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Addiction Gods? Big Tobacco, Hyper-Palatability Food, Opiates, and Social Media Brain-Altering Algorithms

In the labyrinthine world of modern influence, there exists a dark underbelly where certain entities wield their power with intentionality and precision. This intentional influence is not merely a consequence of happenstance but a strategic maneuver aimed at molding and manipulating human behavior. This article delves into three distinct but interlinked facets of intentional influence: the historical saga of Big Tobacco’s hand in shaping the hyperpalatability of food, pharmaceutical companies’ alleged suppression of opiate risks, and the insidious algorithms deployed by social media platforms. What makes this phenomenon all the more troubling is that these influences are wielded by powerful entities who are far beyond the reach of being held accountable by almost anyone, even our governmental and justice systems. As we peel back the layers, we find ourselves asking whether we should hold them accountable for the addiction crisis they may have fostered. Furthermore, it prompts us to question whether it is right to disproportionately focus on holding individuals, especially minorities and the impoverished, solely responsible for their addictions when these large-scale intentional influences thrive and prosper.

Big Tobacco and the Hyperpalatability of Food

The Tobacco industry, notorious for its deceptive tactics, provides an early glimpse into the world of intentional influence. In the mid-20th century, as the dangers of smoking became increasingly evident, tobacco companies faced a dilemma – how to maintain their profitability in the face of mounting health concerns. Their ingenious solution was to pivot towards a different avenue of addiction: food.

The notion of “hyperpalatability” emerged, referring to the deliberate engineering of food to be as irresistible as possible. This phenomenon involved enhancing the taste, texture, and overall appeal of processed foods. Big Tobacco’s entry into the food industry was marked by the acquisition of multiple food companies. They brought with them not only their financial clout but also their expertise in manipulating consumer desires.

One of the most notorious examples of this influence was the creation of the infamous “bliss point” – a precise combination of sugar, salt, and fat engineered to trigger a neurobiological response akin to drug addiction. Food scientists, many of whom had previously worked for the tobacco industry, played a pivotal role in this process. The result? An entire industry built on the intentional influence to make people crave and consume unhealthy foods.

Pharmaceutical Companies and the Suppression of Opiate Risks

The story of pharmaceutical companies‘ involvement in the intentional influence narrative is equally unsettling. Opiates, while offering critical pain relief for many, have also been a source of widespread addiction and devastation. The opioid crisis in the United States, in particular, has exposed a chilling pattern of influence.

Pharmaceutical companies, driven by profit margins, allegedly suppressed vital information regarding the addictive nature of opioids. They downplayed the risks associated with these drugs, even as they flooded the market with an ever-increasing supply. This calculated strategy led to countless individuals unwittingly becoming addicted to prescription medications, with many transitioning to illegal opioids like heroin when their prescriptions ran out.

The current opioid crisis in the US serves as a stark reminder of how influential corporations, with their deep pockets and political connections, can operate with impunity. The human toll has been immense, with millions of lives disrupted or lost due to opioid addiction. In the face of such devastation, the question arises: should these pharmaceutical giants be held accountable for their role in promoting addiction?

Social Media’s Brain-Altering Algorithms

In the digital age, the concept of intentional influence has taken on a new, digital form. Social media platforms, with their massive user bases and access to intricate user data, have become masters of shaping human behavior through algorithms. These algorithms are designed with one purpose: to keep users engaged for as long as possible.

Social media companies employ complex algorithms that track user interactions, preferences, and online behaviors. With this data, they curate personalized content feeds, optimizing the chances of users clicking, liking, and sharing. What may seem like innocent suggestions or recommendations are, in fact, strategically crafted attempts to influence user behavior.

One of the most concerning aspects of social media’s intentional influence is its impact on mental health. These algorithms have been found to exacerbate feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. They can also foster addictive behaviors, as users become increasingly glued to their screens, chasing the dopamine rush that comes with each notification or like.

The question that arises here is whether these social media companies, which profit immensely from our addiction to their platforms, bear any responsibility for the negative consequences on individuals and society as a whole.

The Moral Quandary: Accountability and Responsibility

As we navigate the treacherous terrain of intentional influence, we are faced with a moral quandary: Who should be held accountable for the addiction rise and tragic losses cultivated by these powerful entities? Is it right to place the lion’s share of responsibility on individuals, especially those from marginalized and impoverished backgrounds, while overlooking the orchestrators of these grand schemes?

Corporate Accountability:

First and foremost, it is imperative that we hold corporate entities accountable for their actions. Big Tobacco, pharmaceutical companies, and social media platforms all wield immense power, and with great power comes great responsibility. If these entities knowingly engage in practices that contribute to addiction and harm, they must be held legally and morally responsible.

This entails regulatory measures, transparency, and, where appropriate, legal action to ensure that these entities do not continue to profit at the expense of public health and well-being. Penalties, fines, and legal consequences should be commensurate with the harm caused.

Government Oversight:

Government bodies and regulatory agencies play a pivotal role in overseeing the actions of corporate entities. In the case of pharmaceutical companies, stricter regulations on marketing and promotion of opioids, as well as increased oversight of clinical trials, can mitigate the risk of similar crises in the future.

Furthermore, legislation aimed at curbing the power and influence of social media companies, particularly concerning their algorithms, should be considered. This includes transparency in algorithmic decision-making, user data protection, and measures to address the mental health implications of excessive social media use.

