Rationally speaking, addiction is good for business, though bad for society. Addiction ensures repeat orders. It ensures referral. Drug dealers know this and so give free samples of chemicals to get the initial seed customer hooked. Businessmen do the same – offer free products until the competition is wiped out, and then reap rich harvest in a monopoly where the customer is eternally addicted.
Right now, the smartest brains in the world are working on technology to ensure you are addicted to your app, your screen, your technology, that you get adequate dopamine highs so that you cannot live without your phone, your internet, your likes and impressions on your social media posts. Even the rich and powerful and the old are addicted. Everyone wants to be seen. Attention is a drug milked by all.
In the Rig Veda, the gods were offered Soma. The devas who live in the sky were addicted to it. We hear of Apala chewing a herb accidentally. Out spills Soma juice and Indra appears ready to offer anything. She asks for beauty so she can get a husband. Soma was offered to the Vedic gods compelling them to give fortune to humans. What was this addictive soma that gods were loyal to?
In the 1970s, at the height of the hippie movement, scientists thought it was a kind of psychedelic mushroom. But a sober analysis of the data available in Rig Veda, and similar practices seen amongst Parsis, who venerated Avesta, a book closely linked to the Rig Veda, revealed that Soma was ephedra, a plant with leafless stalks that was found high up in the Hindu Kush mountains. This was squeezed and offered to gods by the Aryas, who migrated to Persia and India around 1500 BCE, bringing horses and horse-drawn chariots with them. This ‘drug’ was thermogenic and kept them warm in the cold winters. Even Chinese doctors of the Central Asian region use it. It was also energising, suiting the temperament of the warrior-raider Aryan god Indra. This was neither wanted nor available when the Aryas reached the Gangetic plains.
In Atharva Veda, we hear of Cannabis, which continues to be offered to Shiva, and to Balaram, in Hindu temples today, as it has been for hundreds of years. Yet, under Global pressure, Cannabis is banned in India and deemed a terrible narcotic, despite its oil being used as medicine, endorsed by clinical trials.
Cancer-causing tobacco cigarettes and chewable tobacco are however freely available in the market. Alcohol is heavily taxed, but not banned. Alcohol and tobacco are a huge source of state revenue. Even Bollywood stars endorse it. Hollywood stars will not endorse cigarettes, but they endorse guns.
Americans are so addicted to guns that even though children are being shot dead by other children in schools, they are unable to regulate its sale. Guns make a lot of money for their manufacturers. For their business, they need people to be addicted to guns. For that they need people to be addicted to war. Hence, they propagate ideas of justice that passionately rationalises use of weapons.
East India Company funded itself with opium, grown in India and sold in China. It made many Indian business houses rich, and funded later cotton mills. But it also led to man-made famine in India and destroyed a generation of Chinese. Even today China remembers that ‘century of humiliation’ when it negotiates with the West, who uses moral arguments such as democracy to gain access to raw materials and markets of the East.
Restrain restless mind
In tribal societies, various kinds of organic narcotic chemicals were used to calm the restless aggressive mind. This explains the use of fermented alcohol and psychedelic mushrooms in various tribal ritual practices and even festivals. But this was highly regulated by the community to be used only in ceremonies at the prescribed time under supervision. Buddhist and Jain monks propagated breathing techniques and meditation and fasting as tools to restrain and reboot the overactive mind, without the use of chemicals.
But today, society does not know how to regulate the restless mind. Indeed one is encouraged to be restless, be addictive, want more, seek more, demand more, to satisfy the Capitalistic urge for profit. Those who can’t keep up are feeling insecure and lost. As parents are busy earning money, as friends are busy with careers and girlfriends, as relationships are commodified by digital applications, more and more people are feeling lonely. Not knowing how to cope, they are turning to addiction. Either illegal drugs or legal technology like video games.
While it is easy to condemn and police illegal drugs, the state is encouraging the rise of addictive technology in the name of development. Instead of playing and interacting with friends in the playground and the classroom, more and more children are isolating themselves with digital tools that allow them to shop, eat, gamble, and watch pornography, alone, at the press of a button. Educated people are enabling this billion-dollar dopamine addiction digital business. It reveals a civilisational crisis and a loss of spiritual vision.