Life isn’t easy, for most of us. No matter how well we were pampered or sheltered as children and teens, eventually there comes a time when we have to face the music, and stand on our own.
Dreams from childhood die hard on the mean streets of adulthood. Sympathy and assistance from others can be hard to come by when one is an overgrown child — no matter how good-natured and appealing one may be at the start.
When a person’s supports begin to fall away — and in the absence of disciplined ambition — it is only natural for disillusioned adults to look for easy pathways to pleasure and reward.
The human brain and body provides shortcut pathways to euphoria, and global industries have grown up to supply them with the goods required.
More from Scholarpedia: Reward
For many, comfort food, comfort music, and a pretty face are not enough to balance feelings of stress or to meet perceived needs. Such persons may feel driven to push the brain’s limits of reward.
Crystal Meth effects have been described by users as having endless energy, no need to eat or sleep, super focus, productivity, and a feeling of euphoria…Methamphetamine causes numerous neurotransmitters to be released in the brain, producing a sense of euphoria that may last as long as 12 hours, depending on how the drug was taken…Crystal Meth is taken orally, snorted, injected, or smoked. Immediately after smoking or intravenous injection, the user experiences an intense sensation called “rush” or a “flash”. This sensation lasts only a few minutes and is described as being extremely pleasurable. Those who take crystal meth orally or snort it also experience a sense of euphoria. _Effects of Crystal Meth
How the World Ends
Crystal meth is taking over the world, from China to Australia to California to Africa to the Middle East. In Africa, it may be considered a stealth epidemic, since many official statistics have not caught up with the reality. For example, drug seizures at Lagos airport in 2010:
NDLEA’s Lagos Airport Commander Alhaji Hamza Umar said: “In 2010, the command arrested 200 drug suspects, including 172 males and 28 females, with 399.431kg of drugs consisting of 237.5kg of cocaine, 44.907kg of heroin, 42.050kg of cannabis, 74.755kg of methamphetamine/amphetamine and 0.240 grammes of other psychotropic substances. _The Nation
Note that only cocaine seizures out-massed methamphetamine seizures. As recently as 2008, methamphetamine abuse in Africa was rarely acknowledged:
It is reported that there are about 14 – 22 million cannabis abusers, 160, 000 – 340,000 opiate addicts, and 640,000 – 830,000 cocaine users for the population aged between 15 – 64 in the West African region in 2008, while the rate of abuse of drugs by youth is higher than the world average… _AllAfrica
Muslim countries are not immune: Iranian couriers are becoming particularly active in the worldwide distribution of methamphetamine.
According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s 2011 Global ATS Assessment report, Iran in five years became a major producer of crystal methamphetamines and a supplier of ‘mules’ trafficking the drug to Asia….Iran is a country with a high population of people already addicted to opiates and heroin.
‘The are skills there in terms of producing drugs, and we see a production base there exceeding local demand,’ he said _M&C
Iran is both a large-scale producer and a consumer of drugs-of-abuse.
Today’s Islamic Republic offers premonitions of a narcodystopia. Take a car ride through Tehran at night, and your driver may tell you that the underage girls in chadors who offer esfand — seeds that are burned to ward off the evil eye — along the highways are really selling sex to enable addicted fathers. Ride the metro, and you will see battered children pitching trinkets and fortunes to sustain their parents’ habits. Visit a poor southern suburb like Shahr-e Rey, and you might see a cigarette vendor in the bazaar with a sideline in used needles. Walk through Khaju Kermani Park on the capital’s southeastern outskirts, and you might witness young girls smoking crystal meth in full view of park authorities, while in the background a tall, badly sunburned man with track marks on his arms staggers around in an ill-fitting, woman’s blouse. _FP
Euphoria in Iran
China’s drug addicts try to stay out of sight whenever possible. But the problem of drug abuse in China is growing, along with the growing sense of alienation and unhappiness as large numbers of Chinese begin to give up their hopes.
