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Common addictions, 10 years from now

  1. Mar 10, 2014 #1
    Hi guys,

    I have a question that I need some help with. I'm not a biologist nor do I have any educational background in biology so please excuse any ignorance that I may show.

    I am writing a presentation which is called "Addictions that will be common in 10 years from now"

    It looks into why people become addicted to smoking, alcohol and gambling from a basic biological perspective. The presentation doesn't go too much into advanced biology, just the basics that one can learn from reading online and watching youtube documentaries etc.

    Ideally I want to look into things that could become common addictions because of the biological effects they have on a person...release of dopamine, endorphins and oxytocins etc...Pleasurable/relaxation/high resulting things. I didn't really know where to look for this so I thought I'd ask here on this biology forum from those who specialise in this field.

    If you can think of something that may become a common addiction in the next 10 or so years, please give me your input. It can either be a drug, a social/leisure habit or something totally different.

    The presentation is a business presentation and it talks about commercialisation of cigarettes, alcohol and gambling and what companies might possibly look to commercialise in the future, knowing that people will be addicted to it. It's to do with irresponsible behaviour by corporations.

    I hope I've given you a jist of what I'm after but if anything, please feel free to ask and I'll try my best to clarify.

    Thanks in advance
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 10, 2014 #2


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    I assume that since this is for business, it has to be legal. Does it have to be purely a physical addiction or can it be a physiological/psychological addiction?

    If it can be the latter, I think marijuana will become legalized in most areas so the addiction to it will become more widespread.


    I think these numbers are low, I'm amazed at how many people have admitted to being "hooked/addicted' to it. They use it to escape the stress of school and work. And if there is no stress, they just use it to get stoned, like an alcoholic getting drunk, and like many alcoholics, they say that it's not a problem, they can stop anytime. Except when they run out they panic until they can get more. And this last bit is anecdotal, I don't know of any studies about the daily home life of marijuana addicts, I'm just going by people I've known.
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2014
  4. Mar 11, 2014 #3

    Simon Bridge

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    I'd focus on the business point you need to make - what is the presentation for: specifically?
    You want to look at how companies have exploited addictions and addictive behavior to date, and try to spot a trend as old addictions get sidelined.

    The subject has three main parts:
    1. what makes something addictive?
    2. how an addiction becomes common.
    3. why do we care?

    You are unlikely to be able to anticipate new addictions, but you could look at the trends in types of addiction by treating addicts as a market and look at how the market evolves over time.

    You should also look at common prsent addictions - i.e. caffein addiction is common, so is alchohol addiction, but we are more concerned about booze than coffee.

    Do people get addicted to sugar? Music? Love?

    The scope of your inquirey is very broad at the moment - so you need to narrow it down.
    Which brings me back to the opening sentences.
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2014
  5. Mar 11, 2014 #4
    Thanks for your reply .

    You took the words right out of my mouth, yes it can be psychological/physiological as well as biological.

    Okay marijuana is a good example because we've already seen that being legalized in some places.
  6. Mar 11, 2014 #5

    The presentation is for unethical corporate behaviour when companies make profit regardless of how they effect peoples health, like today we have tobacco companies, casino's and alcohol producers. They know that they will sell their products because of peoples addictive nature and habits.

    I need to try and come up with a few excellent realistic examples of the world 10 years from now in which new addictions/social habits may become common.

    The 3 questions you mentioned are great. A real way to problem solve a question like this, thank you. But my knowledge is too limited in biology to be able to answer the first question. I guess it's to do with release of dopamine and things like that?

    The end question is this: Which new corporate industry will grow that makes profits from realising a new addiction and exploiting it?
  7. Mar 11, 2014 #6


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    The e-cigarette business seems to be growing and could potentially exploit nicotine addiction as it grows. I've also wondered whether taking drugs like amphetamines or modafinil for cognitive enhancement will be more commonplace (for example, see http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1869435,00.html). In addition to any biological addiction these might cause, competitive pressures from the workplace or school could also contribute to users feeling as if they cannot stop using them.
  8. Mar 11, 2014 #7

    Simon Bridge

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    The presentation is for unethical behavior? Or is it about unethical behavior?

