Every person has a drug of choice. Someone yesterday argued to me the point that “being drug-free is free,” which is good advice to heed if one’s demand for pleasure chemicals exceeds his supply of cash. Otherwise, the risk involved with consuming a drug is only a matter of balance.
When addiction is understood as a pattern of behavior, and the risks inherent in acquiring pleasure-molecules are placed on a spectrum of relativity, no man or woman is pure or guiltless. If many other people are negatively influenced by my pattern of behavior, then I am abusing my free will as a conscious human being. If my pattern of behavior tends to positively influence other people, then my action is just and needs no correction or remediation. That a drug is legal is no seal of safety.
I’ve already mentioned how a study on rat brains showed that unrestricted junk food can produce chemical dependence similar to a heroin addict. Eating fast food every day will destroy your health incomparably faster than consuming cannabis every day. In his book Food of the Gods, renowned drug scholar Terence McKenna compares the habit of watching television to the characteristic dependence of opiate users: “The nearest analogy to the addictive power of television and the transformation of values that is wrought in the life of the heavy user is probably heroin.”
Television is a source of pleasure-chemicals that is widely accepted as safe. The hypnotic moving lights on screen induce the human brain to favor the right hemisphere, which causes a release of the body’s natural opiates, called endorphins. Endorphins are structurally identical to opium molecules, and can be acquired in many ways. Watching television, biting one’s fingernails, strenuous exercise, smoking cannabis and achieving sexual release are all ways that people use to get free opium from their brain, and these activities are often habit-forming. That people seek to re-achieve pleasure does not make pleasure evil. The only thing that defines an evil pleasure is the effect it has on the pleasure of others.
Even casual watchers of television have demonstrated withdrawal symptoms similar to those of a heroin addict: increased anxiety, frustration and depression. The average American watches over four hours of television per day; the average stoner does not commit that much time to smoking weed every day.
Speaking of these industrial products that have come to define acceptable addiction, author and activist Jerry Mander has characterized them as chemical replacements: “These technologies do act as drugs. They are what society offers to make up for what has been lost. In return for family, community, a relationship to a larger, deeper vision, society offers television, drugs, food, noise, high speed and unconsciousness. Each one offers some element of satisfaction. Watching television, for instance, keeps you from thinking about other things, it passes the time, it provides ‘entertainment,’ it can make you laugh sometimes. It tells you a little bit about what seems to be happening in the world, although it discourages any relationship you might have to it.”
There are definitely funny shows on television, but the pattern of behavior and the financial sums involved with keeping a subscription to a television provider resembles the pattern of drug addiction more than any kind of conscious or logical choice of behavior.
As I stated above, the only determinant when analyzing the morality of a pattern of behavior is the effect that the behavior has on the happiness of others. There are many people in our society who clothe themselves in righteousness as they condemn the smoking of marijuana as immoral behavior. Yet by relentlessly abstaining from such mild psychological relaxants, these people often unconsciously become addicted to the favorable actions of other people. They refuse to make themselves happy, so in turn they must draw all good-feeling from others around them. This is psychological vampirism: When you cannot be happy unless others fulfill your expectations of them. Introducing the medical herb cannabis to a psychological vampire is often something like poison garlic laced with kryptonite.
A man who commits to seek the maximum amount of pleasure in the course of his lifetime, yet who still maintains that he should not harm the happiness of others, is a man who probably smokes marijuana. This man probably sees his own herbal habit as destructive to no one, least of all himself. He probably sees the way television, poor nutrition and dogmatic thinking all result in a sort of human blindness that rapes the happiness of millions every day throughout the world. Most of all, he probably wishes all psychological vampires would drop the fake-ass front of righteousness projecting from a deep sense of emotional insecurity and smoke up already. For him, the grass is always green.