Drugs are a modern menace that most of us as parents are trying to ignore because we would like to believe that our kids are clean and safe and are not heading for the nightmare called addiction that consumes life. But, now is the time to wake up and accept reality.
Not just our kids, most of us are hopelessly addicted to psychoactive substances because we have the greatest drug mafias ruling the planet.
A drug is a chemical hack into the brain, and for it to get addictive, it requires to hack into reward circuits of the brain. The reward circuits in our brain exist because they are critical to our ability to learn. So, brain ensures that we get rewards for doing what is important for our survival through chemical pathways that drive our behaviour. As we are unrevealing the inner functioning of brain, we are slowly discovering a maze of reward pathways that evolution has built in each of us to help us learn to do the right thing.
The existence of a reward-based system has been an evolutionary gift that we have cherished, as it has created the illusion that we live with, i.e. goal of life is to be happy. But, as we understand them better, it is clear that if the most complex machine has an Achilles Heel, it is this reward-based design. The physical aspect of brain’s reward system allows innumerable chemicals to hack it and switch on the reward circuits purely for pleasure and not what it is intended for.
Substances like cannabis, morphine, heroin, amphetamine and a million more consist of molecules with a matching shape to brain receptors and thus switch on/off the reward circuits. We now know the horrors of their brain and life-consuming powers and are aggressively fighting against their distribution on the planet.
While we are busy fighting the physical drugs, we are failing to see a rise of a monstrous force, a billion time more powerful causing a global addiction that requires no physical distribution.
The newest drug in town is anger, and you and I are already addicted, and our kids are following the suit.
Unlike physical drugs that face a limitation in being available, the new age addictions are of substances that can travel across the globe in an instance on the newly built logistics network we call the internet. Just as roads can be used to transport life-saving medicines as well as life-destroying heroine; the new highway too can transport information without moral discretion. It can deliver a video on string theory that help us push our understanding of the universe as well as a high-quality porn at your doorstep to hack into extremely potent reward circuits built of replication.
While we are grappling with the good and bad power of internet, we have another dark force emerging. Social media is the ultimate amplifier of internet as it taps in what we are most tuned to, i.e. other human beings. And, on it is riding an addictive substance with greatest power of destruction.
As it is slowly overwhelming Indian context, it is important that we understand anger, not as a useful emotion that it once was, but a drug that drug-lords are distributing, and all of us, especially young people of India are getting addicted to.
If you think that labelling anger as a drug is a metaphor, I am sorry to inform you that it is not. Anger is a drug exactly like heroin or amphetamine, as it has physical existence in brain in form of chemicals. What makes anger a million times more dangerous than heroin or amphetamine is the fact that it doesn’t require injection, as we self-synthesise the chemical as a response to a bit of information. This makes anger a drug that can be transported over information super-highway we call social media.
When anger is induced by a piece of information, a primordial circuitry linked with amygdala comes alive that is linked with existentially critical fight-flight response. Anger is a precursor showing our preparedness to fight, so the body switches on mechanism the increases our energy levels and causes a sensation of rush.
So, a simple bout of anger about a movie star that you are never going to meet in your life, naming her child XYZ leads to a massive display of firework in brain elevating your energy levels just as it would have done when your ancestors sighted a cave hyena a million years back.
Anger was extremely useful to our ancestors in past. So, just like any other useful activity that brain encourages with reward, anger comes with a sensation of high of norepinephrine-linked reward circuit. Unfortunately, as it has its own reward mechanism, anger has potential to become an addiction.
Addiction to anger is a reality worth getting scared of, but it gets lot worse when we look at brain chemistry of anger. The adrenaline action of anger had another useful trait of being slow in subsiding. As anger was preparedness to fight, the rush induced by the chemistry dissipates slowly, and while it is subsiding, brain remains on an even shorter fuse. So, even if anger is not expressed, internal state of anger keeps a person on hair-trigger.
Armed with anger, where we stand today is position of sitting ducks for the hate-mongers benefiting from the switching off of rationality that anger causes.
If we look at an Indian youth on social media, he/she has become an angry zombie because of the hate-mongers constantly fuelling his/her anger by a well-designed strategy. The anger across social media has become so palpable that it is impossible to escape it.
When the drug-mafia of hate have taken a stranglehold on our kids and turned them into anger-junkies, what is the way out?
Thought the situation really looks bleak, I have a suggestion to parents. We have become a generation awed by technologies used by kids and are almost adulating them as wiser than us.
This has resulted in parents not sharing their, what they, and in turn, kids think, outdated wisdom of a life lived. The reality is, the kids have not seen any reality. Their world is an imaginary world where riots and rapes and religious hatred are common.
What parents need to do is to share facts of life they have lived where all that social media is showing to our kids an exception and not a norm for our nation. Most of us have lived a peaceful life in this nation, and our kids are likely to do the same, provided we can wean them off the drug of anger sold to them by drug-cartels of political parties.
It is our nation, and it is our duty to save our kids from spiralling down into the nightmare of angry India.