder; love for all human beings is sign of mental health.

I do not know whether God exists or not, whether there is life after we die or not. I do not know what the truth is but I am seeking the truth of these matters.

I found that by genuinely seeking the truth, even though I do not know what it is, I tend to feel fine.  Because I feel fine I do not have the desire to do drugs.

Oh, when I was a teenager I smoked cigarettes and decided that it is not good for me; in College my fellow dormitory students smoked marijuana and I tried it twice and felt that it is not good for me (it made me feel dizzy) and I gave it up.

At age twelve I discovered that I liked the way coffee made me feel. I liked the excited physical sensation it made me feel. More importantly, I liked that it made me mentally alert and able to read. I enjoyed reading novels and therefore I would take coffee, go lay on a couch or my bed and read for as long as I could before falling asleep. Sometimes, I read all night long and just before it is time to get ready for school I would fall asleep! (My Psychoanalytic friends would conjecture that I did so because I did not want to go to school?)

Actually, I was addicted to coffee and drank a lot of it. Later on in life I learned that caffeine is not good for my heart; caffeine made my heart palpate and, moreover, it was eating away the gums around my teeth. Therefore, I struggled to give the damn thing up. It took me many years to give it up. Nevertheless, the smell of coffee brewing still makes me want to drink it.  The attraction of having a cup of Seattle Java or Starbucks in my hand often takes all my resistance to not give in to that temptation.

I jog a lot (or used to do so a lot in the past). Once I hurt my back and a doctor prescribed medications for me.  Like most people I have faith in medical doctors so I took the medications without bothering to find out what they are. I noticed that the medication made me feel calm. That feeling was the converse of the excited feeling I got from coffee. Therefore, I read the label on the medication’s container and it said: Benzodiasepam (Valium).  I went to the Physicians’ Desk Reference and read up on Valium and learned that it is an anti-anxiety medication as well as muscle relaxer and that it is addictive. I immediately flushed the balance of that drug in my toilet. I was prepared to feel pain on my back for as long as it took for my injured vertebrae to heal. That encounter with valium is my only encounter with what folks call dangerous drugs (coffee actually is a dangerous drug, never mind).

For our present purposes, I am not interested in drugs. I believe that my lack of interest in drugs is due to my honest effort to know what the truth is even if ultimately I do not know what the truth is.

The frank pursuit of the truth prevents one from doing drugs. Put differently, living an authentic existence whereby one affirms ones real self and does not pretend to be something else prevents one from seeking mood altering agents.

I believe that people who live phony existence, those who embrace the falsities that their culture gave to them are doing violence to their being and must seek something to alter their mood.

The well-adjusted American, black or white internalized the falsities propagated by American culture as the truth and therefore has violated his truth; he has, in fact, attacked the truth and lives in internal distress.

The typical American regardless of his race and economic circumstances is living a phony existence. He attacked his truth and is therefore in conflict. He is in enormous psychological pain.  He cannot bear the pain he is living in and must seek something to make his sham existence tolerable.

(I live in America and understand Americans; you can replace the term Americans with your group’s name if you feel that what I am saying applies to it. For example, if your culture teaches falsity as the truth then name it as doing so.)

Consider the American attitude to sex.  Sex is an animal behavior.  When a child reaches puberty (usually around age thirteen) he experiences certain physiological changes in his body.  If he is a boy he begins to have erection of his penis when he sees girls, especially good looking ones (and girls feel whatever they feel, I am not a girl and will not speak for them).

If one is realistic to the feelings one has one seeks out girls and tries to have sex with them.  This is realistic animal behavior.

Alas, to have sex may result in pregnancy for the girl. Therefore, most human societies have taboos around sex. They have dos and don’ts about sex. These mythologies are meant to guide people to marriage so that children are born in monogamous or polygamous marriages. The idea is to produce children where mothers and fathers provide for them.

Culture in this instance is designed for the protection of children. A thirteen year old boy cannot provide for a child so it makes sense for him to not get a girl pregnant, and for him to go to school, obtain professional and or technical skills that he can use to obtain jobs that would enable him to provide for children.

In our extant world, I do not see how a young man can be able to adequately provide for children until he is in his mid to late twenties when the typical person is done with formal education (has become, say, a medical doctor, engineer, lawyer and so on hence has the ability to provide for families).

In effect, the young person must defer early marriage.  However, postponing marriage does not mean that the sexual urge would go away.

It does not help to tell the young person that it is sinful to have sex for it is not. Young people do have sex despite the sanctimonious preachments against doing so.

So, what is the appropriate intervention? Society must make contraceptives available to young people for they do have sex.  It is as simple as that. Moralizing against sex is an unrealistic behavior.

