Desire to be inspirited rather than intoxicated

Alternativs to the reasons for taking drugs, Part 1

To offer the best alternatives to meet the same needs that make people turn to drugs, is the best prevention of drug-taking in the first place. Alternatives for pleasure, adventure, excitement, new experiences, rebellion, consolation, escape, peer acceptance, satisfying goals...

It is charitable and necessary to spend $millions to help those who are hooked. Politically this charity may be driven by a need to prevent addicts committing crimes against property to feed their habits.

But to do nothing to prevent others starting on drugs is like trying to contain bush fires while the arson continues unchecked.

All the motives for taking drugs could be met in alternative ways:

    1. Adventure & risk taking
    2. Boredom and desire for sensation
    3. Bullied or persuaded into it
    4. Conformity
    5. Credulousness and gullibility
    6. Curiosity
    7. Desensitisation to abnormal sensation
    8. Escape
    9. Greed
    10. Peer pressure
    11. Physiology
    12. Rebellion
    13. Self-destruction
    14. Showing off
    15. Temptation through easy access

1 Desire for adventure and danger

Warnings of dangers can make them more attractive.

Alternativs can better satisfy the desire for adventure and danger. Wider opportunities to meet challenges of skill with some element of risk.  Sports, outward bound adventures and camps, social reform activism, citizenship and politics (now there is a thrill for you!).

Thrills in surfing,trekking, photographing wild-life, inventing, campaigning, discovering, business innovations, and vicarious excitement and adventure are always close to hand in imagination-expanding books.

2 Boredom and desire for sensation

Alternativs to prevent boredom and provide sensation

  • The culture can stop encouraging needs for constant and increasingly intense stimulation. Alternativs start in infancy: Give children opportunities to discover
    their own directions and develop great interests, activities and hobbies. 
    Encouragement from media, books, homes,and schools, for love of thinking and knowledge, discovery,construction, everyday fun, persistence, a passion for reading, and cheap and pleasant social and outdoor activities.
  • The Australian Centre for Social Innovations encourages young and old, to enjoy problem-solving to improve quality of life - inventing anything from fun in holidays to making the world go round more safely. People can discover that they can find solutions to problems - including boredom.
  • Opportunities to learn to love tranquility and peace as well as excitement and stimulation.  Children exposed to too much disturbance and excitement can have raised thresholds that need more intense experiences to avoid boredom.
  • Life- goals. Other priorities and pleasures beyond just physical sensation. Sensuality is by no means the chief goal or the chief pleasure to be sought. The dedication of our sports stars in withstanding fatigue and pain shows how important other goals can be.

3 Bullied, persuaded and tempted


  •  Teach 'How to say NO' without giving offence and still standing ground. This may now sound old hat, and you need personal alternatives too, but it helps others to say NO too.
    "If they want you to take drugs, they are not a true friend."
    "If you press someone to take drugs, you are not a true friend
    They may be one of the 15% who come to disaster.
    Everyone needs loyal friends and adults to turn to for practical support.

4 Conformity

Most people conform whatever culture they are in without questioning. "Everyone does it". Independent-minded young people reckon that acquaintances most likely to become drug addicts are the "nice kids who couldn't say No.  But we're not nice and we can say Get lost - leave us alone!"  These young people find they still have good friends.

Alternativs to blind conformity

  • Films and pictures that show drug taking should not be recommended for teenage viewing, because they give models, however unintentionally. Pictures can enter the mind without thinking.   Because film is artificial it can make self-destruction appear morbidly attractive.
  • Prevent censorship of the good (and let whoever likes fight over definitions of 'bad' and 'good').
  • Young people need to have as much as possible of the goodness as well as nastiness of the world.
  • Reclassify entertainment.  'For Adults' means very best intellectual and aesthetic entertainment our civilisation can produce for thinking and responsible adults.
  • Sleazy violent stuff is for IMMATURE ADULTS.
  • Balance. More entertainment and reading showing positive, constructive, cheerful models of fulfilling life-styles, at levels for a wide variety of people to enjoy.  Often what critics say is 'sentimental', is only honest stuff but not well done. 'Sentimental' means artificial feeling.  Morbid and horrible 'artificial feeling' should be identified as callous sentimentality.
  • Language. Drugs publicity must avoid implications that 'everyone does it'  - as in phrases like 'when you inject'.  For undesirable and unsafe actions the phrases should be rather 'if you', and sources of help to stop addiction should always be added. 

