Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What to do about losers?

Hint: Liberty is the answer.

This society is highly competitive. But it is also supposed to be free. I envisage a world where market variety is boundless and everyone can find a niche where they could win or do well overall. This is not done through social planning, but through liberty and innovation. Winning here means a content and ecstatic feeling a part of society through one’s labor.

I’ve been thinking to myself about how there could be room for those who seem to lose more often than others. There might be areas in the market of ideas and goods in which anyone looking for a place to win can do so. This may seem Utopian at first, but unpacking these ideas a bit may clarify and show it as a result an inevitable of the free market system and ideals of liberty we already have.

In market capitalism, there is an ever growing need for variety in ideas or products. Those who are creative or have the drive to find a space in the market to carve out for themselves will find opportunities to do so. Some are concerned that increasing technological capabilities may make many of the jobs we have today obsolete. What they fail to see is that when one door closes many others open. For instance, when the car came about it contributed to the fall of the horse and buggy market. However, this gave rise to an even more varied and lucrative market- automobiles!  

I feel this is true especially with the internet. For sure, some jobs have become extinct because of the net. Yet a smorgasbord of employment opportunities and markets themselves have emerged from the web.  We can be sure that the market is only going to grow. Sure some sectors may die off, but others will emerge in its place. Those with initiative may look for places to prop themselves into a market niche. Doing so would be catalyzed by thinking about common or pressing problems people face everyday and/or focusing on what one enjoys about the world. No one can do this process for anyone else. It is our own responsibility to take this initiative. This is the foundation of liberty: self-responsibility.

A free market, with ever growing opportunities, will provide the insurance that anyone eager to search may find a place to win. The answer to the problem of being a loser is taking responsibility for and exercising one’s liberty and finding a new or different way to win in the world.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Guilty thoughts? (happiness is conditional)

An  inner dialogue:

Are you getting high again?


Why do you do it so often?

It makes me feel good.

Why can’t you find a way to feel good without drugs?

I don’t see a reason to.

How is it useful to your life potential to be stoned or high all the time?

What would you know about my life potential?

Oh, so you’re going to start answering questions with questions now?

You made an assumption in your question which is wrong. A question seemed a natural way to bring up the issue.

What assumption do you have an issue with?

Well there are a couple. You think you know what is wholly beneficial and harmful for my life. You also think you know how cannabis affects me. Finally, the behavior has been ostracized because of the reprehensible war on drugs, thereby distorting your perception of it- this gives you the impetus to even ask the question in the first place.

So you believe that getting high all the time is good for you?

It benefits me personally. Your or anyone else’s mileage may vary.

But why have your happiness tied to something like a drug?

Because happiness is always tied to something- its conditional. Everything which brings you happiness is a condition in the world. It doesn’t matter if it comes from a drug you take or a person you love, your emotion  is tied to a situation. Now its true that some conditions are easier to reach and maintain than others. An illegal drug is not by any means easy to obtain in a sustainable fashion. But this is because of the deplorable war on drugs, not the substances themselves. In the end, we need to make our own happiness. Some may find it in work, or others, but some may find it in changing their consciousness. We shouldn’t forget that happiness comes from many places; and what makes one happy is specific to their personality. Overall we should judge each other less and enjoy what we love more.

I’m not going to start using.

No one is saying you should. Just leave others to enjoy what brings them happiness. Happiness is always tied to something…

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Four lives, in and out of a cage.

We wanted to study the effects of heroin on rats. We decided to use a 6 week old male rat weighing 400 grams, which had not been sexually active yet. We placed the lab rat alone in a cage with an ample supply food pellets and two liquid dispensers- one dispensing water and the other with a mixture of water and heroin, equaling 5mg/kg of the rat’s weight per drop. Our hypothesis would be that the rat would become physically addicted to the heroin, to the point of ignoring all other stimuli like food and water. We base this on the literature showing the same behavior in pigeons. We made an ad-hoc decision to increase the dosage of the heroin water mixture in 5mg increments at semi-weekly intervals due to suspected tolerance.

