What really causes a person to become addicted to drugs? Is the chemical in the drug strong enough to cause people to continuously crave more? If that were the case, how is it that many medical drug users do not become addicts?
What is really driving the war on drugs? Have we been believing something for so long that is flawed in its essence?
In an increasingly popular TED Talk, Johann Hari famously concludes that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it is human connection.
The rat park experiment
One of the ways this understanding of addiction evolved was the famous study in the 1980s of rats in a cage. Given a choice between water laced with drugs, or pure water, most often, the rats chose the drugs. They eventually became addicted, consuming the drugs repeatedly until they died.
Bruce Alexander, a professor of Psychology in Vancouver, noted that perhaps the rats resorted to the drug because they are all alone in the cage with no stimulation. He put the rats in cages with other rats, toys, tunnels, and food, and noted that rats in a social situation will react differently. Some of these rats tried both types of water, but they didn’t become heavy users of the drug-laced water. And none of them died.
Alexander carried out additional studies with rats and discovered that if he took solitary, drug-addicted rats and placed them in a cage with other rats and social stimulation, they no longer heavily used the drug-laced water.
Human beings crave connection, bonding, and love. When meaningful connection is missing from our lives, an addiction may begin to fill the void. The good news is that this is something that can be overcome.
When you view the war on drugs in this light, trying to eliminate the drugs—the addictive chemicals—will never end addiction completely because it avoids a deeper problem in society—a lack of connection. There is an alternative. You can build a system that is designed to help drug addicts to reconnect with the world—and so leave behind their addictions.
For more information, we recommend you read the full article here.