Shelby Miller –- NE Florida Chapter
At Northeast Florida Chapter’s recent meeting, David Courtwright, Affiliate Shelby Miller’s husband, spoke about his 2019 book, The Age of Addiction: How Bad Habits Became Big Business.* David’s scholarship has centered on the history of addiction in the US and worldwide.
Using illustrations and eliciting comments from the group, he traced how humans searched for new and potentially dangerous pleasures, from honey sought by cave dwellers to today’s digital technology and highly processed food. Many products and activities are potentially addictive, not just those we traditionally think of as vices: alcohol, gambling, prostitution, pornography, and drugs. Today, we face compulsive overeating, machine gambling, excessive social-media use, and even habitual tanning. These have medical and social costs and potential for addiction.
What is an addiction? It is a vice that has become unusually strong, preoccupying and damaging. An addiction is usually a subset of vice, and a vice is usually a subset of pleasure. Addictions cause harm. What counts as a pleasure, vice or addiction changes with time, culture and technology. For example, in Europe and the Americas sugar-rich food is being redefined as a vice, while the traditional vice of marijuana use is becoming a commercial pleasure though a contested one. Tobacco products are another example. Through global public health counter-offensives, cigarette use has declined. However, other forms of excessive consumption and addiction continue with the help of global industries, governments, and criminal organizations.
Is there anything we can do? Age restrictions on certain products help, but we must learn how products are enhanced to make us unwilling consumers.
After the talk, Mary Moritz said, “It was very meaningful to think of all the ways we can become addicted. It reminds us to be mindful of what we do and why we do it. David said that our brains actually get changed by addiction so that we need more and more of what we are addicted to in order to be satisfied.”
*An on-line book forum, ROROTOKO, describes the book and explains why David wrote it. See http://rorotoko.com/interview/20191204_courtwright_david_on_book_age_addiction_bad_habits_big_business/?page=1