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Everything We Think We Know About Addiction Is Wrong
Created By Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell
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When you think about addiction, what do you think causes it? The common answer is that “drugs cause addiction”, but Johann Hari believes otherwise. If you are of this common mindset as well, hopefully after watching this video you gain a new perspective on the root cause of addiction.
If you injure yourself badly and need severe pain medication at the hospital, you will likely be given Diamorphine. What is Diamorphine you ask? It’s a fancy word for medical Heroin, and it’s much stronger than anything someone could get on the street since it’s not diluted with other additives.
If the “drugs cause addiction” theory was true, then it would be reasonable to think that certain people in hospitals receiving deluxe medical heroin for weeks or months would become addicts. According to Johann this has been closely studied and it doesn’t happen. So the real question remains...why?
An experiment was conducted in the 20th century that placed a rat in a cage and the rat was given two tubes of liquid to drink from. One was filled with water, and the other was filled with water laced with heroin or cocaine. In nearly every case, the rat becomes obsessed with the drugged water until it killed itself.
Bruce Alexander, a professor of Psychology, examined this experiment and noticed that the rat was alone with nothing else to do beside drink from the tubes of liquid. Curious to know what would happen if the rat had other rats to socialize with and more things to do in the cage besides just drinking from the tubes, Bruce built another experiment.
The rats were put in a “rat park” with everything they could want, and still had options to drink from the normal and drugged water bottles as they had in the prior experiment. In this example though, rats rarely ever drank from the drugged water bottle, none ever used it compulsively, and none ever overdosed.
Rats may behave this way, but do humans too? In the Vietnam war, 20% of troops were regularly using heroin. Although people were worried about these soldiers becoming junkies after the war, a study followed them once they got home and 95% stopped using the drugs completely without going into rehab or having withdrawal symptoms.
This confirms professor Alexander’s theory and debunks the theory that drugs cause addiction. It’s not the chemicals, it’s the “cage” you’re put in and your circumstances. If people don’t have friends or family to bond with to maintain a state of happiness, then when they’re struggling with life they will seek alternative things to bond with such as drugs, alcohol, social media, gambling, or various other things.
According to Johann, “addiction is just one symptom of the crisis of disconnection that’s happening all around us. We have to build a society that looks a lot more like rat park, and a lot less like those isolated cages.”
The next time you think about addiction, or witness someone struggling with it, remember that “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection”.
This video was animated by YouTube channel Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell based on Johann Hari’s book 'Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs'.