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The White Noise

The White Noise


A hit of addiction and mental illness, chased by chemistry and culture.
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Introducing an addiction-free society of the future

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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A fictionalized essay on how I imagine the world to be with the advent of addiction vaccines:

You open your front door wide, take in the crisp morning air. It’s going to be a beautiful day. You hear they’ve perfected a vaccine against drugs. You smile wide, happy and can nearly see the pink tinge on your Toyota Tacoma as you get inside.

You drive to work and see your coworker. He runs up to you, blissful – he no longer craves caffeine to get up in the morning. The caffeine molecule was large enough for the vaccine’s antibodies to handle. You smile and warmly congratulate him. His eyes are glazed over. “I’m just so tired,” he says, rubbing the back of his neck. “You could grab a cof—“ the words are cut short from your lips. Coffee can’t help him now. But you both begin smiling anyway. “I’ll get used to battling fatigue naturally! Maybe by taking occasional naps, avoiding processed foods and eating only small bits throughout the day.” “Wonderful idea!” you reply. “I bet our bosses will think it’s swell.”

You move on to the rest of your day, flocks of yawning comrades milling past you in the hallways. “Have a B12 vitamin,” you hear one whisper. “I hear it’s an energy metabolite.” You smile, thinking how lovely alternatives are.

5 o’clock nears and you leave, excitement building to see your boyfriend. You see him from afar, waiting for you like always in the parking lot. You drop your bags and run to him. He twirls you, sets you down and grabs your hands. “I’m through with the cocaine. It does nothing for me now.” You can barely contain your glee. The manic phases and crazed binges are all behind you.

You decide to celebrate at dinner. You want to fly, soar and in fact, you pirouette through the restaurant doors. Over the meal, you stare adoringly in your boyfriend’s eyes. “We should have champagne,” he says. You agree, relishing the clink of the stemware while toasting. As you sip, you notice as he surreptitiously gulps his. One glass down. Then two. Your smile begins to feel forced and you brush off your doubtful conscious. “He’s just so relieved,” you say to yourself. “He’s celebrating kicking his habit.” Two bottles later, you’re in the car. You take the keys, a familiar gesture, palming them from his grip, like taking a pencil from a lazy schoolchild.

“Hey, um, tomorrow, what if you get a shot against alcohol? You know, it can’t hurt to cure everything, can it?” you ask, as nonchalant as your nerves and speeding pulse allows. Then you remember. This shot doesn’t work against alcohol. Alcohol molecules are too small for the vaccine to tackle. You sigh and shake your head. But then you brighten, remembering that it wasn’t cocaine, at least!

In the weeks that follow you read the papers. You see drunk driving arrests skyrocket. You see the unemployment rate go up.

You do what any good member of society would do: you call your friend the recruiter. “Why aren’t you hiring anyone?” You try to keep the accusatory edge from your voice. “Oh, because no one’s coming back clean on drug tests. We just can’t tell who’s using drugs and who took a vaccine against them.” “But can’t you ask for medical records?” “Well, yes, but they could still be doing drugs, even if they had the vaccine. It’s impossible to really tell the difference,” she says.

“Well, that’s stupid,” you reply. “Well, “ she says, “it doesn’t take away physical dependence or the habit. It just makes the drug un-enjoyable.” “Oh,” you sigh. You think of how sad that is, your body lusting after something your mind doesn’t like.

The next day, while driving, you notice a line around the block outside the local health clinic. You pull in, a killer flu or SARS outbreak first on your mind. “What’s going on,” you ask a woman at the end of the line. She turns and replies with pride, “I’m getting Tommy here vaccinated against caffeine, cocaine and methamphetamine, so he’ll be sure to focus on his studies and future without distraction,” clutching the shoulder of Tommy, the junior high boy in question, until he winced. “He’s addicted to all of those things,” you breathe, almost reverent with alarm at that particular misfortune. “No, of course not! I’m doing what any good parent would do. Are you saying I shouldn’t? Would you allow your child to potentially abuse drugs?”

You step back, palms up, at the stern gaze of the young mother. You smile anyhow and respond, “you’re right. He’ll be so lucky to avoid those! And just think, he’ll have plenty of opportunity to abuse alcohol and marijuana in high school and college. Don’t worry, he’ll still have all the fun and experiences of youth but avoid the really bad stuff. I’m sure he’ll have the best of life focus.” You glide away, glad that young man and middle school comrades and worried parents are safe from the Bad drugs. Alcohol and marijuana are nothing, after all.

You arrive home, toeing past vodka and tequila bottles in your foyer. You toss your purse down and start smiling all over again at your boyfriend lying prone on the sofa, head flopping off the end of the forest green fabric. You flash back for a moment, recalling similar episodes of painful cocaine binges, but then perk up and murmur — “thank goodness we got past that cocaine problem. Who knows what could have happened.” You hum, pleased, flicking on your aging Dell laptop and filling the room with its soft glow, the gentle keystrokes of your “alcohol poisoning” Google search in the background. The drone of the printer fills the room and you add to your notebook entitled “health literature.” Life is good at last.

———–
Fiction based on addiction vaccine research and predictions.

Cassie Rodenberg About the Author: I write on culture, poverty, addiction, and mental illness: I explore things we like to ignore. I also teach public school in New York City's South Bronx. Follow on Twitter @cassierodenberg.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. MikeO 9:22 am 11/1/2011

    This seems on point of what people seem to want but it is a Utopian lie . Happiness is in all in your head .Sad thing is the same people addicted to things want the solution to be as instant as their addiction .The real sad thing is that the drug companies in league with the Dr’s with almost carte blance from FDA (“you can only kill 3%. OK, your Approved Long Term ? Guess is OK”) will be pushing it as hard as the 24/7 crack dealer on the corner . Difference as shown with the Paxil’s , Zoloft & the dozens more , hell they even have a booster (Cymbalta )because the drugs are only working because of the placebo effect …that are shown to work no better than plain old Omega 3 (and Placebo’s )in study after study, is the ownership of the morals of the DC whores & The Hippocratic oath taking but not following that oath Medical folks . Jeez,got a little carried away. I say I am passionate , they say I need some ADD medication .I say screw them .

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