Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Chemical Marionettes

A thought crossed my mind this morning, and you can guess by the title of this post, that the thought was serious. I know…that’s really unusual for me, but nonetheless, I thought I would explore it in a post on the blog since putting the question to Facebook is like the ADHD version of writing. Not like this blog wouldn’t be a prime example of ADHD writing in the eyes of Conrad or Tolstoy or Hemingway to name a few, but it actually requires thought to come up with a paragraph or two vs. the vapid style of Facebook status changes.

The question that flitted through my consciousness as I took a pile of aspirin and vitamins with my coffee this morning was, are we all just Chemical Marionettes as a species? What would we be like if we didn’t rely so heavily on chemicals to modify our daily lives?

Now I’m not talking about food since those are chemicals in essence but we use them to fuel our lives and keep our cells functioning at some level. I’m also not talking about antibiotics or cancer medications since those save our lives (most of the time) from pretty horrible and undignified ends. I’m talking about chemicals that have no other function than to modify our worldview by direct action on our brains with no other use by the body. You can ignore my mention of the concoction of aspirin and vitamins I was taking this morning since those impact mainly my physical structure rather than the chemicals in my brain.

What are we doing? Is life so bad? Why do we need these things?

A few stats:
-Over 10% of the 300 million people in the U.S. are on some form of antidepressant.

-Basically 95% of the population use caffeine on a daily basis and 75% of children over the age of 10 consume caffeine on a daily basis.

-67% of the U.S. drink alcohol

-Estimates say that 20% of the U.S. population would test positive for marijuana use if we tested everyone today. (Or maybe that’s skewed by the 99.9% of the Northwest U.S. that would test positive…)

I’ll skip including the harder drugs because while the % of the population using them is high, they generally are not a common drug used daily.

Yes, I googled all this stuff and the sources looked reputable, but could be totally wrong…it did come from the “interweb” and we all know everything out there is based in truth and good statistical science…so a grain of salt is required on my quoted stats folks…
In the end, are we all just totally reliant on chemicals to perform our daily tasks or to make our lives a touch more tolerable? Hence my marionette reference…the drugs pull the strings so we can perform… Ok, maybe it’s a lousy metaphor, but you get the point.

I doubt my headaches would allow me to quit my coffee addiction anytime soon, nor do I really plan to try to quit, but this thought on our society, or perhaps the whole of the human race, was interesting. What would our real “unmodified” behaviors be like? What would our lives be like?

Some facets would certainly improve if we didn’t use chemicals constantly. For instance:
-Traffic accidents would certainly decrease.
-Violence and crime rates would drop with drop without alcohol and drug use.
-Would road rage decrease without everyone hopped up on caffeine?
-We would have more cash to spend.
-Society would be healthier as a whole.

Some things would certainly be worse too:

-Without caffeine, early morning, 2pm, and late night work productivity would drop precipitously. I think I just named most of the day with those times…America’s GDP and it’s higher educational system would be in shambles. (Or would it if people didn’t use alcohol in the evenings?)

-I’m not sure about the usefulness of the vast application of antidepressants across our country.

Make no mistake, antidepressants serve a good purpose and some people really need it, but many are just looking for a way to be calm all the time. There is this perception that we should all be blissfully happy all the time, but things happen that make us sad, or make our lives miserable for a period of time. When we were kids, we didn’t take drugs, we just got through it and moved on. Kids now just take the drugs… I guess we as a species are flawed and are unable to be happy all of the time, but taking a steady diet of serotonin re-uptake inhibitors probably isn’t really effective or necessary for 90% of the people that are now on them.
- Also in the “most certainly worse column”, parties would be totally lame…see I couldn’t stay serious… But honestly, there are only so many board games and rounds of Charades one can handle before the gathering would break up like a glass in a Jewish wedding. We would all be in bed by 10 on party nights and would probably be more productive in the morning.

-New Years Eve…10pm and out…Times Square and a flashy ball? Meh

The world would definitely be a touch more even keeled. The highs of boozy elation would end and the lows of the resulting bleary eyed mornings would be no more as well.

It’s interesting to think on how human beings became this way. Is it a way to give us some sort of competitive advantage or take the edge off the drudgery of our daily lives? Why we are motivated to find a way to make the chemicals fire in our heads to produce experiences that we perceive to be better. I guess we are designed to try to change things and produce out of the ordinary feelings. Even children spinning in the front yard until they fall over are modifying their perceptions and making themselves feel altered. Is that everyone’s first mind altering experience? The kids that do it until they throw up and then get up and keep doing it are the ones that their parents probably should be worried about.

If society stopped all unnecessary chemical intakes of caffeine, alcohol or whatever for a month, would life be better, worse, or just the same once the addiction headaches were gone?
I’ll bet the profits for Betty Ford Clinics would be simply astronomical for a time. Better make it two months in that scenario to get a good sample month once everyone got back to normal after de-tox.
I find myself finishing this rambling post without a good answer on the topic, but I do hope you found it an interesting to think about, and that you didn’t find yourself heading for the liquor cabinet to make yourself feel better about wasting time on this blog.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just intersting thoughts. The video--yes, your "first" one--was outstanding. What great smiles and the music was really excellent. Papa.