Our societies promote a culture of excess and consumption that produces intense, similar to those of drugs
We live in a society of hyperstimulation, in which technological advances combine with aggressive and effective marketing to create a constant need for new sensations, a constant desire to replace ‘old-fashioned’ items bought just a few months ago.
Our society is said to be addictive. This is not a new observation, but the phenomenon is gaining in importance, to the point of becoming a major societal concern. Addictive behaviours can be found in our everyday lives, in our constant search for intense sensations in virtually every sector: at work, in our leisure activities, in our sporting activities, and so on. We live in a culture of excess, of immediate access to the object of our desire, in a frenzy of consumption fuelled by ever-shorter waiting times between the “buy” click and the deliveryman’s bell.
Our environment has become one of speed and immediacy. Consumer culture is no longer designed to satisfy our desires, but to excite them, to renew them, again and again, faster and faster, with no regard for the long term and slowly matured choices.
We find these same behaviours in our desire to erase the limits imposed on us by our bodies and brains: those of sleep, fatigue, creativity and sexual desire.
So we want to boost our sexual performance, increase our creativity tenfold, improve our sporting results, or simply get through exam time with the help of drugs, alcohol, supercharged supplements, cocaine and other stimulants.
In this context, addictions and, in a broader sense, all the syndromes associated with impulse control deficits become terribly commonplace. And the social response is not up to the task, because condemning these users or these behaviours is tantamount to confronting the societal values that give rise to them: to consume more, to perform better, to be more muscular, more beautiful and so on.
Poverty, exclusion and stigmatization
After depression in the last century, or hysteria in the century before that, addiction will undoubtedly be THE disease of the 21st century, as evidenced by the proliferation of these behaviours. However, we mustn’t forget the final aspect of this trivialisation of addiction: precariousness and exclusion.
Many people struggling with addiction are excluded or homeless, living in suburban areas. The grip of addictive disorders is even tighter for these people, aggravated by poverty, stigmatisation and economic exclusion. In addition to drug use, a very large number are affected by pathologies that make their situation even more difficult: domestic violence, early motherhood, mental disorders.
A paradigm shift?
Providing effective care for people with addictive practices requires the use of all the tools or models of evidence available to specialists: early intervention, harm reduction services, outpatient or residential treatment programmes, etc. These tools need to interact to provide a better response to needs, without one model taking precedence over the others. Some are better suited than others, depending on the person and the time.
We also need to look at our addictive society in a practical way, involving all possible stakeholders – educators, social workers, families, etc. – in the process. Not forgetting the importance of education and the development of psychosocial skills.
The challenge is undoubtedly immense, but everyone must be able to step back and take stock of the evolution of a society that is becoming ever more addictive. What is at stake is our freedom.