As predicted, the rat showed symptoms of physical addiction. To verify, we truncated the dosage to near zero. This resulted in the rat displaying withdrawal symptoms- mainly limb and head shaking. Having confirmed the rat’s addiction to the heroin and water mixture, we proceeded to increase the dosage in the same fashion as described above. Over the course of several weeks, we observed the rat’s tolerance and usage increase dramatically- quicker than we had anticipated. However in alignment with our expectations, the rat demonstrated a level of addiction so severe that it ignored the food pellets and water dispenser completely. The rat expired due to respiratory depression caused by an overdose of heroin in its bloodstream. In total, from the time of placement in the experimental cage to the time of expiration, 6 months had elapsed. The time period for which the rat ignored food and water dispensers had been 2 months before expiration. We concluded that heroin leads to addiction and ultimately death by self-administration when given to a drug naive rat.    

As long as I can remember, I’ve always felt alone. I never felt much connection in my interactions with people. Feeling on the same level as others never became familiar to me. This is the same with my romantic life. I can’t seem to find the right woman. It’s as if no one really understands me. It’s not like I can’t get other people, I just don’t feel like I want to. I may have a problem but I feel the issue is with the world I live in. I just don’t fit here. I have everything I need to live- I’m not struggling to survive- my basic needs met. Yet I long for a sense of content with my situation. Unfortunately, I feel destined to feel like this forever. Maybe something or someone will come along and change all that. That’s my hope. For now though, I live in a cage of depression.

I had recently got my wisdom teeth removed and I've felt something I thought would never be available to me- true contentedness. I came out of the surgery in extreme pain. I was given some Vicodin tablets and told to take one every six hours as needed. Feeling extreme pain, I took one and waited several minutes. Feeling impatient and convinced I didn't take enough- at the time I rationalized that my capacity to feel pain was high than average- I took two more. After twenty more minutes, I started to feel a warm sensation in my chest which started to envelope my entire body like a blanket. I looked out into the world with a sense of deep happiness I've never felt before. Gazing out, I could see my environment as inviting, rather than stressful or indifferent. My normal sense of ambient grief and apathy gave way to an outlook of positivity stemming from a primordial vitality. I wanted and was happy to be alive and experience reality! When I feel this way I am a better person to others. I go from this unhappy and bitter attitude to a happy and sociable person. I must get more of this. I must do it not just for myself, but for those around me.

I've been using for a few months now. I had to find a cheaper supply of opiates as I ran out of my prescription of Vicodin. Buying them on the street was a viable option, but now it has become too expensive. Street heroin is much cheaper, and much more available- and I’m on a budget so…
I think I've hit rock bottom. I’m a shell of my former self. I can’t even shit. I've sold most of my belongings to keep up with the growing drug price and my skyrocketing tolerance. I need so much now just to feel normal- not even happy. I can’t stop this habit. I wish I never started and I don’t know what to do. All I think about is my next dose and the withdrawals that may result if I can’t get any dose. I might lose my job soon if someone rats me out.

POLICE REPORT: A young adult male was found in the county park slumped on a bench and not breathing. The coroner has ruled the death an accidental drug overdose from heroin. It was concluded that the male’s addiction to heroin caused his death and squalor.              

The literature suggests that a variety of alternate choices may mitigate addiction in animals. It was shown that pigeons will not become addicted to a narcotic when given the choice to interact with other pigeons and bird toys. We decide to replicate this condition with a group of male and female rats between the ages of 4-6 weeks. All rats were of average weight for their sex (Male: ~400Grams, Female: ~250 grams) and had not been sexually active yet. Instead of a cage, the rats were placed in an oversized container, which had in addition to food pellets and water dispensers many recreational appliances (spinning wheels and colorful balls) and areas for social interaction. The container also contained another water dispenser with a mixture of water and heroin at a concentration of 20mg/kg per drop. We hypothesized that given the variety of choice, the rats will not show physical addiction to the drug mixture, although being exposed to it.

