Drug Addiction

Making sense of Drug Addiction & What to do about it.

There is an endless amount of information available online that tackles drug addiction, what it is, how it starts, why people involve themselves in drug addiction, how to stop it, and what can prevent it.

Throughout history information on drug addiction has changed, been modified, and with countless different perspectives, definitions, and terminology given and created in order to understand it, it is quite difficult to come to a final answer.  The bottom line is that drug addiction is; complex!

The very term alone; drug addiction, can send chills up a person’s spine, as it is something that can be considered a common denominator in a great deal of human misery and suffering.  Drug addiction can be linked to crime, violence, assaults, death, and loss of income, bankruptcy, suicide, drastic changes in physical and mental health, and the ability to rip people’s lives apart from top to bottom.  It is a never ending battle on both sides; for the users and the people trying to prevent drug addiction and this war has no real end in site.

For as long as there are controlled substances available both legally and illegally, that will provide users with fake inspiration, temporary solutions to problems, the ability to escape living, and the courage to commit violent and heinous acts, drug addiction and its train of disaster will never be derailed.  This view point leads people to ask what causes drug addiction and all of these problems, and why is it that some people become life long addicts, while others are able to just stop and live normal lives?

There is an eye opening experiment done with rats where a rat is in a cage and there are two water bottles available, one with water and one with water laced with heroine or cocaine, and this experiment was used to prove a theory of a chemical hook; which was later used in American as drug prevention ads.  The rat would become obsessed with the laced water and would drink it and drink it until it was dead.   In the 1970’s a professor of psychology, Bruce K. Alexander, pointed out something quite interesting with this experiment, the rat in the experiment was all alone in the cage and had nothing else to do but take the drug.  He asked himself what would happen if multiple rats were put in a cage that had a lush and beautiful environment with things to do; later this would be called Rat Park, they would have plenty of toys, only the best food, and loads of friends.  Both bottles of water were set up in Rat Park, and the rats tried both, but something very interesting happened, all the rats who had good lives did not like the drugged water and none of them died, where as the rats living a lonely life and un-happy used the drugged water and all of them died.

In a book written by Johann Hari called, Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, the author talks about this experiment, and compares it to some interesting facts about the Vietnam War.  Heroine became predominantly used by American Soldiers, and close to 20% of them became addicted, this caused a fear in the American public that all of these heroine addicted soldiers would be coming back home.  What was shown was that over 90% of the soldiers just stopped using heroine when they came home, and very few of them actually required drug addiction treatment.  They came from a horrendous war zone, an un-pleasant environment, and entered into a pleasant environment surrounded by loved ones and no longer really alone.  This information does provide an interesting viewpoint to an on-going argument of drug addiction being caused by people failing ethically and living a party lifestyle, or addiction being looked at as a disease or a chemical in-balance in the brain.  What Bruce Alexander is arguing here is that it is none of these latter arguments, but it is the environment or cage that you are in, or really your adapted environment?

Using this theory, when you look at recovered addicts who leave rehab, and look at those who return to a “cage” of isolation, loneliness, and nothing to do, a relapse will typically occur.  Those recovered addicts who go to a pleasant and fulfilling environment after treatment tend to do quite well.  In fact drug addicts whom go back to the bad place, use, and then return to the better place go through their withdrawals, but end up not using again.  Bruce Alexander took this theory further with the rats, putting them on drugs for extended periods of time in one cage, and then returning them to the better cage, where all the rats went through withdrawals, but stopped using drugs and returned to normal.

I can relate a similar situation in my life, both as an addict and as a sober living individual.  When I was 18 I had an operation on my lower back, and was out of commission for a while; I was prescribed Percocet for the pain.  I was living alone in a small apartment, not a very nice place, was unable to work, and was doing nothing fulfilling, and spent my days using more of the medication than what was prescribed to me, and eventually becoming addicted to it.  When I was 24 and no longer using and living a sober life I had to have a hernia operation, and was paranoid that I was going to become addicted to drugs again because of the pain medication.  What I saw for myself was shocking, I was given the medication in the hospital for the pain, and was even given a prescription upon leaving, but I was going back to a different environment, a more pleasant and fulfilling one.  I didn’t become addicted to the medication in the hospital, and I stopped taking it when I left the hospital.  At that point for myself I really knew that this wasn’t a disease or an addictive personality, but it was really the places I was in, and I can trace that back through my addiction.

A person will come to their own conclusions about addiction, environment, and loneliness, but this is an interesting look at what causes drug addiction and why some people become life long addicts, and why others are just able to stop, whether they go through drug rehabilitation or not.  The war on drug addiction is still raging on, but I feel more awareness is out there, despite the fact that a vast majority of the population is using some form of drug.  People are becoming more knowledgeable and seeing what can be done to make things better.

If you feel that you or a loved one has a drug addiction, there is something you can do about it. You should speak with an Addiction Advisor immediately to discuss what treatment options are available for you and what to do about it.

In Canada, call the DRS Addiction Hotline 1-877-254-3348 or in the U.S. at Addicted.org 1-800-304-2219

Drug Addiction ©

cocaine rat experiment