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How to Feed the Need for Happiness

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How to Feed the Need for Happiness.

"The Drive to Mastery" -Michael Sandel

In society the line between happiness and pleasure has become blurred. People are so intent on always feeling the good and numbing the bad, that there has become an intense need for all people to be in a state of "happiness". It is hard to determine if this is due to the increased use of recreational drugs, the tragedy surrounding us forcing a need for more positive feelings, or if people just crave more of what they cannot automatically forge for themselves. So, the question at hand is, should people be allowed to recreate "happiness" by unnatural means, whether it be by recreational drugs, alcohol, or by prescribed medicines? "There's clearly a strong causal link between the raw biological capacity to experience happiness and the extent to which one's life is felt to be worthwhile. High-minded philosophy treatises should complicate but not confuse the primacy of the pleasure-pain axis. So one very practical method of life-enrichment consists in chemically engineering happier brains for all in the here-and-now." (Pearce)

On each side of the debate there are arguments for whether people should or should not be allowed to recreate happiness by unnatural means. From the medical standpoint there are many negative health effects caused by drug use. But, from society's perspective, a greater good is achieved if the public is a bit sedated and, therefore able to coexist productively. However, it is up to each individual to determine which viewpoint has a greater positive influence on our world--deciding which actions they would personally take in this "happiness issue". This is merely a presentation of each side's stand on the issues and their reasoning.

To begin with, "one spectacularly incompetent route to a lifetime of happiness involves taking unsustainable psychostimulants such as cocaine or the amphetamines. In the short term, their activation of the sympathetic nervous system tends to elevate mood, motivation and energy." (Pearce) There is a vast array of drugs that are used to recreate the feeling of happiness. The most common drugs used are marijuana and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (anti-depressants). Medical professionals have conducted many studies to show the negative effects of these drugs. They have also designed campaigns to educate people about the damaging effects of these substances.

The active compound in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), causes feelings of sleepiness, pain relief, and euphoria, which produces the sensation of being "stoned". The significant problem with marijuana use is its interference with memory-formation by disrupting functions in the hippocampus portion of the brain. "This is because the central nervous system supports a web of mutually inhibitory feedback-mechanisms. In response to a short-term increase of mood-mediating monoamines in the synapses, the genes and neuronal receptors re-regulate. So at best no real long-term benefit is derived from the use of such compounds." (Pearce) It is a common belief amongst members of society that memory is the center of self-identity, and disrupting this process is a severe problem.

Along with memory interruption, marijuana can also intensify feelings of negativity and unhappiness when taken in a depressive state. "Marijuana appears to be a mood enhancer, making greater the mood one is in, whether that mood is positive or negative." (Eisenman) Marijuana is often taken in an attempt to elevate one's mood. Most people do not realize that marijuana not only intensifies positive feelings, but negative feelings as well. Thus, the use of marijuana to create happiness can in fact do just the opposite.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), pharmaceutical anti-depressants, are prescribed frequently for mild cases of depression. SSRI's affect the portion of the brain that controls mood, memory, appetite, sleep, pain perception, and sexual desire. Although a very popular drug of choice among doctors, SSRI's can cause negative effects such as compromised libido and decreased sexual performance, nausea, difficulty sleeping, drowsiness, anxiety, sweating, and suicide. SSRI's include many of the most popular drugs advertised today, including: Prozac, Zoloft, Valium, Xanax, and Librium which are used to relieve anxiety. Doctors prescribe drugs like these in an attempt to "cure" the negative feelings associated with depression and anxiety, and restore the world to a state of happiness.

The human tendency to want to control and manipulate the world in which they live causes a necessity for drugs, or as Michael Sandel says, "the drive to mastery." Emotional, physical, and psychological features can now be altered by medicines, thus altering human reason and resisting the need for a higher being. People now think that the world is theirs for manipulation. Because of the human desire to want what cannot be obtained, and their attempt to control all aspects of life, religious guidelines come into the picture as a reference for what should not be done.

Finally, and possibly one of the most important reasons to not use drugs to recreate "happiness", are religious teachings that discourage their use. In the Bible and other religious books, there are many verses forbidding the use of drugs or intoxicants, while encouraging resisting the temptation of sin. Romans 13:12-14 states "Cast off the works of darkness, walk properly, not in drunkenness. Make no provision to fulfill the lusts of the flesh."(Teen Study Bible) In the United States, which is 82% Christian, these teachings carry significant meaning when deciding whether to allow easy access to substances for the recreation of happiness.

On the other hand, there are arguments for why the use of substances to recreate happiness should be permitted. There are people who support the use of drugs like cocaine and ecstasy. "People take both cocaine and the designer-drug Ecstasy to get happy, yet the effects are in some ways opposite. Cocaine brings a self-centered euphoria, a sense of toughness, smartness or beauty. It inflates the ego. Ecstasy in a sense dilutes the ego, leading people to take an interest, even a joy, in people they might otherwise ignore" (Wright)

These are examples of "positive effects" that drugs deemed illegal can bring to society. On the other hand, prescription medicines currently gross approximately $29 billion a year. With the advancement of medical procedures such as plastic surgery, sexual reconstruction, hair loss treatment, and anti-depressants, it seems only natural that



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