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The Role of the Feedback Loop in Solving Addiction Problems
The problem with addiction is that it is one that feeds on itself. Often known as a vicious circle it a phenomena known to scientists as a positive feedback loop. Whilst such loops can be beneficial under certain conditions they are usually a problem to be avoided and there are measures that can sometimes be taken to solve them. The first of these measures is limiting exposure which in this case means limiting the availability of the substance feeding the addiction to a constant amount. Whilst this prevents the addiction from escalating it is evident that it will be ineffective in moving towards a cure but simply prolong the problem. It would in any case have to be supervised by another person who would be aware of the wiles an addict might use to hide the habit and the source of more drugs. In contrast, to limiting the amount, the second method is more drastic and entails cutting off the supply completely, sometimes known as the cold turkey cure and usually considered too drastic. It is preferable to remove the desire for more drugs by a substitute that weans the addict off the drug, perhaps by virtue of removing the benefit that the addict enjoys, equivalent to opening the feedback loop. An alternative is to introduce a delay in the loop. An interesting question is whether the delay could be gradually increased so that eventually the addict is weaned off the drug. Perhaps a similar effect could be achieved by reducing the dose gradually at each fix, or by diluting the concentration, which is equivalent to reducing the gain of the loop. We then move to the 6th method, the external influence, implying that other people take action, usually perhaps at a treatment centre where a strict discipline is enforced. The external influence will also include police action to stem the provision of drugs that entice the addict on a continuing basis. Evidently the addict needs to want to be cured of the addiction. Education on the consequences will be important as will the company the addict keeps. It is important not to be in the company of fellow addicts who reinforce the behaviour and provide the temptation by try "just one more". Methods for curing problems come under the heading of compensating feedback loops. Compensating feedback may be advice on the outcomes of the habit but will be stronger if the addicts educate themselves on the consequences of continuing addiction and take the necessary steps to cure themselves. The final consideration is the need to realise that they are unable to resist the temptation even if only a small sample is taken. Like alcoholics, who think that one drink won't hurt, the will power to stop is not there and they will find it impossible to limit themselves to just one (or two... ). To control their habit the only cure is complete abstention. These comments have been by way of example but a more thorough investigation would be by using these examples in order to trigger a brainstorming session. Such sessions can be applied to all kinds of problems and offer the potential to consider other possible alternatives.
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