(First published on Urban Times on 28th Aug 2012)
There are some things in life that make our lives better, for lack of a better term. We resort to them often, looking for ways to enhance our lives.
They come in many forms and guises. Some are illegal, like narcotics, and involve certain complications. Others are regulated, like prescription medication, and are dispensed from experts. And many are straightforward and freely available, like jogging, swimming or reading a book. In addition, some are free, like watching a sunset or taking a stroll, whereas others, like going to the gym or to church, involve charges.
Here are six popular addictions, overdoses and poisonings derived from legal and widely available substances, objects or activities. Let us examine them briefly to see what happens when they take over a person’s life, starting with alcohol and nicotine.
Alcohol inebriation i.e. getting tipsy, drunk or trashed, involves the consumption of fermented juices that promote disinhibition and euphoria. A drink or two and everything is great. People look beautiful and laughter is abundant. Collars are unbuttoned, hair is let down, and the worries of the day are a cheers too far.
Too many drinks, though, and the world becomes a messed up place that needs its ass kicked. Caution flies out the window, and so does propriety. Honesty settles in – not the kind that clears the air but the one that reveals true feelings, hidden feelings – and things get said.
This either leads to outright explosions, or it leaves things simmering under the surface. Most of what has been said and done under the influence is usually blotched and hazy, if not completely blacked out, creating uncomfortable precedents for future meetings with the people involved. Moreover, the morning after leaves a bad taste and heads hurt like hell. Mouths are dry as cotton and brains turn to mashed potatoes. There is a certain level of anxiety permeating the day, and it really bugs the hell out of the painfully hungover, unless of course they have a drink, which takes the edge off, making everything alright again.
Nicotine is a stimulant present in tobacco, and it is usually inhaled through the lungs via smoking. The inhaled smoke carries the nicotine into a person’s lung alveoli, enters the bloodstream through the pulmonary veins, goes to the heart and gets pumped to the rest of the body in a matter of seconds. Acting immediately on the brain, it gives a person a rush, making one dizzy. But the effects wear off very quickly. A couple of cigarettes later, they are barely registered.
Yet the craving remains, and the need for more nicotine is insurmountable. Consider it a hook, a sickle through the brain that drags people around like a trawler. Consider it a virus that turns them into kill throat zombies. Whatever the case, all day long, smokers have the need to suck on a bunch of dried leaves rolled into paper sticks packed with additive chemicals, urging them to pull on them like sucklings that can’t help themselves. In goes the smoke, all the way down, then back out it comes, spewed into the air. The process is incessant, and the smoker turns into a chimney, or a factory. (Somebody once likened smoking to ‘eating – then taking a dump through one’s mouth’). Smokers do this all day, stopping only when discomfort in the form of jitters, cold sweat and nausea settle in. This discomfort usually diminishes appetite. It doesn’t last long, fading away by the next day, at which time a craving to suck more smoke urges them to take a drag, and the cycle continues, packing the organism with filth.
In Part 2 we examine the abuse of two common food substances: sugar and salt.