Drugs and Devices

We have this apparent predilection to want too much of a good thing.  Painkillers have their place, but not as a way of life.  Smart phones are enormously helpful, but do we really need 24×7 texts on every aspect of life?  Of course, this is not new.  Radio and TV talk shows have long captured our attention.  Soap operas have done their part.

Why do people occupy their time in these ways?  “A new study by sociologists at the University of Maryland concludes that unhappy people watch more TV, while people who describe themselves as very happy spend more time reading and socializing. The study appears in the journal Social Indicators Research.”

How is addiction defined?  Addiction is the fact or condition of being dependent on a particular substance, thing, or activity.  Synonyms include dependency, dependence, craving, habit, weakness, compulsion, fixation, and enslavement.  This phenomenon is obvious for opioids, but what about screens?  Are many of us addicted to the screens of our smart phones, tablets, or other devices?

What are the consequences of these addictions?  In the US, drug overdose deaths rose from 16,849 in 1999 to 70,237 in 2017.  This astounding increase is referred to as the opioid epidemic.  What about the device epidemic?

The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year in the US.  Nearly 390,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving. One out of every four automobile accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving.

Fortunately, car accidents are only about half as fatal as drugs.  There are roughly 37,000 annual traffic fatalities in the US.  Yet, globally, there are nearly 1.25 million deaths per year due to fatal car crashes. Almost half of fatally injured drivers test positive for drugs and over half of those drivers were positive for two or more drugs.

So, device abuse is not quite as bad as drug abuse.  Constantly checking your device for the latest texts from friends, the moment’s financial market results, and the most recent antics of the nation’s chief executive is less likely to kill you than mainlining opioids or street drugs.  That should feel comforting.


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