Alcohol, nicotine and caffeine are so part of the landscape that their dangers are almost invisible. Yet quitting these would improve health and longevity more than all the expensive and stunningly ingenious medical innovations of the past hundred years.

drug money
The medical, food, tobacco and Illegal drug industries compete for the multi-billion dollar market for mood enhancing drugs. The players dress and speak differently but their operations are similar. There is almost unlimited money for promotion. Dealers, governments, prescribers and shopkeepers are on their payrolls.

Drugs help get through uncomfortable episodes and relieve the stress of poverty, relationships, school and work and the painful feelings that spill over from past trauma.

Relief is immediate but they don't fix underlying problems. On the contrary they interfere with mental and emotional functioning and reduce health, wealth and performance. Many accelerate ageing. Most scramble decision-making and increase the risk of accidents.

The financial and emotional costs are high. They include violence, family breakdown, poverty, corruption, low productivity and social breakdown.

Each drug activates or suppresses quite particular parts of the nervous system. Drugs that are merely disruptive in the short term can have devastating cumulative effects over time. Some side-effects worsen gradually so they are not noticed. Impurities and mis-formulations are wild cards.

Drugs raise confidence and lower ability. The gambling industry and internet scams strip-mine impaired drug users for money.

We are flying blind if our emotions and sense of pain and pleasure are dulled or kaleidoscoped by drugs. It is harder to relate sensitively to others, stay focused, evaluate the importance of events, estimate risks, work out what we want or distinguish hopes and fantasies from reality.

There is little traction in therapy without the guidance and incentive of emotions or pain to identify what is wrong and motivate us to change.

Relationships loses their importance when an addiction becomes more satisfying and interest in others fades. Drugged talk is usually somewhere between uninteresting and revolting to a sober partner.

withdrawal symptoms
Any regular or excessive use is a sign of dependence. The impulse to take mood altering drugs mostly comes from the instant relief of withdrawal symptoms that subtly play out below conscious awareness in between doses.

The first coffee or cigarette in the morning does not give a lift. It alleviates the fatigue and depression that grows during overnight abstinence. It is taken to mobilize and feel normal.

multiple dependency
Although each drug attracts particular personalities and problems and has its own particular user culture, rarely is anyone addicted to only one. Over-eating, cakes, lollies, coffee, “energy drinks”, sugar, cigarettes, alcohol, chocolate or prescription medications are usually alternated in a daily cycle of self medication. Each provides a lift when the effects of another wears off or counteracts the agitating or fatiguing effects of others. Risk taking and gambling bring adrenalin and hope to this roller coaster of happiness and despair.

Drug combinations often have unpredictable synergistic effects that can be harmful and even life threatening. Spectacular side-effects like episodes of psychotic rage or exhaustion are often attributed to the personality of the user.

Gambling, porn, risk taking, obsessive collecting and internet and food addictions activate much the same hormone and neural pathways in the brain as drug addictions. They foster a similar detachment and loss of empathy for others and lead to similar financial and emotional harm. The strategies on the side-menu can be used to quit these too.