Why we Smoke, Drink and Use Harmful Drugs?

One of my respected friends used to smoke Hukkah. To me it appeared bizarre. When I expressed my feelings, he laughingly replied, “You must have at least one addiction. I have opted for this one.” I was not convinced, why we must have a potation? What may be the possible explanation of our addiction to wine, tobacco, canabbis and other drugs even though we may be aware of their harmful, deadly and killing effects? Use of these harmful drugs has been prevalent from the most primitive to contemporary societies in all the communities. It may be safely concluded that man is predisposed to their use. The question is how use of intoxicants became the hallmark of humanity.

Problem is not that we continue to use these poisonous chemicals once we start to use them, because these intoxicants are addictive. Greatest mystery is our proclivity for their use. The fact of our resorting to the use of these poisons eagerly can be explained by several compensating needs. It appears that some programme ingrained in our subconscious continues to incite us to resort to such activities. The result is that even though we are aware of the harmful effects of these chemicals we merrily indulge in them. What is that programme?

No single explanation is there, naturally. There may be separate reasons for separate societies. For example some persons use them to overcome their inhibitions. In some communities it is a part of their culture and traditions. In comparatively affluent societies drinking may be a status symbol. There are people who drink because they find it tasty. Fascination for narcotics differs with geographical locations, social and economic classes. It should not be a surprise that drinking is more significant problem in economically poorer sections of the society. Illicit and poisonous drink is problem of the poor class. It is significant that women from poorer sections of the society have been frequently staging protests and movements in favour of prohibition and demanding closure of wine shops, though women from the affluent class have never raised such demands.

In order to explain the riddle of human behavior evolutionary scientists look to similar and parallel features in other members of the animal kingdom. Several explanations have been proposed to explain this paradox. One of them is related to seemingly suicidal features in animals and their communication system. This proposal encompasses facts and figures from the wide canvass of our culture concerning misuse of intoxicating chemicals. According to one of these hypotheses man uses harmful chemical which harm him, in order to attract his kin’s attention. In 1975 Israeli biologist Amotz Zahavi proposed a unique hypothesis regarding the role of self destructive or costly signals. It is still being debated. He attempted to explain how the harmful features of males are effective in attracting females only because they are harmful. This hypothesis is extended to men resorting to harmful indulgence to intoxicant drugs just to attract attention; the exhibition of such self-destructive features is an advertisement of his honesty.

Man organized society for his security. He framed a code of conduct for himself and the society. The code of conduct protects him from his harmful proclivities. Onus lies on the community to protect man from his own self destructive penchants Thus it is the responsibility of the society to make right and effective efforts to indentify and take effective steps to mens’ addiction to smoking, drinking and use of harmful drugs.

It is seen that the measures adopted by the administration have been largely successful in stopping smoking in public places. On the contrary drinking and use of harmful and lethal drugs is increasing and is gathering new adherents. The government seems to be more interested in its excise earnings. Its regular warning against drinking seems only a ritual and statutory warning.


More by :  Ganganand Jha

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Views: 3387      Comments: 3

Comment "Its regular warning against drinking seems only a ritual and statutory warning."

Of the three harmful things Prof. Jha has mentioned there is consensus that smoking is bad for health under all circumstances. And mind altering, permanently damaging nervous function drugs are harmful too. Smoking is promoted by economically powerful corporate entities without which consumption of tobacco products will reduce dramatically.

Is alcohol equally bad to be lumped with the other two? Some of it is perception. Alcohol is bad because certain religion prohibits it. I have read similar things said about non-vegetarian food; how it could ruin a person of his health, mental attitude (gunas) and ultimately his salvation.

The high cost of western distilled liquors in countries like India compared to the daily wage of an average worker is one of the reasons for demonizing alcohol. Beyond that alcohol soothes nerves when you are exhausted after strenuous work and helps you relax. It is a regular metabolite that our body makes as part of burning food. We do get occasional scientific reports that moderate amounts of alcoholic drinks reduce chances of heart attack and other old age related ailments. The caution here is use of alcohol in moderation. Excess use and abuse is a different issue. Using ghee in excess is not less harmful than alcohol. Cars are bad for human survival but we are trying to live with it.

There was a time when coffee drinking was considered unhealthy, but of late the media and popular opinion have eased up on it.

Prasad Rao
26-Dec-2015 04:07 AM

Comment Thanks for your considered observation. Yes, people have been indulging in harmful drugs to seek pleasurable sensations not only in modern societies but primitive ones too.
But fragile nature of life seems to be just an excuse. .

17-Dec-2015 04:35 AM

Comment >the greatest mystery is our proclivity for their use<

I think the point missed is that the taking of drugs whether it be cigarettes, caffein, or other forms, renders a pleasurable sensation which is considered worth the risk, and becomes the basis of a compulsive habit. It is to alleviate the pressures of modern society that recourse to drugs provides the solution in the experience derived. Therein is the solution to the mystery. I once asked a chain smoker why he was unmindful of the risk of lung cancer, to which he glibly replied, ' You could be killed on the street; does that prevent you from the joy of going out?' So the drug addict bases his addictive practice on the fragile basis of life itself!

16-Dec-2015 11:40 AM

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