Can Tech and Brain Science Solve Maritime’s Drug Smuggling?

Guest Post by David Stephen

Europol often makes news for drug bust, including the recent interception of a 21 meter-long vessel, conveying over 4.6 tonnes of cocaine worth around EUR 150 million. Europol and partners, including the Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA] are focused on the supply side of the problem, with paths towards preventing the drugs and traffickers from reaching end users.

Can Tech and Brain Science Solve Maritime’s Drug Smuggling?

This important approach has saved lots of lives and continues to be necessary amid the growing problem of drug addiction, overdose and deaths. The maritime industry has also implemented several solutions like x-rays, newer scanners, cameras, and so on, to prevent the share of drug smuggling by sea.

The problem of drug trafficking and its part in organized crime strains law enforcement, the public health system and other aspects of society. Supply is one-half of the problem, with some suggesting that legalization of all drugs would fix the crime side of the problem. Maybe not.

The war on drugs has been the war on the supply of drugs, which has had mixed success. Drug traffickers evolve as enforcement does. However, where focus should shift to, after decades of this same approach is the demand side.

Why do people use drugs? That is a key reason drug trafficking is really a problem. If people don’t need it, then supply is unnecessary. So if the reason it is needed is known, found, understood and exposed to users, many may seek out harmless alternatives, starving the illegal drug scene of customers.

It is said that drugs give reward or pleasure—underwritten by dopamine. Neuroscience has studied dopamine, to understand what drugs do in the brain, for how it causes reward. But, there are several activities where reward is possible without drugs, sometimes including random pleasure or delight, after waking up, or doing nothing specifically.

There are other times too, where there is sadness or heaviness, without any particular reason. There are times when there should be reward, from a possible dopamine activity, but nothing like pleasure is felt. There is something about what molecules do in the brain and what the experience is.

There are people with mental illness or some with severe substance abuse disconnected from reality, where their lived experience requiring adjustment has no alarm from their conscious experience.

There is a brain pathway of experience, as important as the cellular and molecular pathways. The brain builds experience with the chemical and electrical signals of neurons, but those are not experienced. There is no experience of an electrical signal, or of a cell or molecule in a situation. Experience is the state that is used in interactions with the world like fear, interest, anxiety and so forth.

So how does the brain decide experience? Why is it that what should make happy does not always do, and what should cause sadness does not always do, even when external situations present?

Conceptually, experiences in the brain are given when quantities acquire properties. This means that properties are in destinations in the brain, quantities relay there to acquire them to give what gets experienced in any moment, matching with the external or not.

It is these, quantities and properties that cells and their signals in the brain build, for what is used to relate with the world. Molecules are not the last stop for what experiences are, like equating dopamine for reward, pleasure or anticipation, no, dopamine builds properties whose locations give reward or pleasure, when quantities get there. If they don’t, there is no reward or pleasure.

Dopamine depletion, in addiction cases, requiring more amount of a substance to get the high is also a properties situation, where the degree for the experience is higher, but dopamine is not the last stop.

This is how the brain, theoretically, should be understood for experience and why people use drugs, whatever benefits many derive from them, across situations.

Now, if this is known and exposed digitally across tech platform, many will have a direct insight to what goes on in the mind, for their need of harmful substances and risky behaviors, motivating a chance to seek alternatives or hasten the determination to stop.

Developing this, as a conceptual brain science model against drug demands could accelerate the progress that the maritime industry would make against drug trafficking, in the difficult problem that it is, across continents.

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