In the old Buddhist perspective, ignorance is a necessary condition of craving and craving is a necessary condition of suffering. In short, this philosophy teaches us that we can avoid craving from being aware or knowledgeable because ignorance leads to craving that eventually leads to suffering.
Despite the fact that the world has changed and modernized immensely throughout the years, many people have chosen to be ignorant enough to take addictive substances that often push them to crave for more and eventually suffer in the end. In fact, craving is a common occurrence among alcohol and drug dependent people, as it is a condition even worsened by other physical symptoms—the so-called withdrawal syndrome like profuse sweating, anxiety, tremors; elevated blood pressure; and even psychological seizures.
In the field of science, we have encountered the term “classical conditioning”, which is built on the foundation of operant conditioning. Classical conditioning teaches drug users to associate ordinary things and events with drug use. Over time, these ordinary things can provoke craving, intensifying the motivation to take more drugs. In fact, classical conditioning was discovered by a Russian scientist in his work with animals. While feeding the dogs, the scientist noticed that the animals began to salivate long before he placed food on their plate.
Hypothesizing that something besides food must be triggering this response, the scientist set up an experiment to test his idea. Every time he got ready to feed his dogs, he first rang a bell. Soon the animals learned that the ringing bell signalled they were about to be fed, and they began to salivate at the sound of the bell. The animals began to crave for food when they hear the bell’s ringing. They learned to associate a previously meaningless stimulus – the bell, with one that was important for their survival – food, which they needed to eat.
We can relate this to the effect of drug and alcohol to addicts. Because of the discomforts caused by withdrawal syndrome, they cannot survive without drugs and alcohol triggering them to crave intensely for these things.
So, what can be done to kiss away these undesirable cravings for drugs and alcohol? Are they doomed to suffer for the rest of their lives as addicts? What can be done is that alcoholics and drug addicts should be willing to let go of their undesirable habit. They should seek professional help and undergo rehabilitation. After treatment, they should stay away from drugs and alcohol to avoid relapse.
It is precisely during this period, when addicts are trying to avoid alcohol and drug use, that unanticipated cravings can undermine good intentions. During recovery, addicts are fighting well-entrenched behaviors that lead to their addiction. Thus, they should develop intense will and thorough knowledge of consequences to avoid falling prey to ignorance that could lead to suffering again.