People Should Stop Craving for “Highs”

Since drugs remain a prominent topic in the Duterte administration, let’s have a related concept as a topic of discussion: highs. Not just drug highs. Any kind of high. The rush from dopamine and other brain chemicals giving you that pleasurable or euphoric feeling that you wished lasted forever. Trying to satisfy that craving. The pursuit of highs is one of the things that mess up our human lives.

Snapshot from the Android game Pot Farm, showing a junkie

This is one likely reason Filipinos put too much importance on emotions. They are after the emotional highs, especially pleasure. Life by nature is painful, and the goal is really to cover up the pain with the pleasure. Escapism is a term that can be applied here. Cigarette smokers and alcoholics (and drug addicts for that matter) find it difficult to kick their habit, despite the harm being done to their bodies, because of this relief or escape the substances provide. But the truth still stands: after the highs pass, the problems are still there, and the highs provide no solution to anything at all.

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However, it is possible to achieve a state of mind where one is at peace without the help of highs or high-inducing substances.

High Nakus

I’m sure the desire for highs is responsible for some crackpot ideas. For example, some believe sustenance is not necessary and can be replaced with highs. Perhaps people who try to live on only air and light – called breatharianism – are like this; only thing is, several people doing this died later on. Perhaps they were high when they wanted to try out breatharianism.

I also see why marijuana smokers campaign for their “hobby” so much; they are only after the highs, and perhaps conjure spurious claims such as its being a “cancer cure” as a lame attempt at justification. They might also claim that keeping people in euphoric highs will discourage them from thinking about actions harmful to others. I doubt that, as people can kill for highs. The Opium Wars are one example. There are also the Assassins (also called Hashishin or part of the Nizari Ismaili group) whose name came from their purported use of hashish as part of their mind conditioning.

There is also the idea that religion originated from people taking narcotics, since the practice of inhaling smoke from burning died leaves is associated with ancient religious practices. I however find that dubious, since that idea has never been confirmed or proven, and things like religious visions can be generated even without the use of substances (and I doubt having any substance-induced trance will lead to any meaningful enlightenment).

Highs continue to be a deadly deception. After the high of being drunk, there is the reality of the hangover and other harmful effects of immense alcohol intake. Narcotic drug use itself has seen countless cases of serious injury or death following the high. If one lets highs overcome them, they could be bogged by it from doing anything meaningful. Being fixated on highs could lead to people being lazy or unwilling to do anything else that is meaningful, such as hobbies.

The Highs and Creativity Correlation Confusion

One book on my current reading list, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, sees the author setting a goal: she wanted to cease dependence on alcohol for stimulating her creativity. The book and her website are proof that she was successful. This supports the idea that highs or similar effects from any substance intake are unnecessary for creativity and enlightenment, and indeed, unnecessary for “happiness.” If Cameron could stop her dependence on substance highs for creativity, anyone could stop their dependence on substances for highs.

This for me also proves the idea that creativity, and even happiness, are results of cognition, not accident. The idea that one needs substances to stimulate creativity is hogwash. Dropping control of mental faculties and allow the craving for highs or feelings to take over is not a secret to happiness, but a recipe for disaster. One other purpose for taking narcotics is to disinhibit, which can also be done without substances. Also, I do acknowledge things like people at work needing stimulants, such as caffeine, to keep awake for something. However, perhaps this should raise other questions: is work that makes one need stimulants worth it at all?

Some would point out that our feelings are mostly the effect of the brain chemicals mentioned above. Thus, they would say, it’s OK to use chemicals to stimulate the happy chemicals. They might claim it’s natural, but it’s really artificial. I’d say it’s based on a correct fact, but it’s misused to justify the wrong thing. Besides, brain chemicals can be stimulated by will and activity, as I will explain later.

Another idea is that those with strong craving for highs and are easily hurt emotionally may be control freaks. In my related previous article, I said that such people believe that they can have control over the world, or at least their world. Thus, they try to control other people. If they are unable to achieve this control, they may become depressed. From this, I posit that mental illness has a relationship with sense of control: the more people base their “happiness” on highs and control, the more vulnerable they are.

Non-Substance-based Highs

One recent share on Facebook was this article about Iceland’s solution to teen drug abuse. As I see it, they applied a few important steps. First, they accepted the recent theories that teen brains usually go “haywire,” leading to research on alternatives to highs. Next, they accepted that adults have the responsibility to give the young people things to do that is not “slave work.” They don’t just leave the young to their own devices in order to pursue their own irresponsibility. Third, they acknowledged that along with one’s will, environmental factors are a key element of personal development. They thus proceeded to make such an environment with better options than pursuits for highs. Instead, they obtains “highs” from activities that stimulate brain chemicals from natural processes, instead of introducing something to force that “high.”

