Name: Roberto Cavalcante Malta
Addiction: Lessons from the Past to our Present Issues
The use and
abuse of substances by man is perhaps older than civilization.
Forwarding history a few centuries, one of the plausible explanations
of the origin of the word coffee is that it comes from “cahoueh”,
meaning to give vigor. That also follows that the idea that the
issues we currently face are not modern issues, but instead themes
that have followed humanity for centuries. One must only look at
events like the Opium Wars, when Great Britain introduced opium in
China to force her to accept trade deals with Great Britain,
exchanging opium for tea.
As we move from
looking into the history to see how it affects us as a nation.
Substance and abuse, of all kinds, can produce nefarious
consequences, no matter if it is from licit or illicit means. A
society that lacks a safety net, that does not protect her people,
and that often times provides little room for social advancement is
inviting for escapism. In escapism, an attempt to runaway from one’s
problems and reality, addiction can take hold and a coping mechanism
may turn into a more significant issue.
Utilitarian perspective, addiction is an evil to society while it may
benefit the individual in the short term. In the long term, it does
not benefit either one. However, with moderation and discipline, it
can be part of what make life worth living. Alcoholism is a horrific
disease, but a bottle of champagne is a fantastic way to celebrate an
accomplishment. Obesity can also lead to death, but a delicious meal
is a reward like no other. By having too stark a reaction to a
problem that affects society, it may worsen the circumstances
ten-fold. The Prohibition era in the United States led to an
exponential rise of the Mafia and organized crime, while also
increasing the alcohol consumption in the population. The War on
Drugs, similarly, failed to achieve any of its objectives and in many
regards, led to the opposite of the expected outcome.
A solution then,
as counterintuitive as it sounds, is to create an environment where
addiction can be explored safely, while trying to instill discipline
in an individual level and promote resources for those that want to
be free of addiction. Freeing those that not want to be freed is not
only a Herculean task, but in many ways against the principles that
rule a democratic society with rule of law.
is no way to rule a society, as it cares little about what the
individual feels and has to offer, relying solely on what it means to
society. A well-meaning and people-first nation will enable people to
naturally come around to dealing with their addiction, while
providing means to prevent the marginalization of the addicts and
Stoics had a proper understanding of the role of discipline and
moderation in life, which is also the correct approach for the
individual on the use of substances and to avoid addiction. But when
that is not possible, society must instead be welcoming, provide
resources for safe practice and for the individual to battle their
addiction. It may sound counter-intuitive, but it is what liberal and
democratic society must do to avoid the costly results of prohibition
and war against addiction.