As expected, it was observed that none of the rats continued to drink the mixture after several initial exposures. The rats showed little desire to take continual doses. On average, a rat would try the mixture a few times, interspersed with social and recreational activities with other rats, and eventually discontinue use all together after a few weeks. There was concern over dosing- some in our lab believed the rats were not drinking the drug mixture properly because of distraction from other rats. To alleviate this issue, we made an ad-hoc decision to forcefully administer heroin to the rats at doses of 40mg/kg 3 times daily. We then abruptly stopped dosing and awaited withdrawal effects. As anticipated, drug withdrawal symptoms were observed in the form of limb and head shaking. Surprisingly, the rats did not seek to self-administer the original drug/water mixture. After recovering from withdrawal, the rats went back to socializing, feeding and playing regularly. We conclude that given ample free choice, exposure to heroin and possibly other narcotics does not lead to addiction and death by self-administration.        

I am so excited. In a few weeks I will be leaving home heading off to college. Nervousness also creeps in my mind, but that’s natural. I will miss most of my friends here, but I know I will have the chance to meet many more wonderful people. Some of my friends will even attend the same college as me! So I don’t think loneliness will be an issue. I’m not sure what I want to major in yet, but I am enthusiastic to discover what makes me tick.    

I've been here a few months and am fitting right in. My dorm area is pretty relaxed. It’s a co-ed space with fun friends and hot girls that I’m all on great terms with. We have lots of fun together. Weekends are one big party, fueled by many legal and illegal substances, ha-ha. Don’t worry though; I feel very much in control. My use is basically situational and occasional- it’s tied to me having fun with others. People have told me that I will begin to have an issue if I start taking these drugs on my own, outside of a party context. For now, I’m having lots of fun and can’t imagine anything better. I’m so content; I feel free.  

Soon I will be graduating; the partying days have started to fade. Not because I started to have a bad time; rather, my use has slowed down because my major is starting to take over my attention, goals, and will. I have decided to study psychopharmacology because of my experiences with various drugs during my partying phase. Although I did use many of them regularly, like cocaine, heroin, and alcohol, I did not become physically addicted to them. Some would consider me lucky. I disagree; my research has shown me that addiction has more to do with depression and outlook/attitude, than with “chemical hooks” that effects anyone and everyone who is exposed to drug for a specific period of time. I am truly lucky to be not depressed; for if I was depressed, I would be helplessly addicted now. An addiction would be a way to break the bars of that cage called depression. When we see someone addicted, we must recognize not their chemical habit, but the limitations their depression places on their happiness.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Clearing the Static for the Dynamic Self: Why Drugs are Important for One's Sovereignty

The self is not static. It is dynamic. It is not our body. It is our behavior. 

The self is an identification with our consciousnesses. Most identify their consciousness or experience with their bodies, or even their brains. This is a problematic, as it can lead to viewing oneself sub-optimally because of an abstracted self-image. This image is not rooted in matter as one’s body parts and neurons all are replaced and rewired respectively.  Instead, the image is rooted in an abstraction which is an unachievable ideal to maintain. This can lead one to feel stress for not maintaining their self-image in the present. This kind of self is static. A dynamic conception of the self is proposed presently.

Identifying with behavior, on the other hand, has the benefit of not taking yourself as seriously. Behavior is not abstracted, as it is a continually ongoing process of interaction. It is immediate and does not lend itself toward idle mental pictures. By identifying more with behavior, the self moves from some abstract idealized thought toward an active participation in the world, via your behavior. As behavior is in a sate of forever becoming, it does not lend itself to abstraction. Rather, contemplation of behavior is immanently tied to the present moment and the senses; this roots one’s Self in the present- not an idealized abstraction spread out over your future and past. This is a dynamic self.

In lieu of an abstracted idealization, the self can be grounded in a trajectory or path through time and space. This trajectory is not a single point devoid of externalized features. Instead, it incorporates a path between here and there; between the here of the present state to the there of an intentional aim. The self is understood to have this unfolding dimension, which plays out and carves a path though the world. The goal of this trajectory is as important to the self as the starting point and what comes in between the two poles. For example, mental states are intentional in that they are directed toward events in time and space elsewhere. For someone going to the market, the self would be not just the body going through the motions, but the tools and environmental factors which helped along. For instance, the car, road, clothes, shopping cart, bags, lights, etc, all contribute to the self when used along this path. The aim of the path, which can be known as an attractor, is not static. Nor is the initial starting point of the path static. These points are dynamic and change overtime. One may never reach a goal completely, which would contribute to why doing the same actions create slightly different results. Because of this, the attractor is never realized and constantly shifting. The point of departure, so to speak, is also constantly moving around. This creates a path that is not frozen in space and time, but is constantly evolving over and ever shifting backdrop or landscape which is the world. In this way, the Self is the ever changing path through the world. We are this dynamic path.    

But identifying the self as a path has the apparent negative of losing a stable clear cut identify of yourself. One may also mistakenly identify with an imaginary point on this trajectory, as opposed with the ongoing process itself. Understanding the path as behavior (defined below) can clarify the idea of a trajectory in a more accurate way. Behavior is the way in which one acts in the world. The effects one produces and the relations one maintains and cultivates. Although the effects of behavior are not continually experienced (i.e. we are not able to experience the entire chain of effects we start), the self can have its parameters within experience. Consciousness is the enclosure of the self. The body is not the enclosure because one interacts with others and tools. Therefore, the self is softly assembled depending on the context we find ourselves in. It can be just our bodies, or the summation of group activities, or extended into the tools we use. Conversely, the self may shrink to include only parts of ourselves. This shifting of scale is what soft assembly refers to. Although more flexible than an abstracted static image, behavior is still distinguishable from other’s behavior. This is because intentions revolve around one’s immediate presence. It is as if conscious presence was the center of gravity which the self revolves around. Note, presence is not simply the body as it incorporates what extends from it; sound, visual cues, or movement are common examples. Therefore, the ongoing and dynamic process of behavior in the world can act as a way to understand how the self is a path through the world as opposed to a point on that path. The behavioral center of gravity is the ever-changing trajectory over the landscape of the world- the Self.

The self as behavioral center of gravity has implications for how we think of ourselves. Removing the abstracted idealization shifts perspective of the world and one’s values. Thinking of the self as inside of and somewhat alien to the world makes it so that one confronts the world. The self-image is abstracted and removed from all other content. In this way, the idealized self-image exists all on its own, contributing to this alienated concept of the self. This can’t be further from the truth. We are in continual engagement with the world and others via our behavioral path. Therefore any conception of ourselves cannot be absolutely void from anything else, especially our surrounding environment. But the traditional idea of self is just this- an isolated alien in a world indifferent to it. This dynamic conception of self remedies this by defining the self as a dynamic interplay of bodies, tools, and environments. Each one contributes to the other, we survive and thrive with tools and social knowledge we acquire from the environment. By identifying with our behavior we can better navigate the world, by recognizing the path we’re on, and not having that trajectory clouded by the static, idealized, and abstracted (pseudo)image of the self.  

The are several issues with having a static image of the self. It can create identity issues pertaining to maintaining an abstraction. By its very nature the image is not rooted in matter. This makes it difficult for the dynamic matter comprising the self to fit into the restrictive and static box of the idealization- causing stress. Another issues arises from how the static (pseudo)self-image obscures one from how the self participates in the world. Those struck with this static image find themselves believing a fantasy, whilst having no accurate view of how they are actually moving through the dynamic path which is the self. This is suboptimal as one may cause damage to others or to their real self without knowing. A further potential identity issue involves a lack of genuine improvement. Rather than changing the path one is on, the self, people may try to change their image of themselves instead- thus bringing about no tangible change in behavior. The self becomes a day dream which has little to do with behavior and a lot to do with idle thoughts. When one identifies the self with behavior, the project of self-improvement becomes a way to change how one participates in the world. But when one changes a static image of themselves, they are only changing a self-perception which becomes the day dream- furthered by confirmation bias. One last common identify issues stems from the denial of behavior and participation by promoting an alienated self-image. This is a precarious way of going through the world as one never identifies the self as within and apart of it- they only see themselves as tackling into the world.