There are other highs not needing substances, but are from activities that are extreme or risky. For example, the high gained from skydiving, biking down a steep mountainside, or taking a selfie at the edge of a cliff or building (and it led to deaths). Well, some may indeed get their kicks from these, yet they may be taking unnecessary risks to gain such highs. Yet another activity is sexual intercourse. The high from this is a no-brainer; but the other part of the no-brainer is the high risk of having children, whatever precautions one takes. This is what Benign0 and I were saying with our articles before: if you want a sexual high, is plugging in absolutely necessary? There are alternatives.

And there is of course the high Filipinos seek with Pinoy Pride. We at GRP have always explained that all this “pride” gives is a temporary high, which serves as a mere escape from our faults. And, just as fast as the pride junkies trumpet it, it’s gone. People go back to the depressed reality they refuse to face and instead seek more escapes. But that in turn keeps us from fixing our faults that drag our country down.

Highs are overrated and dependence on them, and the things that cause them, indicate a weakness of character. This may sound like cruel moralization to some. But I say if one is very dependent on substances’ effects and highs to keep them stable or alert, then that makes them more vulnerable. Some would agree, if one is so dependent on highs to keep them from going low, then they are less able to deal with life with all its natural travails and trials. They are more likely to have mental illness, among other things.

Don’t listen to Your Body

Another thing is human cultures being mostly sensory-oriented. We’ve probably heard, “explore your senses,” or “explore whatever your senses bring you.” This assumes that the meaning of life is found using the five senses. However, so many people have not found that meaning, including wealthy people who committed suicide. Such people could afford anything to please all their senses, but still find it all meaningless. The classic philosophers pondered on this and some have said, recognition of something higher than just what the senses perceive gives more meaning to life. Religion and spirituality are based on this recognition.

Here’s another message many have likely balked at: we need to stop submitting to our biology. This is where the concept of “natural” gets abused. Just because your dick is on full gear and you see someone pretty, you believe it’s natural to stick it into her. What if she doesn’t want it? Same with highs. Just because something gives a high doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

Yet another idea about highs, I have picked from Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. Gladwell in the last chapter set on why people make really big mistakes so quickly: mind-blindness, or temporary autism. It’s when people become, well, dumb; but to put it more pleasantly, it’s when people cease to think. It led to the mistake described in that chapter – the killing of harmless Amadou Diallo by police officers. The reason was that they were “high.” It’s not a drug-induced or happy high. Gladwell explained it as arousal, where people become so excited after highly tense activity that their heartbeats are quickening, tunnel vision is happening and hands start shaking. Judgment and reason are impaired and big mistakes are made. It’s the same survival-mode fight and flight response that happens when our biologies take control of us, instead of the other way round.

Putting this dynamic under control is the topic of Blink. Gladwell described steps taken to stop police officers from getting temporary autism, such as prohibiting high speed chases and training them repeatedly in high-tension situations. The lesson here is, people should learn to put a cap on their arousal. They should make changes in their lifestyles and environments to help control, and not increase, highs.

We need to reorient our culture and habits away from highs. But that does not bring us necessarily to the lows. There is a middle ground, a balance wherein we have both realism and idealism in healthy doses. I’ll borrow the famous line from Casey Kasem: keep your feet on the ground, but keep reaching for the stars. Now think of it this way: how can you reach the stars while still touching the ground? You grow. Grow in wisdom, knowledge and common sense, develop better character, and realize that the meaning of life is not found in highs and lows.

Many people are angry at drug wars around the world, but are not angry at the reasons people take drugs. It leaves them unwilling to explore this most meaningful solution. Instead of attacking supply, attack the demand, I have read. And the way to attack this demand, at its root: stopping the culture of highs. As Get Real Philippines has always said, culture is the root of many problems, and it is sometimes best to attack cultures, even if they are the things people often love.

11 Replies to “People Should Stop Craving for “Highs””

  1. The Kleptomaniac, gets his/her high by stealing things…the” Kleptocrats” in the government get their high, by stealing from our taxpayers’ money…

    The Sex Addict or Nymphomaniac get their high by having sexual intercourse, with several sex partners, irregardless of the diseases, HIV or Tulo.

    Kris Aquino, gets her high by having several husbands, changing them, like she changes her panties…

    Leila de Lima, gets her high by selling Shabu Drugs,to get filthy rich , using convicts in the Bilibid National Prison…and having sexual relations, with various men.

    Some Roman Catholic Priests, gets their high by being Pedophile Priests…

    The Radical Islamic Jihadist get his high by blowing himself up, and the infidels; believing a reward of going to Paradise to enjoy 72 virgins, forever…that is being high in ecstasy forever…

    The Aquino Cojuangco families , get their high by scamming the government and other people for lands they can own…

    Some hackers and blog trolls, get their high, by trolling and annoying other bloggers…

    The human brain is a very complicated thing…there are still some frontier in the human brain, that we cannot understand…dopamine, serotonin, prefrontal cortex, amygdala, right side/left side of the brain, cognition, depression of various kinds, learning, etc… why others can learn easily ? Why others are so dumb ?

    Some “dumb” people has extraordinary abilities…we do dumb things sometimes…I Q; EQ…mental telepathy, seeing things in the future, consciousness, subconsciousness, superconsciousness, collective unconsciousness, etc…

    Anyone has his or her high… what is your way to get high ?

  2. The whole point of sex is reproduction, not the pleasure that comes with it

    If that is the case, ChinoF, then why does every woman have a clitoris and G-Spot? To speak in your language: why did god put those items in every woman’s body?
    Secondly, to only have sex for reproductional goals tells me that I – at best – will have sex only once. At most, I only want one kid.
    Thirdly, the world you describe is on its way to become very boring and dull and I dont want to be part of such a world.
    My life needs to be exciting. Otherwise, whats the point?

    So, in short, I totally disagree with you.

  3. Robert, that’s why I said there are alternatives. There’s masturbation, 50 Shades of Grey stuff and other things that don’t need you to spray inside a woman. There can be sexual excitement without actual intercourse.

    Oh, and about excitement, sometimes we want excitement, but we need to be careful about it. The search for excitement could be the cause of all kinds of problems. What’s the saying, “ennui is the cause of evil in the world” or something like that (Oh, look, found an article saying boredom leads to higher-risk-taking)? Excitement is not an entitlement.

    Basically, it’s your life, but be prepared to pay the consequences.

  4. Chino,
    Dont you get a high (adrenaline rush) from reading the bible back and forth?
    Dont you get a high (adrenaline rush) to go to church every Sunday?

  5. Chino,
    why are you so hung up with the word ‘evil’? That word is probably the least used word in Dutch newspapers, Dutch TV news, in Dutch social media and in Dutch human conversations. The same applies for your favorites words : “moral(ity)” and “ethical”.
    Am I ‘holier than thou”? No, of course not. I, too, probably do “evil” things.

  6. Robert, no to the first questions, and a high isn’t always necessarily for life. And about “evil,” I’m not sure if that’s the part of the quote as I remember. But as the article I linked to says, boredom could lead to searching for highs and that could lead to risky and irresponsible behavior – and I’m sure that is often the case in real life.

    1. Chino,
      “ennui is the cause of evil in the world”.

      Like I said before, I dont look at how other people live their lifes. I actually dont even care. I have better things to do with my spare time. I cant change them. If they want to change their lives (behavior, mindset, religion) they have to do it themselves.

  7. I found the quote, Bertrand Russell: “Boredom is therefore a vital problem for the moralist, since at least half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it.” ― Russell, The Conquest of Happiness

  8. I don’t understand why you confine your criticisms to those who use “drugs”. You can extend this out to our entire society, everything is done to chase down that burst of the bodies reward system which then once the feeling fades, work begins again for the next dose. This can be as simple as those constantly consuming fast food, to those with a life dedicated to hoarding as much capital as they can.

    I think using the “drugs” as the generic source of these cheap highs, in a way demonises what can be an either incredibly helpful or harmful category of substance. Blaming drugs for leading it users to a superficial way of life is as nuanced as me saying food is leading this country into an epidemic of diabetes and heart disease epidemic. Drugs cover a spectrum of substance which some can certainly can ruin somebodies life. But the benefits which come from others are undeniable, people are now treating depression and ptsd with mdma, people are experiencing almost instant relief from long term addiction with ibogaine, then there are all the profound spiritual experiences that people can have with marijuana, psilocybin, dmt….

    Like anything, if particular drugs are used in the right situation by the right people it can be extremely beneficial. Putting those particular substances under the same umbrella as drugs like meth and heroin and labelling them as cheap highs just lacks nuance and is far from reality.

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