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10 December 2007

Why do people abuse drugs? In my opinion it is because the nature of what constitutes a fulfilling existence has changed. There was a time where the mere effort of earning enough money to raise a family took most of our time. (Going further back, there was a time when all our energy was needed just to stay alive.) Today, however, it is insufficient to be adequate.

We are constantly being sold the ideal way to be. In the various media that impinge on our day, we are shown the young, the beautiful, the successful, the rich. Ways of attaining to this worldly nirvana are pushed at us in the glossy magazines that are given away with newspapers, on the celebrity television shows, in the movies. All involve consumption. Buy the next version of the iPod, a bigger plasma TV, be seen in the company of the "it" people in the latest hotspot. Dress like them, live where they live, go where they go.

And if you are not doing that, or at least being seen in some third rate over hyped eatery in London, Beijing or Tokyo, you are a failure. If you don't take several holidays a year in exotic places, you are a failure. If your house didn't cost in excess of one million euros, you are a failure.

The reality is that a very tiny percentage of people will ever get to live like this. Another percentage does not want to; they are either too old, or too busy, or too wise to want to. Others desperately want this kind of lifestyle, and know that they will never get there. They are at risk. Still another percentage has managed to arrive in the good life and have found they have merely swapped one set of problems for another. They too, are at risk. And others achieve the goal of living like the golden people and find that they are, fundamentally, no different to the rest of humanity. Disappointed and depressed, they are at risk. And, finally, there are the one or two geniuses who manipulate the system and gain glory and happiness.

Those for whom the promised big life has not materialised or has proved disappointing is some way, the answer lay traditionally in drink. And we Irish are past masters of excess in this regard. But now, alcohol has become complicated. You really cannot drink and drive any more. Also, overindulgence leads to immediate physical and mental impairment, as a walk in almost any Irish town late on a Saturday night will tell you. So it is no great cultural shift to start using drugs, and, in the initial stages of usage, they are tidier than booze.

What I am saying is that the problem of drug abuse is the same as alcohol abuse. They are all shields against disappointment. In former times they were responses to real-world events, death, unemployment, injury, injustice. Now they are responses to failure to consume ever more stuff, failure to live more conspicuously.

For the young of today, being unnoticed or leading an ordinary life is death. So they take a gun and kill randomly in the shopping centre, or they join a fundamentalist group. Or they take drugs.

Nothing short of a revolution in how the planet is run will fix this. It involves the re-evaluation of the concept of a useful life.

Wouldja ever...

The media call it a ’recreational’ drug. It may be the last bit of recreation that the user has.

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