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Why People get Addicted?

The addiction of smoking, alcohol and drugs is on rise particularly amongst the teenagers, the citizens of tomorrow. It has already taken epidemic proportion due to its penetration in all sections of the society across the world. According to a study, funded by the European Commission, whose reports were published in June 2006, the teenage girls in the UK have overtaken boys as binge drinkers for the first time and are now second only behind Irish girls in Europe The Institute of Alcohol Studies said 29 percent of teenage girls were binge drinkers in 2003 compared with 26 percent of boys. In 1999 the figure was 27 percent and 33 percent respectively. It said over a quarter of all 15- and 16-year-olds in Britain had been on drink binges three or more times in the last month[1].

The study also estimated that the social cost of alcohol across Europe was estimated to be 125 billion euros (86 billion pounds) from healthcare, crime and work issues. The study authors said the damage could be limited by increasing alcohol taxation, tightening advertising rules and making labeling on the dangers of alcohol misuse more clear.  "If alcohol taxes were used to raise the price of alcohol in the EU by 10 percent, over 9,000 deaths would be prevented in the following year," according to the study. Alcohol is the third biggest public health problem in Europe after tobacco and high blood pressure.

Cigarette smoking is the single most preventable cause of death in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in five deaths are caused by tobacco use [2]. Teenage smoking is one of the major problems of USA. As per the report published by United States department of Health and Services, the percentage of students who reported daily smoking was 10.4 percent among 8th graders, 18.3 percent among 10th graders and 22.2 percent among 12th graders   in 1996[3]. Similarly binge drinking (having more than five or more drinks in a row at some point in the previous two weeks) is also quite high among the American students. In 1996, 15.6 percent of 8th grade students reported binge drinking while nearly twice reported binge drinking in the 12th grade[4].

Studies further establish that smoking also promotes the immoral behaviour.  For example 15 percent of the nonsmoking white women attended college have had sex. The same number for white female college students who do smoke is 55 percent [17]. The statistics for males are similar. The smokers also rank higher on the “anti-social” index. They tend to have greater level of misconduct, and they are more rebellious and defiant.  Another study concluded that heavy alcohol and any tobacco consumption was associated with illicit drug use. Tobacco in particular was highly correlated with marijuana and positively associated with amphetamine, LSD and Ecstasy use. It was also found by another research that almost 80 percent of smokers are also alcoholic. Therefore, it is established that the basic nature of the person who resorts to intoxication, whether, smoking, or alcoholism or drugs are same. If one is addicted to one form of intoxicants, he may as well get addicted to other intoxicants as easily.

Why Adolescent Smoke?

There are many attempts to understand why the adolescents smoke. One research conducted by Weinstein in 1998[5], suggests that smokers hold inaccurate perceptions about the risk of smoking. They underestimate their risk and they tend not to believe that they are as much at risk as other smokers of becoming addicted and suffer the negative consequences of smoking.

However, the findings could not be established by many subsequent researches. For example, one of the exhaustive studies conducted in 2004 by Kristina D. Frankenberger[6] to understand the behaviour between the smoking and nonsmoking youth did not confirm these findings. One popular belief was that the adolescent take risky behaviour that they consider themselves as invulnerable to the risk which means that they underestimate their risk and overestimates risk of others. The other important reason was that smoking is attributed to sensation-seeking tendencies. Adolescent engage in potentially risky behaviour because of the need to satisfy curiosity and to seek out new experiences. Sensation seeking was measured by four tendencies i.e. thrill and adventure seeking, experience seeking, disinhibition and boredom susceptibility. Sensation seeking in adolescent is related to a verity of behaviors including risky sexual activities, drug and alcohol use and cigarette smoking.

However the research could not prove many of the popular beliefs associated with smoking.  For example there was hardly any different in the scores of nonsmokers, infrequent smokers and regular smokers in the adolescent egocentralism scale and thrill and adventure seeking scales. Further it was found that the regular smokers were far more aware of the risk of addictions (score =3.52) than the infrequent smokers (score=1.68). The score of unique invulnerability (the difference of the risk of self and the risk of others; the high negative score indicates underestimation of risk for self) was also found to be counterintuitive as the regular smokers were found to be more realistic (score:-0.21) as compared to infrequent smokers (score:-2.09). Thus the regular smokers were not only well aware of the risk of smoking but also did not underestimate their risk compared to other. Further the spirit of thrill and adventure seeking was almost same in never-smokers, infrequent smokers and regular smokers.

However the difference was quite high between the nonsmokers, infrequent smokers and regular smokers in disinhibition score (2.95, 4.46 and 5.82), boredom susceptibility (3.32, 3.85 and 4.49) and experience seeking (3.61, 5.56 and 5.90). All the three factors are related to the mind. Thus the research establishes that the smoking behaviour is not liked to the lack of information about the harm of the smoking but related to the peculiar behaviour of mind of smokers, which seek sensation by following risky behaviour like smoking.

The smokers have the full information of the risk of smoking yet they followed smoking risking their health! No research, however, could know why the behaviour of mind is so different in some people. Even if 22percent of the teenagers are regular smoker in USA, yet more than three times of that number (78percent) of the teenagers don’t smoke regularly. Even if 31percent of teenagers engage in binge drinking yet more than twice that number don’t do it. Since the egocentralism and adventure seeking behaviour and knowledge of the risk of smoking is almost same in all type of teenagers why some teenagers smoke while others not?

The Frankenberger study for smoking establishes that all the teenagers are equality adventurous and risk seeking. However the difference between the smokers and nonsmokers lies in the score of experience seeking, disinhibition and boredom susceptibility. It is, therefore, established that the nature of the person has an important role to play here.  The teenagers once get some type of independence seeks to adventure to new activities till they discover an activity which suits their nature. The smoker’s nature will compel him to try smoking, as he would love the smoke of the cigarette while most others will hate the smoke. 

The finding also indicates that the people smoke because they want to shed inhibition. They want to look cool and find that smokers are cool.  Who are these cool people? The cool people are those who are rebellious, impulsive, risk-takers and indifferent to the opinion of others[7]. Fortunately, most of the teenagers are repulsed by such behaviour of the cool people as their values and nature does not appreciate such people. That is why more then twice people don’t follow the cool dudes that those who follow such people do it because they themselves want to be cool. 

One explanation of smoking is that it is used to get relief from boredom. Boredom is also a state of mind when a person becomes dull or tired of his work. A person gets bored when he is engaged in a work which he does not like or get tired of doing the same repetitive work which causes monotony.  All of us get bored in our life yet we don’t go for intoxicants and drugs. Many people would like to meet new friends, go to a party, or do a different activity like viewing TV or movies, or listening to one’s favourite song to overcome boredom. Yet some people due to their nature would prefer smoking, alcohol of drugs for getting rid of boredom. Here again we find that the nature of the man motivates the smoker to choose an activity, which is suits the nature of the smoker. The same boredom would invoke other activities in the mind of other persons of different nature.

While one can understand that the nature of the person would be different and it is impossible to prove what would constitute the ideal behaviour, yet there are many acts which are no doubt considered to be illegal, immoral or injurious to health. For example, no scientific research could ever prove that smoking or consuming nicotine has any positive effect on the mind or body. Yet smoking is the biggest causes of death in USA like in other countries. Similarly there are innumerable health hazards related to the alcoholism yet the people don’t give up. Not that every one like smoking. Even in USA not more than one third of the people are addicted to smoking which also means that two third of the people are not smokers. Similarly large number of the people are not addicted to either drugs or alcohol. However, those who are addicted to intoxicants, it is impossible to convince that  they should give up intoxicants. The question is why only some people get addicted to intoxicants while others don’t when they face same realities in life.

While the people would like to continue with their nature, yet they are concerned about the material and visible part of the human personality. They are concerned about their weight, height, aging of the skin and their health. They are concerned about the blood pressure, heart attack, clogging of veins, diabetes, hypertension, cancer and many other diseases, which are associated with their lifestyle.


The Magic of Faith

In many modern societies, people are loosing faith on God. Today it has become fashionable to laugh at those people who believes in God. There has been spurt of literature which ridicules religion. These writers  are making good money due to the controversies they create by hurting the sentiments of the believers. Each generation appears to become more and more tolerant toward the abuse on religion. Some of the books like “The Da Vinci Code” have become the international best sellers by selling more than 30 million copies in less than three years.   Many people have accepted the fiction written in the book as the gospel truth. Perhaps, these anti-religion books are becoming popular since they are written to fulfill the need of the masses who are looking of excuses to ignore religion as a way of life since following the path shown by the religion is difficult. Following “ten commandments” of any religion is not easy as it requires discipline and morality in life. The entire world appears to be moving in the direction of materialism devoid of humanity and soul. The people, however, forgets that by ridiculing the religion or the believes which guided the mankind for thousands of year, they are only harming themselves.

There have been many studies that establish positive correlation between the religion and health.

·         Hummer et. al [15] found that religious attendance is positively related to the length of life. For example those who attended the church more than once in a week were estimated to live 62.9 years beyond the age of 20. The corresponding figures for less than once in a week was 59.7 years and those who never attended church was 55.3 years. Thus the difference in the living age was 7.6 years for religious and non-religious people.

·           The women who claim to have no religious identification have abortions at about four times the rate of women who name a religion [9].

