Addiction – avoid the traps

Addiction is a very real problem in most societies and has devastating consequences throughout the world. In this week’s Worldview, we look at the way that some corporations and dealers go about marketing their addictive products. This will hopefully make us aware if we ever feel we are being ‘railroaded’ towards addiction.

The Technos and ‘The Game’
The way that Ram goes about selling ‘The Game’ to the city is consistent with techniques used to get us hooked on certain products. Of course, it is not only companies selling addictive products that use these techniques. How many special offers or free samples are you offered every week if you watch TV or receive mail? But the products of particular concern are the ones that are addictive and have harmful affects so let us concern our selves primarily with those.

We could liken some of Ram’s techniques to the promotion of cigarettes, alcohol, gambling and illegal drugs. First of all, Ram goes about making the game attractive to prospective clients. He uses presenters to advertise it as something that is fun and exciting. He also uses his own name to endorse the product. He then lets people have a ‘taste’ of the action for free.

Once the people start to become addicts, he starts preying on their newfound addiction. He insists that they start working in order for them to be allowed to play. Characters like Mouse and Sammy are forced into a position of working, almost as slaves, in order to fuel their addiction.

Illegal drugs
Many dealers of illegal drugs use a similar technique. The dealer may introduce the drug to an acquaintance at a party or in another social setting. He or she may promote the drug by talking positively of its effects and then supply a small amount of the drug to wet the client’s appetite. The client may try the drug and think it initially pleasant and harmless enough.

After experimenting a few more times the client begins to get addicted and could go back to the dealer for a regular supply. So the dealer, in this case, has managed to get the client ‘hooked’ and will profit from the addiction, while the client could begin a dangerous downward slide.

It is at this stage that the client is vulnerable, not only to the drugs’ harmful effects, but also to the dealer using blackmail techniques. The dealer may start demanding increasingly higher prices, errands or favours in return for the drug. The client or victim is ‘stuck between a rock and a hard place.’ Their body and brain is demanding the drug because of the addiction and they may feel like it is worth almost anything to satisfy these immense cravings. It is important to realise that if you are ever offered a drug by an acquaintance, there could be an ulterior motive behind it.

Cigarette companies have traditionally used a particular image to sell their products. Smoking was promoted as sexy and sophisticated in not only advertisements but also in movies and television programmes as well. In the same way that Ram used his image to promote The Game in Tribe IV, companies used well-known stars to showcase their product. It is ironic that sports teams, the image of health and vitality, up until the last few years continued to be sponsored by cigarette firms, responsible for such a high rate of ill health.

In recent times, many countries have outlawed advertising of cigarettes because of nicotine’s addictive and harmful effects. Sponsorship of sports teams has also been banned in many countries and cigarette packets come with government warnings, notifying people of the dangers of smoking.

Do you agree that cigarette advertising should be outlawed?

Some people think we should go further and ban smoking altogether. What do you think of this idea?

Alcohol has always had a similar image in advertisements to cigarettes. Commercials promote it as sophisticated, sexy and, in some cases, macho.

Can you think of any advertisements for alcohol, which portray this image?

The alcohol companies are obviously targeting a particular age and gender range. How does the target audience differ for wine, beer and spirits?

Some countries prohibit television advertising of alcohol before a set time at night.

If alcohol causes such a high rate of accidents and social difficulties, do you think it is appropriate that advertising occurs at all?

Some cynics may ask why there are regulations for advertising when it comes to cigarettes and alcohol but no regulations for advertising other addictive drugs such as coffee and even some soft drinks.

I suppose it all comes down to the actual level of addiction and harm that it causes. Smoking, in particular, costs the government an astronomical amount in health care while coffee, I would imagine, costs them comparatively little.

Gambling is a different kind of addiction to those mentioned previously. It is not a drug as such but often hooks people in. Punters become compulsive gamblers, looking and hoping for that big win. In extreme cases they may spend all of the money they have and then some, borrowing to pay huge debts etc.

Gambling can take many forms – lottery tickets, horses, dogs, sports betting and casinos are just some of the examples. Some would argue that any investment such as the sharemarket or property is also a form of gambling. Is there a difference do you think?

Some would say that the latter two examples are more of a calculated risk than gambling.

How are people hooked in to gambling?

Again it is often the image portrayed in the media. Think of the advertisements and television promotion of lottery tickets. The image usually presented is bright colours and smiley attractive presenters, often with a good deal of singing and dancing thrown in as well.

In the Tribe there is a Casino which attracts regular punters. How do casinos draw in the crowds? Is it the image and aura of sophistication that places like Monte Carlo portray? Is it the glitzy lights and lavishness, which adorns many of their exteriors?

You can see that we are all regularly exposed to temptation when it comes to addictions. We need to realise why pressures exist for us to fall for a particular addiction; that others are likely to gain from your possible misfortune. There are reasons why there are age bans and, in some case total bans, on the above items. It is because of their harmful effects. While some of the above may be fine in moderation, addiction can have devastating consequences. It is best to approach all of the above with a great deal of caution. .