Another implication of identifying the self with the fluid path of behavior is reorganizing what one understand to be tools for self enhancement. Some of these tools has been demonized in our society for over a century. These tools are the most powerful modifiers of behavior known. With that power comes a high level of responsibility. This latter aspect is lost on some who use these tools. Just like any instrument, one must learn how to use it properly. But what are these tools, and what gives them such high potential for behavior?      

Why drugs are great and essential for human potential and sovereignty. 

If we are behavior, then what ever can change and control behavior the most efficaciously is of utmost importance to us. But what can alter behavior reliably? Psychoactive drugs are capable of this task. These are substances which alter mood, in addition to behavior. There are several legal ones like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol to name a few. Others are illegal. The history behind the drug prohibition is steeped in xenophobia, not health and life outcomes. The bottom line is this: each drug has some potential to either enhance experience or release pain. Sometimes both at once. It is up to us to maximize the target effects and minimize the undesired effects. Prohibition will not accomplish this. Only legal regulation will.    

Having adequate access to effective psychoactive gives one more control over their behavior. The power to alter one’s behavior is a right. With this power comes complete sovereignty over the self. But yielding any power comes with the responsibility of knowing how to act properly. Prohibition stifles this process of necessary education. Behavioral sovereignty is as important as intellectual and economic sovereignty. It is the basis of individual liberty. The attainment of liberty via behavioral sovereignty is the process of maturity. One’s self though life gains more and more sovereignty via the tools and social systems we utilize.  

The self is really a meta-self when we have full sovereignty. This is because the self alters its own trajectory. We are cannot be meta-selves if we do not have full control over our behavior. Until one does attain behavioral sovereignty, they are the self of someone else’s trajectory- they’re like a tool in this regard.

The path of maturity is sovereignty of body/mind. Drugs facilitate this by allowing one to exercise more control over their behavior. Abuse can happen with anything. The thriving of a dynamic meta-self must hinge on personal responsibility leading to behavioral sovereignty. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Legality =/= Prescription

Just because something is legal to do doesn’t mean it should be done.

Some find it easy to bring up the idea of drug legalization as a way of getting everyone stoned or intoxicated. This red herring of an argument is common and appeals to our emotions. No one wants to be a loser drug addict. They feel their better than that. They may cut their own arm off before ensuring a life of drug addiction for them and their loved ones through legalization.

What they fail to understand is legal activities aren’t always desirable ones. For instance, one can never tip serves at restaurants. This activity is not enforced, it is legal not to pay a tip. Yet we see most people pay a tip. Why is this? Oh right, people are capable of moral and ethical decisions without legislative impetus. That’s right, people don’t need laws to tell them what is right and wrong in a given situation. This is common knowledge. We don’t arrest people for being jerks or not being polite. Because of that, actions with are anti-social may be avoided by the mere fact that they make one look unfavorable toward others.

Now one may argue that drugs are different that other kinds of potentially anti-social behavior. It is said that addiction removes the will and one is incapable of rational decision making. This is false. Two studies in particular demonstrate this. The first was called “Rat Park”. In this experiment, rats were not only caged in isolation, like virtually all addiction studies, but allowed to live in a group called rat park. In this group setting, rats were allowed to do more than just feed. They were able to mate, play with other rats and form social bonds with them. Both groups were given morphine, a highly addictive opiate drug similar to heroin. The researchers found that the group rats were not additive, as they did not spend all their time receiving the drug. They would divide up their time between other activities. Some groups rats did not use the drug a second time. The case was much different for the rats raised in isolation. Nearly all were completely addicted- all they did was the drug. This study supports the idea that addiction is mostly always present with some kind of depression, and that socially well adjusted individuals may be more resilient toward addiction. The other key study was done by Dr. Karl Hart from Columbia University. He found that crack addicts were able to make rational decisions involving economic. The study showed that when addicts were given a choice between a hit of crack and a food voucher worth much less than the hit of crack, the addicts almost always chose the food voucher. This showed that for a drug as addictive as crack, the ability to make reasonable decisions is not compromised for addicts. Thus drugs are not a special case which must be made illegal.    

