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Prescription Drug Abuse

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Prescription Drug Abuse

Aldous Huxley's novel Brave New World, written in 1932, is about a futuristic society that is governed by technology and drugs. One way the society is governed by technology is through the control of reproduction. This type of control is brought out by the surgical removal of ovaries, the Bokanovsky Process, and hypnopaedic conditioning. In addition to being governed by technology, the society is also governed by a drug called soma, a drug that controls emotion. In this society, the people are not supposed to have any emotions, and when they start to have an emotion, they get scared and take soma. The use of soma takes years off their lives, but an overdose can kill them. This drug is widely used in order for people to control their emotions. Even though Brave New World is about a fictional futuristic society, the drug abuse depicted in this novel is similar to drug abuse in today's society.

In the novel, the drug soma is first discussed when Henry offers some to Bernard. Henry tries to convince him to take it by explaining all the benefits of the drug. Henry describes the drug as, "'All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of the defects'" (Huxley 36). Henry is implying that soma provides the feeling of what Christianity brings, such as peace and contentment, and the relaxed feeling of alcohol without the hangover. Henry goes on to say, "'Take a holiday from reality whenever you like, and come back without so much as a headache or a mythology'" (Huxley 36). Bernard is disgusted with the offer and shouts, "'Damn you, damn you!'" to Henry (Huxley 36). Lenina, Franny, and Henry all leave laughing as he says, "'And do remember a gramme is better than a damn'" (Huxley 37).

When Bernard finally does take soma, it does not make him happy with his place in life. Soma is a very one-dimensional euphoriant (Pearce). It gives rise to only a shallow, unempathetic, and intellectually uninteresting well-being (Pearce). David Pearce describes the drug in his article titled Brave New World? A Defence Of Paradise-Engineering:

The drug is said to be better than (promiscuous) sex - the only sex brave new worlders practice. But a regimen of soma does not deliver anything sublime of life-enriching. It does not catalyse any mystical epiphanies, intellectual breakthroughs or life-defining insights. It does not in any way promote personal growth. Instead, soma provides a mindless, inauthentic "imbecile happiness" - a vacuous escapism which makes people comfortable with their lack of freedom. The drug heightens suggestibility, leaving its users vulnerable to government propaganda. Soma is a narcotic that raises "a quite impenetrable wall between the actual universe and their minds" (Pearce).

The society believes that whenever they are feeling too emotional, "'...there is always soma, delicious soma, half a gramme for a half-holiday, a gramme for a week-end, two grammes for a trip to the gorgeous East, three for a dark eternity on the moon...'" (Huxley 37). The drug is so powerful that they even equate it with love. When Lenina and Fanny are discussing Lenina's feelings for John, Lenina sings this song:

Hug me till you drug me, honey;

Kiss me till I'm in a coma:

Hug me, honey, snuggly bunny;

Love's as good as soma. (Huxley 112)

Clearly, soma is associated with pleasurable and euphoric emotions, like those experienced by someone in love.

Later in the novel, Huxley further conveys the society's reliance on and acceptance of soma. John is trying to convince the society that there is a God, but Mustapha, the leader of the society, argues:

And if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there's always soma to give you a holiday from the facts. And there's always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training.

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