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glenjamin's avatar

How would you put addiction into a mathematical equation?

Asked by glenjamin (2497points) December 2nd, 2011

Been thinking about this, and here’s how I see it.

The variables are as follows, I will use smoking as an example, but this can be used for anything.

W = want for addictive substance/behavior, in this case cigarettes
U = use of addictive substance/behavior, i.e. smoking
C = [negative] consequences of add. sub/beh. – i.e. cancer

Assuming the following set of equations is true….

W=U (want equals, or leads to use)
U=C (use equals, or leads to negative consequences)

then W=C, logically this would mean that a smoker wants to get cancer. But for most smokers this is not the case. What is missing is the variable of D, denial, a crucial component to addiction. So in the addicts mind there is this hidden variable throwing the equation off

it really looks like
W+D !=(does not equal) C

Subtracting denial from the equation, then the want for cigarettes would equal the negative consequences, and the logic will be restored. Therefore, all variables will be set to zero,
This person has no want for the substance, doesn’t use it because of this, and avoids the negative consequences involved.

I would like to see what kinds of equations you can come up with, or if you think mine is good.

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9 Answers

Blondesjon's avatar


wonderingwhy's avatar

W > {C} : W = U AND W ∈ U.
Want is greater than the set of consequence such that want leads to use and want is an element of use.

U >> {C,W} : U = U AND W ∉ U.
Use is much greater than the set of consequence and want such that use leads to use and want is no longer an element of use.

I’m sure that can all be expressed better but someone with greater math skills than my own lacking ability will have to do it and hopefully show how use is a function of want when use is minimal but quickly overpowers want even when the consequences outweigh want and when the want is no longer leads use but rather becomes negative as it were.

jellyfish3232's avatar

Just multiply it by pi and include greek characters as variables – that ought to make it look more official.

cockswain's avatar

Nerdy as it sounds, I’d make a vortex shaped vector field.

JLeslie's avatar

I think maybe you are missing Discomfort. The addict feels discomfort and wants to get rid of that feeling. The immediate is more important at the moment than the long term consequence of cancer. The bad feeling can be physical withdrawal, boredom, sadness, anxiety, many things. I am not even sure denial is part of the equation always? Many smokers know they can get cancer. True they might hope or think it won’t happen to them.

We could call the discomfort the Event, E, if we want to keep D for denial.

Not sure how to write it as an equation?


Mariah's avatar

I wouldn’t use equal signs.

I would say U∝W-O (use is proportionate to want minus “O” which I’ll explain below)
O ∝N/D (O is basically a measure of to what extent a person consciously overrides their desires, and I’m setting it proportionate to “N” – understanding of the negative effects of smoking – divided by D, denial)
C ∝U (consequences are proportionate to use)

And I would use addiction like this:

W ∝A+E (want is proportionate to addiction plus else, other being reasons besides addiction why a person might want to smoke).

In reality, these equations are certainly more nuanced and there are probably many more variables.

Mariah's avatar

^ scratch the word “being” in that second to last sentence.

smilingheart1's avatar

I have heard it said the way to get back your wife, family and stuff is to play country and western songs backward. It all comes home. So that would mean backwards equals forwards or – = + forever.

Zyx's avatar

Addiction is a different thing for each substance or combination of substances. What you’re trying to do is improbable and would require decades of research. Mental addiction is just a choice other people disapprove of. Whenever people say they understand something but they still want to destroy it I puke a little. Also you’ll need to factor in arrogance.

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