Portugal halving number of drug addicts in a decade

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Ghostbear
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Re: Portugal halving number of drug addicts in a decade

Postby Ghostbear » Mon Jul 23, 2012 4:22 am UTC

Qaanol wrote:I think we have a fundamental disagreement here. You appear to hold the position that addiction, in and of itself, is intrinsically harmful.

Which is why I clarified for "serious addiction". Nicotine addiction is bad for you for more than the fact that cigarettes have detrimental health affects. Ever lived with a smoker? They get very irritable and are much more easily stressed unless they calm down with a smoke. They can only go so long before they need to have another smoke, and if they don't get it, they drift back to irritable and stressed. Symptoms of withdrawal last for weeks, while many of the mental affects can last for months. As a comparison, caffeine withdrawal lasts for a few days and can relatively easily be weaned off of.

Jave D wrote:I disagree. Psychological or physical; it's the same result in the end.

Belial already covered it mostly, but that's missing a very significant point. If you find that something is physically addictive (with a serious addiction), then you know it is likely to cause those addiction issues in anyone that uses it -- it is inherently unsafe. As mentioned earlier, that doesn't mean that the best option is to make it illegal, but it does mean that the danger is sourced from the "something" in question. A psychological addiction does not make it inherently dangerous to anyone other than the person with that addiction -- you can develop a psychological addiction to anything. Going by your logic of them being comparable, that would mean that all things, activities and actions are dangerous due to their risk of psychological addiction. Yet, often those addictions will be something that is otherwise healthy (or at least not unhealthy), such as video games or gambling.

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Jave D
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Re: Portugal halving number of drug addicts in a decade

Postby Jave D » Tue Jul 24, 2012 1:05 am UTC

Ghostbear wrote:
Jave D wrote:I disagree. Psychological or physical; it's the same result in the end.

Belial already covered it mostly, but that's missing a very significant point. If you find that something is physically addictive (with a serious addiction), then you know it is likely to cause those addiction issues in anyone that uses it -- it is inherently unsafe. As mentioned earlier, that doesn't mean that the best option is to make it illegal, but it does mean that the danger is sourced from the "something" in question. A psychological addiction does not make it inherently dangerous to anyone other than the person with that addiction -- you can develop a psychological addiction to anything. Going by your logic of them being comparable, that would mean that all things, activities and actions are dangerous due to their risk of psychological addiction. Yet, often those addictions will be something that is otherwise healthy (or at least not unhealthy), such as video games or gambling.


Addiction of any sort is always in the person who is addicted, not in the substance itself. Other than adulterated or actually poisonous substances, I can't think of any substance which is 'inherently unsafe.' The danger is within. And just as there are people who can gamble or whatever without it becoming an addiction there are people who can drink alcohol or snort opiates on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

Belial wrote:You can have a psychological addiction to literally anything. What makes a drug with a non-physical addiction different? I mean, if we illegalize everything that you can develop a life-destroying psychological addiction to, we'd basically criminalize existence.


I should say here that I'm not arguing for the illegalization of anything. Just sorta hopping on the discussion of the nature of addiction.

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Re: Portugal halving number of drug addicts in a decade

Postby Ghostbear » Tue Jul 24, 2012 1:30 am UTC

Jave D wrote:And just as there are people who can gamble or whatever without it becoming an addiction there are people who can drink alcohol or snort opiates on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

Which is why I have been saying things like "conductive to addiction" -- something that creates a physical dependency is much more likely to cause an addiction. The vast majority of people that gamble are not addicted to gambling, while the vast majority of people that smoke cigarettes will become addicted. Gambling does not trend towards addictions; smoking does. That smoking trends towards a rather serious addiction would make me say that it is dangerous, while I would not say the same for gambling due to it's lack of an inherent path towards addiction, even though the addiction itself can be quite serious.

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Re: Portugal halving number of drug addicts in a decade

Postby wellie » Tue Jul 24, 2012 2:12 pm UTC

I've found that when trying to nail down what makes addiction A worse than addiction B, or what makes an addiction serious or severe, it's useful to think about the extent to which the addiction becomes more important than other elements in a person's life.

(I don't have a source for this, by the way; it was just a remark I heard someone make once, but it stuck with me because it seemed to be a helpful idea).

Using that measure, caffeine is pretty harmless compared to alcohol: people rarely throw away a job or a marriage for the sake of being able to drink more coffee, but prioritising the addiction in that way is a fairly common occurrence with alcohol. Similarly, it seems likely that someone whose need to drink overrides their need to see their own children has a more severe addiction to alcohol than someone who despite drinking like a fish, can stay sober when they're in charge of small people.

