So what is a pacifier? It is anything you do to soothe yourself when you are feeling uncomfortable. Some of these, like drugs, alcohol, or gambling have all been known to cause serious problems in some people’s lives. That is primarily because people feel extreme levels of discomfort and want soothing. That, and the amount of dopamine, and other chemicals, these substances and activities are known to release in a user, are such, that the person can easily be taken well beyond comfort and straight to escape.
Today, in our consumer society, we’ve learned so much about how to activate these dopamine responses in people that almost everything we engage in is connected to “feeling good.” This creates a dangerous environment because if something doesn’t engage a dopamine response it is likely that a person will feel discomfort because they have an expectation of things making them “feel good.” It is this that then turns people to search for a pacifier.
The thing about pacifiers is that they are often things that are simply what we enjoy doing. However, there are times when we will engage them less as a healthy enjoyment and more as an escape. We have to understand that it is within the expectation to be comfortable, or happy, that can get us turning to our pacifiers and those can turn out to become addictions in our lives.
I agree that there are some substances that are far easier to become addicted to than others. However, in the world of addiction, we are going to want to step away from trying to define things as addictive or not addictive. This sort of approach has primarily been used to allow people to engage in pacifiers, at a greater level than is healthy, simply because they are not classified as addictive. These definitions also create bias, as well as stigma, depending on what drug you are engaging. If we look at “Cali Sober” there is a further stigmatizing of opioids and alcohol, which are deemed addictive, while marijuana and psilocybin as seen as saviors due to the widespread idea they are not addictive. As it relates to stigma, the idea of being addicted to a substance frame the one who suffers from addiction as weak.
In all mental health and addiction work we need to begin to center on the person we are working with and stop looking at the substance or behaviors as addictive or not. Anyone can have a problem abusing anything in their lives. If we are turning to something to help us "feel good" we are turning away from our own ability to be content in the moment and that is the prize of living.