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The Meaning of Inebriating Substances

  • Alcohol and drugs had an evolutionary value: they helped humans survive when the living conditions were terrible.
  • Alcohol and drugs were popular in agricultural and industrial societies because they gave strength to individuals who had to endure physically-demanding work and risk death in war.
  • The persistent appeal of alcohol and drugs in post-industrial societies is puzzling because very few men have physically demanding jobs or go to war, and even fewer women (who now account for a significant share of alcohol and drug users).
  • Alcohol and drugs in post-industrial societies must serve another purpose, which most likely has to do with the way that we distort life, from school to the office and finally to retirement (all very unnatural things to do).
  • Cocaine was the (recreational) drug of choice for the stressed yuppies of the 1980s. Ecstasy paralleled the high-tech boom of the 1990s.
  • The USA declared a war on (recreational) drugs just like Russia declared a war on vodka but neither has been serious at stemming the phenomenon. In fact, drug users have steadily increased since Nixon founded the DEA, and "illicit" drugs are now de facto legal in most of Europe.
  • Perhaps society needs people to get inebriated in order to accept work conditions that are either over-demanding or unnatural.
  • At the same time the exponentially increasing use of recreational drugs mirrors a tectonic shift in the way people perceive themselves, a transition from a mind-centered self to a body-centered self.
  • More and more people are more likely to smoke marijuana than to smoke a cigarette: the cigarette affects the lungs, whereas marijuana affects the brain. More and more people feel that the health of their body is more important than the health of their mind.
  • The body has increasingly become the real defining factor. People invest time and money in shaping their body, increasing their muscles and practicing bodily activities (whether dancing or sport). This inevitably comes to the expense of the mind: less time and less money for reading and studying.
  • Therefore it makes sense for people to be afraid of lung cancer but not of dementia; for people to be willing to lose control over their minds but not over their lungs; for people to be willing to injure their mind, but not injure their body.
Proof-edited by Alexander Altaras