In Brave New World, drugs aren't just pretty common; they're distributed en masse by the government. Yes, the government. So much for Just Say No, right? The drug in question here is soma, a hallucinogen described as "the perfect drug," with all the benefits (calming, surrealistic, ten-hour long highs) and none of those pesky drawbacks (you know, like brain damage). The citizens of the "World State" have been conditioned to love the drug, and they use it to escape any momentary bouts of dissatisfaction. And we mean any sense of dissatisfaction. The problem, as one character identifies, is that the citizens are essentially enslaved by the drug and turned into mindless drones. So while the government may encourage drug use, it only does so as a means of further controlling the population. How much power do these guys need?
Questions About Drugs and Alcohol
Everyone makes a big deal out of the fact that soma doesn't have the nasty after-effects of, say, alcohol (hangovers, guilt, shame, pregnancy). If this is true, why do we find its use morally reprehensible? Actually, does the reader find it morally reprehensible?
Why does Bernard seem to be magically immune to soma at the Solidarity Service?
Does soma make its users happy, or does it simply remove all emotion?
Chew on This
The need for soma represents the failure of the World State to adequately satisfy its citizens.
Soma is the World State's most powerful tool to subdue and control its citizens. Without soma, even hypnopaedia would be ineffective.