New Addictions

Schull's new book

Addiction is a prevalent topic in contemporary society. If someone makes the horrid mistake of turning on the television, they’ll be blasted with stories of celebrities battling drug addiction while MTV films recovering addicts for fun. Every now and again, an article about psychological addiction will appear inciting jests and jokes from the audience who believe that psychological addictions are simply excuses for one’s waste of time and money. However, many of these audience members don’t truly understand how powerful a psychological addiction can be. In fact, some of those joking about the condition may already be addicted to one of today’s new modern addiction machines. Online social games, “free to play” apps, social media, and so many other new vices have been invented and designed to grab one’s attention for painfully long periods of time in order to show them more advertisements, or drain them of money for the game.

Most of these modern addiction tools can be traced back to the slot machine, a staple in much of human society. No matter the ethnicity, denomination or culture, most humans can’t resist the flashing lights and cheerful blips that come from the original automated gambling tool. The slot machine and countless other games are made to be addicting, according to Natasha Dow Schüll in an interview conducted by Rachelle Annechino. Companies are told to make games as addicting as possible, draining money away from the hapless victim. It’s a cruel practice, and combined with America’s individualistic attitude, it’s difficult to pin any of the blame on the developers.

Now more than ever, humans across all cultures are more at risk of developing addictions. Humans have never faced as much stimulation as they do today, even without engineers and scientists working hard to create the most addicting scenarios possible. Is there any possible way to regulate this? According to Schüll, the answer is in Canada. There, some casinos automatically “lock out” a customer when a machine registers signs of addiction, such as rapid replays. In America, there are no such regulations, and trying to create some based on the concept of “mental health” would be a lost cause in such a capitalistic society. Therefore, it may be best to convince casinos that draining a gambler as fast as possible is a poor business plan. For instance, if someone loses all of their money in a few goes, they won’t be able to maintain other things in their life that require money, leaving them without money to gamble. If casinos were to take a little at a time, they could instead drain someone for life without causing a serious addiction.