    I mean - what is the purpose of the presentation - just to pass the time?

    Perhaps you want to highlight warning signs that a legal substance is becoming too addictive - i.e. look up "sugar addiction".
    Perhaps you want to highlight warning signs that a company is starting to exploit addictive behavior?

    See what I mean?

    Product X come to the fore within the next decade - what sort of properties will it have?
    i.e. it will be legal and addictive
    ... look at the party-pill market for the quick-buck model - is there a business model that is sustaining? Can a new addiction become established in a modern market the way alchohol and caffien have?

    How will it be marketed? How will society respond? I don't think you need a specific product, you just need to look at how addictive behavior is generally exploited.

    That goes for anything that makes you feel happy though.
    How is it unethical to make a business out of making people happy?

    Look for any market that involves making people happy.

    Any industry that does this is likely to have some customers who are addiction prone - you could pick any and show how that industry could exploit addiction? But like I said, I don't think you need the product itself - just postulate one and concentrate on the strategies and behavior.
  9. Mar 11, 2014 #8
    new addictions

    Hey viciam:
    I guess you should have known better than post an open-ended question on a physics forum. You got bush-wacked by a bunch of scientists and really didn't get what you were looking for - only a few tips on how to better ask a question. I think you just got your first Peer Review. Anyways, I'll see what I can do for you.
    What I would suggest is to look at things like more personalized designer type drugs, for one. Also, the phenomenon of Internet porn is reaching epidemic proportions especially among young men who mainly have no other sexual experience.
    Another idea is to look at the tremendous amount of work being done on brain study and how to elicit artificial brain processes, like pleasure, via electrical and chemical stimulation.
    I can see addictions to 'good' stuff like exercise and other health practices going out of control too. Especially things like steroid use and off-beat stuff such as coffee colonics etc.
    The last thing I would suggest is to study all the 'new' old drugs which have been entering our markets lately from other countries, such poppy tea, khat, water pipes etc. These drugs have been used for centuries in their countries of origin by the common people and have just began making their way here lately. Good luck.
  10. Mar 11, 2014 #9

    No I don't think I got bush-wacked at all, in fact I admire Simon Bridge's way of thinking and appreciate his approach to problem solving. Such as asking the right questions in order to get an answer.

    Brain study...interesting, I will look into this.

    Internet porn is huge yes, but it's not corporate, as in you won't see a public listed porn company...it will remain a grey industry for a long time.

    Simon, no the purpose of the presentation is not to pass time, it's a presentation to compare ethical investments to unethical investments in stocks listed on the stock exchange.

    Yes, a company looking to exploit addictive behaviour...but it has to be an addictive behaviour that could be very common in the future for that company to be able to exploit successfully and at profits, like tobacco and casino operators have done. A real masses addiction/habit rather than a habit for a small number of people.

    "Can a new addiction become established in a modern market the way alchohol and caffien have?" I'm sure there most likely will be, and recognizing one is difficult but not impossible.
  11. Mar 11, 2014 #10

    Simon Bridge

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    Also - review about dopamine.

    I suspect it is more likely that a previously harmless addiction would be identified and exploited. Companies seldom invent a wholly new market from scratch - they usually want to invest in new ways to exploit an existing market.

    An emerging example is "sugar" ... see if you can find a processed food on the shelf without sugar.
    Do all of them need sugar? You'll find a lot online about the so-called "drug" qualities of sugar ... most of it just scare-mongering, but... it's a thought aye? Maybe not sugar - maybe something like that?

    But I still think your aim is too nebulous.
    What is it about the ethical and non-ethical stocks you want to compare?
    Or another way: what are the stakes? What happens if your presentation is a good one or a bad one?
    Will people be making investment decisions based on what you say for example?

    You don't seem to know what you want to say - until you do, you won't be able to narrow down your inquiry.
    Do you want to see if there are indicators that an existing, but maybe low-profile, product is following the addiction/compulsion style of marketing/trends?