Drugs of abuse find many niches, in a wide array of lives and geographical locations. Besides destroying human capital in drug users, the drug trade provides profits for powerful and murderous criminal cartels and gangs from Mexico to South America to Africa to Central Asia.
Powerful mind altering drugs are widely used to subdue kidnapped girls who disappear into the sex trade world-wide. These drugs are also used to induce loyalty and motivation to kill in the kidnapped child-soldiers of Africa and elsewhere. Even if these youngsters eventually escape their human captors and manipulators, it is not certain that they will ever escape their chemical captors. And it is not likely that they will ever reach their potential.
Drugs tend to flow to where the money is, and there are no populations that are totally immune to the lure of drug induced euphoria and escape. Human capital is being destroyed all over.
What is the antidote? First, we need to understand the evolutionary origins of reward-seeking, and the many ways that the reward needs can be met.
All pleasures from sensory pleasures and drugs of abuse to monetary, aesthetic, and musical delights would seem to involve the same fundamental hedonic brain systems. Pleasures important to happiness, such as socializing with friends, and related traits of positive hedonic mood, are thus all likely to draw upon the same neurobiological roots that evolved for sensory pleasures. The neural overlap may offer a way to generalize from fundamental pleasures that are best understood and so infer larger hedonic brain principles likely to contribute to happiness. _ http://www.discoverymedicine.com/Morten-L-Kringelbach/2010/06/25/the-functional-neuroanatomy-of-pleasure-and-happiness/
We must understand that drugs and activities of escape are serving a need, no matter how badly and how much collateral damage is being caused. You cannot remove something so central to the person’s existence without substituting something at least as powerful in its place.
A substitute euphoriant that was also a cognitive enhancer and health booster might be ideal in the early stages of breaking from a harmful addiction. Such a substitute drug would have to be tied to as many “cues of addiction” as possible, to displace the earlier addiction thoroughly.
Children who were raised to experience and master a wide range of interests and passions will have more ways to work their way back from destructive habits. Children who never developed far beyond a mindset of distraction, addiction, and personal tumult, will find it much harder to emerge into a brighter world.
Drug legalisation would solve some of the wider problems caused by the violent addiction industry by removing most of the criminal profits involved, and thus much of the violence. Large problems would remain after legalisation, of course, just as the US still has a lot of problems from alcohol abuse long after the repeal of prohibition. But we should not expect perfection or utopia from our policy choices, only a form of dynamic and realistic optimisation.
In the meantime, rather than simply prohibiting experimentation with drugs, youth should be encouraged to experiment with a wide array of stimulatory and euphoric activities. They would involve music, dance, games, risk-taking of various types, strenuous exercise, ritualised combat of a non-lethal variety, electromagnetic brain stimulation, virtual reality scenarios, and other non-pharmaceutical activities designed to satisfy the urge to experiment with physical, mental, and spiritual states. The concept of “rite of passage” would occupy a prominent place in such planned activities.
For selected older youth and adults, limited and controlled experimentation with some psychedelic and/or euphoriant drugs may prove useful in certain life circumstances.
All such activity should occur in the context of the wider experience of developing personal talents and competencies, and practical skills. The strongest, most lasting, and healthiest high, is the high of achievement and a happy contentment with oneself. Only in such a state can a person fully open up to true sharing and love with other persons.
Needless to say, very young children should learn to master a wide range of rewarding competencies and personal passions, long before they are confronted with the destructive distractions that create so much waste and misery in the larger world.
Before societies at large learn the lessons that Al Fin social professionals are trying to teach, a lot of very bad things are going to happen around the world as a result of the failure to learn these basic lessons in child-raising.
Be ready. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
The above article is an adaptation from two original Al Fin articles:
Neuromodulatory Effect of Dopamine via Erwin Schmidt
A more conventional philosophical look at brain enhancement from the bioethicist author of “Better than Human”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nootropic — an even wider ranging look at nootropics and euphoriants