What causes addiction? Many shake their heads at the various forms of drugs that infiltrate our society and take over loved ones,’ acquaintances’ and strangers’ lives. We try to blame these poisons for people’s addictions because we believe the very fundamental value of humans is better than that. But is it the drugs that we should really be pointing the finger at?
The following video is adapted from Johann Hari’s New York Times best-selling book Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. They explain that, beyond the idea of the definition of an addiction, which says that, after 21 days of use, your body will begin to crave that substance as a result of chemical hooks in the drug, it is also our connection to each other and our environment that has an immense impact.
Based on studies, the theory presented in the video maintains that when we are taken out of what we consider to be a positive social environment, and put into grim circumstances or find ourselves utterly alone, addiction arises. In one study, for example, a rat placed alone in a cage with two options of water — regular water or water laced with heroin — chose the heroin until it died. Rats put into a heaven-like rat park, on the other hand, preferred the regular water. During the Vietnam War, 20 percent of soldiers took up heroin while serving. When they returned, they stopped and took up normal life. Why is this? Because, as the video puts it, “It’s not the chemicals, it’s your cage.”
As humans, we have a natural desire to bond and connect. When we have a positive environment in which to do so, we will be healthy and happy. When we are isolated, living out a life filled with fear and sadness, such as, say, a rat in a cage or a soldier in war, we turn to something that will alleviate the absence of the bond and connection we need. That addiction could be anything from endlessly staring at our phones to playing video games to watching porn to doing drugs. “We will bond with something because that’s our human nature,” they say.
What the video concludes is that we need to stop focusing on individual recovery and more on social recovery. We need to stop making an environment that looks more like a desolate cage and more like a beautiful park.
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