We have become a nation of addicts. And you can see it all over Laguna Beach. It comes in three forms: illegal drugs like cocaine or heroin, legal opiates like vicodin, and social media addiction.
Just in case you do not know it, social media is chemically addictive.
But I get before myself. Follow me along here.
The Drug Cartels
This is old news. Illegal drugs always have been part of our society, but they exploded with cocaine use in the ‘80s. It was supplied by the Colombian, then Mexican cartels, and was so profitable the cartels went to war with one another and their own governments.
In the ‘90s, crack cocaine’s popularity grew followed quickly by crystal meth. Crystal meth’s attractiveness exploded after 2006 when the U.S. government outlawed one of the main ingredients for cooking meth, and the Chinese substituted a better and cheaper ingredient it sold to the cartels. This enabled the cartels to sell high quality crystal at a low price.
In the meantime, heroin use increased in the suburbs and a new form of addiction became “normal”: functioning heroin addicts. They usually are professionals who spread out small doses to keep a buzz going. The professionals function, but they require very strict routines to maintain their addiction and do not travel because traveling takes them away from their suppliers.
A few weeks ago, I discovered one of my Laguna friends is a functioning heroin addict. He is fine with it. He can handle it, he says, no problem.
Doctors know most medical problems will go away in time and no drugs are necessary, but patients do not like that. They want instant satisfaction. This is where Big Pharma stepped in. They created legal opiates to prescribe to patients. Pills: instant satisfaction.
There are two downsides to this. Overdose deaths from opiates have quadrupled since 1999 (now over 33,000 per year), and opiates cause great constipation.
But wait, this is the fun part. Now Big Pharma is advertising other drugs for counteracting opiate constipation. One market created another market.
And wait again. Now Big Pharma has created another class of drugs to help you withdraw from opiate addiction. Man, oh man, a triple.
If you are addicted, sooner or later your doctor will get wise and quit issuing prescriptions. This is where the cartels come back into play. They have created a whole class of synthetics you easily can buy in the illegal marketplace. For example, fentanyl; it is 100 times stronger than heroin and it is what killed Prince.
Think of the cartels and Big Pharma as being co-providers, each one reinforcing the other. Ain’t it grand?
First, some facts. Social media like Facebook or Instagram make money from advertisers. It is the same as network TV channels selling time for TV ads. The value of a TV ad time slot varies directly with the ratings of any particular show. With social media, “impressions” and clicks substitute for ratings. The more “impressions” on Facebook, the higher the ad rates.
As a consequence, social media companies, all of them, have perfected strategies for causing chemically addictive alterations in the brains of users. Here is how. When something makes you happy, your body gives you a dopamine boast. Dopamine is a natural drug your brain loves; it gives you a high. It is what you get from all forms of pleasure. It is part of our DNA. Social media easily figured out how to create dopamine boasts. They do it by tracking your every click on the web (it is easy) and figure out by your volume of clicks what exactly excites you. That excitement creates a dopamine boast. Then social media feeds you that which causes you to click.
The more clicks, the more they can charge for ads.
Along with stimulating the production of dopamine, social media companies also know how to create a drip of an adrenal-based drug in your brain that causes anxiety if the dopamine jolts stop. If you keep clicking on Facebook, you get your dopamine injection; if you don’t, you get your anxiety injection.
This is called addiction. The average social media addict checks out his or her cell 250-300 times per day. Seen anything like that at your favorite Laguna hangout? You betcha.
Almost everyone you know is addicted. The only difference is how the addiction behavior is delivered: via cartels, Big Pharma or social media.
It all is the same thing.
There is nothing you can do about it. For the most part, it is legal and each type of addiction reinforces the other types.
Yup, Addict Nation. We’re all there.
And, oh, the first step to curing a problem is to admit it. Ready?
Michael Ray grew up in Corona del Mar and lives in Laguna Beach. He is a real estate entrepreneur involved in many non-profits.