It’s possible to picture, if a drug were legal, well adjusted people avoiding addiction as they encounter different substances. They would have an altered experience, but also have a strong connection toward others, so the allure of an artificial and isolated paradise is much less appealing. Because of this, we can see drug addiction handled in much the same way as jerks or cheap people are in this society. We can imagine some people who choose to be addicts like some choose to be jerks. No matter how much one dislikes or maybe even hates an asshole, it is wrong to throw them into a metal cage with violent people (i.e. prison). It does no use to fill prisons with nonviolent offenders who only burden the system. They do it by wasting resources and time away from real crimes which have victims. A victimless crime is an oxymoron. And as long as a person is aware of what drug they are taking and its side effects, which is impossible for many under prohibition, they are not a victim if they happen to suffer some undesired effects. Much how we have resources to help those with other kinds of lifestyle problems, we can help them without treating them like criminals. Note, for those who argue this point with the contention that adding more vices to society isn’t good, they are fail to recognize that these vices already exist and are made worse by prohibition. That is, much of the problems associated with drug use come from the simple fact that they’re illegal. With that said, having drug use curtailed by social norms as opposed to laws is the more ethical decision.

People are smarter than proponents of prohibition would have us believe. Everyday we see examples of ordinary people taking incentive to live healthier or be better people toward others. They are not motivated by any law, they are motivated by their own mortality and the opinions of others. Therefore we can see how legality is not equated with a prescription for use. Drug use is not special and deserves to be treated like other social behaviors which are better left regulated organically via social norms and not governmental authorities.         

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Was it you or the Caffeine?

I have a lack of patience with those who fall “victim” to drug addiction. They sometimes believe that they have no choice in the matter. It’s just out of their hands in their minds. Bullshit. Is it you or that caffeine which helped you read that article? If you believe it was yourself, then why can’t the addict feel in control? Drugs motivate and inspire behavior; but they do so without any input from ourselves? Of course not! Caffeine may perk most of us up, but what we do depends on our personality and situation. The effects are as much dependent on pharmacology as they are on personality (e.g. their personal trajectory).

Certainly, different drugs cause different effects. But the dependency on the personal experience and history of the person is still present in the same way. Outside of a lack of consciousness in the form of sedation, all behavior on drugs will be dependent on one’s personal make up. Tim Leary’s idea of set and setting can be applied to all substances, rather than solely psychedelics. Drugs which elicit more pleasurable feelings are still allow one’s personal choice to remain. Why should one keep intoxicating oneself if it leads to harm? The choice is made in depression and apathy for the self and world- but it is still a choice!

Accurate information plays a pivotal role in making good decisions. One is very unlikely to make wise choices with a lack of knowledge. Information on any given subject becomes hard to obtain if illegal. The drug war causes a paucity in reliable facts on drug use and effects. However, even in markets and societies where the sale of most psychoactive drugs are illegal, one can still obtain sufficient information. However one would need to do a bit more digging.  

Withdrawal is a matter of fact for most pleasurable drugs. But one’s will is not absent in such a state. Think of having an itch. One may just go ahead and relive it by scratching. But some- mature people- will refrain from it. Perhaps they know it wont help to do so in the long run. Although withdrawal is more extreme than an itch, the will to continue is still present. A study called rat park has shown that addiction depends more on social setting than the actual pharmcodynamics of the drug. More studies have also shown that free (or alternate) choice helps deter addiction to drugs.  

In the end, when you do drink that coffee, you’re more likely to believe it was you who read that article. Although one can argue that you didn't inhibit the adenosine in your brain- that was the caffeine. But you would laugh off such a comment. But when it comes to other substances, you may accept this kind of reasoning. Why? Maybe you feel the drugs are vastly different. One is benign while the other is violent and takes over the will. But fundamentally what’s the difference? An exterior substance has entered the brain and influenced it’s chemistry, resulting in effects on behavior that wouldn't be present without administration. And like everything that enters the body, there are dangers. But when there are benefits and dangers- like in drugs- one must seek balance and find appropriate ways of using or performing these activities. But if you choose not to weigh this for yourself, then I have little sympathy for you- although the drug war does not help. You should know better!

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