I like this approach because of its pragmatic focus on where the harm is (i.e. the addiction taking charge) rather than on arbitrary cultural ideas about what are Bad Drugs; also because there's no need to get bogged down in speculative (but I think ultimately immaterial in this context) arguments about the relative contribution of physical or psychological elements to an addiction.

Where "altered priorities" falls down as a measure is that not everyone's priorities in life are the same (no, really!) - so of course you have to be cautious about making an outsider judgement of what is important in someone else's life. But if you watch individuals over time and see them reshuffling their priorities and progressively putting the addiction above things that used to be important to them I think that's a pretty reliable indication of a problem. And there are some things (e.g. having a roof over one's head) that are quite consistently important at a population level even if not true of every single individual in that population.

I think it wouldn't be a bad framework for a sensible drugs policy if resources were directed the most at a) drugs which have the most tendency to become prioritised above all else and b) individuals who have lost the ability to choose important things over the addiction, and c) interactions between drugs and individuals whose altered priorities set them on a (literally in the example of drink driving) collision course with the rest of society, such that they're potentially a risk to others.

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Belial
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Re: Portugal halving number of drug addicts in a decade

Postby Belial » Tue Jul 24, 2012 6:12 pm UTC

wellie wrote:Using that measure, caffeine is pretty harmless compared to alcohol: people rarely throw away a job or a marriage for the sake of being able to drink more coffee, but prioritising the addiction in that way is a fairly common occurrence with alcohol.


Part of this is a function of the actual properties of the substance. To wit, caffeine and nicotine don't create significantly altered states. I can drink coffee all day while still doing work, driving my car, going on dates, saving the whales, and toppling south american dictators, with very little impairment. So the fact that I'm drinking it *all day* is unlikely to significantly impair my life. Whereas the need to consume alcohol in similar amounts would wreck my life not because the alcohol has more hold on me, but because indulging in it renders me largely useless for long periods of time. Which can have a pretty negative impact on your life.

Gambling does the same thing except the time lost is the time you spend actually doing the gambling, and it also introduces the other contrast: cost. Drug and gambling habits don't just eat your time, they eat your money. Again, that's not a property of how addictive they are or aren't, it's a property of the activity itself. Coffee just...isn't *that* expensive.

So basically, your addiction to coffee can be just as severe as a heroin addict's addiction to smack, but even at truly depraved levels of addiction caffeine just lacks the ability to be that destructive to your life. Whereas even a mild meth addiction can ruin you.
addams wrote:A drunk neighbor is better than a sober Belial.


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wellie
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Re: Portugal halving number of drug addicts in a decade

Postby wellie » Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:20 am UTC

[What Belial said]


I agree. It's interesting (and a little bit counter-intuitive) that a drug can be *extremely* addictive, and it still won't necessarily be harmful. I see your "drink a bucket of coffee and cure cancer" and raise you "drink a bucket of coffee and cure cancer whilst knitting a nice Norwegian sweater with reindeer on" - I find knitting enormously addictive. However, I'm fully functional whilst using, and it's amazing how many things you can do whilst simultaneously knitting. My addiction doesn't make me a drain on society's resources: I work and pay taxes, and no-one in my family need ever suffer from cold ears, so it's all good.

It seems to me that a society (any society) needs to have a high proportion of functional adults in it to work well. There'll always be people in a society who can't take care of themselves (the very old, the very young, the ill, the disabled) and that support, if done properly, takes a lot of resources. Then there are all the non-human things like infrastructure that need time, attention and money. There's not a huge margin in which to accommodate people being destructive.

So this is where I think the prioritising thing could be a useful criterion in addiction. It doesn't matter what the addiction actually *is*, and it matters even less whether the drug is legal or not: if it significantly impairs a person's ability to do the important stuff that everyone has to do, then that person is at risk of becoming a net burden on society in one potentially disastrous way or another. IMO it makes sense to divert resources to them as early as possible, to prevent those outcomes.

If on the other hand that person is functioning appropriately in all ways, it's nobody's business if they want to spend their Saturdays nights lying on the floor saying "hahahahaha squirrels" ...and it saddens me that there're so many people around who want to throw money at what is essentially a giant non-problem.

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Re: Portugal halving number of drug addicts in a decade

Postby CorruptUser » Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:47 am UTC

I don't think I've ever met someone who died from a caffeine overdose.

OTOH if you want to argue that caffeine addiction causes people to drink more soda, which is probably a major cause of the obesity epidemic, you could argue that caffeine addiction kills more people every every year than all other addictions combined...


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