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By Stanton Peele

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Yet many such people still refuse to smoke. Many simply rule it out of their lives for any of a variety of reasons—health, appearance, or their general feeling that it’s bad. Values do not simply dictate whether you do or don’t try a drink, a cigarette, or a drug. They also influence whether you continue to indulge in an activity or substance and how much you will allow your indulgence to affect your life before you limit or quit your involvement. Finally, at a deeper level, values determine how intensely and how irreversibly you become addicted.

Major interest was aroused by the publication (in December 2001) in the New England Journal of Medicine of a study that examined alcoholics given the one drug approved for treating alcoholism in the last twenty years—naltrexone. This drug supposedly eliminates alcoholics’ craving to drink. Naltrexone is also used as a cure for heroin addiction. 19 Addiction will never be cured by a pill. Indeed, when you understand addiction, the idea of a pill for curing it makes no sense. That is because addiction results when people’s lives are unbalanced.

Let’s examine the remarkable story of my uncle Ozzie. Ozzie was born in Russia in 1915 but came to the United States as a small child. As a teenager he developed an addiction to smoking. Outwardly calm, Ozzie did not have obvious reasons for smoking. Nonetheless, he continued to smoke into the early 1960s. But Ozzie quit smoking in 1963, the year before the surgeon general’s 1964 report on the cancer-causing nature of cigarettes gave many people a reason to quit. I didn’t actually notice my uncle had quit until years after the fact, when I saw him at a family gathering when I was home from school, after I had become interested in the question of addiction.

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