One of the most influential studies showed that rats, when isolated, would overdose on a bottle that was heroin-laced rather than drink from the plain water. However, when the rats were in a so-called “rat park,” there was virtually a zero craving for the drug-laced water – when they enjoyed happy and connected lives.
Applying that to humans, it seems that the connection with others can be tremendously beneficial.
Instead, we currently put barriers in place to prevent the addicts from connecting.
In human experiments, it was clear, though humans may be exposed to drugs, they do not all become addicts.
“In the Vietnam war, 20 per cent of all American troops were using loads of heroin. The worry was that millions would become heroin addicts. As it turns out, after the war, 95 per cent of those troops just stopped using heroin.” They did not become addicts.
If you believe the story about “chemical hooks,” that result makes absolutely no sense. Professor Alexander, a Canadian from Vancouver, thought there might be a different reason for addiction and began experimenting. What if addiction is about your “cage” – the isolation experienced by one group of rats that actually overdosed on the heroin compared to the “rat park” where there was connection with others. Could addiction be an adaptation to your environment?
Peter Cohen in the Netherlands went further and suggested that maybe we shouldn’t even call it addiction. Maybe we should call it bonding. Human beings have a natural and innate need to bond. When we are happy and healthy, we bond and connect with each other. But if you can’t do that because you’re traumatized or isolated or beaten down by life, you will bond with something that will give you some sense of relief. That might be gambling, cocaine, cannabis… but you will bond and connect with something because that’s our nature.
The speaker uses an audience situation as an analogy. Many in the audience have a bottle of water beside them. And he suggests that, quite without notice, many of those bottles of water could contain vodka. He suggests that the audience could all be drinking vodka and getting drunk. He says that they could all be drinking vodka for the next six months, and they would not end up homeless. But they are not going to do that.
Speaking directly to the audience, he says that the reason you’re not going to do that is not because anyone is stopping you, but because you have bonds and connections you want to be present for – you’ve got work you love, people you love, and healthy relationships.
The speaker feels that much about addiction is that the individual cannot bear to be present in his own life.
He describes situations where clear barriers were put in place to prevent the addicts from returning successfully to society.
…It’s an excellent talk in about 15 minutes – and it’s worthwhile to view.
If your email did not show you the link, try this: https://www.ted.com/talks/johann_hari_everything_you_think_you_know_about_addiction_is_wrong?language=en
A total of 3 of our members were able to join – Lou, Henriette, and Kitty