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Johann Hari & Naomi Klein: Does Capitalism Drive Drug Addiction? | Democracy Now!
[See also: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:97d99d633169 ]

"And the first kind of chink in my doubt about that was explained to me by another great Canadian, Gabor Maté in Vancouver, who some of you will know the work of, amazing man. And he pointed out to me, if any of us step out of here today and we’re hit by a bus, right, God forbid, and we break our hip, we’ll be taken to hospital. It’s very likely we’ll be given a lot of diamorphine. Diamorphine is heroin. It’s much better heroin than you’ll score on the streets, because it’s medically pure, right? It’s really potent heroin. You’ll be given it for quite a long period of time. Every hospital in the developed world, that’s happening, right? If what we think about addiction is right, what should—I mean, those people should leave as addicts. That never happens, virtually never happens. You will have noticed your grandmother was not turned into a junkie by her hip replacement operation, right?

I didn’t really know what to do with it. When Gabor first explained that to me, I didn’t really know how to process that, until I met Bruce Alexander. Bruce is a professor in Vancouver, and Bruce explained something to me. The idea of addiction we have, the one that we all implicitly believe—I certainly did—comes from a series of experiments that were done earlier in the 20th century. They’re really simple experiments. You can do them yourself at home if you’re feeling a little bit sadistic. Get a rat and put it in a cage and give it two water bottles. One is just water, and one is water laced with either heroin or cocaine. If you do that, the rat will almost always prefer the drugged water and almost always kill itself very quickly, right, within a couple of weeks. So there you go. It’s our theory of addiction.

Bruce comes along in the '70s and said, "Well, hang on a minute. We're putting the rat in an empty cage. It’s got nothing to do. Let’s try this a little bit differently." So Bruce built Rat Park, and Rat Park is like heaven for rats. Everything your rat about town could want, it’s got in Rat Park. It’s got lovely food. It’s got sex. It’s got loads of other rats to be friends with. It’s got loads of colored balls. Everything your rat could want. And they’ve got both the water bottles. They’ve got the drugged water and the normal water. But here’s the fascinating thing. In Rat Park, they don’t like the drugged water. They hardly use any of it. None of them ever overdose. None of them ever use in a way that looks like compulsion or addiction. There’s a really interesting human example I’ll tell you about in a minute, but what Bruce says is that shows that both the right-wing and left-wing theories of addiction are wrong. So the right-wing theory is it’s a moral failing, you’re a hedonist, you party too hard. The left-wing theory is it takes you over, your brain is hijacked. Bruce says it’s not your morality, it’s not your brain; it’s your cage. Addiction is largely an adaptation to your environment.

There was a really interesting human experiment going on at the same time as Rat Park, which kind of demonstrates this really interestingly. It was called the Vietnam War, right? Twenty percent of American troops in Vietnam were using heroin a lot, right? And if you look at the reports from the time, they were really worried. They thought—because they believed the old theory of addiction. They were like, "My god, these guys are all going to come home, and we’re going to have loads of heroin addicts on the streets of the United States." What happened? They came home, and virtually all of them just stopped, because if you’re taken out of a hellish, pestilential jungle, where you don’t want to be, you can die at any moment, and you go back to a nice life in Wichita, Kansas, you can bear to be present in your life. We could all be drunk now. Forget the drug laws. We could all be drunk now, right? None of you look very drunk. I’m guessing you’re not, right? That’s because we’ve got something we want to do. We’ve got things we want to be present for in our lives.

So, I think this has—Bruce taught us about how this has huge implications, obviously, for the drug war. The drug war is based on the idea that the chemicals cause the addiction, and we need to physically eradicate these chemicals from the face of the Earth. If in fact it’s not the chemicals, if in fact it’s isolation and pain that cause the addiction, then it suddenly throws into sharp contrast the idea that we need to impose more isolation and pain on addicts in order to make them stop, which is what we currently do.

But it actually has much deeper implications that I think really relate to what Naomi writes about in This Changes Everything, and indeed before. We’ve created a society where significant numbers of our fellow citizens cannot bear to be present in their lives without being drugged, right? We’ve created a hyperconsumerist, hyperindividualist, isolated world that is, for a lot of people, much more like that first cage than it is like the bonded, connected cages that we need. The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection. And our whole society, the engine of our society, is geared towards making us connect with things. If you are not a good consumer capitalist citizen, if you’re spending your time bonding with the people around you and not buying stuff—in fact, we are trained from a very young age to focus our hopes and our dreams and our ambitions on things we can buy and consume. And drug addiction is really a subset of that."



"JOHANN HARI: I think Gabor—yeah, I mean, I think we’re all on a continuum, and we all have some behaviors where the rational part of us doesn’t want to do it, but the irrational part of us does it anyway. I mean, yeah. I mean, cake. You only need to say the word "cake," and everyone knows exactly what I mean. But so, yeah—and, of course, it’s a continuum where you’ve got cake at one end and, you know, extreme—and it doesn’t have to be—obviously, you’d think of crack or meth, but actually gambling addiction, or you can have all of the catastrophic addiction and no chemicals. No one thinks you snort a roulette wheel, you know.

But I’d be interested, actually, if you think, though—do you think economic—partly—so you’ve got this kind of atomized society, and I wonder if there’s a relationship between this atomized, more addiction-prone society and the panic at the idea of economic growth not happening. I agree with you about fossil fuels, but do you think the part of the kind of—because one of the most controversial parts of Naomi’s book is—I’m baffled by why anyone finds this controversial, but Naomi says at one point we may have to return to the living standards of the 1970s, which Elizabeth Kolbert thought was like saying we have to go live in caves. And there were bad things about the 1970s—don’t get me wrong—but they weren’t living in caves. And I’m [inaudible] about—there’s something about the idea of like having less stuff that just panics people. Do you think it’s related to this atomization?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, it’s interesting. I mean, I think we are—I think it’s this self-reinforcing cycle, right? Where we’re getting from—we’re projecting onto our consumer products our identity, our community, and we are constructing ourselves through consumption, and so that if you tell people they have to consume less, it’s not seen as you want to take away my stuff, it’s you want to take away myself. Like it is a very profound—

JOHANN HARI: Oh, that’s fascinating.

NAOMI KLEIN: —panic that it induces, that has to do with this surrogate role that like we’re shopping for so much more than stuff in our culture, right? So, but yeah, I mean, what’s interesting, too, I mean, all the debates about economic growth. Like if we let go of growth as our primary measure of success, then we would have to talk about what we actually value, like what is it that we want. And that’s what we can’t really do, because then we have to—you know, then we’re having a conversation about values and well-being and defining that. And so, growth allows us to avoid that conversation that we are not able to have, for a whole bunch of reasons. Now, I—"
johannhari  naomiklein  addiction  drugs  2015  capitalism  environment  brucealexander  warondrugs  pain  gabormaté  medicine  psychology  policy  consumerism  consumption  materialism  individualism  economics  growth  values  identity  society  elizabethkolbert  joãogoulão  decriminalization  joãofigueira  inequality  prostitution  switzerland  britishcolumbia  arizona  racism  judygarland  donnaleonehamm  marciapowell  vancouver  addicts  billieholiday  harryanslinger  davidcameron  josephmccarthy  legalization  dehumanization  harmreduction  prisons 
april 2015 by robertogreco

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