5 Credulity and gullibility

Personal acquaintances may say that the dangers of drugs are lies put out by 'the authorities' who want to deprive everyone of great pleasures, aroused consciousness, sophistication etc. They may say there are thousands of happy heroin-users keeping good jobs and excellent physical and mental health. They do not tell about the financial drain, impaired higher mental faculties and judgment, and greater numbers of unhappy people. Other countries are more aware that being stoned can have more permanent low-key  effects than moderate alcohol.

Alternativs to credulity and gullibility

  • Documented information from trustworthy sources on the drawbacks of developing drug-dependence or altered mind-states, to set against apparent temporary pleasures. Multiple school lessons and library books can arouse more interest by the very emphasis. Only one page on, e.g. marijuana is needed, as a poster or single page in a book, permanently available.
  • 'Don't be a sucker.' Concise information about the financial and psychological reasons why people may try to push them into taking drugs. Unscrupulous groups get profits from drugs, and people may dislike being naive fools for letting them profit.

6 Curiosity

Adolescents naturally want to explore, as their horizons widen. There is a cultural myth, that to know the good it is necessary to taste evil (André Gide, exploiter of others, set this notion around.) Teen culture is stimulated by commercial pressures and perceptions of what is adult, so that they will want to enter into the forbidden pleasures and risks of adulthood rather than the responsibilities, skills, nurturing and citizenship.

Some young people will try almost any toxic substance that may give them a changed sensation -  sniffing benzene, any sort of aerosols of almost any sort, petrol, boot-polish, fermented banana-skins - They may interpret any physical reaction they may get as a buzz, whereas if it were not for the socially-supplied interpretation they would think they felt ill.

Alternativs to uncritical exploration
  • Encourage from infancy curiosity of the mind, seeking knowledge, and exploring the real world -  ideas, places, activities, sports, cultures, how other people live, etc. that can challenge and stimulate, so that they do not have a need to test what others have tested before them with unfortunate results. Even exploring religious experience can extend knowledge of how other people tick , plus awareness of the numinous that does not need drugs to exalt the spirit and truly expands consciousness rather than distorts it.
  • Awareness of the nature of psychedelic experiences can make them less personally attractive. Most of them have a psychotic quality. A longitudinal sequence of artistic productions by addicts can show what happens to their inspiration and talent.
  • Curiosity about one of the greatest puzzles of all - what we know about how the brain works, and what we still do not know. How to make the most of our precious clear consciousness and awareness, unpolluted. What 'expanding consciousness' really means as distinct from distorting and confusing it. What a precious thing we have in our brains, and how to make the most of all that we have.

7 Desensitisation to the abnormality of delusional sensations

This is important. Much screen and leisure entertainment desensitises people to abnormal visual and auditory experiences, so that they more easily accept the surrealism of drug experience rather than reject its lack of meaning or positive feeling: e.g. Teenage discos with chaotic noise and darkness cut by strobe lighting, and books and comics full of discontinuities and lacking sequential thinking or narrative. TV is increasingly influential in preventing sequential thought and presenting visual sensations without meaning - which is introductory to the effects of drugs that affect the power to think. It is done because the producers include computer buffs who delight in their technology of animated clip-art and millisecond cutting and editing.

Meaningless collages can take up time as introductions to programs, and can make up the whole of video-clip programs. This numbing of intellectual faculties may prove more serious than film violence.

Alternativs to desensitisation by artificial sounds and images

  • Teenagers are most at risk who have a great deal of this entertainment without enough counterbalancing 'everyday life'.  All young people need to have opportunities for full lives that include interests and pleasures in the broad light of day, in a natural environment that is beautiful, not ugly and depressing, with relationships that are life-giving, not rejecting and contentious.
  • Research is needed into the short- and long-term intellectual effects of fast-cut meaningless sequences of visual sensations on television, particularly for children and adolescents.