"Human beings are not bad, crazy or sick..."
Recently, €1.25 million worth of cocaine was confiscated at Cork port. But the question we should be asking is why is it coming here in the first place?
I am not an authority on the negative implications of illicit drug use, so I won’t go into the details of the effects that they have on your mind and body. However, I’d like to briefly mention that 'the high' drugs takers experience while consuming a drug like cocaine is the result of increased levels of two chemical neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin, that are already in the brain.
Dopamine has a variety of influences on brain function, including playing a role in managing attention, but it is generally involved in cognition, movement, pleasure, and hormonal processes. Normal healthy ways of increasing dopamine include taking exercise; decreasing sugar intake; eating foods that contain tyrosine like bananas, apples and watermelons; getting plenty of sleep; or achieving a goal.
Psychologist Shawn Achor notes in his TED Talk that we can increase our levels of dopamine naturally by showing gratitude, meditating, taking exercise and reconnecting with friends.
Serotonin regulates brain functions such as sleep, appetite, mood and memory. You can augment your serotonin levels in much the same ways as the dopamine levels, namely by eating food containing omega three fatty acids; exercising; getting plenty of sunlight; expressing gratitude; reliving happy memories; or reducing stress.
People take drugs for a variety of different reasons, such as feeling more part of a group, getting a ‘deadly buzz’, or hoping to achieve a feeling of escape. However they can do all of those naturally, so maybe they want something more. The only problem with that is that the more the drugs are taken, the more insensitive the taker becomes to the kick. Therefore, they need to increase their levels of intake to feel the same effects. As a consequence, normal pleasures become harder to enjoy.
For example, if you had a feeling of ecstasy at a party the night before, simply enjoying a coffee and a chocolate treat with a friend the next day, may seem a little boring. Psychologists Philip Brickman, Dan Coates and Ronnie Janoff-Bulman studied lottery winners in the US who reported feeling less excited about normal daily pleasures after winning a big jackpot. That is the sort of experience which would cause a surge in dopamine and serotonin levels when they won the money and every time they bought something new. Unfortunately for the winners, these effects wore off.
It seems ironic that a person will take a drug to feel good, because it will temporarily work, then it will make them feel terrible, and as a consequence they will feel less positive about normal life for longer. Then to feel that good again, they have to take more of the drug, which they will eventually develop an insensitivity to, and will in turn make daily life even harder to appreciate.
Having said all of that, I believe people have the freedom to do whatever they like to their own body, as long as it doesn’t impinge on the safety of anyone else.
But in my opinion, the most pressing problem with these drugs lies in an economic issue. Drug dealers are essentially illegal businesses that are responding to the supply and the demand of their market. This is a fundamental theory of economics - if there’s a high demand and a high price for a product, supply will increase. The demand for drugs continues because people are willing to pay, but where do the drugs come from - people with a lot of opportunities or people with few opportunities? I fear that we would all be at risk of becoming drug dealers if we grew up in different situations or came from different backgrounds. The idea that I’d like to portray is that people react normally to their situation.
With that in mind, I think it’d be great if drug dealers were able to find better jobs and were more aware of the choices they have to feel good and lead exciting lives. If we expand our possibilities, we can increase our opportunities for fun and fulfilment. Some examples would be to meet new people; learn a new language; go hiking and paint-balling; plan a trip; take up a new sport; revisit your city as a tourist or do something fun that you’re afraid of doing! I know these suggestions are not for everyone, they are merely some examples.
Failing all of those, you could go to the top of a hill with some friends and run down as fast as you can until you reach the bottom, or fall flat on your face. Perhaps it’s a good metaphor: it won’t last very long and it’s dangerous, but it will give you a ‘deadly buzz’.
Brendan, C. 'It’s been a BAD week for drug smugglers…'Retrieved from: http://www.thejournal.ie/drugs-seizures-ireland-2011779-Mar2015/ [Accessed: 9th April 2015]
Brickman, P., Coates D. & Janoff-Bulman, R., 'Lottery Winners and Accident Victims: Is happiness Relative?' Retrieved from: http://pages.ucsd.edu/~nchristenfeld/Happiness_Readings_files/Class%203%20-%20Brickman%201978.pdf [Accessed: 9th April 2015]
Mcgill.ca, 'HOW DRUGS AFFECT NEUROTRANSMITTERS' Retrieved from: http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/i/i_03/i_03_m/i_03_m_par/i_03_m_par_cocaine.html [Accessed: 9th April 2015]
National Institute on Drug Abuse. 'DrugFacts: Cocaine' Retrieved from: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine [Accessed: 9th April 2015]
National Institute on Drug Abuse. How does cocaine produce its effects? Retrieved from: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/how-does-cocaine-produce-its-effects [Accessed: 9th April 2015]
Addiction Ireland. 'Why Do People Use Drugs?' Retrieved from: http://www.addictionireland.ie/faq/article.asp?FID=33 [Accessed: 9th April 2015]
Salters-Pedneault, K. ‘Dopamine' Retrieved from: http://bpd.about.com/od/glossary/g/dopamine.htm [Accessed: 9th April 2015]
Wikihow. ‘How to Increase Dopamine’ Retrieved from: http://www.wikihow.com/Increase-Dopamine [Accessed: 9th April 2015]
Wikihow. 'How to Boost Serotonin' Retrieved from: http://www.wikihow.com/Boost-Serotonin [Accessed: 9th April 2015]