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I'm working on a sci fi story with bio-punk elements in it (such as gene manipulation). This has brought up a problem with one of the sub plots, however, as I am unaware of whether or not an extreme healing factor would make the effects of certain drugs null and void. The main character has a healing factor that can heal him from everything except specialized venoms and EXTREME bodily harm. He acquired this healing factor by a combination of nanobots and a genetic alteration in the form of a injection that simply added genes to him (specifically the regenerative genes of the axolotl). Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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    $\begingroup$ Is there a reason you believe there is exactly one answer to this yes/no question? It really depends entierly on what you feel like your gene manipulation and nanobots should do. If you want them to protect from a list of drugs, include the genes/nanobots to prevent the effects. If you don't want them to protect from a list of dugs, don't include any genes/nanobots which affect those drugs. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Aug 11, 2017 at 23:36
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    $\begingroup$ Being so dependent on your design choices, we really shouldn't be doing this here. I will offer that it essentially comes down to how he metabolizes things. If every pathway in his body is otherwise normal, addiction is possible. If the wrong uptake factors are fast, addiction is more likely. If his kidneys and liver are working overtime, he may not be able to benefit from some, or any, drugs. I have an ex wife who seems to be immune to all but the most powerful classes of opioid painkillers, and they exit her system strangely fast - like, no sign they were there. $\endgroup$
    – user8827
    Aug 12, 2017 at 3:58
  • $\begingroup$ Addiction woul work exactly the same, but the detoxification/withdrawal would process would be less dangerous. $\endgroup$
    – pojo-guy
    Aug 12, 2017 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ On a macabre note, this creates a unique form of torture suited to your character's strengths - repeated forced addiction and detox. /shudder $\endgroup$
    – pojo-guy
    Aug 12, 2017 at 13:39

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The challenge you face here is that you're not really using science to define these properties. You are using magic, and giving it a thin skin of science to make it look like science. It is important to admit this, because the real answer is that you need to make a decision about your magic, and if you believe the science has defined an answer for you you will find yourself constrained.

Let's say you want your magic to not mess with drugs and alcohol. You define it as such, and now it is true (within your world). Now you have to skin this as science. Simply don't have the nanobots recognize the effects of drugs and alcohol as something worth "healing." Perhaps the developers of this capability were friendly, and decided to identify the effects of compounds that are "generally recognized as safe" and not trigger healing on them.

Let's say you want your magic to mess with all drugs and alcohol. You define it as such, and now it is true (within your world). Now you have to skin this as science. Have your nanobots identify any compound which exists outside of normal life scales and neutralize it. Want the painkilling capabilities of endorphins while still being unaffected by morphine? No problem. Simply have the nanobots recognize the emission of endorphins and mix it with their own signal which says "let these signals through."

Want your magic to have a list of drugs which don't affect your main character? You define it as such, and now it is true (within your world). Now you have to skin this as science. Simply have the nanobots recognize those drugs, and neutralize them. Instead of focusing on maintaining a "normal brain state" as you would for neutralizing all drugs/alcohol, have tailored capabilities which identify the drugs and neutralize them directly.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm confused as to how any of it is magic. I'll give you that nanobots aren't even a possibility yet, however the way nanobots function in my story is that they simply travel through the blood stream and into the heart and brain to give off electric shocks whenever it detects any electronic abnormalities. Genetic engineering (even to a degree almost as exact as that) has been done in the real world, just to a smaller scale. We have even created goats that produce spider silk in their milk. However, maybe I'm just blinded by something and can't see it, so please tell me exactly what was magical $\endgroup$
    – Devon
    Aug 13, 2017 at 9:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Devon The magic part is having super-human regeneration which can heal him from virtually anything. That's magic. Perhaps it's Arthur C. Clarke's magic ("Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.") The point is, don't limit yourself to what you think science says. Science doesn't say anything about this particular case. Honestly, if it does, it would be quick to say that healing abilities like you describe are impossible without magic. (a reality based version would have to deal with things like massive amnesia if you took a large blow to the head $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Aug 13, 2017 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ ... due to the loss of information during the impact.) $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Aug 13, 2017 at 16:15
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Yes, addiction is possible

Addiction drugs or alcohol don't often start as a physical need for the chemical. Usually, there's some kind of psychological need that chemical fills. People often drink to forget. Junkies get high to escape their circumstances or to compensate for some other mental health issue.

Being able to quickly heal from physical trauma isn't going to save this person from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or the loss of a loved one. The psychological trauma will still be there. Self-medicating with alcohol and drugs is a very common thing to happen.

Unless the nanobots and genetic alterations are specifically designed to sweep drugs and alcohol from his system, he's going to feel the physiological and psychological effects of those chemicals.

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When you say certain drugs I assume you mean heroin and cocaine, not viagra. This premise opens the door to some cool things.

Suppose the main character misses the feeling of being altered / other / not in control - the feelings conferred by some of these drugs. The drugs now do nothing to him. It is much like an addict who must push to higher and higher doses to get the desired high.

To get the edgy out of control feeling he craves he must take things to a greater extreme - to situations his healing factor can correct, but not easily or immediately. Maybe things like immolation or electrocution, or pushing a knife through his eye into his brain. Just as an addicts metabolism ramps up to deal with ever greater amounts of drug I could imagine his nanobots can learn and so the third time he grabs the live wire - nothing.

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Since it is unlikely every physiological system and component would be included in the regenerative processes, it would be necessary to develop a small amount of detail as to what is or is not so affected. This is of particular importance when dealing with chemicals such as dopamine, etc. and the receptors and inhibitors in the brain which govern such activity.

In other words, does this regeneration cover brain synapses, etc.? If not, addiction would likely flourish in similar fashion with or without the regeneration.

Regarding usage (could they get high?), consider the same argument but also add speed of regeneration into the mix for affirmative responses to brain regeneration. If the regeneration process was fast enough, it may be possible to negate the intoxicating effects of some or all narcotics.

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Yes, maybe.

  1. It is likely that any substance that would have a physical effect on him would be lethal to anyone else. It would have to be exotic and, as you pointed out a "specialized venom." That would mean that someone would have to target him specifically and that they would then have a lot of control over him since there would only be one source for his fix.
  2. Anything can be psychologically addictive. If french onion soup brings back vivid memories of good times with his dead wife, he might not be able to function without his french onion soup.
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