    One of the things you are moving away from though is the biology of addiction.
    It's basically a side-note. Do read the dopamine thing though ... if a company decides to expoint the D2 mechanism, like what casino's do, then they want to set up "almost fun" situations.

    Mostly I think advertisers exploit the fear effect that can produce addictive behavior in some people.
    So I think you want to look first at models for exploiting addictive behavior... these will overlap with normal manufacture and marketing: you want the public to like your product right?

    Figure out which models are most relevant to your audience: how long is the presentation?
    That gets you to a model of how a legal addiction industry of that type could emerge.
    That will let you focus on a type of addiction - which leads you to a product type.
    You can list the identifiers for that product, then peruse the appropriate marketplace to see if there are any particular products that should be watched.
  12. Mar 11, 2014 #11
    The water pipe afficiondos sure want their "habit" to become an industry. Many immigrants from middle eastern countries are very enthusiastic about it - both users and investors.
  13. Mar 12, 2014 #12


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    The problem with sugar is that it is everywhere, legal, cheap, available to anyone, worldwide. How would they exploit something that is so widespread and legal already? It would make more sense to look at something that a lot of people would want, if it was legal, doesn't really have a legal producer yet (but it's coming), something of that nature, where they can get in on the ground floor with marketing, is actually addictive, and the profits could be huge and immediate.
  14. Mar 12, 2014 #13


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    Shishas (which is what I assume you are referring to) are used to smoke tobacco, no new market there.

    To the OP: I think it would be important to look up the different types of addiction. You probably don't need to go into the biology behind addiction because unless it's a straight forward physiological addiction discussing dopamine or the reward system in the brain is really tangential.

    One idea of something that is legal in some parts of the world but not others is internet gambling. I'm not sure if you intended to cover that when you mention gambling but the fact that it is constantly at ones fingertips changes things.
  15. Mar 12, 2014 #14


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    The claim is that major food producers have tailored the levels of fat, sugar and salt in their products such that they stimulate reward pathways in the brain and become addictive. There is some research to suggest this is true (here is one example of a recent study that got much press attention). Such work may form the basis for lawsuits against food companies along the lines of the lawsuits made against the tobacco industry, though the situation is not completely analogous.
  16. Mar 12, 2014 #15

    Simon Bridge

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    The argument would be that ti is already exploited.
    You don't have to have a monopoly in something to exploit it for profit.

    Also it is not clear that manufacturers have been deliberately taking advantage of the (claimed) addictive powers of sugar ... yet. So it is an example of something that is already around, but which addiction properties may be under-exploited. It is only a suggestion, that this may be the sort of thing to look for (i.e. not sugar but something like sugar), which may not suit OPs purposes.

    ... or it may just be that producers want people to like their food, and these combinations score well in market tests. Whatever, it is not the purpose of this thread to discuss the merits of the case against sugar or any other claimed addictive substance or activity.

    Remember - we have not been told the actual purpose of the presentation.
    I don't want to make assumptions about that.

    This has potential to be an inflammatory topic - lets be careful.

    The idea is to try to identify the next big thing for a Business-type presentation related to business ethics.
    Rather than propose candidates ourselves, how about concentrating on how OP could go about finding one that suits the needs of the presentation?

    OP probably has enough to start with for now anyway.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2014
  17. Mar 12, 2014 #16
    Thanks to everyone that has replied, great information pointing me in the right direction.

    Evo - " It would make more sense to look at something that a lot of people would want, if it was legal, doesn't really have a legal producer yet (but it's coming), something of that nature, where they can get in on the ground floor with marketing, is actually addictive, and the profits could be huge and immediate."

    ^This would be exactly the kind of company/industry I'd want to talk about...A company/industry at that stage mentioned by Evo...

    Also Ryan M B mentioned Internet gambling...This might be exactly the kind of example I am looking for...Combined with already widespread internet addiction and gambling addiction this has all the makings of a very common widespread habit. It's already pretty huge and is most likely going to become bigger.
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