Monday, August 28, 2006

In my day we passed notes from desk to desk

and wrote each other long, rambling letters. and day-dreamed, and decorated our school diaries. It's not like we actually listened in class.

I exaggerate, we did listen - when we were being told something we knew we wanted to hear. But every time a new tech craze hits high school, parents seize the opportunity to bemoan their children's 'addiction' to this alien thing, and demand that it be banned. This time it's Mxit, and of course they're all using it to access hardcore porn (hmm. that would be pretty frustrating over GPRS, even if Mxit wasn't just a chat service with no way to send files afaik).

So I was wandering around wikipedia thinking about the blurry and somewhat moralising way we define addiction (and porn, but that's a topic for another day), and I came across some interesting stuff:

The wikipedia article on addiction describes the theories of Thomas Szasz as follows:

In many of his works, he argues that addiction is a choice, and that a drug addict is one who simply prefers a socially taboo substance rather than, say, a low risk lifestyle. In 'Our Right to Drugs', Szasz cites the biography of Malcolm X to corroborate his economic views towards addiction: Malcolm claimed that quitting cigarettes was harder than shaking his heroin addiction. Szasz postulates that humans always have a choice, and it is foolish to call someone an 'addict' just because they prefer a drug induced euphoria to a more popular and socially welcome lifestyle.

In a sense, being 'addicted' to a substance is no different from being 'addicted' to a job that you work everyday.

I would definitely say the man has a point. Addiction to hard work, addiction to being the rescuer, the hero (aid workers, anyone?), addiction to relationships that really aren't all that good for you.

I also found a description of a study on addictive behaviour called Rat Park. Here's the introductory paragraph although I'd recommend reading the whole article.

Rat Park was a study into drug addiction conducted in the 1970s by American psychologist Bruce K. Alexander at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada.

Alexander's hypothesis was that drug addiction is a myth, and that the apparent addiction to morphine commonly observed in laboratory rats exposed to it is attributable to their living conditions, and not to any addictive property of the drug itself. [1] He told the Canadian Senate in 2001 that experiments in which laboratory rats are kept isolated in cramped metal cages, tethered to self-injection apparatus, show only that "severely distressed animals, like severely distressed people, will relieve their distress pharmacologically if they can." [2]

To test his hypothesis, Alexander built Rat Park, a 200-square-foot (18.6 m2) housing colony, 200 times the square footage of a standard laboratory cage. There were 16–20 rats of both sexes in residence, an abundance of food, balls and wheels for play, and private places for mating and giving birth. [3] The results of the experiment appeared to support his hypothesis. Rats who had been forced to consume morphine hydrochloride for 57 days on end were brought to Rat Park and given a choice between plain tap water and water laced with morphine. For the most part, they chose the plain water. "Nothing that we tried," Alexander wrote, "... produced anything that looked like addiction in rats that were housed in a reasonably normal environment." [1]


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