…It’s human connection.
This is according to a very recent Huffington Post article published January 20 by author Johann Hari. In the article, he said there is an alternative to physically eradicating the chemicals that cause addiction, and that is to build a system that is designed to help drug addicts to reconnect with the world–and so leave behind their addictions.
Hari points out one of the most common arguments of many addiction experts, scientists, and sociologists today: Addiction is caused by people’s disconnection from each other and from their world. They feel alone and thus look for a companion, a haven, a go-to: addiction.
In a 1970s experiment conducted by Bruce Alexander, Professor of Psychology in Vancouver, he tried to challenge a previous experiment used in an advertisement where a rat in a cage was given two bottles of water, with one laced with heroin or cocaine. Nine out of ten, the rats would choose the drugged waters and use it until it dies. Alexander argues that the rats in the experiment are put in a cage alone and has nothing else to do but to take drugs.
Thus, he creates another experiment where he builds a Rat Park with a spacious cafe filled with colored balls and all types of rat food and tunnels to keep them occupied. Here, the rats are together, much like a community that mirrors a typical human community full of activities and friends. And then, he adds two bottles of water as well, with one laced with drugs. The rats tried the drugged water, but consumed less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated drugs used. They didn’t like it. In fact, none of them died. The experiment concluded that the rats who had a happy environment did not rely or even like drugs.
Professor Alexander then conducted the second phase of his experiment, there he put a different set of rats in isolation with the two bottles of water and see if they will be hooked on the one with the drugged water. After fifty-seven days, he put them into the Rat Park and put the two bottles of water again. Amazingly, the rats seemed to have a few twitches of withdrawal–but they soon stopped their heavy use and went back to a normal life in the Rat Park.
“The good cage saved them,” says Hari. In his article, Hari cites real-life, human situations that present parallels to the good cage/bad cage rat experiment.
Hari’s article sheds a different light on addiction and our world’s role in the birth of an addict. As we progress towards modernity and the digital age, our lives have become a world of “instant” gratifications, where us as humans can live every day of our lives cut off from all human connections. However, we are bonding animals who need to feel connection, acknowledgement, and love. Without human connections, we turn to other things to bond to–such as cocaine and heroin. This disproves the belief–actually a misconception–that addiction is caused by drugs. Today, people suffer from all kinds of addiction such as gambling, pornography, video games, online shopping, social media, and so many more.
He ends his article by saying, “For a century now, we have been singing war songs about addicts. It occurred to me–we should have been singing love songs to them all along.”
Addiction is a disease caused by a lack of connection. Instead of being an individual problem, addiction must be looked at as a disease of our society. Only then will we ever be closer to winning this war.
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