·         Cigarette smoking and religious activities were examined in a 6-year prospective study of 3,968 persons age 65 or older in North Carolina. Both likelihood of current smoking and total number of past years smoked were inversely related to attendance at religious services and private religious activities. Higher participation in religious activities at one wave predicted lower rates of smoking at future waves. If persons both attended religious services at least weekly and read the Bible or prayed at least daily, they were 990percent less likely to smoke than persons involved in these religious activities less frequently[8].

·          In another research [11] it was established that the frequent church attenders are more likely to quit smoking, reduce the alcohol intake, increase the frequency with which they exercised and stay married to the same person and increase the number of contacts.

·          In a study conducted in Scotland[16], strong relationship between the religiousness and drug abuse was in teenagers was discovered. Among female students a higher percent that were Not Religious consumed over 14 drinks per week (55.5 vs 36.2percent), tobacco (43.3 vs 29.3percent), marijuana (32.4 vs 15. 1 percent), amphetamines (8.4 vs 4. 1 percent), LSD (7.4 vs 2.9percent), and Ecstasy (4.8 vs 2. 1 percent) compared to those who were Very Religious. Among males a higher proportion of students who were Not Religious consumed over 21 drinks per week (61.3 vs 32.4percent), tobacco, (47.8 vs 35.2percent), marijuana (50.2 vs 28.3percent), amphetamines (15.9 vs 8.0percent), LSD (17.6 vs 8.4percent), and Ecstasy (9.2 vs 5.2percent) compared to students who were Very Religious.

·          The relationship between religious activities and blood pressure was examined in 6-year prospective study of 4,000 older adults. Among subjects who attended religious services once a week or more and prayed or studied the Bible once a day or more, the likelihood of diastolic hypertension was 40 percent lower than among those who attended services and prayed less often[10].

·          It was found that depressed patients who had a strong intrinsic religious faith recovered over 70percent faster from depression than those with less strong faith; among a subgroup of patients whose physical illness was not improving, intrinsically religious patients recovered 100percent faster[12].

·           Studies show that couples who attend church only once a year are 100 percent more likely to divorce or separate than couples who attend church once or more per month. Crime often rises when children are not given adequate moral training--when parents and communities fail to hold children to standards of right and wrong. The decline in moral training parallels the collapse of families.  The family structure changes and crime are found to be intimately related. Specifically, 70 percent of all juvenile delinquents grew up in a household without both parents[13].

·          According to a study results from Columbia University in New York, personal spirituality prevents adolescents from developing alcoholism or abusing drugs alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, or any contraband drug). Teenagers with personal religious beliefs are half as likely to become alcoholics or drug addicts [14].

Limitation of scientific studies

Whatever may be the benefits of faithfulness, it is difficult to convince a non-religious person about the virtues of following religion.  Apparently, science and faith are two different language. One who understand the language of science normally can’t’ follow the language of religion. He simply can not believe what is written in the Bible, Koran, Gita or any other religious text. His mind is trained to query and question every word of these text which the religions can’t allow. The scientist are trained to base their findings on the material facts and not on the basis of emotions or personal experience. Yet it is a fact that modern science itself is based on hypothesis and faith.

Science in last century has moved from certainty to uncertainly. Most of the scientific analysis are based on data and all events are explained as random events. Most of the researchers in psychology or medicine draw their conclusion on statistical and empirical analysis. Every day we come across some research finding which draws its conclusions based on statistics without providing any relationship for the cause and action. One can be told that if you are married your chances of living are longer than the one who is unmarried or single. Some research will tell that the people who are single have higher chances of getting cancer, heart attack or diabetes than the one who are married. Should you conclude that you must get married if you want to avoid cancer just like you have to shun smoking to avoid cancer? Is staying single is carcinogenic?

The randomness of truth was so displeasing to Einstein that he refused to believe in the principle of uncertainty and countered it by saying that God does not play dice with the men. He firmly believed that the events look uncertain only because we do not have the proper knowledge about the true reasons for the event. Given sufficient knowledge of the cause and action every action is predictable.

Most of us would agree to Einstein. If staying married or being religious helps in betterment of lives, there must be some rational reasoning that should satisfy our commonsense. If you have no faith in God, going to the church even daily is useless. Still statistical analysis would be valid since most of the people who visit churches must have faith in God. The benefit of longevity is not achieved by the overt act of visiting the temple or church but due to the faith in God. Scientists are baffled here since they have no method to measure the faith in God (which is imperceptible) hence they can never correlate any perceptible reality with faith.


The Methods proposed by Experts to Reduce Addiction

Addiction is one of the major concern of all of us. There have been numerous researches and studies in last century to ascertain the causes of addiction and the methods to prevent addictions if not altogether eliminate it. Governments all over the world are spending billions of dollars to prevent the malaise of addiction. The experts have suggested following methods for making the society free from addiction.

The Experts Solution for de-addiction

Methods for De-addiction

Logic of Experts


Increase the tax on cigarette/alcohol

The Cigarette/alcohol will become costlier hence the consumption would reduce

Cigarettes/alcohols are already taxed at the highest rate yet it has not helped in reducing the consumption

Awareness Campaign

If people know the harmful effects of smoking, they would stop smoking

Studies show that most of the addicts are fully aware of the harmful effect of smoking

Ban on advertisement

Advertisements induce people to smoke

Already banned in many countries yet no benefits visible

Total Ban on manufacture and sale of intoxicants

When people will have no availability they can’t smoke or drink

The freedom to eat and drink (and smoke) can’t be curbed by state. It will increase smuggling. Difficult to enforce


In fact, many countries have already implemented most of these methods without causing any dent on the evil of addiction. The reason why we are loosing the battle of addiction is because we have not identified the root cause of addiction itself. The experts are treating the symptom as they have no clue of the actual cause of disease. The experts have failed to explain

·         Why some people become addicted to intoxicants despite of knowing its harmful effect?

·         Why most of the people will never use intoxicant even under the same socio-economical condition.

·         Why the logical methods have always failed to prevent addiction?

·         Why the trend of addiction is on rise despite of ban on advertisement and a negative campaigning by government?

·         Why faith reduces the chances of addiction and increases the possibility of following the health enhancing habits?


The scientific studies of addiction have so far failed to provide any satisfactory explanation for the addiction tendencies of the people. While the researchers have been able to establish the correlation between various events like faith, addiction, sexual behaviors and criminal activities, yet no explanation is given why these are correlated. Further, it is difficult to understand even after studying numerous research papers why people get addicted despite of being fully aware of the negative consequences of addictions. Thus the proper diagnosis of addiction is necessary without which, the (self afflicted) disease of addiction (if we are permitted to say so) can’t be cured. The true cause of addiction has been discovered in the ancient philosophy of Gita which implies that addiction tendencies in human beings are originated due to the Tamsik nature (nature of darkness or ignorance) of the man. Thus unless the nature of the person is changed, there is no hope for getting rid of the evil of addiction from the civil society.


(1)                  Reuters Report “Girls overtake boys as binge drinkers “ URL:

(2)                    Centers for Disease Control. Cigarette Smoking-Attributable Mortality and Years of Potential Life Lost—United States, 1990. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 1993; 42:645-9.

(3)                  Cigarette smoking among youth URL:

(4)                  Binge drinking among youth URL:

(5)                    Weinstein, N. D. (1998). Accuracy of smokers’ risk perceptions. Annals of Behavioral Medicine , 20 , 135–140.

(6)                    Frankenberger, Kristina D. (2004), "Egocentrism, Risk Perceptions and Sensaation Seeking Among Smoking and Non-Smoking Youth," Journal of Adolescent Research, 19 (5), 576-590.

(7)                   Gladwell M, “The Tipping Point”  Abacus (2001) pg-232

(8)                   Koenig, H.G., et al. 1998. The relationship between religious activities and cigarette smoking in older adults. Journal of Gerontology A Biol Sci Med Sci, 53: 6.

(9)                    Henshaw S K, Kost K., “Abortion Paints in 1995-1995:Characteristics and Contraceptive Use”,  Family Planning Perspective, Volu 28, November 2, July/August 1996

(10)              Koenig H.G, et al. 1998. The relationship between religious activities and blood pressure in older adults. International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine 28:189-213.

(11)              Strawbridge, W J., Cohen, R. D., Shema, S. J., and Kaplan, G A (1997). Frequent attendance at religious services and mortality over 28 years. American Journal of Public Health, 87, 957-961.

(12)                Koenig, H.G., George, L.K., Peterson, B.L. 1998. Use of health services by hospitalized medically ill depressed elderly patients. American Journal of Psychiatry, 155:536-542

(13)                Religion and Crime URL:

(14)                Miller, L., Davies, M,  Greenwald and Steven M.S. “Religiosity and Substance Use and Abuse Among Adolescents in the National Comorbidity Survey”. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 39(9):1190-1197, September 2000.

(15)              Hummer RA, Rogers RG, Nam CB, Ellison CG (1999), Religious involvement and U.S. adult mortality. Demography 36(2):273-285.

(16)              Engs, Ruth C. and Kenneth Mullen.The effect of religion and religiosity on drug use among a selected sample of post secondary students in Scotland. Addiction Research,  Vol. 7, No. 2, pp. 149-170 1999

(17)              H. J. Eysenk, Smoking, Personality and Stress (New York: Sprinster-Verlag, 1991)



Author:Awdhesh K Singh



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