Empowering Individuals:

While corporate accountability and government oversight are essential, it is equally important to empower individuals with knowledge and resources. Education campaigns about the dangers of addiction, whether from tobacco, opioids, or excessive social media use, should be widespread and easily accessible.

Additionally, access to affordable healthcare and addiction treatment services is crucial for those who have fallen victim to these intentional influences. Rehabilitation and support should be readily available to help individuals break free from the grip of addiction.

Addressing Systemic Inequities:

One cannot discuss the accountability and responsibility of individuals without acknowledging the systemic inequities that shape their choices and experiences. Minority and impoverished communities are often disproportionately affected by addiction, and addressing these disparities requires a multi-faceted approach.

Efforts to reduce poverty, improve access to education and healthcare, and combat discrimination must be part of the larger strategy to tackle addiction. This includes addressing the social determinants of addiction and providing support and opportunities for marginalized populations.

Wrapping Up Before You Go

The concept of intentional influence, as exemplified by Big Tobacco’s hyperpalatability of food, pharmaceutical companies’ alleged suppression of opiate risks, and social media’s brain-altering algorithms, paints a disturbing picture of how powerful entities can shape human behavior for their own gain. The moral question of accountability and responsibility looms large.

It is incumbent upon society, through government action and individual awareness, to hold these entities accountable for their role in fostering addiction. The devastating consequences of addiction are too great to ignore, and those who profit from it must bear their share of responsibility.

Moreover, as we contemplate the rise of addiction and the tragic losses it has wrought, we must ask ourselves whether it is right to disproportionately focus on holding individuals, particularly minorities and the impoverished, solely responsible for their struggles. The answer lies in a balanced approach that combines corporate accountability, government oversight, empowerment of individuals, and addressing systemic inequities. Only through such a comprehensive effort can we hope to mitigate the impacts of intentional influence and work towards a healthier, more equitable society.

Patterns Are Everything
Patterns Are Everything
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Is Addiction Really a Disease? – Taking a Look at the Facts

Tell someone you have a condition like diabetes, and they will almost certainly respond with concern and compassion. But tell them you’re struggling with addiction, and the reaction may be much, much different.

Yes, we’ve grown away from that a bit thanks to media, the internet and social commentary. But many misperceptions still remain when it comes to mental illness and addiction.

Here’s a look at the facts surrounding addiction and an examination of whether it constitutes a disease or not. Let’s dive in.

What Is Addiction?

It may involve the use of a substance, or it may mean a particular behavior. Either way, addiction “rewards” a person for the repeated use of a substance or behavior. Even when the consequences are demonstrably harmful, the addicted person feels the incentive to indulge.

A few of the many addictive substances and behavior are:

  • Drugs (legal and/or illegal)
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Sex
  • Pornography
  • Gambling
  • Disordered eating
  • Internet gaming/Internet usage
  • Exercising
  • Shopping
  • Pain (e.g., cutting)
  • Stealing
  • Setting fires

Addiction can strike across all genders, classes, ethnicities, and ages.

Is Addiction Like a Disease?

The American Society of Addiction Medicine calls addiction “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry.” In plain English, this is not an issue of willpower or morality.

Addiction is a brain disease, a compulsive disorder. Of course, there is a wide range of mental activity going on during craving, but here are some sample breakdowns:

  • A person may feel helpless or powerless for several reasons. The discomfort of these feelings leads us to seek solutions. Addictive behavior gives us a false perception of empowerment. It provides us with a sense of regaining control.
  • In other instances, helplessness produces anger. Once again, this stems from a feeling of not being in control. Rage is a powerful catalyst for destructive behavior. Addiction is nothing if not destructive behavior; thus, it gives us that false feeling of empowerment.
  • You feel helpless. You feel anger about feeling helpless. But, in a state of powerlessness, you choose displacement. Rather than confronting someone or something that has wounded you, you reverse your powerlessness by choosing an addictive behavior. Your pain appears to be (temporarily) soothed, but, of course, the source remains. This pattern keeps the cycle going and deepening.

Is Addiction Really a Disease?

Yes. According to the American Medical Association, it is caused by a combination of factors:

  • Behavioral
  • Environmental
  • Biological (this includes the significant risk factor of genetics)

A few factors to consider include:

  1. Addiction is not a choice. Yes, of course, individuals can choose whether or not to partake in a substance or activity. However, people cannot decide how their body and mind respond to any substance or activity.
  2. People with an addiction are responsible for seeking treatment and maintaining recovery. But, they need empathy and understanding. Addiction is powerful, and a support system is crucial.
  3. It’s not fair to discount addiction as a disease because it involves choice. For example, a person who chooses to be sedentary and/or follow an unhealthy diet is not wanting to have heart disease. Actions have consequences, but that does not preclude the existence of a disease.
  4. As touched on above, addiction rewires the brain—specifically the reward system. This rewiring influences a brain’s ability to:
  • Make decisions
  • Remember
  • Learn
  • Control behavior

Everyone Deserves to Heal

The good news is that help is available regardless of how any individual perceives addiction. A full assessment is essential early on.

Also, addiction can trigger other conditions from anxiety and depression to hepatitis C and sexually transmitted diseases. Treatment will take an integrated form and be provided with dignity and respect.

Whether you are the person with an addiction problem, or it is someone you love, treatment begins with acceptance and a sincere request for help. Contacting a trained and experienced counselor is an excellent first step.

Please reach out to us today or visit my page on addiction recovery to learn more about how I can help.