The alternative is for young folks to pretend that they do not have sex. Many boys pretend to be nice while visiting prostitutes.

Those who patronize whores may contract sexually transmitted diseases from them: gonorrhea, syphilis and Harpies and HIV AIDs.  Visiting harlots is a dangerous business for contracted diseases do kill people.

The avoidance of whores should not be because of religious injunctions but because of medical reasons.  HIV-AIDs will kill you, so if you want to live you must avoid those likely to give you that disease.

It is medically rational to limit ones sexual activities to one partner of the opposite gender.

The relevant point is that folks ought to be realistic about sex, but instead of being realistic about sex America teaches its children all sorts of religious bugaboo about sex and the result is that people have psychological issues over this animal behavior.

Americans have all sorts of behaviors that are not authentic, that are false; this false living is induced by the culture. The result is tension between the individual’s animal truth and his social living. These internal tensions, anxiety and stress lead the individual to seek out drugs that would seem to calm his body.

Alas, drugs are both physiologically and psychological addictive and once one is addicted to them, regardless of the reasons one started taking them one is addicted to them and must seek them out.

In my judgment, Americans, white or black, Europeans and people in general who tend to become addicted to drugs are those living mostly inauthentic lives; these people’s cultures socialized them to internalize false views of reality and they try living from those false cultures and experience internal conflicts and try to escape from their conflicts by seeking out mood altering drugs.

In effect, as long as Americans insist on teaching their children to live false lives and as long as Americans continue to live the false lives their culture reinforces they are condemned to taking mood altering drugs.

If you go to the medicine cabinet of a typical American the number of medications you would find there would blow your mind away.  If they are elderly, say, over age 70 their houses are literally mini pharmacies!

The numerous medications Americans take mix and cause them all sorts of medical complications, especially in the elderly population.

Someone has to teach these people that whereas we must take medications when they are absolutely necessary it is possible to live without running to drugs, legal or illegal.

When my daughter was in high school, she and her friends would be in our living room jabbering away; one of their usual expressions was: “life is pain and then you die; what a bummer!” And these kids are the best of the best for they attended a school for the gifted, entrance superior IQ. Their amazing intellect made them aware of the meaninglessness of life at a very young age hence their seeming pessimistic view of life.

Let me conclude this essay by saying that as far as empirical experience shows us, life in body is meaningless and pointless. We are born, experience an irresistible urge to live and live. We live but do not know why we live. We live and then die.

We die and our bodies decompose to the elements that composed them, especially carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen; and those decay to electrons, protons and neutrons and those decay to quarks and photons and those decay to the nothingness from whence they came during the Big Bang.

We do not know for sure whether there is life after we die; nevertheless some persons cling to the idea of God and life after death; apparently, folks do so because those ideas give their lives false meaning and purpose.

Living a meaningless and purposeless existence gives people existential depression (in clinical language dysthymia...we are not talking clinical issues here). Feeling stressed out by existence, people seek drugs. Drugs give them fleeting sensation of wellbeing. Alas, drugs are addictive and do kill people.

From my own life’s experience, I found that since I am totally honest with myself and do not tell myself lies, and since I honestly seek the truth of my existence, even though I have not found that truth, I tend to have no desire for drugs. I, therefore, conclude that despite the apparent meaninglessness of existence that if the individual seeks the truth and lives what seems to him the truth, not necessarily the ultimate truth, for we do not know what that is, he tends to be at peace with his self.

Those who are at peace with themselves tend to experience less desire for mood altering drugs. Conversely, those who fill what our Freudian friends call their unconscious minds with false ideas about reality and try to live from that phony perspective on life do harm to their existence. Such persons tend to feel enormous psychological pain and try to reduce their pain by seeking out drugs.

I believe that addiction to drugs is correlated to living phony lives. Cultures that socialize people to live false existence encourage drug addiction.

Igbo culture, for example, socializes Igbos to seek to become important and superior persons. Since no human being is superior to other human beings, many Igbos merely pretend to be superior to other persons.  The attempt to seem important and superior gives Igbos internal conflict and stress. They live with inordinate anxiety (fear of failure, for example).

Living in stress they seek to reduce that stress by ingesting their local variety of drugs (as they are more and more beginning to live in Western like milieu they would soon start abusing the drugs Americans abuse).

It seems to me that one way to avoid the trap of drug addiction is to be scrupulously honest with one’s self and live in accordance with one’s real self, whatever that turns out to be.

One should never pretend to be who one is not, such as pretend to be important and superior to other persons or look down on some persons so as to fancy one’s self better than they are. We are all equal even though our intellectual gifts differ.

 

Ozodi Osuji

September 13, 2013

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: ozodiosuji@gmail.com (907) 310-8176

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