Let’s do an experiment. Take two groups of children. To one group you instruct:
Children, be careful around candy. Some people get addicted to candy. Here’s what happens: They start eating it and things seem ok at first, but after some time they find that they are unable to stop. Then, they eat all the candy, even though they are getting really fat and desperately want to stop. Even though they may not even really like the taste of the candy! For these children, the only solution is to completely ban candy from their lives. Otherwise they may succumb to the addiction again. It is a life-long struggle, although there are treatment programs for it.
To the other group you say:
Children, be careful around candy. If you eat too much candy you’ll get fat. If you find that you are eating too much candy, or that you are getting fat, stop and think, have I had enough? Can I consider a fruit or vegetable instead?
Now, put the children in a room with candy, fruits, and vegetables. Which group do you think will eat more candy? Which will have more bingers?
Now imagine doing the same experiment with drugs. Which group do you think will have more drug addicts in 10 years?
We are very susceptible to the power of suggestion, and this fact has been demonstrated repeatedly in both psychological experiments and throughout history. In fact, there is a book about it: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. It’s a great book: fascinating, detailed, and well-written. You won’t believe the crazy things people used to believe — as well as the parallels with events today.
Admitting you are an alcoholic in AA can also create or exacerbate an addiction. In this Washington Post editorial, a young woman describes how she developed the ‘addict persona’ after being unexpectedly forced to admit she was an alcoholic at an AA meeting — it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Most people take drugs at some point in their youth, and most don’t become addicted. We need to teach our children: “Drugs are bad for you. Yes they seem like fun and can make you feel good. But they make you irresponsible and will stop you from reaching your potential in life, and some cause long-term damage to the brain. If you are taking drugs, or escaping with drugs, you need to stop and think about what is wrong. Help is available.”
We will never be able to rid the world of drugs. But let’s not underestimate our children’s good judgment if we deal with them honestly. If we tell the truth about drugs, they will lose their supernatural appeal, abuse will fall, and “Drug Addiction” will be added as a new chapter in the book of modern delusions.
For more information on candy addiction: