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The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.

LincLinc Community InstigatorDetroit Moderator
edited February 2015 in Diet & Habits

The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think

Addiction is common topic of conversation here. This is the most startling, thought-provoking thing I've read on the subject.

One of the ways this theory was first established is through rat experiments -- ones that were injected into the American psyche in the 1980s, in a famous advert by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. You may remember it. The experiment is simple. Put a rat in a cage, alone, with two water bottles. One is just water. The other is water laced with heroin or cocaine. Almost every time you run this experiment, the rat will become obsessed with the drugged water, and keep coming back for more and more, until it kills itself.

The advert explains: "Only one drug is so addictive, nine out of ten laboratory rats will use it. And use it. And use it. Until dead. It's called cocaine. And it can do the same thing to you."

But in the 1970s, a professor of Psychology in Vancouver called Bruce Alexander noticed something odd about this experiment. The rat is put in the cage all alone. It has nothing to do but take the drugs. What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently? So Professor Alexander built Rat Park. It is a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want. What, Alexander wanted to know, will happen then?

In Rat Park, all the rats obviously tried both water bottles, because they didn't know what was in them. But what happened next was startling.

The rats with good lives didn't like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.

At first, I thought this was merely a quirk of rats, until I discovered that there was -- at the same time as the Rat Park experiment -- a helpful human equivalent taking place. It was called the Vietnam War. Time magazine reported using heroin was "as common as chewing gum" among U.S. soldiers, and there is solid evidence to back this up: some 20 percent of U.S. soldiers had become addicted to heroin there, according to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Many people were understandably terrified; they believed a huge number of addicts were about to head home when the war ended.

But in fact some 95 percent of the addicted soldiers -- according to the same study -- simply stopped. Very few had rehab. They shifted from a terrifying cage back to a pleasant one, so didn't want the drug any more.



  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    So addiction is an in-filler, a substitute, a stop-gap... it numbs the pain of an existence where every walk is a blind alley and dead-end....

    But isn't that the case with most 'addictions'...?

    Women who shop, people who hoard... these are forms of refuges from an otherwise isolating condition?
    Take the people away from their personal hells and the buffers they have created, and lives improve....?

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    I don't know, but it seems to me that this dovetails with the observable fact that those who are drug-addicted seem to me to be consistently and insistently self-centered. Sort of like the old joke, "... but enough about me. Let's talk about what you think about me."

    This is pretty much just thinking out loud.

  • howhow Veteran
    edited February 2015

    When I look at my own repeated attachments (addictions) I usually see the basis for it as my lack of acceptance for what is.
    It is not so much that I can appease the underlying cause of my attachment by making those conditions more pleasing, although it can help, but is rather by me being willing to actually accept those conditions exactly as they are.

    It is not much deeper than suffering (as opposed to pain) is just about what we cling to or push away.

  • HamsakaHamsaka goosewhisperer Polishing the 'just so' Veteran

    I read this same article a couple of weeks ago. I immediately resonated with it, having my own addictions to cope with and the uncomfortable truth of the article was a bull's eye. I didn't feel suddenly absolved or reassured at all :D which is always a good sign I'm witnessing some truth :bawling:

    And this truth fits right it with the others I've managed to reluctantly accept :)

    The whole subject matter has me wondering if people prone to addictions, which is all of us . . . but especially to forming 'relationships' with drugs or activities in a hard core way, have a disturbance in our ability to connect with others :( Kind of like a version of Attachment Disorder, maybe a 'lite' version of it.

  • @genkaku said:
    This is pretty much just thinking out loud.

    Addictive and self obsessive ain't it . . . :p

    My name is Crusty S Lobster and I am a narcissist. O.o

    Yep, nothing but us addicts here . . .

    . . . and now back to the pledge of sobrietrary . . . o:)

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