I came across this Huffington Post article about addiction the other day, shared on Facebook by Australia 21, which appears to be a progressive think-tank.
Whatever they are is irrelevant — they shared this article about addiction and it was a real game-changer for me, an addict.
It is a game-changer for me because the author, Johann Hari, puts forward a theory that explains in words a feeling i have long had (as an addict) about addiction being a symptom of our culture, rather than drugs being a cause of addiction. I mean addiction causes problems, sure, but ignoring the causes of addiction is a problem in itself.
Common sense, no?
This article gives me much hope that we are moving toward greater understanding — of ourselves, and of what Western so-called civilisation is missing to such an extent we are all addicted to something.
What we are missing is access to spiritual succour, to love — connection to each other, and to nature. We can change this, because we are becoming aware of it. So there is much hope for much love. Yes yes yes!
Below are some exceprts from the article that really resonated with me.
This new theory is such a radical assault on what we have been told that it felt like it could not be true. But the more scientists I interviewed, and the more I looked at their studies, the more I discovered things that don’t seem to make sense — unless you take account of this new approach.
In the article he describes how rats left alone in a cage with only heroin for company will consume the heroin until they die. Because they are lonely and heroin is their only friend. Put rats in cage with heroin among other things to play with, including each other, and the heroin loses its persuasive power.
They actually did this. The heroin-laced playground was called Rat Park, and Johann Hari makes a good analogy between the isolated rats in a cage and the way many of us conduct our lives in the West — alone, isolated from one another and nature, driven by the lie we’ve been told about the invisible hand of self-interest:
Professor Alexander argues this discovery is a profound challenge both to the right-wing view that addiction is a moral failing caused by too much hedonistic partying, and the liberal view that addiction is a disease taking place in a chemically hijacked brain. In fact, he argues, addiction is an adaptation. It’s not you. It’s your cage.
By identifying that our lack of connection is a major cause of addiction, we can see:
we should 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.
So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.
We are addicts because we are lonely, and sometimes it seems that drugs are our only friend. We need something like Rat Park — the Garden City movement is an interesting place to look if you’re interested in how we might recreate a human-size version.
Detractors of this theory will pull out the chemical-addiction card, saying shit like “It’s not our/society’s fault — these junkies chose to inject chemicals and now they’re hooked.” Like i suspected, this argument is probably Bullshit:
Are these scientists saying chemical hooks make no difference? It was explained to me — you can become addicted to gambling, and nobody thinks you inject a pack of cards into your veins. You can have all the addiction, and none of the chemical hooks.
I like a good, open-minded qualifier in an argument, so i was heartened to read on:
the story we have been taught about The Cause of Addiction lying with chemical hooks is, in fact, real, but only a minor part of a much bigger picture.
After describing a decriminalistion case in Portugal, he says:
They resolved to decriminalize all drugs, and transfer all the money they used to spend on arresting and jailing drug addicts, and spend it instead on reconnecting them — to their own feelings, and to the wider society.
At this point i’m thinking, Der. Demonise drug addicts by arresting them and throwing them into cells with each other, where they will learn to be yet-more-ruthless drug criminals because they are isolated from a loving society: nice one, the West.
we have created an environment and a culture that cut us off from connection, or offer only the parody of it offered by the Internet. The rise of 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.
The writer George Monbiot has called this “the age of loneliness.” We have created human societies where it is easier for people to become cut off from all human connections than ever before. Bruce Alexander — the creator of Rat Park — told me that for too long, we have talked exclusively about individual recovery from addiction. We need now to talk about social recovery — how we all recover, together, from the sickness of isolation that is sinking on us like a thick fog.
And finally, as if that were not profound enough, the conclusion of this article is so beautiful. But have a look — i don’t want to spoil it for you.