Category Archives: science

Will science create an army of Dry Drunks?

Many of you may have noticed a story this past week about researchers developing a possible heroin vaccine. The basic idea is this: the vaccine blocks the brain-receptors that respond to heroin, such that users no longer get a euphoric rush from the drug. There’s been corresponding work on a cocaine vaccine, as well as indications that some diet drugs that operate on a similar principle are not only good for decreasing overeating, but may also help with quitting smoking and drug and alcohol addiction.

These developments, and others like them, are the outgrowth of burgeoning research over the past decade into the neurochemistry of addiction and genetics of addiction. Given all of this, it is not absurd, in fact it is overwhelmingly likely, that science is well on its way to delivering the ability to block addiction at the neuro-chemical level. It may take a decade or two, it will no doubt have fits and starts, but a medical “cure” (or more likely, multiple cures) for addiction is on its way.

Given my own experience in recovery, I feel a little cautious about some possible side effects of this. I can absolutely see these vaccines and blocking drugs helping people and saving lives. But I wonder if they may also facilitate the creation of an army of dry drunks.

For those not familiar with the parlance, in recovery lingo a “dry drunk” is a person who is no longer active in their addiction, but is also not undertaking the self-work necessary to transform the psychological and character roots of addiction, and clean up the internal mental toll that active addiction leaves in its wake. Usually you can’t get away with this for too long without returning to using, but some people do for years, even decades. The Minnesota Recovery Center has a good online run-down of what this looks like on the ground.

To give a quick summation, it boils down to this: “dry drunks” are clean and sober, and may remain so their entire lives, but they’re not, to quote the AA Big Book, “happy, joyous and free.” This can be a pretty miserable way to live. It also tends to lead to a lifestyle that can spread misery to family and friends. 

I’m not trying to rain on science’s parade here. As I said above, I can see these medical measures doing a lot of good for a lot of people. But I can also see, especially in our “quick fix”-obsessed society, these treatments increasing the temptation to try to bypass the hard inner work that, in some cases, there may be no substitute for.   

  

APOD, NDEs & the Omega Point

One of my favorite web sites is Astronomy Picture of the Day. I think the name is pretty much self-explanatory, but if it isn’t, take a look at the site and you’ll quickly get the picture. (Heh heh, I made a funny…)

Today’s post got me thinking in a meta-science vein. I say meta-science to place my ramblings in a field of thought that some might call pseudo-scientific, but I think of as being science that we just haven’t gotten around to yet. Rather like what Aristotle considered “metaphysics”, literally, “that which is beyond the physics” as it stood in his day. The clip in question is of what approaching the speed of light would look like in terms of its visual effects:

It occurred to me that what things looked like with all three effects (visual aberration, doppler and intensity) was remarkably similar to what people report in Near Death Experiences- seeing objects from a distorted, “floating above” perspective, shadowy indistinct figures and rushing toward a tunnel of light. This makes me wonder if those visual effects could have something to do with a speeding up of mental process that somehow approaches the speed of light.

If something like that was going on, it reminds me a little of Frank Tipler’s speculations about the Omega Point. In short, he saw consciousness eventually permeating the entire physical universe as the universe approached its “end” in a singularity, such that an infinite amount of thought processing could occur, and the subjective time experienced by this consciousness would be practically infinitely greater than the objective time of milliseconds it occupied. Could this be something like what human consciousness is doing in the instant before death, thus producing visual effects similar to what would be observed as one approaches the speed of light?

Don’t ask me precisely how, that’s for quantum physicists and neuroscientists to puzzle out, I’m just here to point the way. In all seriousness, I think (and history attests) that thought experiments and being open to flights of fancy is often the way that new perspectives emerge. It’s a noble pursuit. I just wish I had the nth dimensional math skills to take it further!

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Bonus image! Also from Astronomy Picture of the Day, and having nothing to do with the above topic, but it sure is purty. A mosaic of the MESSENGER probe’s images of Mercury from its first “day” there, the Mercurian day being 176 days long: