Addictive Tendencies

Working with clients with addiction has been more rewarding than I ever thought. I feel sad for the years that I had stereotyped individuals struggling with addictions.  

For some reason, when I heard people say,

“I don’t have addictive tendencies,”

I would wonder: why is it one human would have a greater chance of becoming an addict than another?    

My eyes were opened

I stumbled upon an article a few weeks ago that really opened my eyes and helped me view addiction in a new light.   The article is The Opposite of Addiction is not Sobriety, It’s Human Connection by Johann Hari. 

Addictive Tendencies - Rats
Rats Experiencing Drugged Water Continue to Return

In this article, Hari cites a study by Bruce Alexander in which he challenged the experiment where two rats put in a cage will always take the drugged water over the regular water and come back more and more until they die.

He thought: these rats are put in a cage alone, what would happen if we did it differently?  In one cage, he put the rats in all alone with the water.  In another, he constructed a lush cage with colored balls, tunnels, friends – everything a rat could want.  He called it Rat Park.

The results were astonishing

The rats in Rat Park tried both glasses of water, but this time, they didn’t continue drinking the drugged water, they shunned it.   None of them died or became “users”,  while all the rats who were alone and “unhappy” became heavy users.    

Professor Alexander argues this discovery challenges both right-wing views that addiction is a moral failing and also the liberal view stating that addiction is a disease from chemical hijacking in the brain.   Alexander concluded that addiction is an adaptation.   “It’s not you.  It’s your cage” (Hari, 2015).    

Professor Peter Cohen believed that human beings need to bond and form connections.  “If we can’t connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find.”   He felt that we needed to stop talking about “addiction” altogether and instead call it “bonding”.  A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn’t bond as fully with anything else (Hari, 2015).

Hari (2015) believes that “the rise in addiction is a symptom of a deeper sickness in the way we live- constantly directing our gaze towards the next shiny object we should buy, rather than the human beings all around us.”

Up til now, we have largely talked about individual recovery from addiction.  Perhaps it’s time we start looking at “social recovery” – how we can all recover together.   I hope we can begin shifting our gaze toward each other and recognize the importance of our most powerful ability: the ability to connect.

To read the complete article: